Above: OBU President Heath A. Thomas visits with students of the OBU Prison Divinity Program before Convocation at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center.
LEXINGTON—Two lines of a song captured what was occurring in the 2023 Convocation for the Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) Prison Divinity Program at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center.
“There’s resurrection power that can save,” and “There’s power in Your name, power in Your name.”
And the power of God was present in an awe-inspiring way as some inmates lifted their hands and others closed their eyes in praise while singing, “Stand in Your Love.”
“The convocation was, indeed, a demonstration and affirmation of God’s work among us,” said Bruce A. Perkins, assistant professor of Christian education and director of the Prison Divinity Program. “Words are not adequate to express the depth of emotions I felt—humility that God has given me the opportunity to walk this journey alongside these men, pride in the spiritual vigor and academic success of these students, gratitude for the souls that have been saved on the yard, wonder at the magnificence of God, and excitement about what lies ahead. I truly believe that if God should bring another awakening and revival to our nation, it will begin inside the prison walls. Unbeknownst to us, we may be witnessing something historical in the making.”
OBU, Oklahoma Baptists and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections are partners in this historic endeavor of the Prison Divinity Program in Oklahoma. OBU offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Studies to inmates in an Oklahoma prison. Upon completion of their degrees, these men will be eligible to be commissioned as field ministers and deployed to other prisons across the state.
There are currently 67 students enrolled in the program. The first cohort of students has started their junior year. The second cohort has completed the orientation term and has started courses for credit.
OBU President Heath A. Thomas delivered the convocation message examining future shapers from the perspective of deep faith, full hearts, strong hands and wise minds.
“Students, you are using strong hands here, as you learn and serve,” Thomas said. “You will be learning and growing, stretching yourself beyond what you think you are capable. It is the right thing, the hard thing, to step up with strong hands and make a positive difference for change. That is what future shapers do—the hard thing, the right thing, with strong hands.”
Larinee Dennis, OBU’s dean of business, health, science and education, provided the Scripture reading from Psalm 93, and Matthew Emerson, OBU dean of theology, arts and humanities, led The Litany.
Speakers also included Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Steven Harpe and Commissioner Burl Cain, founder of the Angola Prison Seminary and the Prison Seminary Foundation.
“I love what C.S. Lewis said,” Governor Stitt shared, “’You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.’ You all have made a choice to pursue a higher calling for your life. And we in this room applaud you. We’re so excited for your future. You chose to surround yourself with these leaders in this program and to better yourself.”