By Marcus Henderson
The Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (GGBTS) graduated 14 spiritually committed men in San Quentin on June 10.
The seminary provides educational and ministry experience to prisoners under its contextualized leadership development (CLD) courses.
“When you talk about the gospel you talk about God,” said Seminary President Dr. Jeff Iorg. “I am proud of these men. Hearing their life stories and how the program impacted them, I can see the effects of their leadership inside and outside of prison.”
Nine men earned diplomas in Christian Ministries, and four earned advanced diplomas in theology.
“I enjoyed the spiritual leadership formation class,” said Antoine Watie, theology graduate. “It teaches you to be close to God but not to get too far from the people. It showed me what God really wanted me to be and my identity in Christ.”
At the graduation, Watie gave a powerful sermon in front of a large crowd and eight of his family members.
“I knew he had a special gift,” said Mae Thompson, Watie’s grandmother. “I love that he has reached this point in life. Now he can direct the family into the Lord.”
La Quita Germany, Watie’s fiancée, added, “I like to see his progress; he used his time to turn a negative into a positive. He let his light shine wherever he goes, trying to bring people to Christ.”
Ferrari Moody also received his diploma in theology and fired up the guests with his moving words of devotion.
“The classes prepared me for the ministry and to be a part of an organized church,” Moody said. “If need be, it afforded me the tools to start my own. I thank Mother Jay (San Quentin Protestant Chaplain Mardi Jackson) for allowing us to exercise our spiritual gifts in the chapel. That allows us to gain confidence and implement what we learned.
“Having my wife witness me graduate was major,” Moody added. “She had the chance to see my transformation, and that gave me a lot of joy.”
Derrick Holloway and Sunshine Prado addressed the guests and received their diplomas in Christian Ministries.
“It feels good for my mother to see me in this light,” Holloway said. “When I was a kid she used to rub blessed oil on me; I thought she was crazy, because I had my own agenda in life. Now I’m on God’s agenda. I want to be a church planter and reach people who don’t know about Jesus or the church.”
Prado added, “I’m going to get involved in addiction recovery ministries. That’s what God has put on my heart. Having been an addict myself, I understand the effect it puts on a family. Now I can encourage people to seek help through God’s word. I would like to give honor to my mother Sister Betha.”
Billie Prado came to witness her husband’s transformation.
“I never thought I would be a preacher’s wife,” she said. “But here I am. I’m really proud of him.”
Chaplain Jackson awarded a Certificate of Appreciation to Rev. Don Beall, GGBTS CLD National Director, his wife Reta Beall; and Dr. Iorg for their work in the program.
Don Beall is retiring after 10 years.
“It’s not about the color of your skin or your background,” Beall said. “It’s about walking with a changed life, and we received as much from these men as we gave.”
The San Quentin Garden Chapel Praise Team had everyone on their feet singing along and swaying to songs like “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” “Amazing Grace” and “Nobody Greater.”
The CLD instructors led with prayers and gave inspirational words for the graduates.
“It’s a blessing to see these men’s hard work, that can take them beyond this process,” said Rev. Miguel Rodriguez, CLD Director. “They have special training that can lead them throughout their lives.”
Dr. Brice Butler, Pastor of Tiburon Baptist Church, added, “Keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus will give you perception in any season of life.”
Reta Beall closed the ceremony with words of wisdom.
“Keep studying,” she said. “Don’t let the diploma stop you from learning.”