What in the World is that Noise!

Thrump, thrump, thrump! “What in the world is that noise?” I asked after we had gone through the first guard shack at the Boyd Men’s Prison Unit in Fairfield, Texas. “Just wait! You’ll see,” said one of the women who I worked with for the past three and half days.

We passed the guard tower as we approached the second guard shack (They do not call them guard shacks anymore, but I was so amazed at the beauty of the prison grounds that I really was not listening.). I later leaned that the women (Yes, women) in the guard tower, who watched the whole campus, were sharp-shooters who could kill anyone at a moments notice.

Carl told me to look for a white sign that said “Hostage will not go beyond this point.” In other words, if you were taken hostage, your safety no longer mattered. If the guard had to shoot you to stop the inmate from escaping — so be it! That kind of puts an end to any illusion of safety.

A guard took all our licenses; we took off our shoes; we were patted down, and our feet were wanded (an electric wand the guard passes over your body and feet). I thought the wanding was pretty funny because I was barefoot. But rules are rules!!

After twenty-five visitors (We are the visitors,) passed through guard shack #2, the noise was louder, and occasionally I could hear someone scream. By this time we had been stopped twice to be counted. The guards are continuously counting how many people (Men In White and Visitors) to make sure no one has gone anywhere. If the count is not the same, EVERYTHING STOPS! Nothing happens until that the count is correct.

We reached the outside of building #2, we were counted. Yup, there were still twenty-five visitors quiet and obedient. Then moving, two by two, we followed the guard. It reminded me of the story of Noah and the animals going two by two into the ark.

We were walking along a wide open space, standing on a wide sidewalk surrounded by a ten foot fencee with razer sharp wire rolled in circles like a slicky stretched out, only much more dangerous. I began to realize that this was the same path our Kairos Men’s Inside Team had to walk every time they went in or out of the prison. However, instead of twenty-five people, they only moved in a group of five men at a time  in and out.

We got about half way between bulding #2 and the gym, when the guard leading us told us to stop. He said he had to take another count. What — are you kidding me?? I looked around and my big mouth said, “Where do you think we could go? There is a very large fence right here.” Maybe he could not see the fence; so I pointed it out to him — point, point! Everyone started to chuckle, but the guard stood there looking at me probably thinking I “was a smart ass!” Then he started to count — one, two, three, four … And you won’t believe it, we were ONE SHORT! How in the world did that happen? Did the ground open up and swallowed one of us?  So we waited until he counted again — one, two, three, four … Fuuuuuuuu, no one had escaped! The guard had missed counted.

The thrumping became a full blown band playing as loud as they could. Yelling, screaming, clapping of hand — what in the world! This was not what I had expected at all.

Standing at the gym door were about thirty Men In White greeting us with handshakes and hugs. The noise was so loud that whent they spoke to us we could not understand what they were saying. We were escorted to our sets. Men In White asking if we wanted a drink of water, could they help us with anything. The men were constantly saying “Thank you for everything you did for us.” “God bless you.” The blessings and surprises continued.

And the party began — actually I think the Men In White started partying long before we got there. I want to explain that this kind of event happens twice a year and ONLY with the Kairos Ministry Team. The Men In White are treated with love and respect. They had three and a half days of homecooking. They sat in an environment of trust, peace, and the ability to speak freely. They sat in groups with other inmates and three Kairos Inside Team members. They ate together, talked with each other, was allowed to eat all the food and drink all the coffee they wanted. They could get up from the tables and move around without someone with a gym stopping them. Of course, there were guards (actually field bosses) in the gym at all times, but they stepped back and let the Kairos Team do their work. This is unheard of in the prison system. Now there are women in the gym with them. They could shake the women’s hands; they could ask for a hug without a guard stepping between them.

The music was still playing but at a level you could understand the conversation. Then came the forty-two Men In White and the Kairos Inside Team. The noise picked up and everyone was happy to see them as they moved to their seats. Amazing — it looked like a high school graduation without the caps and growns. For the next two hours we heard the prison choir which had only been in existence for six months. This was the first time they were allowed to sing to an outside group. They were wonderful — they made a joyful noise unto the Lord. We heard testimonies from the Men In White. Eleven men had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. During open mike time, two more Men In White gave their lives to Jesus — thirteen men! From what I understand that has never happened before.

