Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Wow!!! It’s over, the Kairos walk is finished, at least the four day event is completed. This is one of those things that will never have an ending, at least not until Jesus returns. Lives have been touched and the seeds that have been planted will grow in time. What they will grow into will vary from individual to individual, depending on the water and nourishment they receive and the quality of the soil. I hope to make my way down there every Friday to teach and help with that nourishment.
We were talked to about the mountain top experience, how coming down from the mountain and returning to the daily walk of life would come with temptations and frustrations. Today is our first day back. There’s a lot of catching up to do and I am tired for sure. I have lots of writing to do, need to record these events while they are still fresh in my mind.
So let me describe as best I can how these four days went. On day one we all arrived at the church that is being used as the central staging area of this event. Cherie and I got there a half hour later than we wanted but with plenty of time to get ready and head out with everyone else. The church is a small downtown fellowship that meets in a store front. They have installed a commercial kitchen that is a blessing to say the least considering we fix meals for about 100 people at a time, which include the forty-two “Men in White” who were chosen to take part in the Kairos weekend, plus all the volunteers and servants. The term “men in white” is how we refer to the inmates, because of the all white prison uniforms they wear. It’s a lot nicer and more uplifting than calling them inmates or convicts. On top of that are 32 to 34 of us who are going into the prison and then a host of “servants”. The servants are fellow inmates who have successfully completed a previous Kairos walk. So that’s a lot of food to fix as we serve them both lunch and dinner, plus the outside Kairos folks arrive at the church by 5:00 AM each morning to fix us breakfast before we head out to the prison.
We walk in the church and are warmly greeted. A big surprise was to see the toothless grin of Chuck as he ran up to say Hi. The last time I’d seen him was at the Lynaugh prison during the first Kairos I’d ever participated in. He had been the brother in white I was assigned as a “Sponsor” for so my task was to keep up with him and make sure things were going well. We hit it off right away and shared much together, creating a bond. I’d not done well at following up so did not even know he was out of prison. He’d been out 31 days and went way out of his way to be here and help out with this Kairos. Just one of many WOW!’s there would be. There was a general meeting as the days agenda was discussed after an opening prayer. Then those who were to give talks that day went to the chapel area where we all prayed over them. With that it was time to load the trucks with the tons of supplies and stuff we needed to set up for the event. We all left in a caravan of vehicles to the prison.
Prison! Oh the memories and thoughts that rise up every time I pass by one. We roll past the groves of pecan trees of one of, if not the, largest pecan orchards in the state of Texas and Lynaugh Unit comes into sight. All the buildings are a uniform grayish color that I can’t find a name for and are surrounded by ten or twelve foot high chain link fences with rows of unrolled razor sharp Constantine wire lining the tops. On all but the first day it’s still dark with the sun just thinking of coming up so the lights are on everywhere. So many lights that there is no place for a shadow to hide. I remember when I came here the first time, six months ago. Everyone kept asking me “Are you alright?” and “How are you handling it?” for they were genuinely concerned. They all knew I’d spent a lot of time behind bars and some of them also knew about my brain injury and the effect stress can have on me. I was unsure myself about how I would handle walking into a prison again that first time, but it wasn’t a problem, not even a little one. I knew I could walk out of the prison at the end of the day and besides that I know God is with me wherever I go so there is no need for fear.
Getting into the prison is a process similar to boarding a plane these days. Names had to be checked on the list of those approved to enter, ID’s checked to insure I was who I said I was, and then it’s belts off, shoes off, pockets emptied, no cell phones, no money, nothing that could be contraband or turned into a weapon. A once over with the metal detector and then a pat down and we were good to go. Only five at a time through the door and “Wait for the escort” before we head to the main building. The first trip included all the food and items we were taking with us. Seems some of the overhead projector laptop stuff hadn’t gotten on the list so it wasn’t allowed in, at least not at first.
