A Change of Heart
Kairos Prison Ministry Has a Positive Impact On Indiana Inmates
Writer / Melissa Gibson
Photography provided by Kairos Prison Ministry
Kairos Prison Ministry, the largest volunteer organization in the correctional system in Indiana brings together men and women from multiple denominations in an effort to save those who are lost and living in the prison system.
They offer a three-day program with an “intense introduction” to Jesus Christ and Christianity in 20 facilities across the state.
“We can give the logistics, but if you come to a closing ceremony and hear the testimonies, it’s a front row seat to a miracle,” says Roger Bough, State Chairman.
One form of the organization started in the 70s in Florida, and Kairos has grown to reside in 37 states and nine countries. The scripted course involving team activities, singing, prayer and many speakers have a life-long effect on some of the states most hardened criminals.
They work with 1,200 inmates per year, carefully selecting 42 guests within the prison to attend each of the two event weekends per facility and after the three-day introduction, their involvement doesn’t stop there.
“After that weekend, we come back for a one-day instructional reunion, we’re there once a week for a prayer and sharing time and twice a year we have a full day retreat,” Bough says.
One weekend requires each volunteer to put in about 100 hours and that doesn’t include the weekly and monthly activities.”
Bob Asmus says a year and a half ago he planned to visit one weekend as a volunteer to see what the ministry was all about.
“These guys coming into the room, their eyes were like dark tunnels,” he says. “You can see that many of them are scared and they often say, ‘the only reason I’m here is because I heard there was good food.’ After a day, they start sharing with each other and opening up. We just see heart changes and we’re just there listening and loving on them, but the greatest blessing is watching the lives change and knowing that I’m just the facilitator. I was just there and God did all the work.”
Some of the men and women haven’t received a letter throughout their stay at the prison.
“That’s the kind of thing that really has an effect,” says Frank Rowe, Liaison for Plainfield’s Heritage Trail. “I’ve seen some of the hardest of hearts break over getting those letters. Talk about a moment. They can’t believe we take the time away from our families to be with them.”
The importance of the ministry, Rowe says, is 97 percent of individuals incarcerated will eventually get out.
“That’s why it’s important to effect change,” Rowe says.
The goal is not only to bring inmates to Christ but also to create a new environment among prisoners.
“The Department of Corrections (DOC) really like Kairos because the inmates’ attitudes change. It changes the dynamic of the prison and what they’ve learned influences those around them,” says Louie Warren, Continuing Ministry Coordinator.
Bough adds the benefit is not only for the prisoners and those working there but for the community as well.
“It’s a calming effect in the facility,” he says. “It lowers stress and curbs violence but also reduces recidivism. These people will be our neighbors, so it’s a good thing for the community too.”
Not only can men and women apply to work within the facility’s weekend or weekly activities, the group brings in 1,200 dozen cookies each weekend and needs bakers to make the homemade treats.
Children in churches and some schools create placemats, financial donations are always needed and above all – prayer.
“Prayer is the most important ingredient,” Bough adds. “We ask churches to sign up for half hour time periods to pray for the weekend and the inmates themselves.”
Those prayer chains are put together for a visual reminder and hung along the room for guests to see the number of people praying for them. Many that touch the ministry in whatever capacity can remember the feeling they first had with their involvement.
“It changed me. Not only does it change the participants, but it changes the volunteers,” Warren says.
“Kairos is not for wimps,” Bough adds. “This is serious, mission-driven volunteer work and our volunteers have huge hearts. They are so committed to this.”