I know that this blog is pretty long, but I wanted you to experience a little of what happened on the last day of the three and a half days of long hours, hard work, aches and pains. But the story does not end here. This is just the beginning for the Men In White. The old behaviors have been thrown away and new habits are beginning to develop. We know the hardships these men will encounter; there is no “Pollyanna, dream world” here. These men will face some of the largest obstacles they have ever faced. But I believe that with Christ’s help and guidance, many will make it out of prison and have a productive (as the Men In White call it) “free world” life. Please continue to pray for these men.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda

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Kairos Team Ministry

By this time next week Carl and I will be in Fairfield, Texas with a great team of folks from the Waco area Kairos Team. We will be at the Boyd Men’s Prison Unit. Kairos is a Christian faith-based ministry that addresses the spiritual needs of men, women, and youth in the prison system, as well as their families.

Kairos gives those in prison the opportunity to “reconsider” their life choices. The Team Carl and I are on have seen miracles and lives changed through this four day, 12 to 14 hours per day, with unconditional love turn people’s hearts and lives away from destructive behaviors to transformation of hearts and minds.

An article on the Kairos website (www.mykairos.org) says, “It’s been said that it costs the government $1 million to keep ‘me’ locked up and a $100 program from Karios to set ‘me’ free.” Free in the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Many years ago, Carl was invited to participate in a Kairos weekend. He came away with the feeling that this was truly a ministry that changed hearts and lives, and not just within the prison system. It changed the hearts and lives of the men who participated in the four day weekend in the prison.

We have been preparing for this weekend (October 23-26) for months. Carl is working with the inside team (only men can go into a men’s unit), and I am the clergy person for the outside team.

The inside team spends four days praying with, eating with, talking with, and following a Karios in depth program with the “Men in White.” The outside team cooks a LOT, prays even more, and prepares meals for both those going in and the Men in White.

The outside team is baking approximately 5,000 dozen cookies — 60,000 cookies, sweet breads, birthday cakes, fruit and other meal products. [Right now my house smells of COOKIES. In the last 24 hours I have made about 450 cookies with about 800+ to go. Others are also working hard making cookies. So we are on our way toward the 60,000.] The Men in White never get cookies, sweet breads, fruit, or a birthday cake.  One of the stories we heard was that one man broken down crying when he saw a birthday cake on his table. “This is the first birthday cake I ever got. I didn’t think anyone cared that I was born.”

I listened to an ex-inmate talk about Kairos, “A lot of people said we were dead men, but I was a mad man. I beat up inmates who wanted to be a Christian. I ran the prison gangs. Kairos came inside the walls and picked the worse dudes. But Christ gave me back my life.”

There is a 70% retention rate of prisoners who attend a Kairos weekend. That is 29 men out of 42 develop a relationship with Christ. When they get out of prison, they stay out. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see those kinds of numbers in our churches? Some of the men remain in prison but lead a Christian life in the midst of chaos — fighting, lots of noise, yelling, men getting hurt, beaten up, someone else telling them what to do every minute of their day, gangs, drugs. Got the idea?!

I am not saying that once a prisoner accepts Christ as his savior that he is to be let out of prison. They have committed a crime and need to complete their punishment. But I wonder how we would do if we found ourselves in a place like that? Would our faith withstand the brutality these men have to face each day? Just because you become a Christian does not mean that life becomes a “bed of roses.”

Please keep the Kairos Team and the Men in White in your prayers for the next two weeks. Hearts and lives will be changed.

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda

In the Blink of an Eye!

While I was finishing up projects at St. Stephen UMC, I began to think about all the spare time I would have to fill once I retired. This seemed like a great opportunity to do something I have wanted to do for years — read the Classics.

When I was in high school, I had trouble reading (and my math was even worse). The teachers tried to get me to read the Classics they assigned, but by my sophomore year, the English department pretty much gave up on me. When I graduated in 1968, I had a 2.7 reading level. In other words, I could not read. In those days we did not have standardized tests that show whether we were ready for the next grade or not. By the time I got to 12th grade, I was socially promoted to graduation.