It was so good to see many of the ones who were in the group I was privileged to be a part of when I did my first Kairos six months ago. They had been given the honor of being servants during this Kairos. When I walked into the gym Louis was the first one to run up and greet me with a hug. Then there was T…, V..., J... (All names withheld due to security and privacy policies), and others I’d had the honor of being with six months earlier. I asked about another one of them, a man who had given his life to Christ, for I didn’t see him and knew he had a hard road to go. They assured me he was…doing ok, but like I said I knew it would be hard. It was good to hear he hadn’t fallen away and that they continued to help him. He had been blessed by being removed from the tougher higher security area he had been housed in so that was good.
With the initial brief introductions done it was time to get to business. Chairs had been arranged for the opening ceremony, around the gym and facing each other. As the men in white came in their name was called along with the name of which one of us was that individuals sponsor. My guy’s name was J… so when I heard his name I rushed forward with his name tag in hand. I asked permission to put it around his neck, an important step for we must be careful and respectful when it comes to any thing that might be construed as invading their space. This I have an intimate understanding of due to the worlds I’ve lived in. Some of these men have violent pasts, coming from worlds of gangs, drugs, and other criminal activity. Even if they hadn’t been involved with that in the “Free world” (the term used to refer to the realm outside of prison by those behind the walls) life inside of prison is a dangerous one, full of rivalries and intimidations. Cherie has learned that in a restaurant or other public places that I desire to sit where I can see who’s coming and where my back is protected. It’s not too bad these days but there was a time when I was unable to be comfortable in any public setting. And someone reaching out to touch me raised all kinds of red flags inside as I position myself to catch a knife or punch being thrown, reflexes ready to spring to action.
J… did indeed come from such a past. I can’t reveal too much about him out of respect for his privacy but do wish to convey who he is in a general way. He is intensely tattooed from his face to his hands, all that was visible and not covered with clothing. There was a definite proximity defensiveness so I let him put the name tag on himself. The name tags are about eight by four inches with a yarn lanyard that goes around the neck so it hangs chest high, with the names printed in large letters under the banner of “Lynaugh Kairos #24”. We had name tags on as well, but of a different color to identify us as being a part of the Kairos team.
I asked J… if I could get him some coffee, lemonade, or cookies, and upon his reply led him to where they were being served and got them for him. This is the start of his being treated very different from what he’s accustomed to in the prison environment. Our motto is “Love, Love, Listen, Listen”. In general these guys are told what to do, when to do it, and exactly how to do it from authority figures who will reinforce their demands with punishment if not complied with. But we are here to serve them, to represent Jesus Christ and His love. Jesus gave the example Himself when he washed the apostles feet, and that was just one of many instances of His practicing the humility he preached.
With cookies and coffee in hand we went to find a seat. They were filling up fast for sure so we had to squeeze in a spot. The guy next to us wore a Wiccan star along with a scowl. I made note of that and you’ll hear more about him later. Now it’s time to get to know our guests, to strike up a conversation with this stranger we have never seen before. I’m not a social person to start with, partly due to the brain injury but also just because I’m seldom comfortable with strangers anyway, but this is different. This is working for the Lord so requires me to get out of my comfort zone. Among the questions we are told not to ask are “Why are you in prison?” or “How long will you be here?”. There are many others that we were told about during the two months of training I went through before this. But we can ask where they are from and stuff like what their job in the prison was. The whole idea is to get them comfortable and make sure they don’t feel pressured. J… opened up about his family and when I complimented him on his tattoos expressed his regret for them and the gang life that generated most of them. When asked why he came to Kairos he said he was looking for answers about life and hope for his children. That was a real positive response, a lot better than many others we’ve heard. He had questions and we believe we have answers.
Robert, our team leader, went to the mike and opened with prayer. Then he explained a little about Kairos, what our goals are and what to expect in the days to come. He asked that everyone have an open mind and a respectful or even reverent attitude, especially when we went to the area identified as the chapel. This was behind a fifty foot long banner that is ten foot high and stretched across the gym. On it are painted depictions of Jesus and the cross He was crucified on. That area we would all go to several times each day and there we would hear talks on a variety of subjects along with the public reading of prayers.
In fact shortly after Robert’s opening statements we went to the chapel for the first of these talks. Due to time constraints, caused in part by how long it took to get into the prison, we had to pack the talks in a little tighter than planned. The talks were titled “Know Yourself, I chose you, Prodigal son, and Night prayer”.
