"But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me." 2 Timothy 4:17 (ESV)
While serving time at Waupun Correctional Institution, Robert Alexander is working on a bachelor's degree in biblical studies. Photo Credit: LAUREN JUSTICE FOR NPR
God continually reminded the Apostle Paul of His presence, often when he needed it most. In Acts 27, after going days without food, the Lord sent an angel to Paul to reassure him. While in prison in Jerusalem, the Lord appeared to Paul and encouraged him to “be courageous.” From prison in Rome, Paul wrote to Timothy saying “the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.”
It is often in our moments of deep despair and loneliness that we are most attuned to the reality of God’s presence. Might the same be true of our students as they enter the fourth month of Waupun’s lockdown due to coronavirus.
The current environment in Waupun presents a challenge far beyond the normal difficulties of life within the prison. The students spend almost no time outside their cells. The fellowship of the classroom has been interrupted. As we detailed in our April newsletter, our professors and students have gone to great lengths to continue lectures and assignments despite being unable to gather together.
This temporary disruption has given both students and professors the chance to reflect on what makes the classroom experience special. Professor Craig Long said,
“One of the important strengths of the BA in Biblical Studies at Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI) is the collegial nature of the classroom. In numerous statements and challenges our students have raised over the last three months, we see that our students depend upon each other and interactions with each other to experience their greatest success. This is most encouraging when our students point to the needed interactions with each other rather than to interactions with the faculty. I see here evidence that God created us as communal beings.”
It has been a beautiful thing to watch the fellowship grow among our students and professors. We eagerly anticipate the day they can safely return to the classroom.
Despite the present circumstances, our students continue to grow in their desire to learn. Professor Brent Matzen had this to share:
“A memorable moment that took place during the spring semester of 2020 originated the previous semester. About halfway through the students’ first Systematic Theology course, some expressed their dissatisfaction with having to study Systematic Theology. I believe the words used were: ‘boring,’ ‘unnecessary,’ and ‘a waste of time.’ In fairness, the beginning of the first Systematic Theology course is not that exciting (e.g., Prolegomena). Fast forward to the end of our second Systematic Theology course and many of the same students expressed how they could see the importance of what they were studying. For some Systematic Theology gave them the structure to better understand the Christian faith, while for others it gave them the words to share what they believed. Systematic Theology went from being ‘unnecessary’ to being ‘essential.’
Lt. Keith Immerfall walks past prison cells at Waupun Correctional Institution
Photo Credit: LAUREN JUSTICE FOR NPR
Join Us In Prayer
Thank you for your continued partnership, prayer, and support in this important work. Please join us in prayer for our students and professors as they continue to navigate these uncertain times.
Out of the 1,250+ inmates at Waupun Correctional Institute (a maximum-security prison), 52 of them are currently studying the Word of God in order to graduate with a Biblical Studies degree. When finished, their goal is to become Field Mentors and then sent to mentor other inmates either at Waupun, or other prisons within the Wisconsin prison system.