Friday, April 8, 2011

ANGOLA, the ALCATRAZ of the South, Transformed by the Power of the Gospel

Why is this a topic for my blog today?  I'm glad you asked!

I was talking to my friend Randy this morning, and he was sharing with me how our friend Barry's brother, a Pastor who routinely preaches at Angola State Penitentiary met Dr. John MacArthur while MacArthur was preaching there on Tuesday of this week.  He said MacArthur was so down-to-earth, and mingled with and talked with them in a most humble manner, unlike some of the well-known preachers of our day.  John Piper has also preached there, and held question and answer sessions at Angola in recent years which I have listened to on MP3 that can be found online. The level of spiritual maturity and theological understanding in the inmates' questions was nothing less than amazing. I googled MacArthur and Angola, and didn't find anything on it, but came across these videos.  I was so moved by what I saw and heard, I wanted to share it with my friends on this blog. 
"ANGOLA", aka The Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP), has been nicknamed "ALCATRAZ OF THE SOUTH". If you are viewing this blog from outside the U.S.A., you may not be familiar with either of these two prisons where the worst of the worst, most violent of the violent, and the baddest of the bad have been sent for life sentences, as well as executions.  Men on Death Row, and the Exection Chamber are housed at Angola.  For decades, in fact since the 1800's ANGOLA has been a word that strikes fear in the heart of criminals, as well as average citizens.  It is the largest maximum security prison in the United States of America.  For those of us who live in Louisiana, we are very familiar with its reputation for violence, murder, riots, etc..  As Louisiana teenagers we were occasionally warned that we might end up in Angola if we broke the law, which seemed to be just about as scary as telling us we would wind up in hell.  As a truckdriver in the 1980's, as I would drive by the signs pointing to Angola near St. Francisville on the way to Baton Rouge, I used to get an eerie feeling, and would be looking all around for escaped prisoners.

Angola is surrounded on 3 sides by the mighty Mississippi River, and consists of  18,000 acres of what was once plantation land.  Wardens have been historically fired every 4 or 5 years due to their inability to keep the violence down.  But that was until Burl Cain became Warden in 1995, answering a call from God!  He is still there, and is the longest standing Warden in LSP history.  Cain is a Christian, started Bible studies with the prisoners and guards shortly after arriving as Warden, and offers Seminary training through New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for the inmates. 

I invite you to watch both of these videos, and prepare to be amazed by the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

You may be tempted to think "How could those murderers, rapists, thieves, etc. be truly converted, changed, saved, etc..  However, for those of us who have been Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, we need to be reminded of who we once were as enemies of God, until we were saved by His Glorious Grace through Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  We also need to realize that except for the Grace of God, we could have and should have all been in there serving time with them.  Furthermore, we all could have been and should have been sent straight to Hell, but for His Grace and Mercy.  As that old hymn says:

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, 

And in the words of another old Southern Gospel Song entitled "Yes I Know":

Come ye sinners, lost and lonely;
Jesus' blood can make you free!
For He saved the worst among you,
When He saved a wretch like ME.

And I know, yes I know;
Jesus' blood can make the vilest sinner clean!

And I know, yes I know;
Jesus' blood can make the vilest sinner clean!

Maybe you're not sure about your own salvation, or maybe you're wondering if God could save someone as bad as you.  Or perhaps you're thinking since you don't see yourself as bad as those guys in Angola that you are alright with God.  Either way, I'd love to discuss it with you.

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