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Don’t tell me what God can’t do | surviving Angola prison | with Ronald Olivier

Unshackled Faith: Ronald Olivier's Testimony of Spiritual Awakening in Angola Prison

Season 13, episode 263
40 min / Published

Bonjour! Stephanie here. I just finished reading a book called “27 Summers” by Ronald Olivier, and I'm still recovering from the shock of it. He shares his gripping journey of running the streets in Louisiana of life without parole at the Angola prison and then finding his way back home. 27 Summers, that's 27 years he spent in Angola prison.

The first time that Ronald saw someone killed, he was 12 years old. Death was It's all around, and after running the New Orleans streets for several years selling drugs, stealing cars, he murdered a young man at age 16. And so he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. That is his story of how he lost his life, and he's going to tell us how, by God's grace, he found it again inside a prison cell in the worst prison in the states. He grew up in the eighth ward of New Orleans, and the streets were his playground. He played hard without many consequences until one ill-fated Christmas day when he pulled his gun, fired it, and killed someone. After waiting 2 years for trial, he was convicted a state of second-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole in Angola, the Louisiana state penitentiary which is America's most notoriously brutal prison.

His memoir came out just a few weeks ago, 27 Summers. Ronald gives us an in-depth look into this mesmerizing story, his youth, he the Adrenaline filled highs, the utter lows, the near-3 decades of incarceration, and most of all, God's relentless love reaching into those dark depths. He details finding true freedom during the imprisonment. He details the miraculous release. The story continues to this day, and he tells us about it in today's episode.

I've asked him why he wrote this book. And he said it's to be inspired by God's unrelenting love for all of us, his grace, his redemption, and they're on full display as Ronald finds abundant life in prison. He attends seminary. He finds forgiveness. He's going to tell us about that. All of this within the context of a life sentence.

His motto gives me chills: “Don't tell me what God can't do.” It's the heartbeat behind this riveting story. It's a firsthand example of God's power to transform individuals, families, communities to this day.


- Emphasizing the positive impact of rehabilitation, Ronald shares his journey from imprisonment to becoming the director of chaplaincy at the Mississippi State Penitentiary and his work with the Louisiana Parole Project, advocating for the reentry of long-term prisoners into society.

- Olivier speaks about his coming to faith, the complete turnaround in prison, leading to his release and eventual parole, marking a turning point in his journey and a testament to the transformative power of God's grace.

- Sharing about his book "27 Summers", Ronald Olivier's story touches global audiences, shedding light on the unjust conditions of the justice system and offering hope that trusting in God can bring about unfathomable change in the most challenging circumstances.


Ronald Olivier served twenty-seven summers in the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola. He was released in 2018, and became a client of the Louisiana Parole Project. In 2020, less than two years after leaving Angola, Ronald was hired as the director of chaplaincy at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. In 2023 Ronald returned to the Louisiana Parole Project as a client advocate, using his experience to guide other formerly incarcerated people toward successful careers and lives. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife and son.


In one of America's most notorious prisons, a young man sentenced to life without parole miraculously found faith, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. In 27 Summers, Ronald Olivier shares his dramatic and powerful story and offers proof that God can bring healing and hope to even the darkest circumstances.

As a teenager Ronald Olivier ran wild in the streets of New Orleans, selling drugs, stealing cars, and finally killing someone on what was supposed to be the happiest day of the year--Christmas Day. Facing the consequences of his crime, he remembered what his mother once said. "Baby, if you ever have real trouble, the kind that I can't get you out of, you can always call on Jesus." So he did.

Ronnie was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Through the agony of solitary confinement and multiple transfers into increasingly dangerous prison environments, Ron kept seeking God for healing and hope. Finally, after being locked up for twenty-seven summers at the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary--known as Angola--Ronald was miraculously released. Remarkably, he became the director of chaplains at Mississippi State Penitentiary. Today, he loves to combat hopelessness, wherever he finds it, by saying, "Don't tell me what God can't do!”

Through his book, he invites you to

-          learn new insights about faith and patience from a man who spent almost three decades in a cruel and violent environment;

-          be encouraged, like Ron, to find grace and forgiveness to overcome the pain of their past; and

-          find hope that God can redeem and restore anyone.

Ronald's fascinating story brilliantly displays God's power to transform individuals, families, and communities, reminding us that there truly is nothing God can't do.


27 Summers is an incredible journey into the power of redemption. Ronald Olivier's story takes us on a rollercoaster from his wild youth in the streets of New Orleans to the Louisiana State Penitentiary, where he finds salvation and solace through faith in God. This book is an inspiring tale that shows how even in our darkest moments, we can find hope, peace, and freedom if we choose to turn to God. Ronald is a great example to others that anyone seeking God and redemption can find his way out of the pits of hell-- from a life of crime and prison-- and into a life of helping others. 27 Summers is a must- read. -- Commissioner Burl Cain, Mississippi Department of Corrections


Gritty, terrifying yet truly uplifting! -- Bear Grylls, adventurer and author of Never Give Up and Mud, Sweat, and Tears


I first met Ronald Olivier in prison. An experience I thought I would never take part in. Since meeting Ronald and learning about his story, I've wanted nothing more than for the world to hear it and meet the man who inspired me. 27 Summers will change your perspective on life, faith, and love. Ronald did that for me. His story will do the same for you. I can't wait for you to read about Ronald and learn what I learned: that change is not only possible but also probable when you encounter Jesus. Thank you Slim, for sharing your story with the world. We need it. -- Sam Acho, author, speaker, and ESPN analyst


Ronnie Slim is a living testimony to God's redemptive power. In the depths of one of America's most notorious prisons, he discovered unimaginable healing, hope, and God's purpose for his life. 27 Summers tells the story of God's abounding love, proving that even in the darkest of circumstances, He is with us and provides a way out. -- Len Vanden Bos, chaplain for the Buffalo Bills


This inspiring, powerful, and important memoir is so timely as we continue to reckon with decades of over- incarceration and excessive punishment. Ron Olivier makes redemption accessible to us all. -- Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy


This inviting, encouraging, and inspiring book is the read you've been waiting for! Ronald Olivier's journey of flaws and failures led to a life of faith and unusual triumph. 27 Summers beckons you to step behind prison walls with Ronnie and experience freedom born of God's grace and mercy, proof that He never counts anyone out. -- Dr. Leslie Draper III, board certified senior clinical chaplain and mayor of Simmesport, Louisiana


This is one of the most compelling comeback stories you will ever read. It will hold your attention on every page-- and ultimately lead you to your knees in wonder, love, and praise. Hugely recommended! -- Matt Redman, GRAMMY Award– winning worship leader and songwriter and author

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