A Testimony of One Man Touched by
Kairos Prison Ministry
Presentation at the Graduation of Kairos #8 at
Crossroads Correctional Center
November 7, 2010
Hello, I am Michael Madsen, Table of Mark, Kairos #5, the
family of Kairos.
CHANGE! Everything that we can see and touch changes. The mountains
change, the stars change and we change. Sometimes we welcome change and
sometimes we change without even realizing it. However it occurs, we
change, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better.
I mentioned all of this because I have been asked to talk to
you about the change that Kairos has created in me and my life.
To explain how my life has been changed by Kairos, I have to
tell you a little about my past. I was born to a family of faith and
they raised me to be a child of faith. But, as often is the case, as I
grew from my teenage years to young adulthood, I drifted away from my
faith and eventually I walked away from my faith.
My world became one where what I wanted was the most
important thing. Everything and everybody became important to me in only
what they could give me.
As time went by I walked further away from my faith. I became
driven by rage and anger. A natural progression when you think about it
because, after all, without faith to guide us, anger and rage always
comes to the forefront of our lives. In short, I became a predator using
and hurting people as I saw fit. I harmed people without any regard to
my victims whether they were people I knew or strangers.
There are really only two ways such a lifestyle can go,
either you fall to a greater predator or you end up in prison. God, in
His mercy, sent me to prison. That was over three decades ago. I have
spent most of that time at MSP, often called the “Walls”. A prison
somewhat notorious for its violence and atmosphere. Many considered it
the cesspool of the Department.
I can not imagine an environment more harsh and soul crushing
than prison. You quickly learn the rules of prison society if you wish
to survive. These rules include learning to avoid eye contact so that no
one will think you are challenging him. You learn not to reveal much
about yourself or to share anything of yourself, for others will use it
against you. You learn to not care about anyone or to extend yourself
for anyone. After all, if violence breaks out, you could seriously get
hurt trying to protect or help your friend, either that or watch him get
hurt. You learn that any discussions about God and faith quickly
dissolve into arguments. In essence, prison reinforces all of the worst
aspects of a person’s character. The very traits that brought you to
prison become even stronger; you become colder, harder and even more
isolated from a normal perspective of life. In effect, you become even
more dangerous to others. In the process, your soul shrinks. I spent
most of my first decade in prison this way.
At this time I did have one great blessing in my life. My
family stuck with me throughout it all, praying for me, visiting me and
always urging me to return to my faith. It took the death of a loved one
for me to realize that I didn’t even fell comfortable praying for
someone I loved and who loved me.
I realized at that point that I had a decision to make. I
could continue the way I was going, losing the better part of my being,
or I could try to become a better person, one who could be at least
comfortable with praying. So I returned to the Faith of my youth and
began attending church services regularly.
But going to church every week does NOT make you a good
Christian. Oh, you can participate, sing along, receive the sacraments,
yet all of that doesn’t truly make you a better person, especially when
you have to go back to dealing with living in the prison environment.
So time went by and I continued to try to become a better
person. I went to as many of the programs that were available: Violent
Offender Program, Positive Mental Attitude, Fight the Rage, Victim’s
Impact, Bio-feedback, and many more. They all had one thing in common.
Once you enrolled, participated and graduated, you got a certificate.
Then you were right back where you started. You returned to the everyday
life of surviving in prison. You returned to living in an environment
where there was little encouragement to help you to use what you had
learned. Basically, there was neither follow up, nor support to continue
and practice whatever you learned.
Then I was selected for Kairos. Now I am going to tell you a
little secret. When we are selected for Kairos, often others will ask us
why we would sign up for such a program. Because we all have heard about
the great food, we tell everyone that we are going to check out the
great food. That is not really the truth. Though we tell the others we
are going for the food, we really sign up because deep inside we want to
be better men. In our hearts, we know we have reached a point in our
lives where we either try to become better men or we lose the hope of
ever becoming honorable men. That is our secret. We tell others we are
going for the food, while we are desperately looking for a way to help
change ourselves for the better.
So, we sign up and we show up, yet I was not prepared for
what I found when I walked into the hallway of the building that was the
site of our meeting. Here were men with huge smiles, welcoming me,
shaking my hand, giving me hugs. Well let me tell you, I was taken back.
I mean, as you can imagine, physical contact is not encouraged in
prison. Before that moment I can’t tell you how long it had been since I
shook someone’s hand as a sign of respect and fellowship. My point is
that it was obvious that these men cared about us and were sincere in
being glad to see us. That alone was a special experience.
As the weekend went on, I listened to these men who had given up time
from their own lives and families. These men who in some cases drove
hundreds of miles to come here. I listened to them share some of the
darkest moments of their lives and how faith helped them, saved them and
brought them from the darkness into the brightest of lights.
I took notes as they explained the step by step process they
used to reclaim the light in their lives during some of their greatest
challenges. I learned that to receive help you have to open yourself up
to being helped. I know that sounds simple, but to men in prison who see
weakness as vulnerability, it was a real test to understand that to
receive strength you must be willing to admit weakness.
At my table we had open and honest discussions between all of
us about how we felt, what we thought and how we chose to live in
prison. We talked about how we wanted to become men of faith and how we
felt overwhelmed by our environment. Slowly but surely we began to
realize that to be men of faith meant relying not just on ourselves but
on each other. Being alone our strength and our desire to change was not
enough. Together we could become what we wanted, better men and men of
That night, emotionally exhausted yet too wired to sleep, I
laid in my bunk thinking about everything that was going on in our
sessions. Then on Saturday, when we were singing various songs, we sang
“They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love”. At that moment something
became crystal clear to me. Maybe I had known it intellectually, but at
that moment I knew it in my heart.
Faith without action is not Faith. It is a belief, a creed,
but only with action do you truly have faith. Faith has to have action
to grow. It needs sharing for it to become stronger. What we were doing
in my week of Kairos was growing in faith by sharing, listening, and
helping each other. With the help of our leaders, we were truly learning
hat it really takes to become better men, better people. We have to step
out in faith to share, to help others, to accept help from others. We
were learning about the Fellowship of Faith.
To the graduates of Kairos 8, I say to you, yes, you have all
gone through a spiritual awakening this weekend but you real challenge
is in front of you, to grow in your faith, to become stronger in your
faith. Part of that challenge is returning to the prison environment and
keeping your faith, putting your faith into action. But here is where
Kairos continues to help you. Every Tuesday night we get together, that
night is OUR NIGHT. Yes, our outside Kairos leaders are there to support
us, to encourage us, but it is our night. We spend it sharing our faith,
listening to each other, supporting each other, helping each other in
our mutual goal to become better men. Our Prayer and Share groups give
us the opportunity to express our fears, our victories, our march from
our darkness into the bright light of faith. We learn to pray for each
other, to think and care for others, to let others help us. As we put
our faith into action on those nights, we learn how to put our faith
into action every day in prison. We learn from each other. We grow
together in Faith.
So please come, continue this journey that you and I are on
together, and together, all of us, our outside Kairos community, our
Kairos community here, we can become better parents, better sons and
daughters, better friends, and more importantly, better servants of God.
For that IS the Gift and the Blessing of Kairos.