I used to think some criminals were beyond hope of transformation. That was before I visited the Angola maximum-security prison in Louisiana. This is the largest maximum-security prison in the US, housing 5,000 inmates and 1,800 workers. In 2009, 3,712 inmates, or 74% of the prisoners, were serving life sentences. Angola is filled with some of the worst criminals in the United States.

Several years ago, Warden Burl Cain allowed my son and me to visit and spend the night at Angola. It was an incredible experience. The prison is not what you might expect — neither are the prisoners. The difference is seen in the attitudes of the inmates. Many of them have trusted Christ as their Savior, and they have a new outlook on life. Awana Lifeline, a ministry which reaches out to inmates at Angola and other prisons with the gospel, said this about the prison, “Over 1,000 inmates [that’s 20%] are Christians as well as the warden, Burl Cain. . . . Wardens from across the country now come to him for advice on how to change patterns of inmate violence and apathy. Warden Cain believes that emphasizing faith in Christ has helped turn Angola around.”*

I had underestimated the power of God to transform these criminals, but He had not. What I saw as a closed door, He saw as a window of opportunity. Through the power of His love and grace, hardened criminals serving life sentences experienced eternal life. When they put their trust in Christ, He forgave their sins and released them from all guilt. There behind those prison bars, they experienced real freedom.

Is anyone too bad to be saved? Never say never. From the thief on the cross, to the devout Pharisee, to you and me — He is able to save to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). You have been saved for a purpose. Go and tell someone else about God’s free gift today.

Click here to learn why no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.

* Quote from http://awanalifeline.org/#/about-us/history

When I get to Heaven, I shall see three wonders there. The first wonder will be to see many there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people who I did expect to see; the third and greatest of all will be to find myself there. — John Newton

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder