At the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, once dubbed “the bloodiest prison in America,” the good guys are taking over.
Angola is the largest maximum-security men’s prison in the United States. Of the 5,108 inmates, half are serving life sentences with no hope of release. But, says Terry Vander Aa, member of Elmhurst (Ill.) Christian Reformed Church, Angola has turned its ugly and violent reputation around, due in part to a spiritual revival led by its Christian warden, Burl Cain. “Thanks to Warden Cain, a number of people have given their lives to Christ,” said Vander Aa.
Vander Aa visited Angola in August 2004 at the request of a friend involved in aiding recently released prisoners. “Before that,” he said, “I’d never been to a prison.”
But his involvement didn’t end there. Vander Aa, along with wife, Linda, and friends Peter and Heidi Huizenga, sponsored an evangelistic service called “The Power of Freedom” held at the prison in August.
Nearly 3,000 prisoners and 2,000 “free people” attended the service in the prison’s arena. The service featured music by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers, as well as a message by Pastor Jim Cymbala from the Brooklyn Tabernacle, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Vander Aa, along with approximately 40 members from Elmhurst CRC and other CRCs, made the trip to the event.
“The Christians at Angola are very isolated. Worshiping with a large number of Christians from the outside world was a feast for them,” said Vander Aa.