11 NCI inmates graduate from Shalom Bible College & Seminary
Editor’s Note: Staff at Noble Correctional Facility have restricted the use of inmate names for this story to only their first names in order to protect victims and victims’ families.
CALDWELL — A message from God delivered through a vision to an inmate at an out-of-state county jail more than six years ago led to him earning a bachelor’s degree in theology while incarcerated at the Noble Caldwell Correctional Institution.
“I was on drugs at the age of 10 and came from some of the worst environments possible,” said Chad, who was sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison nearly six years ago in the county of Licking.
“I was an enforcer for one of the 10 worst motorcycle gangs in the country when I was in that county jail and I was so drunk I didn’t know my age, but I got a vision from the Lord .
“He spoke to me and was like, ‘Chad change your life, or I’m going to end it.'”
Chad is one of 11 inmates housed at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections facility in Caldwell who received at least a degree on Monday through Shalom Bible College and Seminary based in West Des Moines, Iowa. .
One of the inmates, Michael, earned three doctorates in theology, theology, and nouthetic counseling, while another, Paul, earned his doctorate in nouthetic counseling and a master’s degree in divinity.
“I was called to preach when I was 17, but I turned my back on the Lord, just like Jonah in the Bible,” said Michael, a murderer sentenced to life in prison. “My life didn’t go so well after that, and so did Jonah.”
Jonah studied the Bible while incarcerated in another prison in Ohio, but was unable to take classes at other colleges.
“I applied, but a few other Christian colleges turned me down because I was in jail,” Michael said. “When I arrived here I had my Bible reading when another inmate approached me and asked me what book I was reading.
“When I told him, he said it was the same Bible they used in Shalom Bible College classes, so I met with Chaplain (Robert) Sinnett and signed up. I didn’t never looked back.
“I give all the glory to the Lord, because without him, I could never have accomplished this. I am very grateful to Shalom College and this institution. To be able to come out with (three) degrees is incredible.”
Shalom Bible College & Seminary is a correspondence-based self-study program accredited by the American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions.
The first Shalom classes started five years ago with the first promotion two years ago, according to Sinnett.
“What you have today is a new future, not written, but by the hand of God,” Sinnett told the promotion. “Congratulations on persevering to reach this milestone. You may not be my sons in the flesh, but you are my sons in the spirit, and I am so proud of you. As proud as if you were my own biological sons.”
NCI Warden Jay Forshey also took the time to congratulate the graduates for their hard work.
“You had a fantastic opportunity to dig deep and ask yourself if this is what you want to do,” Forshey said. “You know what you did to get here, but what you did while you were here means a lot.
“You didn’t shrug your shoulders. It was a lot of work, but you studied and you did it. I’m proud of what you’ve done and proud of what you’re about to do. Go ahead and be ‘fishers of men.'”
The director also spoke with current Shalom students present at the ceremony.
“Keep up the work and don’t stop. If you do, you’ll be sitting in those seats,” Forshey said, pointing to the seats occupied by the 11 graduates.
The remaining graduates included Shelton, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Christian education; Mark, BA in Theology; Larry, Bachelor of Ministry; David, Master of Ministry; Patrick, Master of Theology; Ralph, master of theology; Larry, Ph.D. in Christian Education; and Mark, Ph.D. in nouthetic counseling.
Current chaplain Gary Eno read a letter from the president of Shalom Bible College & Seminary offering his congratulations before offering his.
As valedictorian with a 4.2 GPA, Michael challenged his fellow graduates.
“There is a stark contrast to where we are today and what God has called us to do,” Michael said. “You can’t let people define you or blame you for a past mistake. People try to bring you back to who they want you to be or how they think.
“But, you have to make a choice. You can live up to the ideas others have of you, or you can break the mould. We are in this prison, not this prison. We are different and not defined by our environment.
“Rejoice in the accomplishments of this graduating class,” added Michael.
Both Chad and Michael were challenged on their way to their respective degrees.
“Dealing with other people’s opinions and their perceptions of you was difficult,” Michael said. “But you have to understand that you have to go beyond the opinions and perceptions of these people.”
“You can’t let those opinions stop you from becoming what God has called you to be and to me that helps others,” added Chad, who wants to serve as a missionary evangelist.
His goal, if ever released from prison, is to report to Shalom headquarters in Iowa to be of service to them.
“Wherever they want me to go, that’s where I’ll go,” Michael said.
For Chad, in his quest to become a counselor, it was the lack of technology that made his pursuit of a degree difficult.
“The hardest part was that I had to write everything by hand,” he said. “Not being able to use (Microsoft) Word was killing me. I wrote 12 pages a day, seven days a week for four years.
“But it was worth it,” Chad added.
Chad said he graduated last year, but COVID restrictions prevented him from graduating until Monday.
A graduate in applied sciences from another college, he is currently working on his master’s degree in psychology.
“I want to help people when I go out,” he said. “A job in faith-based drug addiction would be my dream job. With my background, guys tend to listen to me and they respond well considering what I’ve been through. »
The class motto for the 11 graduates said it all as they moved forward stating, “Be brave, and he will strengthen your hearts, all you who hope in the Lord.”