With those done and a short visitation time afterwards it was time to leave. The first day was done so we headed out and went back to the church. Driving up to the church we are greeted by the outside angels lining up on both sides of the door and hallway, extending well out the door. They begin clapping their hands in unison and sing “When the Saint’s come marching in” as we pass between them to go inside. What a welcome that is, what a rejuvenation of our spirits.
Once in we first settle down a bit and get blessed with a dinner the angels have prepared for us. When the meal is over we discuss who we met and what needs or problems we identified so these could be specifically prayed for by the prayer warriors who are such a vital part of this. Just as I was assigned a specific individual to be a sponsor for there are prayer warriors assigned to specific people. One of the things going on behind the scene, part of what is not seen and thus often not recognized, is that there are people around the world praying for this event. In fact there are people praying for this event around the clock in a prayer vigil that goes on 24 hours a day with every hour assigned for someone to pray in. You can feel this when we walk in the prison, a palpable presence of the Lord.
After all this and a closing prayer it’s time to head to the hotel and try to get some sleep. Cherie and I are so grateful for those who made this possible for us. It’s embarrassing often times to be poor, to struggle just to put food on the table. Many judge because of that, internally deciding that those who are not financially as well off as they must be lazy, not as “right with the Lord” as that person is, or some other disparaging thought, so it’s a hard thing for us to have to face. But we didn’t see that here. I don’t advertise our difficulties yet there are some who knew. Without asking our team fee was paid, someone gave us enough cash to pay for the gas for the 300 mile round trip, and our hotel room was supplied. Through the grace and love of others we were able to serve the Lord, and for that we are grateful and pray that those who gave receive a bountiful reward, a cup running over.
Cherie was so excited to be a part of this. She had made it to the closing for the last Kairos, the first one I’d attended, and was so touched by the power of God to change lives she decided to be involved with this one. So while I was at the prison she was back at the church, preparing food, praying, and attending many of the tasks needed to make this event possible. Plus she had a chance to meet and fellowship with the many “Outside angels” during this.
So now it’s time for us to unwind from the first day. Unwinding is hard to do despite being so tired from all the work and activity. We’re in an unfamiliar place, on an unfamiliar bed, far from home. We wonder how our dogs and cats are doing, if Linda had any problems getting Rascal and Trixie in and out of the house, and of course there are loads of other thoughts running through our heads. At the top of the list is Kairos. I tell Cherie of J… and the others we met. We prayed together and attempted to turn our minds off and go to sleep, with limited success.
The alarm is set for five o’clock in the morning. We are expected to be at the church at 6:00 so it’s a rush to be sure. Of course we don’t quite make it there at 6:00 but we get there with plenty of time to eat the breakfast prepared by the outside angels, and to discuss the upcoming day’s activities along with the all important prayer. The three men who were to speak that day are set in chairs arranged in a semi circle and we all surround them, everyone touching the ones in front, who’s hands are laid on the recipients of this prayer. It’s not just one person praying and that’s it, many prayed, one at a time with all the rest agreeing with that individual’s prayer.
When all’s done it’s time to head out, but first we need to load the trucks with cookies and supplies. We might have taken the cookies the first day, I can’t remember clearly, but it doesn’t matter what day it was. That would be over one thousand five hundred plus dozens of cookies. Doing the math shows we had over 18,000 individual cookies. I know it filled the bed of a full sized pick up truck to the point they had to put many boxes in the cab for fear they would fly off the back of the truck. It’s still dark so we head out in that convoy to the prison.
At the prison it’s check in time, the same security procedures with minor variations depending on who’s in charge. Chaplain Raines is always there to help things go smoothly. I am quite impressed with this man, who does way more than the minimum required for his job, way more. It’s not just a paycheck to him, it’s truly a ministry where he understands he is saving lives from eternal hell, and he does it with enthusiasm and conviction.
From this point on things are arranged differently. There are seven tables set up, each with an apostles name on it. My table is the “Luke” table. Each table has six men in white assigned to it, with their places marked by the name tags we handed out to them the day before. In addition to that are two or three of us, the Kairos volunteers, along with an ordained Clergyman, also one of the Kairos volunteers. This way if anyone at the table wishes to share information that might be compromising he can talk to the clergyman while maintaining confidentiality. It provides a sense of security that is of great value in this whole process.
