Our guest on today’s episode is Mr. James Bell, an active volunteer with the Kairos Prison Ministry in Texas. Kairos (“God’s special time”) is reaching the incarcerated in 38 states and 13 countries. In Texas, Kairos is in about half of the state’s 108 facilities. James has served in five of those prisons over the last eight years. Listen as he shares about his personal experiences as a Kairos volunteer, and learn more about this amazing ministry.
Jake Enriquez: 00:24 Welcome back to Press and Reach. My name is Jake Enriquez your host. What a delight it is to be with you again on this wonderful beautiful morning.
Jake Enriquez: 00:29 And I have to tell you that you know in all my time the different ministries that I have had a blessing just to be able to be involved in prison ministry just so happens to be one of my favorite.
Jake Enriquez: 00:41 It just so happens to be one of my favorite because I love the redeeming process you know from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ restoration and love to see men and women come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. And one of the ministries that I’m happily involved in by the way is the Kairos prison ministry and here today this morning we have someone with us Mr. James Bell who’s going to come and talk to us about the Kairos prison ministry. Listen we want to get this message out to others out there the listeners in hopes of getting other people involved, point blank you know the ministry is a great ministry a great ministry to be a part of. So we encourage others to come get involved and invite others to get involved. But I’m just going to invite Mr. Bell to come on and speak a little bit about the Kairos prison ministry. Good morning. James
James Bell: 01:33 how are you man just fine Jake how are you today?
Jake Enriquez: 01:36 I’m doing well I’m doing well man. Thank you so much for coming out to hang out with us and talk about Kairos today. Any time. Yes sir. And what we’re going to do is for the listeners this is just kind of how we introduce one another out there inside the unit. So James you know the drill. Go ahead and let you do the two minute introduction. You know where you’re from where you worship what do you do and why did you get involved.
James Bell: 02:03 OK. I live in Waxahachie Texas and I worship at Joshuah chapel AME I’m a white boy singing or with a black choir and I love it.
James Bell: 02:11 And I believe that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week and it shouldn’t be. So that’s why a out of here. I’m kind of a lone ranger there but also involved in Kairos prison ministry and because that’s where the Lord had opened the doors to be when he shut down the church.
James Bell: 02:33 Because I am a mens minister specialist with general commission you know in the span of circumstances let me into the prisons and I’ve been in five prisons now over the last 8 years.
Jake Enriquez: 02:44 OK wonderful wonderful. We greatly appreciate that too man. You know when we talk about Kairos Ok the thing I want to I want to just kind of focus on here is try to get. I know it’s hard to do. OK. First off James I know it’s hard to do what we want to try to open up the Kairos prison ministry and get people to look at the inside what it involves what all it entails and do the best we can it just kind of explaining the ministry because I know people look from afar and say you know I kind of would like to go into a prison ministry but don’t really know too much about it so can you kind of give us if you could a brief description of what is the Kairos prison ministry all about Kairos prison ministry as a faith based program that is actually the Texas Department of Criminal Justice once wants Kairos in every facility in 108 facilities in Texas.
James Bell: 03:37 We’re about half right now because it has been shown that if they incarcerated man has been and the current prison ministry for three years the recidivism rate dropped from 60 to 70 percent down to about 16 to 17 percent. Kairos is a Greek word which means God’s special time. It’s basically we have a group of people that get together from the outside world and we call them people of color because typically all the men inside are in white uniforms and colored men and white and the the chaplain and the warden picks up with 42 men in white and they try to pick the ones that are do not have any type of faith based mentality. Gang leaders the roughest ones in there because once they go through or we can change the whole dynamics of prison because they are the leaders within the prison.
