Changing Hearts, Transforming Lives, impacting the World: Bartlett WELCA bids farewell to 13-year Kairos prison ministry

Article submitted by Debra Caldwell

With the upcoming June closing of the Bartlett State Jail, St. John Lutheran Church Pastor Joe Woodward held a farewell worship service on April 23, 2017. The service was held to commemorate the ending of the final Kairos weekend in Bartlett as well as to bid farewell and Godspeed to Kairos prison ministry volunteers who have used the Bartlett church as a twice-yearly home base for Kairos weekends since 2004.

Tears and hugs marked the end of an era for the Kairos volunteers and for the WELCA volunteers who have supported them for so many years.

Pastor Woodward, who was ordained at St. John, Bartlett, on July 5, 2014, also serves as the chaplain for the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department. He was quick to sign up to serve as a Kairos pastor as well – and as a member of the Kairos band, playing his guitar at the weekend events.

“Kairos” is Greek for “God’s Special Time.”

The Kairos Prison Ministry serves nearly 500 prisons and communities in 35 states and 9 countries.

The mission of Kairos Prison Ministry is to share the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women, and youth, as well as their families, to become loving and productive citizens of their communities.

One of three Kairos programs, “Kairos Inside” creates Christian communities inside prisons that can transform lives, decrease prison violence, and reduce recidivism. The ultimate goal of Kairos Inside is to build a Christian community inside the prison to pray and fellowship together on a weekly basis by nurturing each other in their faith walk and providing accountability. This is the heart of Kairos.

Who knew cookies could be so powerful?

Kairos uses home-baked cookies during their 3-day retreats as a tangible expression of Christian love and an indication of God’s concern for a group of people who seldom encounter either in the course of their daily lives. Sometimes known as the “cookie ministry,” Kairos provides thousands of cookies baked by supporters throughout the area for each of its weekend events. For the Bartlett prison ministry, cookie collections have been led by members of St. John WELCA. Twice a year the women spearheaded efforts to bake, collect, and package literally hundreds of dozens of home-baked cookies. They established a tremendous outpouring of community support in and around Bartlett twice a year for 13 years in support of this powerful ministry.

The key ingredient in every cookie: prayer. Bakers and their families are asked to pray that God will use their cookies as a source of God’s love to shine on the prisoners and staff throughout the Kairos weekend.

In addition to the tremendous effort of collecting so many cookies for each Kairos weekend, St. John WELCA members raised $500 to support the initial Kairos weekend in 2004. By their 2005 budget just one year later, the group began a continuing tradition of donating $1,500 a year to fund two tables at each Kairos weekend. The money was been provided to help pay expenses at every Kairos weekend through spring 2017.

St. John also provided kitchen and meeting facilities for the Kairos weekends in Bartlett, providing spare beds for long-distance prison ministry volunteers to sleep in during Kairos weekends and occasionally updating kitchen facilities in support of church and Kairos needs.

In addition to honoring all volunteers who participated in this important ministry, St. John WELCA members are grateful to everyone who supported our Kairos efforts in any way – especially everyone who baked and prayed over all those cookies. Special thanks go to the WELCA cookie coordinators who spent so much time and effort leading the effort to ensure our Kairos friends always had plenty of cookies for their ministry.

For further information about the Kairos Prison Ministry, view: kairosprisonministry.org/index.php and kairoshsp.com/docs/Cookies.pdf

“I was in prison and you visited me” — Matthew 25:36

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