For more than 15 years, Associates Joe and Marilyn Himmelberg have served the dear neighbor without distinction by bringing incarcerated men and women to Christ through the Kairos Prison Ministries at Potosi Correctional Facility in Missouri.
"We want to build a family of God at Potosi," Joe says.
Kairos Inside is a ministry whose mission is to develop a Christian community inside prisons. The program brings leaders together in both male and female institutions for a retreat weekend led by peer volunteers.
After the weekend, the Kairos Community prays and together, shares fellowship on a regular basis—a commitment for the inmates and the volunteer leaders.
In addition to having served on about 25 weekend retreats, Joe drives 150 miles round-trip every other week to the prison for ongoing prayer and share time. “It’s a place of peace, love and God’s grace,” he says.
Kairos Outside offers retreats for women to support each other as they journey through the incarceration of a friend or relative.
“We provide a safe place for women to come and talk about the effect incarceration has on them and their families,” says Marilyn. "The women finally have other women that listen and understand. They are not judged, only loved."
For 10 years, Marilyn was a trainer for Kairos Outside weekend leaders. Today, she still serves as a team member when she is able, as well as serves on the Kairos Missouri State Committee. And she is responsible for the finances of five advisory councils.
“Recognizing the suffering of women impacted by incarceration, I have a need to be in solidarity with the suffering of the incarcerated and their families," Marilyn says.
And there is a solidarity among the Kairos leaders as well. "To hear the struggles and pain of the lay-led team who share their lives with others is a gift," Joe says. "One of the inmates recently said, 'Life is hard in prison, but you guys have just as hard of a life on the outside as we have here.'"
“On every weekend retreat, we have the privilege of seeing God changing lives,” Joe says.
Marilyn recalls, “One young man told me after his mother made a Kairos Outside weekend retreat, she actually opened the drapes to let the sun back in. He meant that, literally.”
Because of their work, both Joe and Marilyn are strong opponents to the death penalty. Marilyn has met several of the wives of men who have been executed, witnessing “what execution does to a family is almost unbearable.”
"Love is the only answer, but the majority of people want revenge and are filled with fear," says Joe.
And it’s a love without fear or judgment that continues to draw Joe and Marilyn to the men and women of Kairos.
“Kairos Inside and Kairos Outside has been a major blessing in my life,” says Joe. “It is an opportunity to give unconditional love to His people as God has given to us.”
Since 2010, about 300 inmates at Potosi have participated in Kairos Inside and more than 600 women have gone through a Kairos Outside weekend since 2002. With more than 2.2 million incarcerated persons in the United States, Kairos is always in need of new volunteers and financial support. Learn more about this ministry at www.mykairos.org.