A Time to Celebrate

It was my first time in prison.

The guard led us past yard three with razor wire and chain linked fence. In a single line he ushered us into the chapel. Not a chapel with stained glass and a steeple, but a room with linoleum floors and fold-out chairs.

A man greeted us with a wide warm smile and a handshake, overjoyed by our presence, he directed us to take the seats on the far side of the room. Chairs lined both sides, but instead of facing the stage they faced each other, about sixty chairs on one side and forty on the other where we sat. A twelve-foot space separated us from where the hardened criminals would be seated, the lifers who had committed violent crimes. I would be looking these men face to face, seeing the whites of their eyes.

Not knowing what to expect, I waited for the celebration to begin, veteran volunteers eased the minds of us newbies who chatted nervously, while inmates offered us cookies. These were the inmates who had been through the Kairos program in prior years and dedicated their lives to following Christ. Now, they served their fellow inmates during the Kairos retreat and they welcomed and served the guests water and cookies for the celebration.

The time was approaching.

The volunteers had waited for this moment for months. The Greek word “Kairos” means a time set aside by God for a certain occurrence. Many willing hands had prepared for this time. Churches around San Diego County had written hundreds of letters to inmates and five thousand dozen cookies had been baked to entice the inmates to attend the four-day event.

The incarcerated came for the cookies, but they received the love of Jesus.

Forty-two inmates had been carefully selected and invited to attend the event. The Kairos Prison Ministry brings both clergy and well-trained laypersons together to minster God’s truth and the love of Jesus to the inmates in small groups that they called their family. Volunteers committed from sunrise to sunset for four solid days.

The time was now.

The prisoners filed one-by-one into the room to stand at their seats as the band played on the small stage. The band members came together for the first time for the four-day event from all over San Diego County to bless the inmates of Yard Three at Donovan State Prison with worship songs.

Joy and excitement filled my heart as we stood and clapped and praised God together. Never before had I sung so confidently and loud as many of the Kairos inmate volunteers danced with hands held high praising Jesus in the isle that separated us from the inmates. Their enthusiasm for Jesus was contagious.

My heart pounded with anticipation. After the music and a short message by the Chaplain, the prisoners shared their testimonies of what God had done in their hearts. They shared about how each one had received more than one hundred hand written letters from volunteers. I wept as they wept. They described how they felt loved for the first time from letters of encouragement, prayers, and explaining God’s love and forgiveness.

Prisoners described how they came broken, confused, doubtful, hopeless, and afraid, but they found the hope of Jesus, truth, encouragement, love, and a new family of brothers. As I heard their stories and looked into their eyes, I saw lives transformed. Compassion filled me for these broken little boys. I saw their hurt. I felt their pain. I was changed.

I would remember my first Kairos celebration, a time set aside for God’s purpose.

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  1. Donna

     /  April 18, 2011

    This is the love of Jesus in action – thank you for sharing! He came and still actively seeks that which is lost – Amen and Praise Him for that!

  2. Kenji Stratton

     /  April 18, 2011

    Praise God Kirsten! God is good all the time. No walls or barbed wire too high for Jesus!!!


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