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Bible ministry served inmate in prison

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Former inmate Otis Hardy talks about the prison ministry program he supports. (WTVD)

Otis Hardy was living in Greensboro in 1979 when he was convicted of armed robbery and given two life sentences. He was full of anger and hate.

In prison, Hardy was a wheeler-dealer. "You got a lot of money in prison," Hardy recently told ABC11's Stephanie Lopez and The News & Observer. When he got caught organizing card games for money in 1994, the guard threatened to turn him in unless he went to a Christian service in the prison cafeteria.

Hardy went. Hardy, who is African American, had been hostile to white people. But he was moved when two white male visitors prayed for him at the service.

As he knelt, they each placed a hand on his shoulder. "That encounter changed my life," Hardy said. "The people who blessed me were the people I'd hated all my life."

Two years later, at Wake Correctional, he was the first inmate there to participate in a weekly Bible study led by two members of Genesis United Methodist Church in Cary.

They were part of Disciple Bible Outreach Ministries, which started in North Carolina and is led by the Rev. Mark Hicks, a Methodist minister. It has regular Bible studies in more than 50 prisons, jails and youth centers in the state and also operates in six other states.

Of the Bible study volunteers, Hardy said: "The relationship was beautiful. The people were great. A lot of people come into a prison but there are very few people you gravitate to."

Disciple Bible Outreach Ministries holds its annual dinner Saturday at 7 p.m. at Otis Hardy's church - Cary's First United Methodist Church at 117 S. Academy St. The public is invited. There is no charge but donations are accepted. Organizers ask that attendees sign up at disciplebibleoutreach.org.

The 100 Men in Black gospel choir will perform. The event raises money for study guides, Bibles and videos. Otis Hardy will be there.

In prison, Hardy learned how to bake. From 1996 to 2000, he worked in the kitchen at the Executive Mansion for Gov. Jim Hunt. Hardy was pardoned by Hunt and released from prison in 2000.

Hardy is now 71 years old. He and his wife, Wynella, live in Raleigh and are devoted members of First United Methodist, where they cook breakfast every Sunday morning for fellow church members. "This church really has been a blessing for us," he said.

Read more here.

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