Saturday, May 4, 2013

My Kairos Weekend

I just returned from my Kairos weekend prison ministry.  It was an unbelievable experience and I just want to share my thoughts and musings about it.  For me, it became a weekend of “spiritual steroids.” 

Kairos is an ancient Greek word that in the New Testament means “the appointed time in the purpose of God.”  It has evolved over the years into a prison ministry.  The first short Kairos was held inside a prison here in Florida named Raiford.  This was conducted in the fall of 1976.  There now are two other programs called Kairos Outside which ministers to female members of the incarcerated men and Kairos Torch, which is for incarcerated men under 25.

My journey began Wednesday night when I drove to Arcadia.  I had to be at the prison early Thursday morning for my training with the chaplain who would go over the ground rules with us.  The chaplain was very dogmatic and matter-of-fact.  These are the rules – these are our measures for security.  He said he always erred on the side of security.  DeSoto has over 2000 inmates who from now on will be called “men in blue” (MIB).  It is a softer identity than criminal prisoner or jail mate.  I came to embrace that term.  Of interest was the fact there were 4 Jehovah witnesses in the training class.

Our day on Thursday was lunch with the MIB.  We had a round-table introduction.  I had to be careful not to tell them I was a doctor.  Chaplain said that was a no-no so I gave as my profession, human resource director.  Each of us was assigned as a sponsor to one of the MIB. – we were there to support them and help them through the weekend even though they sat at a different table.  The room was set up with 6 tables.  At each table there was a clergy, head table leader, assistant table leader (that was my job) and 6 MIB.  Our first lunch was pizza from Domino’s.  We had simple cheese pizza and pepperoni.  Wow – you thought this was a 5 star gourmet meal.  The MIB do not get pizza, beef or fast food at all.  Uniformly, the men were overwhelmed with the prospect of “real” outside food.  The MIB. received 4 pieces to start and team members were given 2.  I ate one and politely handed the other one to one of the MIB.  My eyes filled up with tears when I saw the joy in their faces to eat real pizza – something many have not eaten in 10, 15 or 20 years.

 Our team leader, Mr. Bob Betancourt gave the opening speech after lunch and sort of set the tone of our weekend together and what we hoped to accomplish.  It was against the rules to ask the MIB why they were in prison and how much time they served.  Many would later volunteer the information but it was not required.  As leaders, we were taught the 4 L’s.  Listen, listen, love, love.  Early on we were taught to respect the raised hand.  If a hand is raised the leader will call on that person to speak. Our greetings for the MIB were subdued – if they offered their hand for a shake – we extended ours.  Bob, our leader, encouraged the MIB. not to be too harsh and pre-judge the weekend by one day.  Let the weekend unfold.  We also ask the MIB. to be enthusiastic.  This is your weekend – enjoy – have fun.  We remind the MIB. that what they get out of the weekend will depend on what they GIVE!  Open your heart – be vulnerable to all the possibilities.  Attend with a spirit of charity – ie. love and acceptance.

What was truly REMARKABLE was how total strangers could bond so strongly through God’s blessings in a matter of 4 short days.  Wow!  It was awesome!  A blessing from God.  We were all reminded ALL things said over the weekend were to be held in strictest confidence.  Hear it here…share it here…leave it here.  Before going into the chapel Bob went over the ground rules – simple – like wear your name tag.  Walking into the chapel was done in total silence.  We encourage all participants to have private one on one sessions with the clergy.  After time in chapel, we moved to the conference room.  The first talk was “what is meditation?.”  It was based on John 1:43-51.  The second presentation was on “I chose you.”  The MIB apply to come to Kairos.  There were over 220 applications for 36 openings.  The team captain prays for selecting the member of the team as well as the MIB  These men were chosen by God to be a part of this ministry.  The third talk was by a clergy entitled “Knowing the Father” and it was based on Luke 15:11-16.  The final wrap up was by our team leader Bob Betancourt.  We left abound 8:00 or 8:30 and drove back to the church where we were staying.  We had a team meeting and snacks until about 10:00 or 10:30!  Long day – tired.  Time for lights out.


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May 11, 2013 at 10:05 AM  

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