Imagine a normal day such as this one. You receive a phone call telling you that your child has been arrested for murder! Your life would be irrevocably changed in ways you could never imagine. This is what happened with Renaldi when her 18 year old son Wes, was arrested for capital murder. Renaldi was a stay-at-home mother who gave her children a good upbringing with love, education, and exposure to God through Bible vacation school and by going to church. Wes was going through a rebellious teenager phase and was getting into some trouble, but nothing violent and had never been arrested.
Seemingly out of the blue her son was arrested for murder. Renaldi felt like she was dying because as a mother he was a part of her. She did everything she could to help him. Wes claimed his innocence and she knew she had to fight for her son because she believed in him. She hired an attorney, learned about the judicial system, prayed every day, visited him every week in jail, and then every two weeks in prison. She also wrote many letters and cards as part of her promise never to keep anything from him.
She prayed so often for help for her son. Wes was in jail for about 3.5 years before being tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. While visiting her son on death row at Holman Prison, she met Kairos Inside Volunteers who were visiting another inmate who was due to be executed in a couple of weeks. While there, the Kairos Volunteers introduced themselves to her and to the inmate they were visiting who was due to be executed imminently. This experience caused the full weight and impact of her son being on death row to come over her all at once.
Wes with his mother Renaldi on left and his sister Amber on the right.
After the visit, she went to lunch with the Kairos Volunteers and they introduced her to Kairos and the Kairos Outside Program. They prayed with her and put her in touch with the ladies at Kairos Outside. Renaldi immediately went to the next Kairos Outside North Alabama Weekend over the objections of her husband. She arrived scared and knew nobody at the Weekend, but she met some amazing women, many of whom she still stays in touch with. This was on Weekend #3; they are now planning Weekend #45! She was helped so much on her Weekend that she decided to serve on the next Weekend, then the one after that. Now she has served on over 30 Kairos Outside Weekends! Renaldi also helped out any way she could behind the scenes all while giving the Kairos Outside talk at Kairos Inside Weekends when asked. She has also been asked to share her testimony many times to churches in the area.
The impact of the Kairos Outside Weekend on Renaldi was immense and immediate. Everyone was so welcoming, loving, and accepting; both Volunteers and Guests were sharing such personal and private stories solely to help one another. The lack of judgement and having a safe space to share with women going through similar issues was a literal godsend. The dinner was especially powerful as she hadn’t been treated as a VIP in years and still remembers how kind the escort and everyone was to her. Renaldi stays in touch with some of the other Guests and often visits them. The specialized training received and the talks all being geared towards the exact situation the Guests are going through provided Renaldi with what was truly needed.
“Kairos literally saved my life. Kairos Outside is wonderful and changes lives.” Renaldi
Renaldi received an amazing blessing while she was the Kairos Outside North Alabama #21 Weekend Leader. Wes, on that same weekend, was finally able to attend a Kairos Inside Weekend at the same exact time! He had signed up to attend a Kairos Weekend in St. Clair over a year prior but was only able to attend that Weekend due to the long waiting list. In the evening while leading her Weekend, Renaldi received a call from her son to tell her that he had just been saved by Jesus during his Kairos Inside Weekend! That is surely God giving both Renaldi and Wes exactly what they needed at the exact right time; what a blessing!
Wes had never accepted God into his life. While he had been introduced to Him, he had a disdain for people who followed and thought of himself as more of a free spirit. While in prison he was practicing Native American spirituality, but after seeing the amazing transformation of his mother, decided to sign up for a Kairos Inside Weekend after 12 years in prison. He says that Kairos Outside literally saved his mother’s life as she was completely broken by his arrest and incarceration and was spiraling towards a complete breakdown or worse. After being a Guest with Kairos Outside, he suddenly saw the mother and woman he used to know. The burden of guilt he felt for causing his mother so much pain was lifted, so he wanted to see what Kairos could do for him. The reputation of having great food certainly helped guide Wes towards Kairos.
Wes’ experience during the Kairos Inside Weekend was awesome; the realization that folks out there who don’t even know you, want to spend their weekend helping and loving and caring about strangers was astonishing to him. Wes accepted Christ on that Saturday night, during a talk. Wes was so moved by the entire Weekend that he was saved that night. Previously he believed in heaven and hell, but still didn’t believe in God. He resigned himself to the fact that he would go to hell, but that changed after his Weekend.
After going through a Kairos Inside Weekend, Wes served at the next Weekend serving food and coffee. The serving aspect opened up another side of the Kairos experience as he says, “While going through the Weekend you are fighting something that you have been holding onto for a while even though you think it may be true. While serving I had accepted and knew God was real and in my life. To see the guys working through the same issues I was, many of them I knew, showed me that I was doing the right thing and able to do what Jesus asks us to do.” Wes has guided many Guests to Kairos Outside by talking with fellow inmates going through difficult times with their families and having them tell their loved ones to reach out to his mother.
A few years ago Renaldi stopped participating with her Advisory Council, but she was invited back and decided to pray on it. She decided that only if she was asked to be head table leader would she do it. Since they were so far into the planning for the Weekend she assumed they had already chosen those roles. The very next day she was offered to be a head table leader! God has a plan for her, and it involves being a part of the next Kairos Outside Weekend.
The unexpected twist is that all the prayers were answered. Wes went from death row to regular prison and is now at home! Renaldi’s belief in her son paid off as they were able to win an appeal for a new trial, and a key witness admitted he lied about Wes’ involvement and Wes was found not guilty. However, the prosecutors filed burglary charges from before the murder before Wes could even go home. Wes was convicted for burglary and received a lengthy sentence as a first time offender for a non-violent crime. Renaldi’s tireless work got his sentence reduced by half, then had to fight to get the 7 years he had already served credited to him. On March 1, 2017, after over 21 years in prison Wes was finally released!
A photo of Renaldi and Wes taken on the day he was released from prison after 21 years.
Wes is truly a dedicated servant of God along with his mother and they have worked together for Kairos Outside. Before his release, Wes even used a work release to volunteer at a Kairos Outside Weekend! He is a regular in speaking at both Kairos Outside team meetings and Weekend closings about his experiences. He looks forward to the day when he can go into a prison for a Kairos Inside Weekend and share his story with them. Wes has also joined a church, become an active volunteer there, and works in the creation and fabrication of prosthetic limbs and braces.
Wes always tells Guests or those interested in Kairos that it has the best of both worlds; team members who share the experience of having a loved one in prison, and those who were called to service by God without having a loved one incarcerated.
“Kairos Outside absolutely changes lives.” Wes