By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ANGOLA – Inmates who are members of the first church within a prison approved for membership in a Baptist association have made a generous Cooperative Program gift.
The prison congregation of Grace Baptist, located on the grounds of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, did not have money to contribute through the Cooperative Program, so they used their construction skills to build a cooker as a gift for the Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief ministry.
LBDR Director Gibbie McMillian said he is “humbled by the donation,” valued at $8,000, and said the commercial-grade cooker is a welcome addition to the equipment used for emergency responses in the state and around the country.
David Goza, pastor of the Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, first learned of the effort by the inmates when he was at Angola to teach a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary class.
He said the men really wanted to show Louisiana Baptists their commitment to be part of the Convention’s cooperative missions and ministries.
“Giving this grill to the LBC reflects what is in the heart of these men,” Goza told the Baptist Message. “This is a group of Christian men whose hearts have been changed by the Gospel and they are true disciples of Christ, committed to following Him.
“They wanted to give to the work of building God’s Kingdom, and they gave the only way they could under the circumstances,” he added. “This was a sacrificial gift on their part, and it is their prayer that others will come to know Christ because of it.”
In 1995 former Warden Burl Cain invited New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to teach inmates at Angola, and the program is credited in turning around what was once-known as “the bloodiest prison in the United States” and making it a model correctional facility. More than 375 inmates have graduated from the seminary’s four-year degree program, and at the request of other prisons around the country some of those graduates have transferred to those facilities as “missionaries” to help start similar initiatives.
NOBTS reports that at least 100 inmates are baptized inside the prison every year, and one former prison official estimates that 4,000 of the 6,000 inmates at Angola have repented for salvation.