Kenneth & Alice Williams
Navarro County, Texas


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11/21/2003 Special Time: Prison ministry KAIROS reaching incarcerated in need

Linda and Kenneth Williams have dedicated their lives to ministering to inmates in Texas prisons. Daily Sun photo/SCOTT HONEA

By DEANNA PAWLOWSKI/Daily Sun Staff

Kenneth and Linda Williams are going to prison.

They are involved with a special prison ministry called KAIROS. KAIROS is a Greek term meaning "God's special time."

Ken, who will be the rector of the next KAIROS four-day weekend, held April 14-18, is a Vietnam veteran. He has authored a book about his Vietnam experiences, entitled "Blue Tiger," and even donated a kidney this summer to an old Vietnam buddy.

Ken and Linda met and married when both were stationed at Fort Knox -- he in the army, and she in the Women's Army Corps (WACS). Following that, they lived in Perryton, where Ken retired from Phillips Petroleum, and Linda from First Bank Southwest. They located in Eureka following retirement.

Ken was recruited for KAIROS during a "Walk to Emmaus" religious retreat. Since Ken was in combat in Vietnam, a recovering alcoholic, and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, his witness to the men in the prison would be unique.

"The KAIROS prison ministry is international," Williams said. "We go in, and give a short course in Christianity. It is a lay-run Christian ministry. There are two common threads with these prisoners -- most of them have suffered from drug or alcohol abuse, and many times, this was a direct result of mental or sexual abuse in their childhood."

The programs are held in both men's and women's units. The men minister to men, with women working on the outside of the prison preparing food, and vice versa.

At the William Boyd Unit in Teague, where the Williams KAIROS is active, Linda has a team of 15 to 20 people cooking food on the outside -- hamburgers, fried chicken, cherry pie, lasagna, and birthday cakes. Then the men carry the food into the prison, to be served to the 42 prison candidates involved in the weekend.

They also use 5,000 cookies during one KAIROS weekend.

"The food and cookies are just the 'hook'," Williams said. "Then the Lord reels them in."

First United Methodist Church in Fairfield is considered the "base camp" for the KAIROS operation, with the women preparing the food there. A qualification weekend is required for first-time KAIROS members, unless they've experienced "Walk to Emmaus." Members of this KAIROS team are from St. Elmo, Frost, Blooming Grove, Streetman, Eureka, and Corsicana. New members are always needed. Linda herself was unsure in the beginning.

"Don't ask me to do it," Linda said then. "It's not my thing. I'm claustrophobic. Then I went for a closing meeting, and I was hooked."

"We try to get the gang leaders," Ken said. "We mix them up, and don't let them sit with their buddies. We go for the leaders, because they are the people who will influence the others.

"We never ask what they've done. We are bringing Agape love to them, which is unconditional love without expecting anything in return."

The "men in white" as they are called, love to sing, and the "free world people" have them make cards, posters and put on skits.

"We give them lots of affirmation, because some of them have never had any before," Ken said.

There are no altar calls, and no Lord's Supper. All requests for baptism are directed to the prison chaplain, Henry Davenport. Davenport's theory about prisoner rehabilitation is simple.

"If you don't come visit my men in prison to turn their lives to Jesus Christ, they will surely visit us with their crime when they get out -- directly or indirectly," Davenport said.

Studies have shown that without KAIROS, about 80 percent of prisoners return to prison following their release. With KAIROS, 80 to 90 percent never go back to prison.

"We don't just leave them," Ken said. "We go back and check on them weekly and monthly. We do one-day and two-day follow-ups after the initial weekend."

KAIROS Outside is offered for families of incarcerated people, and this program is reaching many, as well.

There are several areas of need, where Ken and Linda could use help building their team. Prayers are always needed -- for the members, the prisoners, the food, the weekend, and more. Team members are needed, too, as a team is comprised of 64 people.

Sponsorships are desperately needed, and any amount is welcome. The food for the entire weekend comes to about $10,000. They also welcome cookies.

The final need is written Agape. Some of the inmates have not received correspondence from family in a long time. A letter from a child or adult means a great deal. Children are encouraged to include their age, but no last names. Many prisoners hang their drawings and letters from children in their "house," which is how they refer to their cells.

For more information on how you can help with this ministry, call Ken or Linda Williams at (903) 874-4316.

"It is amazing to see the power of the Holy Spirit moving in this place," Ken said.

Linda echoed this sentiment.

"We have been blessed so much more than they have been," she said.

 

Reprinted with permission of the Corsicana Daily Sun
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Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox