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'God's Fingerprints Are all Over This': 24 Inmates Earn Pastoral Ministry Degree in NC Prison

12-29-2021
Graduation
Graduation

Family and friends recently gathered inside the gymnasium at North Carolina's Nash Correctional Institution to congratulate 24 inmates for earning their Bachelor of Arts diploma in pastoral ministry.

The group of men were the first class to graduate from The College at Southeastern's North Carolina Field Minister Program (NCFMP), which focuses on supporting and counseling fellow offenders, according to a press release from the college.

All 24 inmates, who were taught inside the Nashville-based prison by faculty from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, graduated with honors. 

Now they will be divided into five teams and spread out among the state's 55 prisons to minister to other inmates while serving out the rest of their sentences.

"Almost exactly four years and four months ago today, many of us gathered here in this very gym to usher in the start of this program with our very first convocation service," said Seth Bible, director of Prison Programs at Southeastern. "We had no idea what the future would hold for our first cohort of students, but we were confident in the God that held that future in his hands." 

Southeastern President Danny Akin offered his blessing to the men while reminding them that God can use anyone for His purpose, regardless of their circumstances.

"It is our prayer for all of you that you would be sent as ambassadors for Christ," said Akin. 

Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee urged the graduates to be "a beacon of hope for offenders across the prison system who are in need of a mentor to guide them through incarceration."

Graduate Lucas Rash said he was looking forward to being "a positive influence -- a friend, a mentor, whatever you want to call it."

Rash, 35, still has 30 years to serve for a hit-and-run that killed two people.

"I would have considered myself a professed Christian all my adult life, but I didn't live like it until a few years before entering this program," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic added some extra time to the program's duration; however, Bible pointed out that the percentage of inmates who completed their studies demonstrates its success.

"An 80 percent graduation rate is remarkable," Bible said. "God's fingerprints are all over this program."

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