Imperial Valley Press

The what and how of prison ministry, KAIROS


Many readers of the Press have heard of “prison ministry” but may find it confusing. What is it like? Why is it important? Could I even do it? In past columns I have written stories about the ministry, but the real deal is coming on April 1 in our first annual KAIROS Men’s Informatio­n Conference. It will be from 8 a.m. – 3p.m. at building A at Imperial County Social Services, located at 2895 S. 4th Street in El Centro. Snowbirds are welcome and, for your informatio­n, we have two state prisons here in the Valley of the sun.

The program is free and there will be a great lunch but you will be fed even better by the speakers. Do you like music? We will have that too! What I am most looking forward to is our first presenters, two formerly incarcerat­ed men who are now paroled volunteers and are doing great in the game of life, or should I say “eternal life.” ( Eternal life begins now, not after death for those confused!) If you like laughter, come and meet “Harley Charley” Tony Curtis ( not the actor), a presenter/ parolee and now pastor from San Diego who will also tune you up.

If you attend, you will also hear from Harry, a 30-year KAIROS volunteer who has helped in six different California prisons. He is a “Volunteer” with a capital “V”. Wow, thirty years! He has stories he will share. You will also hear from a chaplain who was also a police officer who served in the most violent parts of San Diego. Many of us have heard the term “chaplain” but what do they do, why and how do they help those behind bars?

Yours truly will also share, and being the college professor ( like from Gilligan’s Island) I will give you theory, and those attending will also get to practice in a “prayer and share” group. Don’t worry, you don’t have to share … you can just say “pass.” Groups in society are very important. Sports teams, families, first responders, support groups all can impact our lives in powerful, positive ways. Why did Jesus have 12 disciples? He knew his followers needed a support group. The first Christians in the Book of Acts did not meet in the synagogues but in small groups in homes. The mantra for KAIROS is “listen, listen, love, love.” Notice the importance of listening.

Do you like fresh baked cookies?

We will have some of the Valley’s finest because they will be part our panel discussion on forgivenes­s. Participan­ts will learn about God’s forgivenes­s, forgiving others and themselves. Conference content is great, but I like get togethers, to see old friends and to make new ones. Old dogs like me can still learn ( but I forget most of it), and it is always good to review the pillars of the program.

Back to the “what” and “how” of prison ministry. To really know the what, show up. Call (760) 353-2467 to help us plan the lunch or pick up a flyer at KGBA Christian Radio at 6th and State streets in El Centro. To answer the “How could anyone do this?” question, attending the conference will let you know. Sorry, no burning bush folks. Just follow the tug of your heart or curious mind and show up on April 1. Yes some may think of us are fools for doing this work, but it has been said many times, “I get much more than I give!” Feel free to cut this out and share it with a friend or call if you have questions. Hope to see you then!

Jim Shinn works for Imperial Valley College and teaches Sociology of the Marriage and Family in local prisons within Imperial County.

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