I have previously described the Keryx weekend as a mountain top experience, and having worked as a member of the Inside team I now have a sherpa’s perspective. Sherpa is actually the name of an ethnic group of people who live in the mountains of Nepal, central Asia and work as porters for mountain climbing expeditions in the Himalayas.
The Outside team members are the mountaineering guides who have dedicated their lives to leading candidates up the mountain. They lead the expedition from the base camp to the summit, instructing the candidates and encouraging them every step of the way. Their vision, planning and experience make this adventure possible.
The Inside team members are the sherpa’s. We’ve been to the mountain top before and it changed our lives. Now we have made the choice to serve, to give back in appreciation to the mountaineering guides. Enthusiasm from our own mountain top experience has caused us to invite our friends, the candidates, to experience what we’ve experienced.
Our role is to assist at the direction of the guides, taking care of the routine tasks that make the adventure possible for others. Cooking, cleaning, running messages, entertaining; all the details of camp life that go on behind the scene. I’m not saying we’re indespensible, but the journey goes smoother since many hands make light work.
The Candidates can’t make this journey without their guides or their sherpas. They don’t have the experience, knowledge, or strength to climb the mountain safely or carry the necessary supplies to reach the summit, it requires a team effort. No one climbs Mt. Everest alone, but each person’s experience is unique.
The view from the top of the mountain reveals the beauty of God’s creation. Looking down from the top, everything becomes clear. The world takes on new grandure. Now that you have a new perspective you’ll never look at things the same.
It has been a privilege to share this view with those who are no longer candidates, but rather, Brothers. We share something in common. We accepted the invitation, we made the journey, we learned from our guides, and we have been changed.
We are grateful to our guides and will now join them and our new Brothers to meet weekly to share about what we’ve learned, to continue the journey along the lowland paths, encouraging one another, and looking forward to the next expedition.
In the prisons where Keryx is active, the 3-day spiritual formation weekends are held twice a year. After completing the weekend, the candidates are invited to join the 4th day meetings. Once a week Keryx members gather together with outside volunteers for a time of worship and small group meetings. Once a month there is an Ultreya, a special meeting with an extended praise and worship time and a program with prayers and testimonies, typically attended by more of the outside volunteers and their spouses.
The newest Keryx members are encouraged to participate on the Inside team for the next spiritual formation weekend. Keryx provides an ecumenical environment where men from different religious traditions meet to strengthen and encourage one another in the faith. Keryx is open to everyone regardless of religious affiliation, however it is distinctively Christian.
During the Keryx weekend the Inside team works at the direction of the Outside team to provide a number of services including: food servers and kitchen workers, musicians and sound technicians, porters, Palanca and Prayer team members. Members that are not actively working the weekend are invited to join a Prayer Vigil where people from around the world cover the event in prayer 24/3.
As an Inside volunteer I worked as a sound technician twice and in the Prayer room once. Running sound allowed me to relive my own weekend experience as the same words were repeated, giving me chills at times as the power of the Holy Spirit was active in the room. Watching men raising their hands in worship, bowing their heads in prayer, and crying as the emotion was expressed was humbling. Listening as words of encouragement, testimonies, and praise were spoken by those leading and those following was empowering.
My weekend in the Prayer room gave me a totally different perspective. In the Prayer room Inside and Outside volunteers prayed for whatever was going on in the hall. We prayed for the speakers, the listeners, and the workers. On each table in the hall were pieces of paper and the attendies were encouraged to submit prayer requests, which we then prayed over individually. Some were simple requests or words of thanksgiving and praise. Some were heartfelt pleas for healing on the behalf of family and friends. Some were heartbreaking cries for help to restore relationships or intervention in situations you couldn’t possibly imagine. Some were prayers of salvation or forgiveness of sin. All were genuine.
They say that prayer changes the one who prays, and I was certainly changed as I lifted up requests from people I did and sometimes did not know. I added my voice to the choir of “Amens” as others took turns lifting up these faith-filled, hopeful, and urgent requests before the Throne of Grace of the Almighty God.
I can tell you from hearing the testimonies of the Outside volunteers that they experienced the same life changing power that I did as an Inside volunteer. In fact many of the Outside volunteers have served in Keryx for 10, 20 or more years across multiple prisons around the state. They don’t keep coming back because of the food, the accomodations or the scenery; rather they come both humbly and boldly to share the Gospel with those who need it. The have responded to a call on their lives to participate in the work of the church serving the “least of these” both the lost and those who have found the light.