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