Professor returns to education after stint with prison ministry

Education has always been a first love for Dr. Patricia Herman, and she's spent the majority of her life training others to teach. So when she felt God calling her to a special type of ministry that involved her own training, the fit was perfect.

Herman, a resident of Lubbock, had taught at Wayland Baptist University for eight years when in 1998, she felt God moving her into work with Prison Fellowship Ministries. Taking the position of Area Director for the West Texas area - which encompassed the entire panhandle clear down to Presidio - Herman was responsible for overseeing fundraising efforts, training and volunteer recruitment for the facilities in the area. The task was definitely challenging.

"They started building prison units in West Texas in the nineties really rapidly. There are 36 federal, state and private facilities in that area," she said. "Prison Fellowship was very aware of all the prisons popping up and began expanding their ministry."

Citing God's continued provision for her life, Herman said when the ministry organization reorganized and her position became obsolete, a position with Wayland's Division of Education opened up. Herman returned to Wayland Baptist University as professor of education in Fall 2001 and is responsible for certification and testing for all education students at Wayland, including those on other Texas campuses in Wichita Falls, Amarillo and Lubbock.

Her involvement and passion for prison ministry started long before she was employed by Prison Fellowship, she added. Herman still holds a special place in her heart for the work with inmates and still does volunteer work for the ministry.

"The Lord got me involved with this. I became a believer as an adult and I had been involved in some messes. When you're so in love with God and appreciate what he's done for you, you just say, 'What can I do?'" she explained. "I attended a meeting that explained various ministry opportunities and I feel like God just laid this in front of me. I started volunteering in 1993. I've always had a love and gift of teaching and I used that in volunteer training. I also trained in-prison instructors."

Herman said her current involvement, while not as extensive as before, is to help lead and train leaders for in-prison seminars which are held Friday nights and all day on Saturdays on a particular topic dealing with discipleship and spiritual growth for inmates.

Though being a university professor does limit her free time, Herman said she is passionate about remaining active with Prison Fellowship and enjoys the opportunities to share God's love and forgiveness with the inmates.

"When I first became a believer, the peace of the Lord came over me. I tell the men at the units, 'Your life is different with God. If it doesn't feel different, you need to think again,'" she said. "It's a blessing to be able to do this work."

Recently, her hard work and dedication was recognized by two of the units she's worked extensively with in Pampa. After presenting the keynote address for the units' volunteer appreciation banquet, they presented her with a plaque for the Distinguished Service Award, "in recognition of your commitment to those incarcerated."

Charles Colson started Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976 after he completed seven months of a one- to three-year prison sentence stemming from involvement in the Watergate incident. Colson became a Christian before his incarceration and started Bible studies there. The ministry has since grown and reaches more than 100,000 inmates annually with Bible studies, seminars and other programs.