One of the reasons I attended Cookie Swap this year was due to it coinciding with Kairos, which is an international prison ministry. Prison ministry has been around since the 1930’s but took off in September 1976 in Florida, USA. Kairos is now active in 31 US states, and in Australia, Canada, England, Costa Rica, Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras and South Africa.
Kairos is for men, women and teens. There are men’s weekend inside (only for male volunteers & inmates), woman’s weekend inside (only for female volunteers and inmates) and Kairos Torch (for teen volunteers & juvenile inmates). There is also Kairos Outside for the family members who have someone on the inside.
There are two Kairos weekends a year in a prison. Coming up is Kairos for men #29, taking place at Krugersdorp prison over four days, and is the second one this year. The Kairos team is made up of volunteers that offer up their free time. The guys spend about 6 weeks in training to prepare for the weekend. These are normal, average chaps with day-to-day jobs. On the current team there are teachers, a plumber, IT specialists, CFO of a bank, a retail buyer, and some pensioners.
Keith Clark, the retail buyer says of Kairos: “What we do when we go into prison is we show the inmates God’s love. They are not preached at or judged – their reasons for being in prison are not disclosed so that each person is treated as an equal and just showered with love. We give talks on different topics and show them that there is a God that loves and forgives them and that they should forgive themselves.”
Whilst the guys are on the inside there is a team of woman on the outside that cook for the group inside and pray for them. The inmates are treated to full course meals over the four days. A full breakfast, a 4 course lunch and a 4 course supper, and in addition to all of this, they are showered with cookies! The inmates are told that the cookies are baked especially for them and that they have been prayed over. Some break down and cry when they hear that there are strangers out there that have taken the time to make something just for them.
The inmates are challenged to finish the cookies that are baked for them. Bowls are placed on each table and as soon as these run low they are topped up again. The first day the inmates are very keen to prove that they can empty the bowls, but on day two they don’t try as hard, as there are so many cookies to eat. The ministry team use this to illustrate God’s love: God has so much love to give us that it does not end, and when we think it has run out or He has forgotten about us He tops us up again.
In sharing with the cookie attendees about Kairos, I had hoped that they would share just a few cookies with me for the inmates to enjoy. I certainly didn’t expect to leave with armfuls and armfuls!