A clear sky and blue waters, seen from San Quentin State Prison’s visiting room, served as the backdrop for friends and family to witness four incarcerated men earn degrees from a Christian leadership ministry course.
The men graduated on June 16 from Gateway Seminary, North Bay School of Theology (formerly Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary).
“I took this class to be closer to the Lord and step in my calling to preach the gospel,” Anthony Prater Sr. said.
Prater’s mother looking on added, “He has grown and matured as a man and will continue on and serve the purpose God has for him.”
Joyous gospel singing brought the room to life through a performance by the Garden Chapel Music Ministry.
The Rev. Miguel Rodriguez welcomed the graduates and guests. Chaplain Mardi Jackson gave an innovation.
“God be the Glory,” Jackson called the day.
Graduate Julio Saca is scheduled to be released from prison in September. He said he plans to continue with the ministry.
“It definitely gave me growth and increased my faith in the Lord by learning more about the Bible,” Saca said.
Saca’s mother and sister attended the graduation. Both expressed their pride and happiness in the positive changes they see in Saca.
Graduate Edward Brooks said, “I was part of the church and when I got here at San Quentin I took the class to learn more about Christ.”
Brooks, Prater and Saca earned degrees for completing the first part of the program, while Louis Hunter Jr. earned a diploma in Theology, Christian Leadership Development, for completing part two.
Prior to being handed their degrees, each graduate give a brief testimony.
Hunter said he began the course in 2010. He talked about the trials and tribulations of staying in the class. He said at times, the difficulties made him want quit, but perseverance kept him going and before he knew it, he finished the class.
“He stayed the course and is doing what God intended him to do,” Hunter’s sister said. “This accomplishment is another step for God’s will, as to fill his destiny.”
Saca testified to his struggles while taking the class, “Staying in the class has allowed me to be closer to Christ,” Saca said. “I wanted change in my life and it was well worth it to make me change and be a better person.”
Shavougue Mason graduated in absentia.