KAIROS (A WOMAN’S PERSPECTIVE)

September 20, 2016, I left Bedford, Texas for KAIROS #42 weekend. It would be my first experience with the KAIROS ministry in action.  I could not imagine how it would affect my life, or the way I viewed prisoners, and the prison system as a whole.

My husband, Cyrus, had already shared with me that KAIROS was a wonderful ministry, one that would have to be experienced to fully understand its beauty.  Truthfully, I had no idea what was about to happen, and I went in to it with a bit of trepidation.

Prior to going for the four-day weekend, each person involved in the KAIROS ministry writes a personal letter to each prisoner.  Between the men and women, this adds up to between seventy and eighty letters for each prisoner.  In the beginning, I did not understand the significance of the letters, but suffice it to say the letters would become a key part of the ministry and the lives of each man involved in the weekend.  Each volunteer also requests friends, relatives, co-workers and church members pray for the KAIROS members and prisoners throughout the weekend.  The name of each person who commits to pray is then added to a card that is linked into a prayer chain.  This chain is a symbol to the prisoners that they are loved and shows them that people from all over the United States and elsewhere are praying for them.  KAIROS #42’s prayer chain contained between 4,000 and 5,000 names and wrapped the room and draped the prisoners several times – very symbolic.

The first day, each woman receives a KAIROS prayer partner, one of the KAIROS men headed to the prison to minister. And each day the ladies wake early to pray with and for their appointed KAIROS partner as they leave to begin their ministry.  The women then proceed to the church where they pray for every KAIROS member and prisoner involved in the weekend. They then pray for each woman working on the outside to help assure the weekend goes smoothly.  Throughout the day, the women hold a prayer vigil.  Each signs up for a thirty-minute time slot to pray, and the prayers continue with uninterrupted shifts for three days.  When not in chapel, the women cook, prepare posters, prepare agape, and support each other.  I can honestly say all 30 women came together beautifully.  Everything worked like a fine tuned clock.  It was like each woman knew they were there for a purpose higher than themselves.

Something God put on my heart and I have to share – each prisoner the women are assigned to pray for is asked by the men to share with them specific prayer requests.  At the end of the day, when the men return, they find the woman assigned to that specific prisoner and share the prisoner’s request for prayer.  At the end of the first day, I found my prayer partner and with some excitement asked what I could begin to pray for.  The first request was easy enough, he wanted prayer for family, children, and his ex-wife.  I thought wow God I can do this.

However, my KAIROS brother said, “the other man was very quiet and did not open up or ask for prayer at all.”  He said, “Pamela, he is a tough one.  He is very quiet. I really don’t know if he is going to share.”

That evening, I prayed for the family and children of the man who requested prayer, and I prayed that my second prayer partner would open up and share his prayer requests so that I could not only pray for him, but personalize the letter I was to write to him and try to reach him and bring him to God.  But, more importantly, I prayed he would be able to ask God for forgiveness and for the forgiveness of those who had wronged him.  I prayed hard.  Sometimes God puts something on our heart, and he had placed this man heavily on mine.

Day two of KAIROS, we woke, prayed over the men as they left for the prison and went to Chapel.  Throughout the day I prayed for the men, my husband and the man that had been quiet, troubled, and had not requested prayer.  Then it happened, a break through. My prayer partner returned that evening, and I immediately sought him out.  “Did he talk today”, I asked.

“Yes.” He said. I felt relieved.

“What did he say?”

He shook his head, looked down at his hands and seemed troubled before sharing.  “Pamela, he is struggling.  He had drinks after work with friends one day.  Then he went to pick up his wife and four children.  There was a wreck.  His wife and children were all killed.”  My immediate reaction and thought…REALLY GOD? I mean, this is my first time here and you want to lay this on me.  I felt sad, frustrated, and unworthy to help someone in such great need of forgiveness, not only from God for his family, but for himself.  So, that evening I did what has become my pattern when lost, I turned to God, and praise God, He filled my soul with the words and the scriptures to write this man.  I wrote two pages, then four, then five, all filled with prayer, scripture and forgiveness.  It came flowing like a river from above, and it did not stop until God had finished giving me the words He wanted me to say to this stranger.  It was past midnight when I closed the letter and placed it with the stack of forty-one letters that would go to the men the following day.

