BY HOPE HARRINGTON OAKES
There is a small group of women in the Golden Triangle who fervently believe that everyone needs to spend time with God, and are doing everything they can to help make this happen for some they believe need it even more while enduring the most difficult times of their lives. They are members of KAIROS Prison Ministry and every week they go to the Lowndes County Detention Center in Columbus to share the word of God with the women who are incarcerated there.
“KAIROS is a support group for anyone who has a female loved one, friend or relative, in prison,” said KAIROS member Mukaka.
Having been involved with KAIROS before, Mukaka wanted to keep involved with the ministry after she moved to the Columbus area. She contacted the local chapter, and met the others in the ministry.
“We began to want to come to here (at LCADC), because we knew that they had Gideons come in, different groups that came in to minister to the men, but we didn’t know of anyone coming in to minister to the women,” Mukaka said. “Except for occasionally, there’s an AA group that comes here to the women, but we felt they needed more.”
The group members brought their concerns and request to then-Sheriff Billy Pickens to begin their ministry. They told him they wanted to start the Bible study “Experiencing God” which was a great success at Angola Prison in Louisiana. “
In fact, they have a seminary that comes there from Baptist Seminary in New Orleans who come in and certifies pastors, even those who are serving life sentences, serving as pastors to the other inmates,” Mukaka said. “It has transformed the prison. Any time you have a spiritual-based offering to the prisoners, it really reduces the recidivism rates. We were really delighted when we were allowed to begin.”
The ministry started with only two ladies, Mukaka and Kathi, but grew to have several members. Armed with well-worn bibles and songbooks, the women all bring their own personal touches to the ministry. Kathi enthusiastically opens the service in song and prayer, telling them they are “loved, beautiful and precious”, Mukaka leads them in what she calls a “breath meditation,” in which she uses imagery to complement a short uplifting verse from the bible, Debbie shares bible stories, and Ann writes encouraging cards to the ladies.
When each weekly service begins, they pass out song books and hand out bibles to those who need them. Murrah’s Chapel buys the bibles given out to the inmates. The inmates all sat with smiles on their faces while they participated in each aspect of the service. At the end of each service prayer requests are taken from the inmates so that before the KAIROS members leave, they sit down as a group and pray through each request.
“We are so thankful for the time we have with them,” Kathi said. Kathi quotes Matthew 25:35-36 as the foundation for the ministry: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Current Lowndes County Sheriff Mike Arledge has joined in past services. Each member said she felt truly blessed to be part of the ministry. They members said they believe that they are living examples of the KAIROS motto: Changing hearts, transforming lives, and impacting the world.