News Articles

Released from prison, former inmate earns seminary degree

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary student Kenneth Foy says prison was the best thing that ever happened to him.

“That which was set up for my destruction was my salvation,” said Foy, who graduated with a masters of arts in marriage and family counseling on May 17.

Foy’s story began in 1985, when he was charged with four counts of robbery and sentenced to Orleans Parish Prison in Orleans Parish. The next day, he was charged with 12 more counts and, then, an additional 30 counts the following day for a total of 46.

“Right then and there, I knew what was going on was spiritual rejection,” he said. “In the midst of it all, I began to cry out to the Lord.”

It was after the third day in prison that Foy accepted Christ as his personal savior. “I told God I was sorry and kept telling him that,” Foy said. “Prison and among all of these guys is not the place you want to break down and cry. The more I said I was sorry, the more tears I shed. It was like a purging. I promised I’d live for Him but didn’t know what that outcome would be.”

As Foy began to grow in his relationship with Christ, he read an average of 40 to 50 chapters of the Bible daily for the first two years in prison. He said one young woman, who was a spiritual advisor from a local church, visited him every Monday. It was his only outside connection, as she gave him literature that Foy studied in his prison cell.

One time, a young man asked about a verse Foy was reading. Since the man was illiterate, he listened attentively to Foy. Before long, a large group joined in to listen to Foy. It was during this period in his life that Foy says he began to feel a calling to ministry.

After spending two years in Orleans Parish Prison, Foy was transferred to Washington Correctional Institute in Washington Parish, where he served as a pastor for the first time.

“When I got in (Washington Correctional Institute), I told the Lord I wasn’t telling anybody anything about my calling,” Foy noted. However, God had other plans.

After being approached to lead a Bible study, Foy agreed to do so. Soon, he began to serve as pastor of Victory Faith Fellowship, a church in the prison. Under Foy’s leadership, the prison church sponsored eight hungry children through regular contributions and helped send Bibles into Mexico, where they were used in Bible colleges in that country.

“From the time (I committed to serve as pastor), God raised me up,” Foy says. “I was wondering what God would do next. That’s when God gave me my wife.”

Though the two had only dated each other on one occasion before he entered prison, the relationship was renewed when Angela, his future wife, wrote a 24-page letter after learning of Foy’s incarceration. The letter writing continued until the two were married on Dec. 11, 1988.

Chaplain Gary Penton performed the ceremony, although he had a policy against performing a marriage ceremony for a prisoner. However, after talking with the couple, Penton agreed to officiate the wedding.

Penton first met Foy when he was participating in Victory Faith Fellowship and saw that Foy “portrayed leadership abilities in more ways than one.”

“He was like cream, as he rose to the top,” Penton added.

One of Foy’s most monumental moments occurred when he was conducting a Bible study at Orleans Parish Prison. A fellow male prisoner told everyone that he was tired of Bible study and threatened Foy’s life.

“I had a decision to make,” Foy said. “Would I bow down to him or do a Bible study?”

Foy chose to conduct the Bible study. With all of the prisoners attending that day, the man showed up as well.

The two men faced each other for 30 seconds. Amazingly, the man left. Foy learned later that evening that the man said later he was going to harm Foy but “something told him to hold back.” Five years later, Foy was conducting a Bible study at Washington Correctional Institute when the man came forward and accepted Christ.

For the first time, Foy learned his name, as opposed to the alias the man used in prison. In addition to serving time at Orleans Parish Prison and Washingtion Correctional Institute, Foy also lived in the Baton Rouge Police Barracks and Avoyelles Correctional Institute before his release in June 1995. All in all, he spent 10 years, two months and three days in the four prisons.

While in prison, Foy earned 11 hours of class credit that transferred to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Penton was the facilitator.

“I thought it would be a good thing to get some higher learning,” said Foy, who earned the credit through the seminary extension program.

When he was released from prison, Foy met with a few staff members from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. After much prayer, Foy enrolled for classes in August 1995.

Eventually, Foy met Ken Taylor, director of supervised ministry and associate professor of urban missions at New Orleans Baptist Theolgocial Seminary and pastor at Elysian Fields Baptist Church. At the time, Foy was serving as pastor of New Life Ministry, which was meeting in his apartment. The meeting between Foy and Taylor led to Elysian Fields Baptist Church allowing New Life Ministry to use their facilities.

“I see him as a person of good character who cares deeply about people,” Taylor said. “He wants to do a quality job with his people.”

Foy started New Life Ministry in his apartment with 12 people. Today 90 people meet to worship in the ministry.

With graduation only weeks away, Foy says he is excited to begin another chapter in his life.

“For me, graduating will be a special day because it’s one of the times in my life that I’ve started something and finished it,” Foy said. “It’s a seven-year journey, and I’m thanking God for that. The number seven is a number for completion. I’m excited also that I’m even more equipped to do greater work.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: KENNETH FOY.