James Bell: 04:40 So. We know what is three and a half crash course on Christianity. We are ecumenical group of all different religions. We leave theology at the door when we walk in. It’s all about Jesus and God’s love and that’s how God breaks through and breaks down their hearts with the love that is shared with the man over there. Three and a half day in the way we get men to sign up to come to. It
James Bell: 05:14 is typically with the cookies we carry and thousands of people as well as the food that we prepare because most of these men haven’t had beef inside. They don’t give condiments inside they eat typically chicken or pork. All the time. They don’t get pastries. Kind of things like that. So they typically attracted with food over the course of the weekend and we have a different man from the outside that are really inside team that are about 30 to 35 me that go in and work with the 42. And we have a work team on the outside which is our support team use made up of women the other end and we have a lot of ex-offenders that come back to support the Kairos ministry. And to be out for 18 months and they don’t. Those that haven’t been out long enough will work with the outside support team for cooking the cooking praying we shower them with prayer they provide a lot of golf.
James Bell: 06:25 We allow churches and other organizations to participate. We asked them to pray we different rules slip of paper that we get people to have been praying for that we can and we kept those little slips of paper so that we make a chain out of them. And those changes go around the room many times. That’s one of the ways that the men typically can’t believe that people are actually praying for them. Sure. We have children to take place. I would share them with love and I’ve seen many men break down when they look at the place mat in the name of the age of the child is one that they have on the outside.
James Bell: 07:10 Way God reaches them. We also have a sense that you know the fees that are paid that we also take throughout the whole you know to let them know that God is in the facility with people in that as well So it’s you know.
James Bell: 07:29 They are the motto is listen listen love love. We break. The man at 42 and two tables. We split them up so that they have a chaplain at each table along with the table later misses that table later from the outside.
James Bell: 07:49 And we break it up according to the city around that table so typically of the 42 man you have to have 14 black 14 white or Hispanic dissipated that way. Sure. So OK. Breaks down racial divides as well.
Jake Enriquez: 08:08 Absolutely. So it sounds to me you know when I when I when I really think about it the main focus is you know the unconditional love of God that it is on full display and definitely there is a lot of people involved.
Jake Enriquez: 08:23 You know you just described inside team in what the inside team is doing how they’re sitting with guys conversing and forming relationships kind of talking with others. But there’s also the outside team. I’m glad you brought them in because the outside team consists of not only the volunteers there that are taking part of the activities here in this four day.
Jake Enriquez: 08:46 Then there are also like you said reaching out to the community whether it be by way of prayer or people praying at the same time for this event and for the brothers in white who are taking place in the event as well. And just also outreach to the community. There are guys that you know donate make contributions to Kairos and try to support them in the different meals we have know the different you know meals selection you know guys can buy the meals for the guys inside it’s to buy meal tickets for$5 or$125.
James Bell: 09:21 The pay per table absolutely.
Jake Enriquez: 09:22 So those are those different ways that we engage community in it and to get involved in the Cairos prison ministry. Absolutely so. But let me ask you a question James. You know tell me if you have a story to share about maybe somebody you met on the inside while you’ve spent time because first off I should ask you this.
James Bell: 09:42 How long have you been involved in Kairos I when the first time in 2004 my brother was leading the outside team and the guy that was my best man at my wedding was leading the team to the blue to love it to them but for you never been in a prison. And after sitting through that and watching every man in their breakdown and hearing their stories and their conversion experiences because I have never witnessed so many people accept Christ for the first time. Yes. As when I go through a Kairos weekend in fact It’s been said that typically there are more people or you will witness more people accept Christ that weekend and we will in a lifetime than in any particular church.
Jake Enriquez: 10:33 OK. And do you have a I don’t know maybe a testimony or story to share about someone maybe you’ve met on the inside and how that happened.
James Bell: 10:40 Well I gave you the example I was working out Lynal unit in Fort Stockton. And so how come we can’t starts is that they pair you with the people that you’re going to be praying for the whole weekend. Now I happened to have two gentlemen. And it’s like what we just did when we started until you are where you’re from what you have on the inside. And many times they’ll tell about their kids. I’ve always done a count on the number of children that are affected by the 42 men and that usually theres a hundred and twenty children on average from those 42 men on the inside tip every Kairos I’ve ever been here. So they get them back there.
James Bell: 11:20 But I had two gentlemen that I knew would take them pick them up at the door and you bring me in and set them down into you converse with them. Got to break the ice with them and get to know them and first I had so little short pudgy guy looked like a pillsbury doughboy at the end of there but you can tell he had like that 12th grade mentality but everybody in there all the other inmates love this guy. And again he was always happy it seemed like. I set him down with them and then they called him. I call him Walter and they called my other gentlemen.
