CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Several people associated with the NFL, NASCAR, a theological seminary, and other organizations boarded a private plane in Concord recently and flew to a state prison in Nash County.
They were there to support inmates serving a life sentence who have enrolled in a unique program designed to help other inmates when they get out.
The North Carolina Field Minister Program is a unique partnership coordinated through the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
“We’ll be going inside of a prison and for a lot of our guests this is probably their first time, and they’ll be seeing something different,” said former Washington Redskin Reynaldo Wynn, now the Executive Director of Joe Gibbs Game Plan for Life.
“If you think about that this could be something that would change a lot of people’s lives for a long time,” Gibbs said.
In the NCFMP, inmates serving a life sentence enroll in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to become ministers behind bars.
“After four years as they start this journey that starts today, they’ll be then launched out throughout the 56 prisons…and again, they’re there for life, so they will never leave, but they will have a new purpose in life to be able to really change our prison from inside out,” Gibbs added.
A convocation ceremony was held to begin the process for these inmates.
“This program is unique in the sense that it is both confessional and inclusive, inviting all men of faith to participate in an unapologetically Christian education program,” said Seth Bible, director of prison programs at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).
Once they’ve earned their degrees, they will go into the 56 prisons across the state to work with other inmates, who, unlike them, will be released one day.
“I think hopefully, inside of our state, it could be something that really improves our correctional facilities, and so it’s a huge deal for us,” Gibbs added.
Reuben Young, NCDPS Interim Chief Deputy Secretary of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, spoke to attendees of the lifechanging work of the NCFMP, saying that it “changes lives of those behind the wall and beyond the fence.” “I’m convinced that your efforts will continue to widen a path that has been dark for far too long,” said Young.
This is the second group to begin the program, and organizers say it’s highly competitive.
“Out of 300 applicants who have applied, each year we can only take 30 students,” Wynn said.
The program is privately funded and will graduate its first class in three years. For former NFL coach and NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, it’s a very personal initiative.
“It’s just an awesome deal for us, we’re thrilled to be a part of it, hopefully it will provide a lot of people going forward with I think is the most important thing I could ever share with somebody and that’s a personal relationship with the lord.”
The NCFMP is modeled after degree programs in the Angola Prison in Louisiana and Darrington Prison in Texas, which are taught by the faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
To learn more visit: https://www.gameplanforlife.com/field-minister-program
Lauren Pratt of SEBTS contributed to this story.