Day three KAIROS #42, progressed like day one and two, first prayer for the men and then them leaving for the prison.  This day, they would take with them the letters to be given to the men.  I prayed the one I wrote the evening before would bring change that only our Lord and Savior could bring. They would also take with them the prayer chain.  One beautiful part of this day, on the inside, we women do not get to experience, is when the KAIROS team sends the men in white (prisoners) from the Chapel and they find a bag full of letters waiting for them. As the prisoners read their letters, the KAIROS men gather together in the chapel and sing softly.  So as each man begins to read their letters, they hear the men singing beautiful songs of God’s love for them.  If you can imagine someone who has been locked up; someone who feels like the key has been turned and they have been forgotten by society; for these men to get seventy plus loving, God filled letters from people they don’t even know is huge.  The Spanish translator stated, “as I read the letters for the men, I had to continually pause because the feeling of overwhelming love shown to these men overcame me to the point that I could not speak. Thank you for what you did for me in reaching out to these men.”

Day four KAIROS #42, again proceeded as the days before; however, this day would be different.  The women would meet the men at the prison at noon for a closing ceremony, where the women would go on the inside for the first and only time and see the men they had been praying for, preparing food for, sending letters to and supporting.  The closing ceremony would be forever etched in my memory.

The auditorium was separated in two sections – the prisoners on one side, the women on the other.  Two rows of KAIROS men were placed to separate each. The ceremony began with singing.  Each prisoner then rose and talked about their weekend and how it had changed them.  Those letters that I stated earlier were so significant, I cannot tell you how many cried because they had received nothing in eight, ten, twenty years.  They felt forgotten.  They felt like a number.  They felt like a key had been turned and no one cared.  There were no letters, no visits, no one to show them the love of God and how powerful it is.  And here is where I have a question for those reading this.  What type of men do we want released from these prisons?  Who do we want as neighbors?  Who do we want living down the street as our kids play?  The system is not a place of reform.  There has to be a true change of heart in these men that brings them to God the Almighty, the only one who can transform their hearts.  And I saw it happening that last day.  As the women stood to sing to the prisoners prior to leaving, I saw prisoner’s heads bowed, men in tears.  It was a simple song we sang, “You are loved, you are beautiful, you are a gift from God to all creation – God danced the day you were born.”  And these men who had seen no love for years were overwhelmed.  And I knew God was at work that day.  We all sang together KAIROS brother and sisters and the men in white, all lifting our hands to God.  It was the most beautiful experience, and I will never forget it.  God truly smiled that day.

I came home on a KAIROS high.  That is the only way to describe it; however, I had one thing I felt left unfinished.  I had not heard from my prayer partner regarding the weekend and where he was with forgiving himself.  I waited.  I prayed.  I had so many people praying for this man, people who did not even know him.  I prayed for a letter, and I made a pact with myself – if I did not receive a letter after one week, I was going to write him until he responded.  At the end of the first week, I got word from the church that I had mail and my husband went to pick it up for me.  He called me later and said, “You have a letter from your prayer partner.  Hope.”

When I got home that evening my husband handed me the letter and I began to read.  I share with you now a bit of what it said:

“Pamela, Thank you so very much for your letter and the food. You ladies really know the way to a man’s heart.  I am so thankful for the KAIROS brothers and sisters and the experience they brought to us.  There were three things that hit me: the first, the letters you wrote to us.  I have not had that much mail in the four and a half years I have been in here.  Pamela, there is no person on this earth who can do anything to me worse than I have done to myself since the loss of my family.  I have been such a poison filled, bitter, recluse.  Second, when the KAIROS brothers asked us to write down those who we needed to forgive and those who we needed forgiveness from and we wrote it down, then prayed and burned it.  I am realizing that if God can forgive me, who am I not to forgive myself. Third, when you ladies stood up and sang to us.  To that point my walls had only cracked. That day, my walls cracked even further.  But as you left, I still had not let those walls come down.  I went back to the dorm that evening and I turned on my earphones.  I began to read each letter written to me and the song Leonard Skinard’s, “A Simple Man” came on it talks about being a simple man, one that can be loved and, Pamela, the walls finally came crumbling down.  I broke, and I cried for two solid hours, and my KAIROS brothers came and prayed over me.  Pamela, in that moment I was finally able to let it all go and forgive myself.  I don’t know scripture, but I opened my bible and it landed on Psalms 92, I feel like it is a beginning in my walk with Jesus Christ.”

That was my first KAIROS weekend.

That day, I rejoiced as Jesus did when he spoke of the parable of the lost sheep…”and when you find it, you throw it over your shoulders and carry it home rejoicing, and call your family, friends, and neighbors to celebrate that the lost sheep is found and home.”

 

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