Angola 2011

Angola, Louisiana

Dates:  May 12 – 15
Ministry Partner:  AWANA Lifeline
Ministry Focus:  Ministry to inmates and their families at Angola State Penitentiary

Angola is the home of the original Returning Hearts ministry, and serves as the model for our local Returning Hearts outreach at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.  The Grace team will support and help run an outreach event inside the prison walls which unites inmates with their children for a day of fun, Bible teaching and evangelism.

Team Angola (l-r): Jones Chan, Rick Llamas, Kerry and Kim Flickinger, Kay Dell, Rod Martin, Cathy Proctor, David Summer, Rudy and Joanne Hawkins, Mike Broyles, and Ron Proctor.  Not pictured: Mike and Susan Caldwell

Updated Thursday, July 14
Summary report from the team

 “And He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers,” Malachi 4:5

During our time at Angola, we saw and experienced irony which, apart from understanding the power of Christ to transform lives, could only be described as impossible or at best, absurd. Incarcerated men, i.e. “lifers” are experiencing lives of contentment, joy and obedience to their Savior who has given them true freedom; the kind no human power can take away. Men, who were once the worst of predators are now shining examples to the world of what it means to live in true community, love their brothers and reach out to others through the compassion of Christ. They are dedicated to loving their kids into the kingdom, disciplined and earnest in their pursuit of the word of God, never willing to compromise their faith, and worshiping Him with abandonment and passion.

Here are some reflections, experiences and observations from Team Angola:

Jones Chan writes: “I can’t think of a worse situation for a man than serving a life sentence in prison with no chance of parole. On top of this, there is the daily risk of violence.  Not so for certain men in Angola. In spite of their situation, I have found some of the most joyous, contented and hopeful men that I have ever met. Their secret is having Jesus as their Savior and living a life of obedience for the Lord. At one time, Angola was the bloodiest prison in the U.S. Today it is a model prison; relatively free of violence and even cussing. This amazing turnaround is due to men giving their lives to Christ. I am blown away by the transformational power of Christ in them, restoring lives from very bad situations and brokenness. As one inmate beautifully pointed out; ‘Historically, Angola was covered with the blood of violence. Today it is covered with the blood of Christ.’ God is awesome!”

Kay Dell writes:
“I was with two precious little girls ages 6 and 7, during the Returning Hearts Celebration.  As soon as I met them they kept telling me that their Daddy was dead.  I found our later that he had been killed in a car accident a little over a year ago.These two little ones were going to get to spend the day with their grandfather PaPa Terry Hawkins, an icon at Angola prison.  Terry was a soft spoken, gentle , grandpa, who was so excited to see his little granddaughters!  Terry is a retired rodeo champion who turned 50 years old this week.  He has a  life sentence, and has spent 29 years in Angola.  Terry has been on ESPN and the Discovery Channel, and even has a book written about his life in Angola that he told me about.  But, Terry's biggest concern was for his friend "Big Dog" who he was looking for in the crowd.  He wanted to make sure that his kids had shown up. When he finally found his friend and his children together he was elated for his brother in Christ.  One of the most beautiful moments was when the girls starting writing love notes on their grandpa's tee-shirt, and then he wrote on theirs.  Pretty soon there were many men looking for markers.  I'm sure those shirts were full of love notes and will be  treasured by both the men and their children. For many of these prisoners, this annual event is the only time they get to see their children.”
Cathy Proctor writes: “Both Ronnie and I were so excited about going. It felt like, ‘here we are Lord, send us.’ But then what we saw in prison were things so amazing, only God could do them. One thing I will never forget is the worship in church at Angola. It humbled me more than anything ever has. One inmate said he prays for us who are ‘out in the world.’ Inmates were baptizing a young man (who was not an inmate) whom they had won back to following Christ.  Scripture was rolling off their tongue. How is this I asked? One inmate said, ‘we have the blood of Jesus in our veins.’”

Mike Broyles writes: “I really enjoy the creative ways the inmates express their love for Christ through drama, music, rap, and other powerful and innovative ways which always focus on Christ. At one of the Angola church services our team had the joy of watching inmates baptize a young man (about 25) who had moved away from Christ for years as a teen and young adult. With the ministry of Malachi Dads praying, writing, caring and exhorting this young man, he is now a Christ follower. Imagine, a free man being baptized by incarcerated inmates who were used of God to win this man back! This is now what we love to refer to as the ‘upside down kingdom.’ I loved watching our GBC team love, listen and care for the inmates and their children during the Returning Hearts Celebration. It was pure joy to see the love of Christ lived out by GBC family members at Angola prison. It was also great to travel, eat and just be together with this team.”

