Love In An Envelope
February, the heart month, draws to a close today. I hope you have intentionally loved someone this month. Sometimes we get to see the impact of love. This story from a friend of mine who volunteers in the Kairos ministry shouts of the deep impactful love of God.
Kairos is a faith-based ministry to men in the prison system. Through an intentional program over a 3 day period volunteers reach out to those who have never experienced the depth of God’s love.
Some of the prisoners attending the Kairos weekend come from the God Pod, the faith-based dorm. Others come from the regular prison areas. Rigo was one of those men.
Rigo is a muscular man with a body peppered with tattoos. If his size wasn’t enough his eyes and countenance warned others, “Don’t mess with me”. A leader by nature, he had become a shot caller for his gang. Others feared him for good reason and knew not to approach or touch him.
Rigo sat at his table a belligerent participant. Like many prisoners he had come for the food and to get away from the boredom of prison life. His first question to our Kairos team was, “What do you want from me?” In his world nothing was offered for free. Everything came at a price. When told that nothing was required of him he came to realize he had unwittingly chosen a weekend of grace, served up with love, as God’s word and truth was offered by servant-hearted men.
The structure of Kairos is very intentional. Conversation, presentations, meals and snacks are designed to pour into the brothers in white the love of God. Those who are free come to bring true freedom to those who are in prison. The experience is not based on who has done what, but on what God has already done for them.
Each volunteer in the Kairos team is asked to write letters to the prisoners, people they don’t yet know, but for whom they are already praying. Letters are not something these men often get and when they do receive them the letters have already been opened and read. On Saturday night the men are presented with their stack of 40 sealed letters. They are love in an envelope. Most men can only read about 4 letters before they become overwhelmed with the content. It is unfathomable that those they don’t know would express such love. And as God works, the content of the letters hits His mark, which is their heart.
Rigo’s response to the weekend? In his words, “God sucker-punched me” and “You guys don’t play fair.” God had begun to take a hard heart and make it soft again. His transforming work has begun in Rigo.
Six months later, at the next Kairos weekend, there is a volunteer from among the brothers in white and his name is Rigo. The warden chose him for the job. These months have found Rigo mentored by men who listen and love. He is reading his Bible and attending Bible studies. He smiles and jokes as he serves food to the new Kairos attendees. He also shares with them what he has found and he wants them to find it too. He testifies he is now a Christian, not a very good one, but he keeps trying. His words to them now, “If you can’t see the change in me, you’re blind.” Still a commanding presence, he is leading others to experience God’s grace. God’s reality is most powerfully exposed in the changed heart of a man.
II Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Prisoners, which are all of us, are only truly freed through the deep love of God.
*The story is true, but the name have been changed.