J… is purposely assigned to a different table than mine, but I do make note of where he is seated. We greet the guys as they arrive at our table, making sure they feel welcome. This Kairos I’m designated as a table leader. That doesn’t really mean I run anything, it’s just my duty to insure that things go smoothly and to make sure that everyone gets to express themselves freely.
On each side of me are two older gentlemen, T… and J…, who just happened to both be from Chicago. It’s a small big world. Then there was G…, H…, A…, R…, seated at our table. We spend a lot of time just getting to know each other, making introductions and sizing each other up. I know it may sound strange, “Sizing each other up”, but that’s how it is in prison. They don’t know us and we don’t know them, though with my background and experience I may have a greater insight regarding the lives our brothers in white have experienced than some who’ve led a sheltered life. However, in the end it doesn’t matter, for I’ve seen the Holy Spirit put words in the mouths of our volunteers, heard them give advice that was beyond their experience or even age in it’s wisdom. Plus we have many volunteers who have walked in the same shoes our brothers in white have walked, so God has blessed this Kairos ministry with some powerful assets, those who are humble enough to be willing tools in the Masters hands.
So we’re started, learning to trust, learning who each other is, and learning about the love of God. What an assortment of people we have seated at the Luke table. Several already know about God, some call themselves Christians, to one degree or another, but one absolutely wasn’t. All this God stuff was new to him. Oh, he’d heard a little here and there but his life was a vicious one, with much hardship and anger. I watched him soften during those four days, and at the end he told me “I felt something I’ve never felt in my life, ever”. What was it? He felt love, it was a strange thing for him, a new sensation that he had to wrestle with to understand. H… told me some of what he has seen in life and now understands that God truly loves him and that there is a reason he lives. He was in a police chase that ended up on you tube as one of the most dangerous ever recorded. At the end there were over fifty bullet holes counted in his vehicle and all were amazed that not only was he alive but not a bullet touched him. He realizes that he is blessed to be alive and believes it was the hand of God that protected him. I believe that too as I can certainly relate and am blessed to be alive when by all rights I shouldn’t be.
G… was different from all the rest. I still have a hard time quite getting a handle on who he is from a spiritual standpoint. There is much conflict in him, such contradiction, if that’s the word to use. I will continue to pray for him. Either he is a prophet of old testament biblical caliber or quite deceived. Of all the people I met he was the only one I drew a blank on. If what he told me was the truth he foresaw the deaths of his uncle and others and also foresaw other events in people’s lives. His words to them came true in unmistakable ways so his words have power. He has a servants heart, working to help others and accepting ridicule and abuse when he doesn’t have to. There are other things he shared that I must not, but it revealed much to me. A refusal to accept money for his gift was one. But the hurt he carries deep inside only God can heal. G…’s statement to me was that he took the word “Love” out of his dictionary and it’s a word he no longer uses or believes in. Yet his actions, his personal sacrifice, are the definition of love. One thing he could, or would not do, was say “Jesus Christ is Lord”. He had many questions, many questions regarding what it takes to be saved and our relationship with God. In the end I could see a chipping away, a slow acceptance of the possibility that love might not be a bad word to have in your “dictionary”. I perceive powerful spiritual forces at work in this man’s life and with that a great need to pray that God’s Spirit overcomes all that is not of the Lord.
Always at all the tables there are plates of cookies, and sometimes plates of fresh fruit, or vegetables with a sauce to dip them in. This in itself is a treat, something these guys never see. For some it was the first banana or apple they have seen in years and the same holds true for the broccoli or other vegetables made available. Home made cookies are also something the men in white never see, you can’t get a package from home like the military guys overseas can. There’s no doubt that some sign up for Kairos for the food but they get fed something much greater than cookies. Our servers, the former Kairos graduates, are waiting on us hand and foot, constantly making sure our glasses are filled, cookies are available, and dirty dishes and napkins are removed. Any time there is a need they rush to take care of it.
