Kairos Prison Ministry: Two Stories

“…I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:36)

Please hold the individuals leading and participating in the Kairos weekend experience happening nearby in prayer.  The Hocking Correctional Facility in Nelsonville, Ohio is hosting its 17th Kairos weekend starting Thurs., October 6 through Sun., October 9.

If you feel a nudge to lend a hand, consider spending an hour with the Kitchen team at St. Mary of the Hills Parish hall (110 East Washington Street) in Nelsonville.  The Kitchen team supports this weekend by cooking, washing dishes, and praying for the inside team.  Recommended times to assist are between 9 and 11:30 and between 2 and 4:30.  You can stay for an hour or several. The group says a prayer around the truck that takes the food to the prison between 11-11:30 and between 4-4:30. If you have more questions about this opportunity, contact David Maze.

For more information about this international organization, one can visit their website at www.kairosprisonministry.org

Here are just two stories from members of Athens First who have been involved in this ministry

Jack Bigger’s Story

God nudged me five years ago. I felt like I needed to find some sort of involvement with folks who are incarcerated. David Maze led me to Kairos Prison Ministry, where he and Bonita are very involved in the outside kitchen ministry for the weekend events at the state prison located in Nelsonville. I have on occasion gone and helped cook and wash dishes and pray for the inside team. About 18 months ago, I decided I wanted more. I now go into the Hocking Correctional Facility a couple of times a month for what is called Prayer and Share. This is a wonderful time of fellowship with prayer, singing and discussion with some of our forgotten brothers in Christ. There are a faithful group of men that go into HCF every Tuesday night. It is quite an experience to be welcomed by men, some of whom have been behind bars for very long times and by some who will never leave. A hug and a “thank you for coming” says it all. Many of these men have come to know Christ. Some are just happy for the diversion the time of fellowship provides. Whatever the motive for being there, mine or the inmates, it is summed up at the end of our gathering when we join arm in arm in a circle and sing “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in This Place”. It is impossible for me not be moved beyond measure in that moment.

I have not yet been a member of the Inside Team for the semiannual weekend sessions where inmates go through an intensive, love filled journey. Many will hear for the first time of Christ’s sacrifice for all of us. They will learn that God’s Grace is for them too. Jed Butcher who has mentored me through much of my involvement in Kairos can tell you much about this aspect of the ministry and the transformation that has been made in so many men who have gone through this experience.

You too can be involved. Please pray daily for those who are incarcerated all around the world. And pray for those who give their time and their love to those Brothers and Sisters that need it the most. We are reminded in the 25th chapter of Matthew. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’

Jed Butcher’s Story

I got into Kairos because David Maze said: “Jed, I have a pan washing job for you.”  He asked that I go to the Parish Hall in Nelsonville on that Friday from 2-3 p.m.  I went.  They were having devotionals, so I sat and folded paper for an hour listening, but not speaking.  At the end of the hour David told me, “Thank you.  You can go.”  I said I thought I would stay…seven years at last count.  While David was speaking with me, the women who were cooking in the kitchen were discussing things.  They decided I was a mental patient that David and Bonita had taken out on a “day pass.”

Kairos has opened my eyes to many aspects of God.  I have witnessed what I consider to be supernatural occurrences, and conversions.  These are private events about which I am sworn to silence for the sake of privacy, but the stories true, and they mimic stories you read in the Bible.  I have never been in danger, but I have been terrified.  Jesus does go before you when you ask, and God does forgive sin.  Lives are changed in Kairos, not only for the inmates, but also for the members of the Inside Team, and the Kitchen Team.

Prayer works. I was completely unsuccessful in recruiting members for the Inside Team for HCF #17 (Hocking Correctional Facility, Kairos weekend #17) from my acquaintances and friends.  Others had similar trouble at their home churches.  We reached the tipping point where, with the six “maybes” there were not enough to do a Kairos Weekend for 18 inmates.  One more person made the weekend go…  I prayed: “I don’t know what to do.”  What came to me was, “Ask Pastor Robert.”

I have stopped ignoring nudges.  People tell me I’m “getting a little funny in my old age.”  Anyway, I sent a message to Pastor Robert.  He offered to let me put a plea in the Connections and the corresponding publication in the District Office.  I wrote back to say that wasn’t what I had in mind; would he check with his former congregation?  He said he would contact their Emmaus Group.

The Emmaus Group leader reached out to Glenn, and Glenn is our sole “new inside team member.”  I hope to address his Emmaus Group.  I believe there are people there who will be interested, because that is what I hear from Glen…

We go into the prison to advocate for the Holy Spirit, and come out changed by it.  (I don’t know how that works.)  The stories I know are all privileged, so I hope you will understand, but when it is time for HCF #18, I hope a group from the FUMC will be willing to go to the Closing, and hear the stories of forgiveness, conversion and redemption from the lips of the participants.  (They are at liberty to tell what I cannot.)

In one year, we have two weekends, six months apart, and an instructional on the following Saturday.  The weekend is intended to foster a feeling of forgiveness and love, the instructional is to teach religious practices suited to use in Prayer and Share.  Kairos doesn’t take communion, altar calls, praying the rosary, or anything specific to a denomination, so the instruction is basically “learning community skills” plus prayer.

On the 3rd month following the Weekend there is a Retreat in which all members of Kairos come together.  Food is served at all of these functions.

Prayer and Share takes place every Tuesday, and on the first Tuesday of the month there will be cookies.  Prayer and Share is a religious service organized and conducted by the inmates.  We are their guests.  They lead the prayers and the sermon.  Numbers are so low that we don’t need hundreds of cookies.  Last week the same man did prayers and the sermon owing to the restricted numbers.

The praise in all of this is: The hundred Kairos graduates, who have gone, have taken Jesus into the prisons where they went.