After his father’s death, Dan began to use and abuse methamphetamines to ease the pain of his loss. He became an addict. Soon, he was arrested and convicted for drug possession. He was placed on probation and ordered to report to a probation officer regularly, submit to drug testing, and obey multiple other conditions. Dan decided that it was more important for him to continue his drug use. He avoided seeing his probation officer at all costs. Soon, a warrant was issued for Dan’s arrest, because of his failure to report.
Randy was Dan’s supplier. Dan was a steady customer and heavily dependent on Randy for his daily use. After a while, Dan’s drug use led to drug sales, and Randy helped him learn the business. But Dan was not a good business partner. Dan was an addict with a felony warrant. Being caught was only a matter of time.
After selling drugs for a few months, Dan was pulled over by police for a minor traffic violation. When police learned of his identity and the warrant, Dan was arrested. During the arrest, police searched his car and found a sizeable amount of methamphetamine in his possession. In addition to the probation violation, Dan now had a new and more serious felony charge: drug sales. He was on his way to state prison.
The prospect of years in prison terrified Dan. He had never been to prison and he was desperate to help himself. In agreement for a reduced sentence, Dan told police about Randy’s drug involvement. They obtained a search warrant and raided Randy’s home. A large amount of cash and drugs were seized. Clearly Randy was the bigger fish that police were glad to bring in. Randy ended up with a lengthy prison sentence. Dan got a reduced sentence and an assurance that he would be housed at a different prison than Randy.
As co-defendants in the same crime, Dan and Randy were not supposed to be sent to the same prison. But due to a clerical error (Godincidence # 1) both were serving their time at Coastal State Prison.
While at Coastal State Prison, both applied to fill one of the openings at the next Kairos Weekend. Hundreds of inmates apply, but only 42 are selected by the prison Chaplain. The Chaplain selected both Dan and Randy to attend Kairos. Their story was unknown to the chaplain (Godincidence #2).
Normally, volunteers are assigned only one person to sponsor. During this Weekend one of our volunteers was asked to sponsor two inmates. As God would have it, both Dan and Randy were assigned to the same sponsor (Godincidence #3). As the Weekend started, the volunteer met with both of them together, completely unaware of their shared backstory. The volunteer had no idea of the terror Dan had, or of Randy’s incentive to exact revenge. Dan and Randy were forced to be in the same place and interact for the first time since sentencing.
Dan was seated on my immediate left. This gave Dan and me a good opportunity to talk and get to know each other. When Dan asked me about myself, I told him that I was a retired probation officer. This struck Dan as tremendously ironic and funny. He told several people during the Weekend that he had spent the last two years running from a probation officer; but now, at Kairos, he was seated next to one the entire Weekend (Godincidence #4). Dan told me later that getting to know me (a former probation officer) would make it much easier for him to stop running from probation officers in the future.
But perhaps the greatest coincidence of all was that both Dan and Randy were assigned to the same table, seated directly across from each other. This ensured that they would be in constant contact with each other during the entire 3 ½- day Weekend. The chances of them both being at the same prison, attending the same Kairos Weekend, and seated at the same table were beyond small. But that is what happened. Dan and Randy were forced to look at each other and interact the entire Weekend. No one could have foreseen that (Godincidence #5).
Dan later confided in me of his past with Randy. Randy had every reason and motivation to exact revenge. Dan told me later that he had come to Kairos to get a break from the routine of prison life. Maybe there would be something to the religious message, but for the most part it was an opportunity to eat some decent food and spend some time with people who were not part of the prison culture. Most important however, Dan wanted to come to some place safe, where Randy would not be; just to get a break from the sense of dread and fear that was always with him, and relax for a time.
So, by coming to Kairos, Dan found himself seated with two persons that he desperately wanted to avoid. A probation officer on his right and across the table, an enemy bent on revenge. It seems that God intended for Dan to be confronted by all of his demons at once.
To make a long story short, Randy had a spiritual experience at Kairos. During the Weekend, Randy reached the conclusion that being sent to prison had more to do with his wrong choices than with being betrayed by Dan. Randy also had come to believe that God wanted him to forgive Dan, and that it would be a sin to attack or hurt Dan. So, Randy found the power to forgive his enemy. At the closing ceremony Randy told over a hundred people what had happened and publicly announced that God helped him forgive Dan.
I attended a Kairos Reunion three months later. There, I spoke with both Dan and Randy. Randy told me three months later that he had meant what he said. He repeated that he had forgiven Dan, and that by doing so he had been released from many burdens he did not want to carry. When I spoke to Dan, he stated that he was no longer was afraid of Randy.
There was another demon that Dan had to confront at Kairos. It was the death of his dear father some three years earlier. It was after the death of his father that Dan began regularly using drugs. After three years, he had never faced the loss of his father, or grieved in a healthy way. The drugs numbed the emotional pain. During a break, Dan had some one-on-one time with one of the clergy volunteers. During that meeting he finally opened up to someone about losing his father. As Dan told the story of his father’s loss, he wept uncontrollably. He returned to our table with tears still in his eyes and told me what had happened.
During Kairos Dan had gotten nothing he had expected or hoped for, but everything he needed. He clearly felt that he had been forced to face, and come to terms with multiple things he tried so hard to avoid. He was able to exchange his sins, fears, and wounds, for God’s healing, peace, and strength.