Celebrating a 20-year partnership that has changed lives and deployed “missionaries,” New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary/Leavell College has dedicated a new facility with expanded classroom and library space at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, La.
The Aug. 27 dedication followed a graduation ceremony marking the program’s 278th graduate.
“This has been the most spectacular day we could ever have,” said Burl Cain, warden of the correctional facility. “We have a new seminary building; we doubled our capacity; and, it means less victims of violent crime.”
The Joan Horner Center, an 11,000-square-foot building with a computer lab, two classrooms, an auditorium and library, was named in memory of benefactor Joan Horner, founder of Premier Designs of Dallas, who with husband Andy Horner were longtime supporters of the Angola ministry. An anonymous donor provided funds for the structure.
James LeBlanc, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Corrections, echoed Cain’s correlation between the program’s success and a statewide drop in repeat offenders, crediting the work of 35 NOBTS “missionaries,” graduates who asked to transfer to other Louisiana prisons in order to plant new inmate-led churches.
Jimmy Dukes, the NOBTS director of the prison program, said the new facility will help meet a great need.
“Other prisons and even some parish jail sheriffs want to have our missionaries,” Dukes said. “To do that, we need to recruit more students and train more students.”
The program offers the bachelor of arts in Christian ministry and non-credit certificate degrees. Dukes said the new space can accommodate twice the current enrollment and allows master-level coursework to begin.
Chuck Kelley, NOBTS president, looked back at the program’s beginnings and noted that Cain and others who dreamed with him had the foresight to see its potential.
Cain, a former educator, approached leaders of the Judson Baptist Association, now named the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, and seminary leadership and asked them to provide educational services for the incarcerated.
“They saw what God saw,” Kelley said. “They saw that God could do a mighty work.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press