JACKSON, Tenn. – March 3, 2002– When Randall Runions, chaplain of the South Central Correctional Center in Clifton, Tenn., heard about Bible and ministerial classes being offered at the Turney Correctional Center by Union University’s R.G. Lee Center, he immediately contacted Paul Veazey, assistant to the president for church services at Union, to find out how the program could be started at his own prison.
Randall Runions, chaplain of the SCCC, recently accepted a supply of donated books from Broadman and Holman Publishing for the newly created R.G. Lee Center at the prison. From left to right: Andy Morris, manager of LifeWay Christian Resources; Gene Williams, Men's Ministry Specialist and Prison Ministries for the TBC; Paul Veazey, Union University; David S. Dockery, president of Union; Runions; Roy Maynard, director of missions for Lawrence County, and David Miller, director of missions for Indian Creek.
So Veazey contacted Ray Maynard, director of missions at the Lawrence County Association and David Miller, director of missions at Indian Creek Association to find out if they would be interested in partnering with Union to sponsor a center at the prison. Both of the associations agreed immediately, and with their assistance and funding for the teacher’s salary, the first class of eleven inmates was started earlier this year.
Veazey also contacted the Missions Awareness and Involvement Department at the Tennessee Baptist Convention and requested funds to assist in the start-up of the center. Working with TBC staff Larry Kirk, Beverly Smothers and Tim Bearden, the funds were approved and a one-time gift of $3,000 was received from the TBC.
The most immediate need for the prison facility was that of reference materials for the students. Trent Butler, a Union trustee and an editor with LifeWay Christian Resources, was able to secure a donation of two sets of commentaries and other Bible reference materials from Broadman-Holman Publishing. These volumes will be housed in the prison library.
“Union University could not operate the R.G. Lee Center without the help and commitment from the Baptist associations,” said Veazey. “This is a cooperative effort on the part of lawrence County and Indian Creek Associations and Union University to continue to fulfill Christ'’ great commission."
The R.G. Lee Center at SCCC now has 10 students currently completing the spring 2002 course on studies in the Pentateuch, and has a waiting list for the next class, said Runions. He is excited about the opportunities the program will offer the inmates.
“95% of the prisoners here will go home,” said Runions. “I want them going home saved.”
Union University operates twelve other R.G. Lee Centers in the states of Tennessee and Missouri. The Centers offer courses necessary to complete a diploma in Christian ministry and an associate of divinity degree, which focuses on the spiritual and intellectual needs of leaders in the local church.
Sara B. Horn,