By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ANGOLA – Warden Burl Cain is a man who promotes eternal life in a place where many will spend the rest of their days behind bars.
Inside the walls of what was once known as “bloodiest prison in America,” an atmosphere of hope and progress is now the norm, thanks in large part to Cain’s desire to rehabilitate inmates through the Bible.
“What you’ve seen happen is what God does when He is welcome,” Cain said of the faith-based initiatives that have occurred at Angola.
Cain became warden of Angola in February 1995, after serving as warden of Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson for 14 years.
Just a few months after he started at Angola, Cain experienced his first administration of lethal injection there on an inmate convicted of murdering his mother-in-law. Cain, who is Southern Baptist, said he never asked the man about where he would spend eternity.
He knew he had to do something.
From that day on, Cain vowed to ask men about their relationship with God before they died.
He knew a changed life would result in a less-violent prison and that would change through moral rehabilitation in the years ahead. Efforts include an extension program of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, which is a four-year program started in 1995.
More than 255 inmates have graduated from the seminary’s extension program. Some of those graduates have even transferred to other prisons as missionaries.
Now, Cain says, instead of inmates committing crimes, they are witnessing to other inmates, studying for a seminary test or holding a Bible study.
And the result has been thousands of inmates who have professed Christ as their Lord and Savior and an 85 percent decrease in violence at Angola. Of the 6,300 who are inmates at Angola, nearly 50 percent are thought to be Christians.
Cain will share his story during the 2014 Louisiana Baptist Evangelism Conference. Scheduled for Jan. 27-28, the conference will feature inspiring messages and music based on the theme “I Will.”
In addition to Cain, other speakers at the Evangelism Conference will include Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist in New Orleans; Brad Bennett, founder of Real Encounter Outreach in Springfield, Mo.; David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention; Fred Lowery, retired pastor of First Baptist Bossier City; Tony Nolan, president of TNT Ministries in Canton, Ga.; former Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., and Don Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C.
The praise and worship lineup includes Charles Billingsley, worship leader at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va.; a mass Baton Rouge-area choir from Istrouma Baptist, Jefferson Baptist, Greenwell Springs and Parkview Baptist; and the Baton Rouge Baptist Community Choir.
Those attending the conference will also have a chance to do another servant evangelism project with the hopes it can be as highly successful as the one last year at First Lafayette.
Attendees are asked to bring in prison care packages that the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge distributes.
Each gallon-sized Ziploc bag should contain such items as power stick deodorant, Palmolive soap, Ultrabite toothpaste (6 oz.), washcloth, BIC pens (no click pens, please), note tablet, tooth brush – soft handle (4 pack) and envelopes.
“Last year’s project (cans of food) was highly successful,” LBC’s Evangelism and Church Growth Director Wayne Jenkins said. “We had a number of items brought to the Conference and several churches delivered truckloads of canned goods which were later distributed to the needy.
“I can’t thank the pastors who made a push at their churches for these items which were brought to the church in pickups,” Jenkins continued.
“Because of their location, BAGBR is heavily involved in prison ministries,” Jenkins said. “In order to assist, we are asking attendees to bring in Prison Care Packages. Each package (a gallon-sized Ziploc bag) filled with items not provided to the prisoners.
“I am hoping, like last year, everyone – people, pastors and churches – will rally around this project,” Jenkins said.
“Please have someone in your church head up this project,” Jenkins said. “We need 6,200 bags and we will have boxes marked throughout Istrouma where people can deposit bags. They will then be delivered by hand along with a prayer and a Gospel presentation.”