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Fremont man helps lead Kairos Prison Ministry in Nebraska

January 12, 2019

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) — Ken Grosse remembers the tough man who sat across from him in a Missouri prison.

Grosse was part of a ministry called Kairos. The incarcerated man was participating in a three-day retreat at the prison. Grosse was a table leader.

“He kept saying he could fix anything by hitting his fist in his hand,” said Grosse of Fremont. “He kept that up all weekend. And Sunday, he came up to me and got in my face and said, ‘Ken, why didn’t I scare you?’”

Grosse had an answer: “Because I brought the love of Christ with me.”

Three weeks later, Grosse got a call from the prison chaplain who said the man had come into his office and asked to be baptized. He gave his life to Christ and would bring many others to the Lord as well.

Now, Grosse is part of a Kairos program which has started in Nebraska. Thus far, two Kairos weekends have taken place at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.

“In April, we had 18 participants and in October we had 24. Guys are asking to come to the next one in April,” Grosse told the Fremont Tribune .

The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos, which refers to a set, chronological time, and kairos which means an opportune moment.

“Kairos means, ‘when it’s supposed to happen, it does,’ so we call it ‘God’s time,’” Grosse said.

The Kairos program, which is ecumenical, involves retreats inside prisons that start on a Thursday night and continue until Sunday afternoon. During that time, participants listen to 10 talks and have table discussions. Each table includes six participants and three volunteers. The theme of the retreat is the “Four Ls — Listen, Listen, Love, Love.”

Grosse said the first talk is called, “Choices.”

“We are where we are by the choices we make,” he explained.

The last talk is called, “Hang in There.”

During a weekend retreat, there is a forgiveness ceremony during which participants write down the names of people they believe they need to forgive or from whom they need to ask their forgiveness. They write the names on rice paper. During the ceremony, they put the rice paper in a bowl of water. The paper dissolves and disappears, symbolizing how God sees and forgives sins. Once the sins are confessed, they are gone. God doesn’t remember them.

The retreat has upbeat and meditative Christian music.

“We have several meditations in an area called a chapel,” Grosse said.

Some participants do give their hearts to Christ.

“Our purpose is to let them know about Christ,” he said, adding that it’s up to them if they want to come to the Lord.

After the weekend, small communities of support groups are formed in the prison for “Prayer and Share” time. A few volunteers go into the prison each week to support participants in their “Prayer and Share” meetings. The goal of the program is to build a continuing Christian community inside the institution through the “Prayer and Share” accountability groups.

Kairos started in Raiford, Florida, in 1976 and is now active in 37 states and in the countries of Australia, Canada, England, Costa Rica and South Africa. Kairos has requests for its program in several other countries.

The program has a paid staff of 11 and is recognized as a nonprofit 501c3 organization.

Kairos materials state that studies in Florida and South Carolina indicate that a Kairos experience brought a drop in recidivism of about one-third when compared with a control group.

There are many ways people can help with the program.

Volunteers from all different Christian churches and walks of life are needed for diversity. At the penitentiary, there is enough space for 24 participants — so an equal number of volunteers — with two extra — are needed. Of those 26 volunteers, four of them need to be ordained ministers.

The volunteers have five training meetings. Between the training meetings and a weekend retreat, volunteers will donate about 40 hours of time.

Prayer partners are needed, too. So are support people who can work as a kitchen group, getting food from a commercial vendor into the prison.

“We feed them well,” Grosse said. “We’re known for our good food, especially cookies.”

Financial support is needed as well. Grosse said it takes between $3,500 and $5,000 per weekend, which doesn’t include the round tables that are brought in along with books and pamphlets.

Grosse said he began volunteering with the Kairos program in Colorado in 1994. After moving to Nebraska, he found there was no Kairos program here.

So he served through one Kairos ministry program in Kansas and then another in Missouri.

It was at Missouri that he met the tough, fist-hitting guy, who later gave his life to Christ.

Today, Grosse wears a special cross. When people ask about the cross, he has the chance to tell them about the Kairos program.

Grosse said plans are to have a retreat every six months.

He also said Kairos actually has three ministries. There is Kairos Inside ministry for men who are incarcerated. In the future, the hope is to have a Kairos Inside ministry for women.

Future plans also include having a Kairos Outside program, which provides support for women who have friends and relatives who are or have been incarcerated.

“We put on a weekend for them at an offsite place and give them the same talks and experience of building small communities,” Grosse said.

Women with incarcerated husbands, fathers, sons or uncles don’t admit this to neighbors and don’t have people with whom they can communicate, he said.

“The whole idea is to show them that they don’t have to be ashamed of what their loved one did,” Grosse said.

A third program is called, Kairos Torch, a mentoring program for incarcerated offenders ages 25 and younger.

Grosse emphasized the importance of the Kairos program and mentioned how he was at a retreat in Kansas where there were three generations all in one prison.

“It’s the life they’ve led and until you break that mold and change their way of thinking or paradigm of living, you can’t change anything,” he said, adding, “The United States has more incarcerated people than any other country in the world. That’s a sad statement.”

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Information from: Fremont Tribune, http://www.fremontneb.com

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