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NASHVILLE, NC – Today, a group of 30 offenders from North Carolina state prisons began a four-year classroom journey at Nash Correctional Institution they hope ends not only with a college degree but with an opportunity to assist their fellow inmates.

The North Carolina Field Ministry Program kicked off with a convocation ceremony in the prison’s gymnasium. The program is a partnership between the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary of Wake Forest, and Game Plan For Life, a ministry of Joe Gibbs Racing of Huntersville. NCDPS General Counsel Jane Gilchrist was among the keynote speakers, along with Gibbs and SEBTS President Daniel Akin.

“These men are trailblazers for DPS,” Gilchrist said. “This will be the first time all of us will work with this type of program. They will provide a critical service to our facilities.”

The program is a privately-funded, four-year, college-level educational program that allows inmates to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in pastoral ministry, with a secondary emphasis in counseling, from SEBTS’ undergraduate college, The College at Southeastern. Although these classes will be offered at Nash CI, this degree is the same program offered by SEBTS on its campus and is fully accredited. The classes will be taught by SEBTS instructors, who will travel to Nash CI and teach the courses on-site.

“Welcome to Southeastern Seminary and The College at Southeastern,” said Akin, who preached from 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, where the Apostle Paul wrote that “anyone who is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

“We are ambassadors in Christ. Our prayer is that this facility will succeed for the glory of God,” Akin said.

The purpose of this program is two-fold:

  • Provide a four-year, college-level educational program to offenders housed at Nash CI; and
  • Prepare program graduates to become “field ministers” and provide “pastoral care and counseling” to inmates at other NCDPS facilities.

The “students” were selected from offenders from around the state with long-term sentences (at least 15 years remaining on their sentences) currently housed in medium custody, with no major infractions in the past 12 months. They were moved to Nash CI after they were vetted by NCDPS, and the application process was essentially identical to that used by SEBTS in its regular application process. Thirty offenders will be selected each year to participate.

The funding comes from, among others, Game Plan for Life, a non-profit ministry started by former Washington Redskins’ coach Gibbs. Gibbs told the men he is excited to see where God takes them on “this journey.”

“Ours is a God of second chances,” said Gibbs, who also met with the offenders after the convocation and reviewed the classroom setting. “We believe in this program and what God has in store for each and every one of you.”

Gilchrist said, “I want to thank Dr. Akin and Joe Gibbs. We believe this is the beginning of a long relationship that will not only benefit those inside our facilities but also has the potential to benefit our communities. Many of the men touched by this program will be re-entering society. We want them to be productive members and it may start with a simple discussion between an inmate and one of these men or others who will go through the program.”

For more information, please visit the program’s website.

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