James Bell: 11:58 This was a very business looking sharp looking African-American brother name Darrel. Even as we got halfway across the. These two saw each other. Walter got up and ran over to him. We took him and set him down and they started talking back and forth and Walter says I need to go to the restroom. He gets up to leave and Daryl turns around and says I’m sorry. This is Walter and I grew up together in Houston as they approached me and what he was in junior high. His parents moved to Mississippi. They got in a car accident they were killed. And he only home that he knew was was my home. And he hitchhiked all the way back and my grandmother raised him with me. We were like brothers in high school. We lost track of each other for 20 years.
James Bell: 12:50 And this is the first time they had seen each other in over 20 years. Wow. In a minute. Daryl comes back the water comes back and he sits down and he says I’d like to you know pray for me. And I said What’s the matter. He said we’re having problems with my private parts and I’ve been in the infirmary last week and didn’t think I was even going to be here. So we prayed over him at the end of that evening when he got up and he ran up to me and hugged my neck and I said whats that for? You healed me and I said NO, God healed you. Right. And but it was one of those experiences that I see God working both at reconciliation and physical healing that goes on. But there so many miracles. during this time because God’s spirit is so profound during that turn and it’s amazing. You know I could go a lot of stories. Stories that was their stance.
Jake Enriquez: 13:50 Yeah no doubt. I just stand. You
Jake Enriquez: 13:52 know I recall a gentleman there in the unit and he told me you know we were talking this is on one of the Kairos weekends and he told me this has been the worst this been the worst 12 years of his life.
Jake Enriquez: 14:07 And he went on to explain that he had never been in trouble he had never had any run ins with the law or anything like that you know but his wife grew sick and then she passed away and in that you know he’d never been really a big drinker and nothing like that.
Jake Enriquez: 14:25 But during the Depression time that that he was going through he got intoxicated and he he was drinking and driving and he killed someone in an accident. And so he got sent up for involuntary manslaughter.
Jake Enriquez: 14:39 And the reason I share that is because he was telling me that he goes but the last couple of years since he was involved with Kairos he said has been beautiful it’s been wonderful. And for the first five years I believe he said he never even came out of his cell. You know just go for chow and bat he didn’t wanna come out. But I share that because oftentimes people think that people are in prison. You know you’ve done the crime do the time. Type of attitude just let it be. But it could have been anybody in that situation you know I certainly couldn’t sit here and tell you how I would handle these things if these you know something like that happened to me. You know I would pray and hope that I just remain intact. That’s my prayer always. But you know you can’t sit there and say that about somebody and this gentleman you know the things that he went through.
Jake Enriquez: 15:24 I mean I thank God that I was able to be there with him and just you know fellowship with Him in the Lord and what a beautiful thing it was that we were able to do that.
Jake Enriquez: 15:32 But let’s take a really quick break and we’ll be right back. Hey
Speaker 11: 15:32
Jake Enriquez: 16:49 Hey welcome back from the break guys. My name is Jake Enriquez your host and you know we’re just hanging out with Mr. James. Bell talking about the Kairos prison ministry and before the break we were talking about all the things that are happening inside and how God is actually transforming the lives of people through the ministry. And we take when we talk about transformation. James what do you think is really taking place inside.
