Transformation - Three years ago two Lutheran pastor friends of mine, Rev. David Schultz and Rev. John Cain, invited me to join them on a trip to the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, with a man named Grove Norwood. I experienced a prison that had been transformed from "the bloodiest prison in America" to a place of peace. Grove Norwood was instrumental in that transition.
On Monday, 33 Texas inmates traded their prison garb for graduation caps and gowns and the Holy Bible at Texas’ maximum security Darrington Unit. They were the second graduating class in the prison to receive a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary School since the program was created by the state six years ago.
“God has transformed some really bad people into some really amazing people,” said Dr. Benjamin Phillips, Director of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary School. “Men in prison listen best to those who have walked in their shoes, who know what their life is like and live it alongside of them, and whose lives have transformed already.” Dr. Phillips said in order to be allowed into the program the inmates must be serving a lengthy sentence and promise to spend six years working with other inmates at prisons across Texas. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said. “They will all pay their dues to society; they will all pay their sentences, many of them serving life long sentences.” Patrick said this is not a “get out of jail free card” for the inmates. They still have to serve their full time in prison.
Warren Craig Bishop II entered the Darrington Prison Unit in 1997. A graduate of the seminary program, he said: “I wasn’t a believer. I wasn’t a Christian. I was a complete sinner. I was a murderer, a thief, a crook, everything. Coming to know Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, I’ve seen that he has forgiven me for all of that. It’s a tough road, but it’s a glorious one to go down.”
Texas has the largest prison system in the country with about 147,000 inmates and is the second state in the nation to implement this type of program. It costs roughly $250,000 dollars a year, without a single tax dollar. The program is paid for by donations to the nonprofit organization led by Grove Norwood, Heart of Texas Foundation: http://heartoftexasfoundation.org/. This program goes way beyond the encouragement of Jesus to visit those in prison! I thank God for men like Grove Norwood, David Schultz, John Cain and many others whose passion for prison "seminary" education is being used by God to transform lives in time, for eternity!
Dr. Gerald B. (Jerry) Kieschnick
responses to Burl Cain show - 9-18-2011
Thanks so much, Pastor Schultz, for sharing this announcement with me. So enjoyed your discussion last night. I really enjoyed your talk with Greg Koch several weeks back. I sent the link to Matt at Texas State. It’s so important for these young guys to realize how easy it is to stray from your roots – and so important for them to know there are consequences. Blessings to you and your family.
Great broadcast last night! The warden has surely found the secret to true rehabilitation and restoration.
Dear Pastor Schultz,
Thank you so much for sending us the heads up about this interview . It was a GREAT PROGRAM last night! That couple is very unusual - so special - in the way they think and feel about the murder of their daughter. They have truly blessed so many lives and continue to do so - but it must be very hard. Only with God's strength could they witness the way they do - they are "leaning on the everlasting arms" every minute. Your questions for them were excellent - pinpointing certain areas about their feelings and response to the remarks of friends at the time of Victoria's murder.
I called my friend to tell her about this program. As you probably know, her only daughter was murdered - really wasn't sure whether or not to tell her - but after a little quick prayer, I took the risk and called her. She was very receptive and pleased that I had told her about your program and the subject for last night. Thanks again for your concern and care for all of us! We're so blessed to have you here.
What an awesome talk on the Holy Spirit, Ken! Nicely done - I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit during your talk. I feel that presence in my life daily though I have met people who claim they never do. And I believe like you said it has to do with expectations of what that is supposed to be like. I called up several people today to suggest that they tune in tonight.
Have you been a guest on ELM before or was this the 1st time? I'll bet you get asked back! It was a great hour. I felt very moved to stay home & listen tonight and am glad I did. Now I've got to head out and at least make an appearance at the dinner get together this evening.
I've passed on several of your blogs that I've read via FB to my 25-yr-old daughter who lives in D.C. We both agree you are a very gifted writer. And I'll add to that, that you are a gifted speaker as well.
A little over a year ago, through illness and hurricane damage I was forced to make a major life change. Making it alone – moving into a retirement community - was very traumatic. This past year has been one of efforts to accept this new life – was it my decision – or God working in my life? I had choices.
I found myself in a community special and rate relationships. Among them, Pastor David Schultz, who introduced his Sunday evening radio interview program, Engaging Truth. His questions of varied subjects were thoughtful and insightful and all the while his guests responding with stories of their faith and relationship with God; the significance of hope; the acceptance of trust in God.
By hearing these messages at that time on a Sunday evening when I am alone, I know I am not alone and am strengthened by the way God works in my life. In Christ, I can do all things!
I've never heard the show before, and I've tuned into 100.7 many times. I felt like it was perfect timing for me to randomly decide to tune in.
It was a re-iteration of a conversation with my minister cousin about the post-modern world we live in that needs a lot of proof, the acquisition of faith, election, God giving us faith and softening our hearts, and how some people, no matter what, will not believe. Also, the role of the Spirit in conviction of one's sins and need for a savior.
I found the host and the guest very bright, and they spoke with such confident conviction. The questions were some of which I've had for years. It was refreshing to hear this topic discussed, and I don't find it coincidental that I talked with my cousin about exactly the same things earlier.
I've been in a 10-12 year period of skepticism and doubt about my faith, specifically on the "fairness" of God's judgment, and my heart has been "hardened" for a long time. I'm not exactly sure when it started, but recently I've been softened. I think God has to be working on me through multiple outlets. This theme has been showing itself in many areas of my life lately, like He's really trying to drive something home.
I just want to thank you for speaking about this, and that it was orchestrated at the perfect timing for me personally. I will be podcasting it when it's available. Thank you for the ministry and the show. I will be listening from now on.