After the initial time of relaxing and conversation as all of us chow down cookies (there’s no question that I will gain weight from all the food we ate) it’s time to head to the chapel. There is a prayer and then a talk called “3 encounters with Christ”. After that we all head back to our tables. There is some conversation before the first of the main talks. This one is called “Choices” and is a powerful message concerning the choices we have made and the choices we will make concerning who we decide to be. When the talk is done it’s time for us to discuss at the table what each person got out of it. This is not a time for me or the other volunteers to express our views, it’s time for the men in white. Our job is to guide and perhaps augment but it’s their time to open up about what they feel or their life and we are to give them the freedom to do that with no judgment of any kind. This will be the procedure during the rest of the event, chapel, talk, discussion, and at the end of each session we have the guys at the table draw up a poster that expresses what they received from it.
Creating the poster helps them all discuss among themselves their thoughts on the talks as decisions are made regarding what to draw or how to express their concepts. At first there was a universal agreement regarding who would be the artist as one of the guys has a reputation for creating artwork. It’s common to find some who have a talent for creating drawings and cards and use that as a means of earning commissary items for themselves. Eventually H…started doing a lot of the drawing. That showed how he was loosening up and getting involved with everything, a real good sign.
After the poster is made it was time for lunch to be served. This will be the first of many meals we would serve to our brothers in white, and another reason I suspect I gained a few pounds. A prayer to bless the food is made, actually it’s sung. The servants clear our tables, removing the trays of cookies, the notebooks everyone was issued to enable them to take notes of the lessons and events, and anything else in the way. Then they lay out the placemats. These are a special part of the program that deserve description. The placemats have been made by children in churches and organizations throughout the area that are supporters of Kairos. Some may even have been made in other countries as well. For each meal new placemats are put out. They often have the child who made the placemat’s name on them, written in their own hand, and sometimes even have their age down. This first meal is just the start of our brothers realizing just how many people around the world really care about them, just the start. The full impact of that message would be revealed towards the end of these four days.
I watch as our guys begin to examine these placemats. There is amazement and wonder on their faces as they look at the cute hand prints, made with tiny little hands, cleverly turned into little chickens. I’d have to draw it to help you understand and I won’t so you’ll have to use your imagination. This was just how the mats on our table were done for this first meal. Every mat was different and showed the ingenuity of those who helped these children create these masterpieces. Many of our men in white have children, some they haven’t seen in years, and some they have never seen in a few cases. All of them have families of one type or another and through the circumstances of the lives they’ve led, the lives that placed them in this prison, have left a wake of pain and unhappiness behind them. The impact of something as simple as a placemat made by a child, can never be fully known for it’s immensity and depth, when it comes to the lives of these men in white. I watched tears, smiles, incredulity, and all kinds of emotions on their faces as they looked at not just the placemat in front of them but all of the mats on the table. It’s just the start, the first meal, first of many firsts for these guys.
Then comes the meals. I don’t remember what they served, didn’t write it down, but it doesn’t take much to beat prison food. Not much at all. Just the cookies and fruit were a treat but now were getting to the food. It might have been hamburgers for that first meal. I know they served hamburgers for one of them and even something as simple as a hamburger can be an exceptional luxury in prison. Some of these guys have been locked up for ten or twenty years, and a few of them have little hope of ever seeing freedom, knowing that odds are they will die behind bars.
It is amazing at how quiet a gymnasium full of people can get. There was no talking as everyone focused on enjoying the meal set before them. The servants hustled to fill drinks and perhaps clean a mess that was made. They won’t eat till everyone else is done, truly putting others needs before their own. I hear an occasional “Wow” “Man this is good” but not much else as everyone chows down. It doesn’t take long before seconds are being served. That in itself is a blessing. In the prison chow hall you have only so long to eat your food and then it’s a rush to clear the table and head back to your cell so there is no such thing as a leisurely meal.
Like they say in the infomercials and sales programs on TV “But wait, There’s MORE”. The guys think they’ve had a great meal and are sitting back in gratitude when the servants start passing out dessert. Think the cookies were appreciated? Wait till they get dessert. What is it? ICE CREAM???? CHOCOLATE SAUCE ON IT????? NO WAY!!!!! Something else that is unheard of in prison, at least in this one. And there are even seconds served with this so when all is said and done everyone had their fill. What an honor to be a part of this it is for me, what a privilege.