James Bell: 17:16 You know one of the things that the real transformation that happens is that God is the one that transforms hearts all we do is listen and love on them. That’s what breaks them down. We do a forgiveness ceremony where they have to take cookies out to someone that they have to forgive as well as themselves in that time Yeah. The follow up that we do with these gentlemen is every week there is an evening they get together for three hours. We do what’s called a prayer and share and the men sit together. They talk about how God has impacted them that week how they have struggled to pray for each other that just support each other its not Bible studies or anything like that right. That’s where the real transformation they call each other accountable. You know you’re right. I have heard numerous people tell me that it wasn’t until after I rose that they actually even though they were locked up like they free like never before, yeah, and
Jake Enriquez: 18:16 I think that you’re touching on it right there and that would be the community you know the ministry is great at developing community within on the inside and even on the outside. You
Jake Enriquez: 18:27 know there’s there’s there’s a community on the outside as well. But definitely and develop in the community within because like it you’re talking about the prayer and share. Guys
Jake Enriquez: 18:37 come back and are able to share and see how one another you know check on one of those how are you doing type of thing you know. Right. But when we talk about your experience you know the first experience you said you got involved you didn’t see that you’ve never seen that many people break down. Elaborate a little bit more about maybe your first experience and because I know because of your first experience you decided to make a trip back and keep coming back right so what was it maybe that it brought you are kept you coming back. I should ask
James Bell: 19:06 Well I don’t know how to bring this up. I went through that experience. It was the most powerful impact all experience I had ever had with the Holy Spirit.
James Bell: 19:18 And I kept trying to get involved with Kairos for about three or four years just a matter of circumstances I ended up in West Texas. I’d lost my business my job my health. I had two heart surgeries. I had the bailiff or got commissioned as a mens ministry specialist and thought i was going to help with a denomination conference and I got a letter from a bishop because I would start to make an impact he told me that I couldnt do mens ministry in the conference or outside. it was a month after that that a chaplain at a local prison there in colorado city called me up and ask me if i would like to disciple 42 men and do a bible study. And so for a year and a half I went over every Friday evening with a Bible study and I was still involved with Kairos in other units in West Texas. Well it was just like the Lord has opened the doors to me with these men and show me how disciping other men should be like. The thing is all these men are coming out.
James Bell: 20:25 And fortunately society life right now avoids them. Churches to many faiths do not accept them back into the church. And these men typically know the Bible. more so that people sitting in church pews today. They are on fire they have witnessed evil in its most horrific form and lived with it. They have experienced the Holy Spirit in more profound ways. Guys are on fire, in fact. You know when you talk about where did man keep his most precious jewels typically it’s locked up with security. Well God keeps, I have found His precious jewels in prison gets converted and released back into society. We’re now able to reach the unwanted, the unforgiven, the unloved, and Taking them back into church. Yes. I’m witnessing something just what we practice. God is the most downloaded to fill whatever he needs for us.
Jake Enriquez: 21:30 In fact that’s He says he’ll use the foolish to shame the wise. Can it in a powerful way. Absolutely so. When you are going in you know before you ever went in did you have any.
Jake Enriquez: 21:44 I don’t know. Some fears before you ever went into prison ministry like man I don’t know about this.
James Bell: 21:44 oh yeah and we all have
James Bell: 21:55 See I’m out now trying to get pastors. We have to have three clergy on our team where we can and we have very very hard time getting pastors. I know they’re busy but churches would support her pastor knowing that many people would follow the pastor. This is the best place in the world to show a layman how to disciple others. Basically it’s with love and relationship. You’ve got to have it. And so it’s it’s amazing to me that people keep telling me Well you know I think about the slam of that. Jail cell when I go in thats the number one fear that thery have number two people inside. I’m scared of them because they’re bad people.
James Bell: 22:42 These are people that you know that were booked on drugs or on alcohol.
James Bell: 22:49 These are diseases and they’re just they’re going to being your neighbor one day. They’re no different you would not recognize them in street clothes. They could. They will tell you probably prison was the best thing in the world for them and save their life. And if God is faithful to forgive us and repeat and restore us we should do the same for them when they get out.
Jake Enriquez: 23:17 Absolutely man that was beautiful. What do you think the biggest misconception is about prison prison life what they don’t.
James Bell: 23:17 They don’t realize how bad the food is
James Bell: 23:43 they feed them a lot of starch, they create the health problems for these people and being quite honest they are all very very limited budgets.
James Bell: 23:48 You know in the 1980s we caught with triple the number of prisons we have massive and people in prison. And it’s a tremendous experience. We need to be decipling before that point.
