Kairos is a Christian, spiritually-oriented program that sponsors a four-day retreat in San Quentin designed to enhance self-realization. Forty-two men from San Quentin recently joined the ranks of individuals who have completed Kairos, which conducts the retreat twice a year – usually on Presidents’ day weekend and Labor Day weekend. The most recent retreat, Kairos 54, took place February 14-17th in the San Quentin Garden Chapel.
Sponsor David Takeuchi said, “It’s a great blessing to see how these men walk in their spiritual journey. These men help me more then I help them. I’ve been doing this for the last six years.”
Forty sponsors from the outside community spent Valentine’s Day weekend in order to be a part of Kairos 54.
Ben Henry, a Kairos 54 lead sponsor, explained, “The Angels (wives of the sponsors) help with cooking, organizing, and keeping the retreat on track through the weekend. I am involved in this (Kairos) to get a sense from the incarcerated that are ready to return as to how they are worthy to get involved and build community within the prison. This program is based on our faith and belief in Christ; however, it is welcome to all. We have had all religions attend Kairos. We are not here to convert anyone.”
“Honestly, Kairos has been an eye opener,” said San Quentin resident Anthony Davis. “ I’ve heard some things preached that I’ve never heard before in church. It is nice to talk with people with similar backgrounds. A sponsor that came in was locked up for 27 years. The prayer list is amazing. At one time there were 10 people praying for us, brothers from the outside. It has also been fun and every minute each day has been filled with exciting activities. Not only has this program restored my faith, but also it has restored my faith in people. I have just experienced more love in the last 24 hours then I have in a long time. Kairos taught me to make a friend, be a friend and bring a friend to Christ,”
The candidates praised time spent with Kairos.
“My experience with Kairos was excellent! My current role is a lead man, which entails organizing the candidates and servers for each Kairos event,” said inmate Luis Figueras.
Months of preparation go into the organizing of each Kairos event.
Lead sponsor Ben Henry said, “This is my first time as a lead man of Kairos, which only happens once. It is a lot of work we do. We do team member recruiting in our community to bring in new volunteers. We try to bring in new volunteers each cycle; we try to bring in a one-third of the people new. We have 16 meetings on Saturdays, preparing for this event and the environment of the prison. We try to create team building before we come in, that way we are bonded before, that way we know who we are as people and as a Kairos, and there is never one that is the same. Every one is the best one, especially for the candidates. We try to organize the talks and meditations in a sequence that makes sense and gives the candidates the best experience. It is always a different experience, but the same message: the message of Kairos is that the Holy Spirit always makes its way through and helps us make it happen for the men involved. It is about family.”
Sponsor Dick Tiff said, “Kairos is always good. I have been involved with Kairos for 20 years at different prisons. We find out through this experience that we are all ordinary men; we all have faults and we all should be forgiven for our sins. It’s great to come back and see all these transformed men.”
The responses of the participants reflect many different approaches to self-realization:
— “This has been very educational; it opens my mind to coping mechanisms that I’ll be able to use when I get out. I get out next summer and plan to use some of the tools that I have gained through this spiritual experience. The men that come in treat you like human beings. They do not push anything on you. However, they lead you to water and let you know it is good to be thirsty. The free coffee and cupcakes are great also,” said candidate Kenneth Wilkerson.
–“The reason I’m attending Kairos is because many friends told me to attend; they wouldn’t tell me what was going to happen. However, they told me that I would experience the love of God. I have come to know that these people do care and they want us to know that we are worthy human beings, worthy of God’s love and that we can change for the better, that we do not have to stay within our previous mold. I ask God to take my addiction to drugs away from me, and so far I have been clean for a year. I’ve been in prison for seven years and I’ve never felt the love that I’ve felt this weekend,” said candidate Marc Radfcliffe.
–“Kairos is a true blessing; these volunteers do not have to be here. The commitment that they give to us ‑- four days with us, they eat the same food as us, stay away from their family and all for us. Coming to the Lord, that is what it is all about. We’re in here with no Correctional Officer. Something could pop off; however, it doesn’t because of our love for the Lord,” said San Quentin inmate Drake Walker.
Kairos is a family affair; one of the sponsors was introduced to Kairos as a youth and is still involved today.
“Been volunteering with Kairos since age 21,” said outside sponsor Joseph Hughes. “My stepfather brought me into helping with Kairos. My wife is Christian and supports my involvement with Kairos. However, it was a little harder this time since I have a 10-month-old. I do strength and conditioning at Pittsburg High School and one of the people in Kairos 54 is the father of a kid I coach. This is the first time I have given a talk at a Kairos event — the talk was called ‘You are not alone.’ The groups here at San Quentin are now more open to this experience since the prison has transitioned.”
“To me it’s a gift that my husband is serving God; that’s the best Valentine’s Day gift. The love that my husband has for God is amazing,” said Marilyn Hughes, Joseph’s wife.
On the final night, the candidates passed between two lines of clapping supporters cheering them on, and they entered the chapel where the final remarks were made.
“Go Light Your World” was sung to complete the program.