In those days, the education system did not know about dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects a person’s ability to read and do math. I had one high school math teacher who worked very hard trying to find a way for me to learn. He would say to me, “I don’t understand how you can work so hard and still not get the right answer.” It wasn’t that I did not understand (because I knew the formulas forwards and backwards), it was — in his word — “stupid mistakes.” For example: 8-5 was always a 1. What I saw was 3-2 = 1. Or 8-6 was -6. because I saw 3-9= -6. My 8s were 3s. My 5s were 2s. My 9s were 6s.

My words would rise and float. Sometimes the letters would disappear or move around. When I was (am) under stress (like at exam time), I may not understand what the question was asking. I hate (strong word – but true) multiple choose questions. Sometimes I would skip the question and go onto the next question. Then I would go back to the unanswered question. This time the question would say something different and the answer choices made no sense.

By the time I went to college, I was 32 and learned some ways to work through my “reading/math problems.” I did go to a college psychologist who tested me. What do you know; I am dyslexic. She explained to me that a person who has dyslexia does not always see the written word or number like everyone else. She said that my brain and eye connection does not always work. It’s like a lamp with a bad connections. Sometimes the connection is on and sometimes it’s off.

My words are still rising and floating; disappearing, reappearing; numbers get turned upside down and right side up. In the blink of an eye what I see changes, and the issue is that I do not know when it is happening; but it sure makes reading/math more interesting.

Reading and understanding what I read is really important to me. It’s a great challenge every time I open a new book. But the challenge is a fun puzzle to unravel. I have a lot of books to read; so I am curling up with a new book in just a few minutes. And in the blink of an eye a new world of literature is open to us all! Support and visit your local library. There’s a book waiting for you!

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda

OK, I Have Four Choices

OK, I have not been posting on Tuesdays and Fridays for the past two weeks. Excuse: I was on vacation in New Hampshire with family I only get to see once a year. Pretty good excuse wouldn’t you say! How about: Most of that time I did not have wifi; couldn’t get on the internet. Well, actually that is not wholly true. Carl went to Wal-Mart and got a wifi adapter for my sister’s computer which made it possible for me to be on the internet with my computer.

However, there were times that neither Carl nor I was able to connect on the computer or our cell phones. It amazes me that in this day and age, we still have places in this country we cannot get access to the internet.

For me to get my writing career off the ground, I have to write everyday. I didn’t do that either. I just blow the past two weeks off and had family fun. I got to spend time with both my sisters (together and one-on-one). We celebrated my Mother’s 87 birthday all together which we have not done in many, many years. We ate out a lot, laughed a lot, told a lot of stories, listened to problems, and just enjoyed each other. That is what I call vacation — oh ya, I forgot: Carl and I drove over 4000 miles around trip, in a car, with air-conditioner on some of the time, and heat on the rest of the time. I napped and read a lot. (Of course, what else do you do on a long road trip?) All in all, we had a wonderful, refreshing time.

BUT, now it is time to reevaluate my commitment to writing. I have four choices: 1) I can start all over. 2) I can continue to procrastinate waiting for a time when I feel like writing. 3) I can pick up where I left off. 4) OR I can quit.

First of all, quitting is not my style. Even when things look impossible, I still continue in the blind hope that success is around the corner. Keep putting one foot in front of the other until you reach the other side. So, quitting — out! That leaves me with starting over, procrastinating, and picking up where I left off.

I have already spend months practicing and posting and writing to start all over again. I liked where I found myself before vacation. I felt that I had made some good strides in the storytelling business. So I don’t want to start over. Starting over — out!

Procrastination is always a problem for me. I love to put off until tomorrow what I could do today. I love spending an extra half hour reading when I should be writing or doing dishes or folding laundry. Many times those half hours turn into hours and nothing gets done. I may have to go to a weekly support group to rid procrastination out of my life: Not Happening!! It’s so much fun curling up with a good book while other things are left undone. There’s always tomorrow — right!! Procrastination — out – well, most of the time.

I guess that leaves me with picking up where I left off. This is the choice I pick — do my Friday blog, get the laundry and dishes done, and find time at the end of the day to read.

So, here’s to my picking up and moving on. Friday’s blog is now finished, and I am ready to move onto the next thing. Have a great weekend and see you next Tuesday!

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda