Kairos Angola #55 – The Fourth Day

I have learned over the years not to expect too much from myself on the Monday after a Kairos weekend. I am usually physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. I don’t plan important meetings or make big decisions. This is true today.

By any reasonable measure Kairos Angola #55 was a great success. It was efficiently handled with good talks. We blessed the participants with great food, letters, and love. We delivered a simple but powerful message about forgiveness and Jesus.
By all indications the weekend was well received. The participants seemed deeply moved and expressed new hope for their futures. Our relationship with the camp authority was great and we received great cooperation including requests that our entering and exiting prayers include correction officers. 
The chance of making significant long term impact is great. There is only one dorm at Camp J. It houses nearly 100 residents. As of yesterday about 38 of those have been through a Kairos. That may be the highest percent of Kairos graduates in any similar dorm in any prison. Those 100 guys provide food and maintenance to the approximately 400 who are kept in lock down in Camp J. We couldn’t talk to those guys but they could hear the singing and, I believe, will be begin to feel there’s something differently going on almost immediately. 
Because of the relatively small number of possible Kairos participants at Camp J the future of the Kairos ministry there is unclear. We certainly have the opportunity to observe and measure the direct impact of Kairos on a relatively small situation. However, it is equally clear that there are no enough residents to support many, if any, more retreat weekends. Can we successfully, encourage the prayer and share without periodic weekends?
Personally participating in these weekends leaves me with certain perspectives and emotions. I feel incredibly blessed to have the life I have and what problems I may face are placed in renewed perspective. I am again sadly reminded of the complete failure of the justice system in this state to achieve anything approaching justice. There are clearly men at Angola who have paid “their debt” to society, but face no chance of release. Those who stupidly got involved in a drunken brawl and somebody tragically died often share the same life sentences with those who intentional and maliciously plotted, planned and executed the murder of more than one person. I understand we can’t do everything, but we can do something. There is a need for public education in this state. Consider doing your part. 
We had a huge number of volunteers during this weekend; but only a few really new ones. I heard several say they plan to do only one Kairos a year. Recruiting for the November Kairos may not be easy. We had six step up to offer to lead a Kairos team in the future. But we need team members as well as team leaders. We also need to remember that not everyone is called to team leadership and that we have a responsibility to insure that those we do call are completely prepared.
I think we should all carefully consider the words of the Chaplain in both his brief address to us and his closing prayer. He reminded us that we are a heartbeat away from new leadership at Angola. I can not imagine a new warden would be more open to our ministry than the current one. We need to “make hay while the sun shines.” We can’t expect that our opportunity to make a difference at Angola will last ’til Jesus comes. We should certainly pray for it, but we shouldn’t relax.
In the Chaplain’s emotional closing prayer he characterized those who do this ministry as folks who truly believe that Jesus can forgive no matter what the offense. We need to remember that it’s His forgiveness and grace that Angola needs and we need.
Be blessed.
Nick

Kairos #55 – Day Three

Day three is the heart of any Kairos weekends. The highlight is the opening of the gift bags by the residents and the increased levels of vulnerability in sharing at the tables.

Day two went pretty well but there is some evidence you can have too many members on a team. We didn’t have cups for some time in the morning and didn’t have song books for most of the day. These things probably occur to remind us that it’s not about us and it’s God who brings it all together. It is impressive to have two “free people” serving each of the tables and those assigned that task are doing a marvelous job and their servant attitudes are clearly impressing the residents.

One continuing problem that we really need to find a solution for is that by the end of the day the team is tired and just wants some sleep; yet the cook teams and agape teams are eager to hear about how the day went. We take care of that on Saturday nights by having each new member share his impressions, but perhaps we need to have some mechanism to pass the word on Friday as well. The work of these teams was well done and greatly appreciated. The food was great as always and gratefully consumed by the inmates. The Agape bags were all set to go and up to date lists were available to assist the team in getting their letters correctly addressed. Thanks to all involved.

It is important that those of us on the inside remember our promises of confidentiality. Much of the touching stuff we hear at the tables is actually confidential and shouldn’t be shared beyond the tables. It is easy to forget that in our eagerness to share what God is doing.

The staff continues to be very helpful. One of our number slipped and fell on the plywood used to allow an approach to the tent. Although he really wasn’t hurt, the camp officials insisted he get checked out at the prison ER. Better safe than sorry.

I look forward to open mike tonight to begin to really get a feel for the work of the spirit.

Your continued prayers are greatly appreciated.

Nick

Kairos Angola #55 – Day 2

The first night of Kairos 55 was a success. It rained heavily but it stopped during the period we went into the tent and again when we emerged. Seven of the selected residents decided not to participate, but we were able to quickly fill their slots.

Sand bags had been placed around the perimeter of the tent but by evening’s end, water had gotten through and we were sloshing around on the inside. Please pray for a dry day for us today.

Based on the introductions, it appears we have a good group of residents with most expressing an openness for what God has for them. Friday is a day of introspection as the presentations are designed to get the guys to give their lives a close look. We ask them to consider the choices they have made and the mechanisms they have employed to make those choices. We begin to try to build trust and respect and openness by our sharing with them and listening to them.

We seem to have plenty enough cookies. Since today is a Friday in lent, I understand that we plan to serve the guys seafood for lunch and dinner. I know it will be something they will truly appreciate.

Your continued prayers will be greatly appreciated.

