“Can a man, who is for society virtually called no good, murderous, a menace to society, actually change into a decent and respectable human being with gifts to help society? That’s a million dollar question.”
– Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones was sentenced to 50 years at Angola Prison. A prison in which many enter and few are expected to leave due to the length of sentencing – a fact that leaves little hope for the inmates. One day while walking Angola’s grounds “frustrated and mad,” Jones stopped beneath a tree, and it is there that he heard God speak to him: “Take care of my business, and I’ll take care of yours.” Thinking himself crazy, Jones says he walked the yard one more time, but once again as he got to the tree God repeated himself. It was in this moment Jones decided to join the Bible college gaining momentum within the walls of Angola.
The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s extension center at Angola Prison changed the direction of Jones’s life drastically. Though demanding, Jones flourished in the four-year program and began preaching on the yard and ministering to communities within Angola. “The college has been a beacon of light to me. It has given me so much strength and study habits to understand and explain the Gospel.” He served 12 years of his sentence before being granted clemency and a second chance at freedom. “When I walked out that gate, I had to just sit there and stop for like ten minutes and ponder and pray. And when I was finished praying, a peace came over me. A silent peace letting me know that everything is in God’s hands, it’s going to be alright.”
Jones became an assistant pastor at St. John Baptist Church after leaving Angola, but did not forget those he left behind. Every three weeks he takes a ministry team to give encouragement and hope to the inmates of Angola, standing as an example of what could happen for them. He has since become the pastor at Light My Way at Sonrise and River of Life Worship Center.
“You can take bitterness, and you can change it to betterment. And yes a man can change. I don’t care what he’s done. He can actually change, but God has to change the man from the inside out. Take that stony, murderous heart of the flesh out of him and store in him a new heart and a new hope. I’m a living witness.” – Clifford Jones.
As we at EchoLight begin the process of bringing Experiencing God: Angola to the big screen, it is Pastor Jones’s story and others like him that inspire us, bring hope to our hearts and fill us with the knowledge and understanding that God can not only be known, He can be experienced.