Do you hear what I hear?
I’m guessing not…not unless you were within a pitching wedge of Randolph Hall, inside Menard Correctional Center, on Saturday afternoon.
Had you been there, however, you would’ve heard a Christmas celebration breaking out – – seven Kairos brothers proclaiming the Good News of Jesus’s birth to the 52 other inmates gathered there, along with us Kairos volunteers.
You would’ve heard the whole bunch of us singing, too – – joyful renditions of time-honored carols.
It was a remarkable experience…accented by the most playful of God-winks – – a snowfall that came into full bloom just as we’d begun wrapping up the long-delayed Christmas program inside the prison.
God seemed to be showing himself through the lone window in Randolph Hall – – blessing our carols…and appearing in our midst, to ensure “the soul felt its worth.”
As it turned out, though, God still had many more ways to bless those gathered for this Christmas in Ordinary Time. Our prayer-and-share time touched many hearts…and led to some powerful witnesses during the “open mic” period.
One inside brother spoke words of gratitude for the blessing that the Kairos ministry has been to the prison: “It’s making a difference for these men,” he said. “So don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t matter.”
Another brother told of his gratitude for the way God blessed his recent heart attack. He first felt the pangs when out in the yard. He knew it was serious. In fact, he said, he told the Lord he was ready to go now. “But God lifted me up,” he said, “because there’s something he has left for me to do.”
The man received a triple bypass, and as he lay recuperating in a hospital bed in Carbondale, he remembers how he dreaded going back to the prison. Back to face his vicious, spiteful cellie.
But something changed in the other man while he was away. The cellie, transformed, told the man upon his return that he had been praying for him. And with that, the walls came down between them. And they have been encouraging each other ever since. “Now, we’re actually tight,” he said, with a touch of wonder in his voice.
His testimony sparked another witness from a man named Daniel. It came across as a sort of litany. A litany of gratitude, powerful in its simplicity. “Trust in GOD,” he said.
TRUST in God.
TRUST in GOD.
TRUST, TRUST in God.”
He must’ve repeated the words seven or eight times, varying the cadence and the emphasis…so that his powerfully poetic presence ended up nearly taking our breath away.
There were others who spoke, too, all providing testimony about how God is present and active in their lives…inside the imposing walls of the prison.
Then our final speaker took up the mic. But he spoke not a word. Rather, he sang a hymn to us…a hymn about God’s faithfulness. The wonder, the beauty, of this blessed assurance could be felt in the silence that fell over the room as he concluded….
…a silence broken in extraordinary fashion…as he then led all of God’s children in a rousing rendition of “Victory Chant.”
What a lovely way, it turns out, to spend a Saturday afternoon — celebrating Xmas in Ordinary Time….
Those who were there will surely tell you: It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Let us remember that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.