Hi, my name is Randal. I am a believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with alcohol and drugs. I am the Celebrate Recovery Inside Regional Team Lead for the South Central U.S. region. I formerly served Celebrate Recovery in prison. Now one of my greatest privileges is to go back inside the prisons in Louisiana to share the love of God. I help the inmates with their Celebrate Recovery programs and help the men and women form their own Purpose Driven churches right where they are, inside prison. Recently, I was part of a two-week-long revival inside a prison. I could tell many stories about what God did, but this is one of my favorites!
It was the first night of the eight-week revival held at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. This is the largest prison by population in the country. Angola was one of the most violent prisons in the country. Although many positive reforms have taken place in Angola, much of the prison population remains anti-social and in need of a personal relationship with Jesus.
On the first night of the revival, many newcomers filled the seats looking like they had never been to church before. Yet the volunteers and I were excited. These were the men for which we had the most compassion. We wanted to see them attend this revival that brought in speakers such as Duck Dynasty Commander Phil Robertson.
Seeing two men who hadn’t been to the In-Custody Church before, fellow Celebrate Recovery Inside State Representative Richard and I made an effort to speak with them. Our early efforts to share the love of God with these men didn’t seem to have an impact. Covered in gang tattoos, the two men made the claim, “We’re only coming to the revival because we heard there would be women here!” I’ve heard this before and it was not shocking to me. So Richard and I did our best to encourage the two men to consider if God was calling them. Then we respectfully walked away.
Throughout that first night of the revival, I noticed the two gang members become unsettled, and one of them began asking questions. Seeing this, Richard and I again made an effort to approach the two men after the service. This time, both men listened fully to the message of Christ.
The next day, the Angola prison chaplain called to tell me the two ex-gang members came to his office, weeping like babies. They said, “This Jesus stuff is real! We didn’t sleep at all last night!” The chaplain told me that he baptized these two men that morning during church.
The testimonies of changed lives during the revival began to spread. The news got out that two gang members had converted to Christ in Angola prison. These two men had been hit men for the gang. Guilty of killing seven men between the two of them, they may never be released. However, right there in Angola prison I witnessed the greatest miracle on earth: two lifers set free by the love of God!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).