Dear Supporters of PiFO,
On occasion, I have used quotes from Dr. Amit Bhatia, who is the Director of the Corban extension in the Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI). Here is a copy of an article Dr. Bhatia wrote. This article goes to the heart of our program and also reveals Dr. Bhatia’s heart for his students. Here is part 1. Next week part 2.
Imagine yourself stepping into your classroom in a prison. As you begin instruction, the vision that you have turning over in your head is that of Jesus standing in the center of the classroom singing and dancing and rejoicing over what he has done and is doing in the lives of your Adults-In-Custody (AIC) students. As you teach, at several points through the course of the day you find yourself burdened to tell the students with conviction that “Jesus is not finished with you. His plan is to conform you to His image, and He fully intends to glorify Himself in you and through you. Keep your eyes on Jesus because He intends to advance His kingdom inside the prison walls.” This has been my experience since I began teaching in OSCI.
God is changing our students. On the first day of class one student thumped his chest and responded with great enthusiasm, “I am a Corban University student!” As I engaged this student over the next few weeks I came to realize the full weight of what he was saying. His self-image of shame and unforgiveness of himself was leaving him, and even though he viewed himself as a “convict” in prison, his self-identify was being transformed. He is indeed a Corban University student. God is moving this student along His trajectory of the primary call that He has on this Student’s life: to conform him to the image of His Son, Jesus.
Just past the midway point of the Fall 2019 semester – our first semester – I asked students to reflect on and share with me what God had done in their lives thus far. Here is a small look at the deeply appreciative responses they gave to me anonymously. Things they had learned academically:
“I am relearning how to use my brain, sweeping out the dust and cobwebs, getting the machine running again. I can’t think of anything more mindless than prison. It makes your brain rot. Like everything else, the mind requires exercise, or it atrophies.”
“The skills I’ve gotten from the Student’s College Success textbook [have] given me great tools to be organized with my notetaking and studies. The tools I have learned so far in this course will help me throughout this whole program.”
“I learned what exegesis and hermeneutics are and the importance of using these academic fields for the proper interpretation of Scripture. In order for us to apply the Bible today, we must first understand the context in which it was written.”
“Academically, I have been swamped but it feels good, like I have a purpose in life again. You get this chance to understand how to break God’s word into usable life skills.”
One of the challenges students face is having been away from formal education (“not being in school for so long,” as one student remarked) and having to relearn things. “But,” this student went on to say, “with the cohesion that has happened among the students and teachers, we have been able to help each other.” Every week during study-hall students are helping others who are struggling with their Mathematics course. About this sense of solidarity among our students, he remarked:
“I have also noticed that as our class becomes more cohesive the stronger our chapel time becomes. The more we become unified the more the Spirit seems to pour out on our service. I believe we are becoming a true body for Christ in this place.”
Reflecting on the impact our program was having, one student remarked:
“The chance to earn a properly accredited degree is great and will never lose its value, but the Christian ethics attached to this education are what catapults this program above others. I can’t overstate how important this is, that we should receive a moral education. No other program does such a comprehensive job of meeting our educational needs when it comes to morality and ethics, as well as a degree that will actually count for something in the real world.”
Eventually, we expect the majority of our students will be released out into the “real world,” having become educated and well-equipped contributing members of our society. It is this opportunity to develop these students to become who Christ intends for them to be is what motivates me to invest in them academically and spiritually. The prison is a mission field and it is because of Christ’s work in and through these students that His kingdom will advance into a place I myself will never be able to go – inside the bars of a prison. I want to dance with Jesus, don’t you?
Dr. Amit A. Bhatia
Director of the Corban Extension in OSCI
We are so blessed to have Dr. Bhatia leading the charge into OSCI. Please pray for him, the other professors who will be teaching this Fall Semester and our students.
Grateful as always,
Our board is meeting and praying about how God wants us to proceed with our Fundraiser this year. Please join us in prayer!