Every time they prepare for serving meals there are small tickets placed at each setting. Each ticket says “You are not alone, I am praying for you and have been praying for you since I chose to provide food for you during your Kairos Weekend. I pray that it reminds you how very much Jesus Loves you and how He will always be there to provide for you. Ephesians 3:19”. On each ticket is the name of the person who purchased it along with the church they are from.
The impact of this grew with each meal. We had the guys, if they wished, write a thank you and short statement about what each meal meant to them. We offer these tickets for sale to the many churches and individuals who have a heart for this ministry. They provide a great source of financing the thousands of dollars in expenses we rack up for this ministry. But more importantly it allows people to reach out and touch someone for the Lord whom they have never met, and probably will never meet. One of the most powerful messages we can get across to these men in white is that they are not alone, that there are thousands of Christians who love them and care enough to be involved in some way, be it prayer, place mats, the Agape wall, buying meal tickets, or the many other ways we find to show love. For many, who are alone, have been abandoned by family and friends, and otherwise feeling rejected, sometimes even by God, this has an incredibly powerful effect.
We sing what will be the traditional song, a kind of closing thank you for food prayer set to music, after everyone is finished. It’s the same song we sang while I was going through my training for this event. Tables are cleared and it’s time to go to the chapel again. The tables are dismissed one at a time so each table is able to stay together, and we quietly file into the chapel.
Here we sing songs, lead by the very talented men in white who will be serving us with their skills on musical instruments and voice over the entire four day event. Then there are a series of bible lessons and meditations, interspersed with prayer. All of this is a well laid out and thought through plan designed to teach the truth about the love of God for us all, along with His desire and ability to forgive and set us free, to lead us on a path that gives life, not death.
When it’s time we all head back to our tables. There’s a break time to take care of any necessary business and opportunity for more reflection on what we’ve heard. Seeing as how this is prison, there are often required interruptions for “Count time”, when the guards make sure everyone is where they should be, as well as calls for those with medical needs, such as diabetes, to get their required medication. Sometimes, when they can’t quite find someone, everything comes to a halt while they recount and verify everything. Not a big deal, just an inconvenience that we are aware of and learned to roll with. We are just as subjective to the guard’s wishes as the men in white are. It’s their prison and we are guests in their house. Besides that we, all the volunteers, need to show by example how to be subject to authority and to show them the respect they should be given. That respect has nothing to do with whether we agree with what’s going on or not, it has to do with who they are and what they represent. This is the same respect that we, as Christians, need to have for those in authority out in the free world.
After the break it’s time for our next talk. This one is on the Church. So many people have so many ideas about what the church is and isn’t, and so many of those ideas are based on wrongs done or the hypocrisy they’ve seen and experienced. In prison or out, it’s the same, it’s a shame, and often the reason people refuse to go to church or have anything to do with God. The talk makes clear that church is not a building, it’s the people. This talk ends with a series of rousing yells, when in response to the speakers question “Who is the church?” everyone says “WE ARE THE CHURCH”. It’s almost like a pep rally in it’s flavor and enthusiasm. Really stirs things up, in a good way. For a population that is often required to be subdued, and where group activities are carefully watched, and undue excitement seen as a potential sign of trouble, this is a moment of freedom that helps the soul.
After the talk it’s once again time to discuss what we heard. Again this is not a time that we, the volunteers, express our thoughts, but it’s the time for our brothers in white to talk. We hear of experiences they have had, or in some cases of the total lack of experience or contact with the church. I listen as other men in white counsel and advise their fellow brothers, giving them direction and comfort where needed. My only duty now is to insure that everyone has a chance to talk and encourage them to open up. This first full day many are reticent and not anxious to get involved, but we watch as that all changes over the course of this event. It’s a miracle, to watch hearts of stone turn into hearts of flesh, to see the hard exteriors breaking as the needs inside seek to come out, looking for that light of love we are there to shine.
