|Source: Baptist Press|
Robert Hyde was elated to learn that his parole had been granted by the Louisiana pardon and parole commission. While incarcerated, Hyde pastored the Grace Baptist Church in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, the first fully recognized Southern Baptist church inside the walls of a prison.
Greeted by long time friend and mentor, Paul Will, Hyde said, “I never really knew what friendship was until I came into Christian fellowship with Paul and the others at Grace Baptist. I never knew what Christian brotherhood was like until Paul and I became brothers. We hit it off and have had a really good relationship since.”
Growing up in an abusive home, Hyde became involved in the culture of drugs and alcohol that resulted in him adopting bad habits as a minor that became progressively worse as grew into adulthood.
“My story of life change began with Jesus and then Paul was willing to be a part of that story as he spent a lot of time with me and helped disciple me. We leaned on each other for a lot while at Angola and I look forward to continuing the good work now that I am free like him,” Hyde said.
Hyde gave his life to Christ while in Richland Parish Detention Center in Rayville.
“Because of my domestic violence history I realized I had become the very thing I hated: a violent man,” Hyde said. “It broke my heart. I was completely ashamed and at the end of my rope.
“It was right there I felt the voice of the Lord and I then asked the librarian to bring me a Bible where I read in Proverbs 5 where God, via Solomon, calls out to His sons. I had never heard anyone call me ‘son’ in the house I grew up in. The Holy Spirit let me know I had a father and was a son. Right there I wept like a baby and learned who Jesus was. I was ashamed of who I had become but I knew I was forgiven. I knew the atonement didn’t just apply to me at the moment of conversion, but that I had to stand and walk in the cross and be the man the Lord wanted me to be.”
Sentenced to 35-year for manslaughter and was transferred to the Louisiana Department of Corrections, Hyde started attending Bible studies. Learning that a transfer might be possible to Angola Correctional Facility where New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary had an extension campus, Hyde put in for a transfer.
Upon arriving at Angola, he enrolled in the school and earned associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees before being ordained by Grace Baptist Church in 2017. Serving as the associate pastor of Grace Baptist Church for two years in 2017, Hyde was called to be the congregation’s pastor.
“I met Jesus in that cell in Rayville [Correctional Facility], but Angola is when things really changed,” he said. “For the first time in my life I learned what real ministry was and quickly latched onto Baptist church. I was extraordinarily impressed with the involvement and mission of the Southern Baptist churches and their investment in prisoners like me.”
The model of congregations within penitentiary systems is a new model that the Southern Baptist Convention is exploring as it seeks to expand is evangelistic reach. Supported by First Baptist Church, Saint Francisville and the Washington Baptist Association, other ministries of Grace Baptist include providing support for the costs of uniforms for mentors, books, and a sound system.
Source: Baptist Press