On October 22, 2021, a two-year pause in one to one youth ministry was ended by Kairos Torch #28 at Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center (SWOJC). We did our best to continue the ministry long-distance and without any personal interaction during that pause, but this Weekend was so much better!
The main difference from prior Weekends is that masks had to be worn at all times except during meals when indoors. It is difficult to gauge some emotion and the Weekend’s impact without seeing the other person’s facial expressions, but we worked through that. All of the Conference Room Team and Participants had to sanitize/hand wash regularly, before snacks and meals, after Lite and Livelies (which were mostly done outside because of good weather), and whenever returning to the Family Tables, which were spaced sufficiently to allow for social distancing, that was maintained when lining up for snacks and meals.
One of our new volunteers summed up the Weekend very well by writing personal reflections, a practice we have never done before, but will continue into the future as a tool for volunteer recruiting and to illustrate the effectiveness of the Weekend. Here is what was written:
“As I reflect over the past three days with Kairos Torch #28, I am filled with emotions. I will say when I arrived at the church this Monday morning I went and poured my tears out at the alter for what I had witnessed. I will continue to lift each young man and volunteer in prayer, but especially the Family Table I was part of and the young man that I was the Guide to.
Friday afternoon when I first met the young man that I would be a Guide to, I was worried. I may be a pastor, but I don’t even pretend to be good at working with youth at the church. I was questioning myself if I could connect and communicate well with this young man. After just a couple of minutes of conversation, he told me that he usually couldn’t talk to adults, but I was different, and he felt comfortable and could talk with me. He told me that he thought our personalities were going to go well together. I still remember his first question, “do all of you get paid to be here?”
Saturday morning when we met our Table Families, I was a little anxious about meeting all of the young men. The young men were not the problem, but I was. Was I the right person that needed to be there? I had no idea what to truly expect being my first Kairos Torch. I quickly learned the hurt these young men had bottled up. Each one different, one was hurting himself, one hurting others, and one that seemed to have been hurt by everyone he knew.
The one hurting himself and the one hurting others quickly opened up and seemed to release things, but the other young man struggled. I realized that we had to continually assure him that he is not alone. He finally opened up that he had given up his in-person visitation with his children to be able to attend the Weekend. I continued to watch as he began to release the hurt and hate that he had kept inside for so long.
I found it amazing how in about 8 hours you can get so spiritually connected to these young men. Saturday evening when the one I was guiding came to me and we were visiting about who he needed to forgive, he told me the first person he had to forgive was the DA. I thought to myself, wow, that is big! When he came for me to pray over him The Father’s Blessing (Numbers 6: 24-26), it was about all I could do to hold back tears.
Sunday morning when I asked my Guidee how he slept, he said that he was praying and fell asleep and the next thing he knew he was waking up for the day. He told me he had never slept with such peace and that he couldn’t wait to share this experience with his grandmother, and that he was doing all he could to turn his life around.
As Sunday came to an end, I kept telling myself, ok, now we have 6 months of Mentoring because honestly, I don’t think I was ready for it to end. I went as a servant to Kairos Torch #28, but during those three days, God worked on me, I believe just as much as those young men, just in a different way. To see the Holy Spirit at work during those three days renewed me as a pastor. I don’t know that I have been truly open to letting God work through me the way I should have the last couple of years. As I read through my notes and reflected about the Weekend, I have been reassured God is at work and ready to use me.”