The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD) had the privilege this year of having our counseling training presented in a venue where we have never previously been and to people whom we had never previously considered. By God’s grace, biblical counseling seminars were taught at two state prisons in Florida and one in Louisiana with doors opening to bring training to other prisons as well. In all these cases, the students were inmates, many of whom will never leave prison.

In prisons throughout the country, many inmates have come to a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. These men and women echo the famous words of John Newton who said:

“There are only two things of which I am sure: one is, that I am a miserable sinner; and the other, that Christ is an all-sufficient Savior.”

At Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Milton, Florida, 19 inmates attended 15 hours of class and completed written assignments for credit as part of a seminary program in which they are enrolled. Similarly, 16 inmates at Zephyrhills Correctional Institution in Zephyrhills, Florida completed the same program and will soon have the opportunity to take another 15 hours of material.

The inmates received the teaching enthusiastically with several desiring more training. It was incredibly rewarding as each morning the instructor was approached by some of the inmates who shared how they had applied the material that very night with a cellmate or other person in their dorm. They had never before known how to apply biblical forgiveness or how to deal with anger or bitterness from the heart and many of the inmates desire to help other inmates with biblical change and growth.

More training was also done at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola Prison, which is unique and fascinating. Seminary training has been ongoing there since 1997. With a prison population of 5,000, Angola has 26 churches within the prison, all led by inmate-pastors and elders.

Those pastors who attended IBCD’s Care and Discipleship Certification training and just as in the prisons in Florida, the reception was enthusiastic with requests for more. Warden Burl Cain articulated his philosophy that “the most effective ministry is inmate to inmate since they live together, side by side, every day.”  He further said very straightforwardly and simply, “They need good counseling training.”

IBCD is very excited to see God opening up doors in these dark and often hopeless places where the light of the Gospel can be shown in very practical ways.

 “I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:36).

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Into what “dark places” is God calling you to take gospel-centered biblical counseling?