Then it’s poster time. Sometimes it seems like we’ve only scratched the surface when the announcement comes that it’s time to make a poster. The servants pass out poster board and the bucket of markers and pens used to create these visual depictions of what is in the hearts of our men in white. “What do we draw?” is asked and others throw up ideas. Some still want to discuss the talk, to finish revealing their thoughts, so I try to direct that to creating the poster.
We have a time of singing and worship now, that lasts about fifteen minutes. During this time everyone is encouraged to stand and clap their hands, to physically take part in this. Many do and some do not, but that’s expected. The hardest have their image to protect and don’t want to be seen as weak. Some refuse to even stand up, remaining seated, drinking coffee and eating cookies, but all the time watching what’s going on around them. One caught himself tapping his hand on his leg in time to the music and forcibly stopped himself by grabbing the offending hand with his other hand. By the last day though, he was one of the miracles, set free to love God and renouncing the witchcraft he had been a part of for most of his life.
I have friends who are practicing pagans and witches and when I write this I worry that they will be offended. There is no offense intended, please understand that I only desire to present the truth I have found. One of them had been active in church, what church I have no idea, but had been hurt, rejected, or otherwise damaged by those who were supposed to be presenting the Love of Christ. This is a sad tale that I have heard time and again, and experienced myself. Folks, God is God, and people are generally a mess, so don’t judge God by what people do. God will judge them and hold them responsible for the hurt they have caused. So look past them to God, who loves you and holds His hand out to you, ready to forgive and restore all that has been lost. My prayer is that the deceiver, the one who hates and pretends to love, Lucifer, is shown for what he is and that you can see clearly the truth. Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of that way is death”. I have been dead but now live, and my desire is to share life with you, and the true joy that comes with knowing you are with God for eternity.
Anyway, with that said I suppose I need to get back to writing about Kairos. It’s only about 2:40 on the first full day, and there are two more days to go. So much has happened and we’ve barely gotten started. At this point one of our volunteers takes the mike and explains all the posters that have been being put up on the wall of the gym all morning. We call the “Agape Wall” of posters. Some are crudely drawn and some are works of art, but all of them are filled with signatures and little short messages from the signers. These posters come from all over the world and a majority of them are from prisons and Kairos groups in the prison. They contain many messages of hope and prayers for this particular Kairos at the Lynaugh unit. Part of the message is that “You are not alone”, that there are many throughout the state and around the world who understand what it means to be behind bars. Later I would watch as many studied these posters, looking at the names and messages, sometimes even finding someone they knew.
The next talk is “Opening the Door” and it also helps deal with problems and misconceptions people have regarding church and who God is, as well as what kind of relationship we can have with God. After the talk it was chapel time so we went straight to the chapel area. There was more prayer and a short lesson on spiritual counseling. With that done we returned to our tables and had a discussion on the talk with making a poster to follow.
Now it’s time for more singing and worship. It’s evident that people are becoming more comfortable and involved now. The singing is much more exuberant and so is the clapping. There is a marked improvement on the amount of joy in the room and this is just the start. Freedom is starting to creep in, freedom to express yourself, freedom to be happy and with it a release of all the anxiety that keeps many tied up inside.
We have more chapel times, cover more subjects that help our brothers in white understand who God is, and who He isn’t. There is dinner served next, and with each meal wonder grows. Wonder at the effort put into each meal, and the thought and care involved. Nothing is cheap and easy, it all comes from love and concern, with the realization that every bite served represents Jesus and His love. The next talk is on Accepting God’s Forgiveness, a vitally important subject for all of those who have lived the kind of life that leads to prison.
This ends the first full day. Saturday will follow the same format, talks, discussion, creating posters, chapel time, prayer, singing, and food, lots of food. I won’t go into a detailed run down of what happened Saturday, it’s taken me several days just to do this. What I do want to talk about now is what’s really important, how lives have been changed for Christ.
We watch as hard hearts are made soft, we watch as bad ideas and beliefs are examined in the light of Jesus and His word, and in some cases changed. There were Satanists who accepted the love of Christ, there was a Wiccan who renounced his belief, announcing publicly he now knew what the truth was. On Sunday we have what we call “Closing”, which includes an open mike period where the brothers in white can tell everyone what’s on their heart. The first guy up was the leader of one of the main Mexican gangs and had been a major drug dealer, like real major. When he took the mike he started crying and had a hard time getting words out. The leader of another gang, Crips I believe, came up and gave him a hug to encourage him. This is unheard of, these guys would normally kill each other. But this is the power of God, the power of love, the power of forgiveness.