Joanne Hawkins writes: “Fabian H. from Shreveport Louisiana was assigned to help me at my game booth. As we talked he obviously wanted to tell me about himself. He has been at Angola for 20 years and is now 37 years old. I asked Fabian, ‘are you a Malachi Dad?’ He answered, ‘no mam, I have no children. I got locked up at age 16 and sentenced to life at age 17. I never got my life started.’ I asked if he had other family in Shreveport who might be coming to RHC. ‘No m'am, they cut ties with me when I got sentenced to life; this ain't California.’ When I asked what his job was at Angola, he replied, ‘going to seminary has been my job.’ He finished in 2010 and now is studying for his Master’s degree in Theology. He said his relationship with, and his love for his Angola brothers and his relationship with Christ are what gets him through. Like good friends we worked the games and chatted for hours. Then Fabian’s buddy Charles who also grew up in Shreveport; a Malachi Dad approached us with his handicapped daughter. Then suddenly a woman exclaimed, ‘Fabian H, is that you? You grew up on my street and your mama is my best friend!’ Charles’ mother was accompanying her granddaughter because she had special needs, and then out of the blue, recognized Fabian! Later that day I found her and asked her if she would tell Fabian’s family, especially his mother, how well Fabian is doing, about his relationship with the Lord, his brothers in Christ, and what a good, decent man Fabian has become in these 20 years. I believe Fabian and I had a divine appointment with his mama’s best friend! I am praying and believe reconciliation and healing will begin in his family. What a blessing!”

Kim Flickinger writes: “My new perspective; learning from the inmates- Little did I know that when I set out to ‘minister to’ the inmates at Angola State Penitentiary, that they would be ministering to me! I was struck by the fact that the inmates whose lives have been transformed by Christ know God’s Word inside and out! It was apparent that they had hidden His Word in their hearts – It permeated their very being! And it was humbling and convicting to me. I have access to His Word through multiple Bibles, and access to strong teaching on a weekly basis, yet I often struggle to readily retrieve verses from memory when I am in need of courage, patience, or peace or when sharing with others. I am without excuse. I will no longer take for granted the beauty of His Word and promises; I want the word of God to dwell in me richly… Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16) A story to share- I was paired with a young dad, Bertie, his 8 year old daughter “Boot” and his 5 year old nephew, Gavin. At lunch, Bertie asked his daughter if she wanted to pray over the food or if she wanted him to pray. She said she’d like to pray. As she began to recite a prayer her dad had taught her, Bertie, Gavin and I repeated after her. It was a sweet and tender prayer. I was touched that her inmate dad was taking seriously the responsibility to teach his daughter to love, and be thankful to God.”

Rudy Hawkins writes: “An inmate named Wayne led music and worship. I believe he is one of the most gifted contemporary-style Christian musicians I have ever heard. During worship he spoke about having that ‘secret place’ where you go to talk to God, to be alone with Him. Then he said, ‘it must be very hard for you who are on the outside to find that place, being so busy with so many things.’ Wayne’s words were meant for me. As the Returning Hearts Celebration was nearing the conclusion, a boy around 12 named Lawrence asked me if I was a preacher. I was asking him about where he lived and about his church, etc. This kid just talked about his life, covering a range of topics. I kept bringing the Lord into the conversation, but he was moving pretty fast. Finally, he asked if we believe Jesus is coming back soon. He said that his ‘preacher’ said the righteous will barely make it (be saved). I was explaining that it is Jesus’ righteousness which covers us when we trust in Him and that is how we ‘get in.’ At that point it was time for us to move to the final phase. I’ll be praying for young Lawrence. When I think of these kids so hungry to talk as they are forming their beliefs, it reminds me of why AWANA and Malachi Dads are so crucial to support and spread!”

There is a song one of the inmate worship teams performed Sunday morning. Please, meditate on these words, for in them I believe you’ll hear the message from the hearts of our beloved brothers at Angola. (If you’d like to hear this song you can go to: .)

Open Up the Sky//Deluge
Our beloved Father Please come down and meet us. We are waiting on Your touch.
Open up the heavens, shower down Your Presence. We respond to Your great love.
We won’t be satisfied with anything ordinary. We won’t be satisfied at all.
Open up the sky, fall down like rain. We don’t want blessings, we want You.
Open up the sky, fall down like fire. We don’t want anything but You.
Our beloved Jesus, we just want to see You in the glory of Your light.
Earthly things don’t matte.r They just fade and shatter.
When we’re touched by love divine, we won’t be satisfied with anything ordinary.
We won’t be satisfied at all. Here we go, let’s go to the throne.
The place that we belong, right into His arms.
We won’t be satisfied with anything ordinary. We won’t be satisfied at all.

We are deeply grateful to all of you who contributed to this mission trip and especially to those who held us up in your prayers. There are many, many more stories we have to share. But to hear them you will have to seek out one of the team members and take them out or invite them over for coffee or ice cream. Or you can plan to attend the Summer Missions Celebration on Sunday night, September 18, and come to our team's report.  We are hungry to share. Thank you.

Serving together with you, Angola Team 2011

Updated Sunday, July 10

The Angola team arrived home tonight.  Limited internet access kept them from updating us from the field, but they had a fantastic weekend of ministry among inmates and their families at Angola State Penitentiary.  They plan to write a summary this week, so check back to this page later to get details. 

Updated Thursday night, July 7

The team arrived in Angola after a very good trip, and will start serving at the prison first thing tomorrow morning.

Updated Thursday, July 7

Team Angola, having lost just 2 members because of the postponement of the event (see below), left this morning to take part in the Returning Hearts Celebration in Angola, Louisiana.  Limited internet connections may hinder them from sending updates over the weekend, but we will upload what we can until thier return on Sunday night.  Thank you for your prayers!

News of a Postponement
Potential flooding of the Mississippi River, which surrounds Angola State Penitentiary on three sides, caused the postponement of the Returning Hearts Celebration there.  The team will now serve at Angola July 7-10.  Check back then for details of what the Lord does.