369 | First Responders

February 8, 2015
Sunday, 9:00 p.m.
Letter #369: First Responders


Dear Family,

How do you react when you see an accident happen? I’m sure if it is spilled food or water, you pitch in to get it cleaned up, right? How about if you witness a car accident? Do you still pitch in to help see the situation resolved?

Car wrecks can be messy and time-consuming. Thanks to my incredible driving skills, I know this first hand. And though I have never been in an accident worse than a minor fender-bender, I’ve seen my share of bad accidents happen around me. I’ve seen people thrown from vehicles, cars flipped upside-down, and the common icy-road spin-out.

When traveling with my family, the response was identical every time. We’d be on our way across some state, headed to our next concert, and my mom was usually driving. The massive, quick intake of air from the driver’s seat made the rest of us look up to see what was wrong. Whenever the wreck had just happened and there was no one at the scene to help, our van would quickly pull over so we could render aid the best we could while help arrived. It was the right thing to do, the normal thing to do.

One of my first cellies described seeing a bad accident happen in his city. He was young, able-bodied, and had plenty of time to help, so I assumed that he’d done exactly that. Nope. He quickly backed up his car and headed in the opposite direction! I couldn’t believe it, but he tried to explain how he didn’t want to be there when the police showed up. It still didn’t make sense to me, since I grew up being taught that the police are there to help. How do you not feel some compulsion to help out?

Some accidents you help out with are the food-stuck-in-the-teeth kind, where you avert someone’s personal disaster through tactfully worded advice. Awkward or uncomfortable as it may be, you do the right thing to help out, right?

Recently, I began to notice that our weekly Kairos Bible Studies and the larger once-a-month events seemed to be getting away from their original intent. Typical weekly Kairos studies are meant just for those of us inmates who have attended a four-day Kairos event, but because of a drop in attendance due to transfers back to California, the outside guests representing the Kairos organization have opened up our weekly meetings to anyone. This has proven to be a blessing as well as present a bit of difficulty, since most newcomers were unfamiliar with the goals, format, and schedule intended at these weekly studies.

Our outside guests are so nice and mild-mannered that they wouldn’t do much to reign in the inmates who would ramble on and on about obscure topics, over-share during praise reports, or wax eloquent during testimony time, giving what I call “preachimonies.” I felt bad for our outside guests, because I knew that their goals weren’t being accomplished, and I felt bad for the inmates attending who didn’t know better.

Complicating matters was a really sweet guy who plays guitar and would lead a couple of songs every week. Another guy, who is a leader in the Christian church here, also started attending with his guitar too. He started playing along with the other guy’s songs, then he started singing solos. To me, it seemed like he was making the weekly meetings his stage, but I didn’t feel it was my place to correct him.

Finally, one Thursday when the guests couldn’t make it into the prison, the church leader guy took over the whole meeting, playing several solos after mentioning “this is a song I wrote in 1994” and talking about his position in the church. This went on for an hour, then he had everyone pray for an hour. Normally, if this were a church Bible Study and if he were the leader, this would be fine. But he hasn’t been through Kairos, and he wasn’t given the reigns of leadership over the weekly meetings. I’d actually been asked to lead the singing every week but declined so that someone else could lead. Now, seeing the absence of leadership, I knew I had to do something. It wasn’t quite a car wreck, but it was heading there quick.

I drew up a proposal, ran it by one of the experienced Kairos inmates, then met with the outside guests to get their approval. They loved the idea of getting the meetings more under control with good structure, so I then met with three guys I’d recommended to be our inmate leadership of Kairos.

We discussed ways to get the meetings back on track with everyone on the same page. I chose to stay in a support role, leaving the leadership responsibilities to the other three. One guy is a new believer, so taking up responsibility will be good for him, as he learns to listen to the Holy Spirit and lead with humility. A more seasoned believer will help keep the meetings on topic, and I offered to sit next to a particularly obnoxious participant to help him learn how best to share.

Additionally, I’ll be meeting with the songaholic church leader guy to gently let him see the need for a lot less from his department; he’ll get one song per week to lead, and no solos unless requested by the outside guests. He’s a great guy with a big heart, so I know he’ll relax and enjoy the new structure.

Getting involved isn’t easy, neat, or pretty, but with the right goals in mind and heart to serve, the end result is, hopefully, more lives saved.