There are countless stories we have seen here, one was where a gang leader came to the mike and accepted Christ as his savior, knowing and stating as he did that this act would mark him for death. He is still alive and has become a powerful influence for Christ in the prison. There was a high ranking member of the Bandidos motorcycle gang, who also expected to be killed for becoming a Christian and rejecting the club. Through the intervention of Kairos members and the chaplain I heard that he only had a leg broken instead.
But the stories I know and watched are the gang leader who came to the mike, and many at my table who pulled me aside to talk and work through their issues and questions. I received letters from two of them just the other day and need to respond. One of the things we do is each of the Kairos volunteers writes 42 letters, one to each of the guys that attend the Kairos walk. We write them in advance, not knowing who will get them until the first day of Kairos, when a list is released of who is attending. These letters are sorted and handed out to the men while all of us volunteers remain separate in the chapel area. We can hear as they tear open envelopes, as they must for no unsealed letters are allowed out because of prison regulations. For some of these guys, these are the only letters they have ever received in prison. One of the guys at my table said he was only able to read one letter, then he started crying.
Another story I can tell involves one of the men who was at my table during the last Kairos. He had been a hardcase, as so many are to start with, but during the course of the Kairos opened up and asked for prayer for his son. As is so often the case in the world of drugs and crime, his family was broken and there was much hurt and pain. He told how his son was now in prison and expressed his concern for him, along with his feelings of guilt for being such a poor example and father. So we prayed. Prayed for reconciliation and for God to work in this situation, to put His hand on the son and show His love.
Guess what? His son was transferred to this prison, an amazing thing in itself, and the son put in a request to participate in this Kairos. Understand that some people must wait for years and put in repeated requests to be included in the 42 who are allowed to participate, but his son, new on the unit, was accepted. The father? Oh, he was one of the servants and when the draw was made ended up being assigned to serve the table his son was at. Now we are way beyond coincidence, we are at the Godcidence level of things. Godcidence is a word I’ve had to invent to use for the many things that happen in my life that defy all the odds. In the search I made to find the God I didn’t know, or wasn’t sure, existed, thing after thing happened that were beyond just happenstance.
So father and son did not talk, there was definite friction and old hard feelings involved, a history I don’t know all of but one full of bitterness for sure. Son has been in the system since he was ten years old, in and out of juvenile jail till he was old enough to graduate to adult prison. He’s big city, (Houston) hard and gang banging mean. Oh, he had respect, in the gang style, where you could tell folks knew not to mess with him or piss him off, and he knew they knew that. But that’s the world his dad came from too. They barely said a word to each other and the son barely tolerated his dad serving him his meals and drinks. We knew and we all prayed and made a point of making sure our prayer warriors kept this situation before God. Slowly we saw change, ever so slowly.
Then it happened. It was open mike time, one of the moments the brothers in white could express themselves. Son swaggered up to the mike, walking the in the manner required by who he is, you know, got to be cool, and he said the words that made everyone’s heart drop. “I just want to shout out to my dad (Understand this is the first time the word “dad” came out of his mouth. Up till now it was always “my old man”) and say “I Love You”. His dad was in the back, in the area food was prepared, when this happened. Duane, the table clergy, rushed back there to see if dad had heard. Dad was standing there speechless, with a numb expression on his face. Duane goes “Did you hear?” and dad just nodded “yes”. Later on he was able to go up to his son and, for the first time, hug him and said “I love you too son”.
Just writing this brings tears to my eyes. I have two sons, whom I raised with my second wife, that the sin and bad choices of my life have put a great divide between us. That coupled with the vast distance between here in Texas, where I live, and Toledo Ohio, where they live, means there is little contact and much love that has been lost.
So that gives you an idea of Kairos, a snapshot so to speak of four days when the free world comes into a prison to show the Love of Christ and of those who are followers of Christ.