In His Service,

Nick

Kairos Angola #55 – Day One

Kairos Angola Number 55 begins today. It seems like I have been waiting for this day forever. It’s not just that we are going into Camp J where we have never ministered before. It’s not just that we have a great and large team serving a small group. The bottom line is that I really need a Kairos. It’s been a tough year. I have had a number of battles and Jesus has been victorious in each. I am just having trouble moving on. 
I know a weekend spent watching the spirit move in a place that has a history as dark as any place on earth, is just what I need. I hope to give you guys daily reports on what God is doing the next few days. Please be in prayer for the men we have been called to serve and the team members who will be serving.
The first day is pretty easy. We will pick up the last of the cookies and head out of Lafayette about 10 am. We plan lunch with some of the team in St. Francisville, a team meeting, then on to the prison. On the first night we do very little but  break the ice and do introductions. But this time is very important. It gives the opportunity for the men to begin to feel that something good and very different from what they are used to is about to happen. It gives an opportunity for the team to begin to step away from their daily lives and assume the roles of tools to be used in a great work.
Please be praying. I hope to be rejuvenating and reporting over the next few days.
Be blessed.
Nick

The Reality of Evil

Next Thursday I will head back into Angola for another Kairos weekend. This time we are headed into Camp J for the first time. This is a disciplinary camp where inmates are placed who are considered to be a security risk either to themselves or others. When a prisoner comes to the Angola for the first time they are likely to be housed at Camp J until the prison officials can get a good idea about what kind of risks they pose. If a prisoner at any camp, violates the rules, he is likely to be sent to J. Camp J is not a pleasant place. Those assigned there for disciplinary reasons are in lock down most of the day. Their food is fashioned into untasty loaves. The lock downs are cold in winter and hot in summer. Lock down is miserably lonely. 
We will not be ministering to those in lock down. Rather we will serve the small community of inmates who help run Camp J by serving as orderlies, on clean up crews or in administrative positions. There is no chapel at J and few diversions for this group and the chaplain has had on his heart for some time to bless them with a Kairos weekend. So here we are. 
When you are at Camp J you get a real sense of evil. Since almost all of the general population at Angola is under a life sentence, it is truly the worst of the worst who find themselves locked down at Camp J. There is evil in the world.
It seems that we have somehow been dulled to the reality of evil. Television and movies present evil that can be defeated in the course of a 60 minute program or a two hour movie. Consider your favorite programs. How many of the characters are involved in sin. You remember sin? that evil that Jesus came to deal with. Nearly every program features at least a couple of characters who live together unmarried or who survive through crime and by hurting others. 
People often ask how can I possibly enjoy ministering to the incarcerated. These folks don’t understand that a resident of Angola doesn’t need to be convicted of sin. The State of Louisiana has already done that. On the outside the greatest difficulty in presenting the gospel is convincing folk that they are sinners. This is not a problem in prisons. 
Please pray for us as we head into Angola this week. Pray that the inmates we serve will be receptive to the love of Jesus we will present. While  you are on your knees pray for those you know who need Jesus, but first need to know that sin is real and they are sinners. It’s not a easy lesson to learn these days but it’s vital to a spiritual life.
Be blessed.
Nick

Mardi Gras 2013

Mardi Gras this year was great. I didn’t catch any beads. I didn’t watch any parades. I didn’t drink anything with alcohol in it. I didn’t hear any loud bands. I didn’t fight any crowds. Like I said, it was great.
I spend the day with basically one person. This person is my best friend so that was great. I took her to lunch and she fixed me supper; neither was fancy, but both were fantastic. 
We didn’t watch the State of the Union. I thought it was ironic that the State of the Union was delivered on Mardi Gras. I didn’t watch because I’m well aware of the condition of my country and the guy delivering the speech has no clue and, in fact, is one of the reasons it’s in trouble. Like I said it was strange that the speech was delivered on Mardi Gras. You could almost hear those watching in person and on television cry out “Throw me something mister” as their drunken eyes pleaded and their hands reached out for something they didn’t earn or deserve.
I missed it all. I’m already aware of the state of my union and it’s blessed. Our king isn’t Apollo or Zeus or Obama. His name is Jesus. 
Mardi Gras was great and, for the same reasons, Ash Wednesday was pretty cool too.
Be blessed.
Nick

Super Sunday

It’s Superbowl Sunday. I could tell yesterday at the Super market where folks were filling their shopping carts with drinks and snacks and meats to grill. The streets of the nation will be quiet this evening around kickoff time. It’s kind of strange. I bet you could count on one hand the true fans of either the 49ers or the Ravens here in Lafayette. Even I, I will admit, will probably watch the game, after all it is the “super” bowl. 
I will enjoy the day but not because of the game. A trial I have been going through for months came to a quiet end this week. While I have been praying and struggling, God has been working. He has worked things out in a miraculous way that makes things, in the long run, better for me and for those I love.
What super thing is God doing in your life, while you just watch and pray? Perhaps the lost loved one you have all but given up on is being drawn to Jesus. Perhaps the broken relationship, the one that’s “beyond repair” is being quietly stitched back together by the hand of the almighty.
Perhaps the desperate finances or incurable medical situation is in His loving hands. 
Every day is super. Not because of what happens in a dome in New Orleans or, in fact,  because of anything we do. It’s super because of what He is doing, often quietly and almost always without thanks or acknowledgement. 
God is super. Today and every day.
Thank you Lord for all you are doing.
Be blessed.
Nick