I have joined the Kairos Prison Ministry. As you read this, I am participating in my first “walk.”
A walk is a four-day weekend visit by about 25 brothers and me to Pocahontas Correctional Institution, which is located in Pocahontas, Virginia—for many of us about a two hour drive from home, close to the West Virginia border.
Pocahontas is a medium-security man’s prison housing just over 1,000 prisoners. A walk occurs twice annually, generally in October and in April. It is followed-up by members of our group who attend once-monthly “reunions,” when we return and meet with incarcerated men who have attended previous walks.
Members of our group have been visiting Pocahontas during fourteen previous walks; this weekend I am participating in number fifteen. That means our group has been working both with the inmates and with the prison administration and particularly with its chaplain for seven years now.
Kairos’ ministry has the purpose of “sharing the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ,” as Kairos’ Program Manual puts it, “to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women, and youth, as well as their families, to become loving and productive citizens of their communities.”
No one is forced to attend, and an attendee may leave at any time during the four days. However, if he leaves, he can’t come back in.
Each half year, about forty men choose to attend. They need to apply to attend ahead of time. Therefore, some attendees we are with right now have waited between six months and a year to spend four intense days with us. Just so, we have waited and have prayed about being with them.
A prisoner may attend a walk only once. After that, former attendees can meet with us again at reunions.
The prison’s population changes over time, of course, but during our Kairos group’s seven years visiting Pocahontas, approximately 280 men have had the opportunity--
to learn about Jesus—of whom some of them have scarcely heard except as a curse word,
to hear brief salvation-oriented talks,
to discuss those talks in groups of six inmates and three volunteers,
to share meals with us volunteers,
to be bathed in prayer, by name, not only by us inside volunteers but also by outside prayer-partner volunteers in Virginia and sometimes in multiple states,
to have an opportunity to forgive those who they believe have harmed them,
to receive, addressed to each one of them personally, an agape letter of love and encouragement from each of us volunteers—each man gets a letter from each one of us (some men have rarely received mail at all during their incarceration, and today—Saturday—each man will get more than twenty personal letters).
This shower of written love is powerful. Another shower that is powerful is this. I mentioned being bathed in prayer.
During each four day walk, we divide the 24-hour periods into half hour segments, and we get commitments from our free-world brothers and sisters to pick a segment and to pray, by name, for each of the men attending the walk during that half hour—each half hour segment is covered, 24 hours per day.
A big chart is displayed on the wall—at Pocahontas we meet in the prison’s gym—and the detail of the prayer shower is clear and, for some of the men, almost overwhelming.
In addition, they get a lot of fresh-baked cookies!
We volunteers, and as many of our friends with ovens and freezers whom we could enlist, we have all been busily baking cookies for about the last 10 days
previous to our walk. We entered Pocahontas hauling large, transparent plastic, storage barrels of fresh-baked cookies.
We have six recipes we use—chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar, oatmeal, molasses, etc. On and average walk, we bring in approximately 1300 dozen cookies!
By the inmates, these are called the Jesus Cookies. The Jesus cookies are a big draw!
Not only do the men attending the walk enjoy a lot of cookies, but during the walk our volunteers go through the pods of cells and bring a bag of Jesus Cookies to every single inmate, whether he has the slightest interest in Jesus or not. Irrespective of Jesus, virtually all of them have an interest in fresh-baked cookies!
To subscribers and others, I covet your prayers.
If you are reading this on Saturday or Sunday, October 13th and 14th, my first walk is moving toward its close. There is an open-mike event tomorrow—Sunday—during which attendees can speak about what has happened to them during the walk.
I am told that sometimes the testimonies are extraordinary!
I’m looking forward to that!
We Kairos volunteers are moved by compassion for the inmates. We are all of us—both the inmates and we men of the free world—we are all men who have made our mistakes, and all the Kairos volunteers and some of the inmates, we acknowledge our on-going sinfulness.
We are all of us “in chains.”
We are here at Pocahontas, moved by the Holy Spirit, to come to, and to visit with those whom the free world sometimes considers the least of us.
What is it that Jesus says of this?
In Matthew 25:40, he says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me.”
We are here to glorify the Lord, to honor Jesus, and to experience the presence among us of The Holy Spirit. Jesus is the one who is both able and faithful to unshackle the imprisoned and to set all peoples FREE.
(Please note that the last sentence above is not mine. It came to me in a prayer written by one of my Kairos brothers, who has walked many walks at Pocahontas and who has been stirring by many salvation testimonies of the formerly chained.)
We are here to light a candle at Pocahontas. I covet your prayers that we may succeed.
When I was young, I once asked my Christian mother why Christians light candles in their windows at Christmas time. Here’s her answer. “Dikkon, we light candles in our windows so that if the Christ Child should need a place to lie down, He will know by our candles that He will be welcome here.”
Help us light a candle “in the window” of Pocahontas so Jesus will know that He is welcome here.
Pocahontas Correctional Institution