Jake Enriquez: 24:03 Absolutely I agree you can agree with you on that. Yeah. Well I tell you the the biggest misconception you know when I think about it for me is that when people look at prison ministry they’re often fearful of the people. Man I got to tell you when you go into a prison in prison ministry here in Texas especially I can’t speak for other states but here in Texas and there’s no safer place. Yes but you know the Barrois and for those listeners who don’t know or understand inmates in Texas guys who are locked up right now they love you as a volunteer. Oh come and spend time with them. I’m telling you man they love you and I love to see you come and they don’t want that to be messed up for some of these guys I’ve often heard it said and they have absolutely show me you are when you come into prison ministry volunteers that go in you’re the only visitor they have from the outside sometimes even when it comes to their own family.
James Bell: 25:01 You know one of the other things that we do that so far is that we write every person on our team and we to like oh gosh at least 50 or 60 people on a team and we each write each 42 men a letter of encourage man or many of them this is the only letter they had while they were inside. And that’s typically those words of love that we send in that breaks down these men. I think that makes more of an impact. Just about anything else that we do. Just because we care. And you’re right. When you go back and you teach a weekly class and have for four years It’s just one of those. I give them hope and they keep coming up to me and tell me that after each day I go read. Yeah. And really they encourage me to keep being active with them just because of the love they reciprocate back.
Jake Enriquez: 25:58 Absolutely you know discipleship by the way is absolutely that it’s the reciprocation of so we’re getting we’re all getting involved and that’s you know the work of the Lord that’s working in any and every man. You
Jake Enriquez: 26:11 know you touched on it a while ago you know Texas Department of Criminal Justice is what most people know it as but men often say it is the Department of Christ Jesus. That’s where he raises up an army to go out from there. A minister to guys out here and you know what a joy it is because if you’re if if I would share this with anybody and everybody who would like to get involved in prison ministry Kairos prison ministry is a great ministry to go get involved in. Check it out. I mean when you see when you see men stand up and worship God the way you see it happen inside these prisons is sometimes this is beyond belief because because they’re so free and they’re after all how you know guys that have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ in prison hey that’s freedom inside and what a beautiful thing it is. By
James Bell: 27:00 the way to see if people would like to see that or witness or hear testimony you can go to
http://www.kairos-at-estes.org/. And there are links in there two different videos. You can also get to the Texas Kairos or site in the international Kairos which set this up are also 13 countries around the world sites in 38 states across the country. OK. There are so many places that you get involved but the Kairos are not just for the weekend but also don’t we. Plus certainly prison time in prayer.
Jake Enriquez: 27:43 Well that was definitely my next question is how could they get involved how could they find out more so I tell you what though James we’re going to put the links on the show notes for this episode so anybody and everybody who wants to find out more information. All
Jake Enriquez: 27:57 you gotta do is just go to the show knows it’s www.pressandreach.com/pr22. And again we’re going to set that inside. They’ll have the links not only for you because you just mentioned Estes unit here locally for the Dallas Fort Worth There is one that we’re involved in. There’s so many different ones and I think there’s a general link right web site. Is there James that they could go and check out any one that might be close to them.
James Bell: 28:23 Yes if you go to Texas Kairos dot org they’ll list every unit that has a Kairos going on at the day that they have their weekends and they have them in women’s prison. I just got out of what about to go. There was a women’s prison. And that may have once per juvenile’s It’s called TORCH. Fortunately you actually have a husband and wife that enter you for six months go and play with that. It’s program there. Yes they’ll listen. There’s Kairos International. You can get to go back and they’ll tell you also that their prostate is leaks and so forth. To check OK.
Jake Enriquez: 29:05 Definitely so we’ll put that on. Well man we greatly appreciate you coming out and hanging out with us today and talking about Chiro’s and the Cairos prison ministry. But before we go man I’ve got to ask you this question because we’re trying to reach into and out reach and touch others out here and maybe get them involved in the Kairos prison ministry. So what would you say to someone who’s been thinking about prison ministry maybe a little bit skeptical sit still maybe they’re sitting on the fence. Is there anything that you’d like to say to obtain before we get off of here.
James Bell: 29:34 Yes go into a closing ceremony. Go ahead and look.
