Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Kairos weekend, God is good

5/4/10 Tuesday
Wow, hard to believe we’re already four days into May already. I have much to write about and told Mike to take the day off in order to free up time to write. This morning started out rough, with Cherie experiencing intense pain on her right side, so I took her to the emergency room. Finding where to go at the Midland hospital was tough because of all the construction and poor or unclear signage. When we finally made our way in it was noisy and chaotic because of the construction. Cherie was back and forth about whether to go or not, even after we got there, but the pain was pretty bad. She decided that this is caused by a kidney stone, a problem she has had several times now so is familiar with. The final straw came when, after being told Cherie was experiencing severe pain, the nurse exclaims “Jesus Christ” in disgust as if Cherie was just someone using the facility without a real need. With that Cherie decided to leave, go home, and tough it out. So I brought her home. Cherie will take the day off work and keep moving till this thing passes. I’m mixed on that, having great concern for her and understanding the potential for this pain to be something serious, but on the other hand trusting her past experience and not desiring to run up another hospital bill.

I need to write about the Kairos experience, not just to record the event for my memory but also for the families of some of the inmates. When the word got out that I would be writing about it on the blog several inmates came to me and got the address so that they could have friends and family out in the free world go online and read about it. Too bad I can’t post pictures, camera’s are a big no no there. In fact we can’t take cell phones or much of anything else inside the prison.

So now I must strive to remember the events of those four days. That will take some effort and unfortunately much of what happened I will be unable to remember, but much of it I will never forget. The difficulty will be in trying to convey the depth of feeling that was there, of the Spirit that permeated the event. It’s one of those “You had to be there” kind of things.

I rode down to Fort Stockton with Ron, a character in his own right. Ron has an IQ equal to what mine used to be before the brain injury and has a good understanding of the effects and consequences of TBI. It was a pleasure to talk with him. I can’t recall if we went to the church everyone met at and was the central headquarters and kitchen for the event, or if we went to the prison first. That’s how it works with my memories; my mind doesn’t put time stamps on them so it’s hard to figure out what happened when.

The church is a store front church in downtown Fort Stockton. It has a large commercial kitchen in it so might have at one time been a restaurant. In it is where the “outside angels” worked hard at preparing the foods along with printing materials and performing a world of other tasks, not the least of which is praying for us while in the prison. We would all meet there every morning to have breakfast along with discussing and planning each day. When we would head out to the prison the angels would send us out with song and clapping hands and when we came back at the end of the day we were received the same way.

Everyone was concerned about me and kept asking “Are you ok?”. I presumed their concern was based on the fact that I’d been in prison before so they were worried about how I would handle it, but in retrospect I realize that might not have been the case. My worry was about the effects of the brain injury, if the stress of being there would trigger the petite seizures that hound me, and I had shared that concern with some. I did very well, no slowdowns though I did have a few moments where that feeling of being overwhelmed and I could sense the precursors of a slowdown, but nothing came of it. Being in the prison itself didn’t bother me, it’s an arena I am deeply familiar with and there is a security that exists with familiar surroundings. It did bring back lots of memories, memories long since buried in the recesses of my mind. For me, it’s good to remember. These memories make it clear again the results of bad decisions, the wages of sin, if you will. They remind me of how blessed I am to be alive and free, of how close I came to being neither one of those.

The first day was a learning experience for both us and the guards. Many of them had not seen a Kairos weekend and it’s quite outside the realm of normal activity within a prison. For me it was all new anyway and I was careful to observe and do what I was told. I just remembered that Ron and I had driven down early to participate in a training session at the prison, where we met the chaplain and assistant warden.

Anyway, the way it was set up is that there seven large round tables that each would seat seven inmates and two or three of us “volunteers” (that’s what we’re referred to as). Each table was named after a disciple of Jesus. My table was the “James” table. There were name tags at the tables, each one with a string of yarn so they could be hung around our necks. My memory isn’t clear but I don’t think they set up the tables till later in the day, or perhaps even the second day. There were chairs set up facing each other all around the room. This was all in the gym, by the way. As the guys were called out of their cells and arrived in the gym, their name was announced. Each of us had a list of guys we were “sponsoring” and had that person’s name tag with us. I only had one name on my list and some others had up to three. This being my first ever Kairos I was happy to only have one name. In prison things always change so the guy who’s name I had never showed up. Whether he had gotten in trouble so lost the privilege or perhaps been transferred to another prison I don’t know. There were alternate names just for this contingency and I went through three of those before I was matched up with someone. I’m not at liberty to say the full name but I can tell you I called him Charlie.

Charlie and I hit it off at once. There was an instant bond between us as we talked. I never asked any of the guys we met what crime they had committed to be there and really don’t care. Charlie and I have similar backgrounds and drug use is a central source of our problems. When he learned I had been in prison before it helped greatly with his ability to feel free to talk.

Because my ability to remember is jumbled I am unable to go through the events on a day by day basis, other than the last day. That one was unique so easily distinguishable from the others. Besides that, by the time we got to the last day I was much more relaxed and able to take in what was happening. So I’ll cover the whole thing in rather general terms.

There was a huge cloth banner put up that stretched clear across the gym and served as a wall, behind which was an area referred to as the chapel. We all would go back there on a regular basis and there would be some songs sung, prayers read, and talks or devotionals given. Then we would return to the tables and discuss the subject talked on. During the day there were three (or maybe four, I’m not totally clear) major talks given in the main area where our tables were.
Me with my grandmother when she came to visit me in prison. This is 1975 or so.

All in all it was a moving experience. You know, good people do bad things and bad people can choose to become good. I heard so many stories of destroyed lives and poor decisions. All of them were familiar stories that I’ve heard before, even the one about having a mother who was a prostitute and growing up in that environment. Sin is sin and the results are always the same, especially in the long run. What I know is that each one of these men desire to be good and to repair the damages they’ve done. What I also know is that without help, and especially without God, they have drastically reduced chances of overcoming the demons of their past. Jesus said “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothing and cloth you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?” The Lord will reply “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me”.

When they heard my old prison number several sought me out to talk. Having “Been there and done that” helped them to confide in me and gave me a credibility that enhanced things.

I wanted to write more about this but got some bad news and am having a hard time focusing. God is good and I’ll trust in that.


Anonymous said...

Good to see you doing something. There are so many who talk but that's all. The scripture you quoted is in Mathew 25 vs 34 to 45. Jesus is pretty blunt saying to those who don't practice what they preach "Depart from me, you workers of iniquity" and states they will be eternally punished. There's a lot of clueless wanna be Christians out there. Jesus quoted Isaiah 29 "These people draw near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips. But their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship, teaching as doctrine the tradition of men.

Tana said...

I was wondering when you were going to update us all on how the weekend went. Glad to know that it went well. Hope that Cherie gets to feeling better. If it is a kidney stone all the hospital would do is give her strong meds and lots of fluids. But if she doesn't get better take her back...

Anonymous said...

You continue to have the most amazing expiences Bob!
Hope Cherie is doing okay after her hospital trip. I can't believe how she was treated! Such a crazy world.
Miss you guys.
Love and hugs Vickie

Amy said...

I enjoyed reading about your time there. How wonderful you were at the table of "James"! I am so glad that I named my little son James (after my grandfather and one of the disciples). I will be praying for you and Cherie. Miss you guys!



Bob said...

Thanks guys, If I could only convey just how deeply this moved me, just how amazing God is, how He loves us all, good and bad, and how He changes lives. It's when you give that you are able to receive.