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.