James Bell: 29:41 You know Kairos prison ministry in your area at the turn and they’ll be closing applications to read with you to sign up on Sunday afternoon from 2-4. We have a closing ceremony where the forty two we give them a microphone. If they get up and tell her testimony many of them at this time will give their life to Christ or rededicate their life they’ll tell about the hardships they went through.
James Bell: 30:07 How the miraculous weekend has dramatically changed over time. And what they’re doing over there. It’s a powerful powerful witness. Yeah it makes it work.
Jake Enriquez: 30:23 That’s perfect. So yeah absolutely if you are sitting on the fence maybe thinking about it. I’m with James man just you know what. Go to a closing ceremony. Get involved that way. You know that’s the last day. By the way hence closing. So go get involved there just go in for that ceremony and just kind of find out a little bit more about it. Definitely we’re going to put the links in the show notes. Please look into it and take a look for yourselves it’s great. It’s a great ministry to be involved in. You will not regret it. There’s a great big community out here involved in so many different people and lives that are being touched by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. James thank you again so much for coming out and hanging out with this man. But you have anything else that you’d like to add before we go looking for it or a weekend coming up. OK. What’s the dates for that.
James Bell: 31:11 It’s the 13th the 17th December right before Christmas right. Yeah right. We’ll do two a year most of us will do two a year ares are in July. Second week in July and second week in December an you really want to come to this unit because its air conditioned most units in Texas or not.
Jake Enriquez: 31:28 Hey you might want to listen to that because there are conditions. Yeah. I agree. OK. Thanks a lot once again. Appreciate you.
Participation in the Kairos ministry for three years can lower the rate of recidivism from 60-70% down to 16-17%. With this in mind, Kairos seeks to change the lives of the “men in white” (clothing for Texas inmates is all white), 42 at a time. They do this by going into the prisons and sharing God’s love with them, in essence providing a 3.5 day crash course in Christianity. This community of volunteers consists of both men and women, of all different denominations, trusting God’s love to break through and break down the men who are served. The state’s budget for inmates is minimal, and the food offerings are extremely limited. Knowing this, Kairos shamelessly draws the participants in with the food. They bring in thousands of cookies, as well as beef, pastries, even condiments – things that they don’t get on the inside.
The Kairos motto for the weekend events is “Listen, listen, love, love”. Volunteers aim to share the love of the Lord with the men in white, many of whom do not have a “faith-based mentality”. The inside team consists of about 30-35 men who go into the unit and spend time with the participants. Nearly just as many serve on the outside team, which consists of both women and men, including ex-offenders who want to give back the support they once received as Kairos participants. The outside team prepares all of the food that goes into the unit that weekend. They are also a huge support as a prayer team. Each member of the Kairos team also writes letters to all 42 men in white, which is another awesome display of God’s unconditional love. There are also opportunities to include others in the community. Anyone can sign up to pray during the course of the weekend, and those slips of paper are used to make a physical prayer chain – a touching visual that shows the men in white that others are praying for them. Even children can serve, by making placemats that the participants will use throughout the weekend. For those unable to participate, donations can be made to cover the cost ($5 per meal) of feeding each of the 42 participants. Additionally, there is a huge need for pastors to participate, as three clergymen are needed to go inside for each Kairos weekend.
Undoubtedly, it is GOD who transforms the hearts of those participating in the Kairos weekend. Those who are willing to be used will listen and love on them. Follow up takes place in the form of weekly, volunteer-led “Prayer and Share”. It’s not a bible study, but a place of accountability, where the men can share their struggles and how God has impacted them that week. Though society (churches included) may see the incarcerated as unwanted or unforgiven, God transforms them and will use them to accomplish His work. We might see this as God using the foolish to shame the wise.
For anyone hesitant about participating, or even supporting prison ministry, consider this: if God is faithful to forgive us and redeem and restore us, we should do the same for these when they are released from prison. A great introduction to Kairos would be to go to a closing ceremony, where you can see the impact this ministry has on men over the course of one of these weekends. See the difference Jesus makes in the lives of the men in white, as they freely worship Him in the unit. Hear the testimonies of lives transformed for man’s good and God’s glory. It is a powerful, powerful witness.