Restoration and Renewal Testimony

(My personal testimony presented to my Keryx Brothers shortly before I was paroled by the MDOC in 2016.)

My name is Tim and I attended Keryx 10 here at STF and I sat at the table of Timothy.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.”

John 3:16-17

God reached out to me, to each one of us, in an act of sacrifice beyond our comprehension, to save us from ourselves and our self-destructive acts of sin. A free gift with no strings attached, but He knew that if we accepted it our lives would never be the same.

I gave my life to Christ when I was a teenager at an alter call at the end of a Christian music concert. Once I became a Christian God promised that “He would never leave me nor forsake me” (Deuteronomy 31:6), that He would be my Shepard if I would be His sheep (John 10). But I was young and immature, and I failed to develop and grow in my faith, so in the course of time I wandered away as sheep are prone to do (Isaiah 53:6).

Through a series of bad life choices I found myself in a dark place, cut off from everything and everyone I knew. But God was faithful and found me in my cell at the county jail. He reminded me how much He loved me and I renewed my vow and earnestly repented. For the first time in years tears flowed as I poured my heart out to God, surrendering every area of my life, confessing every sinful habit and committing for faithfully serve Him.

One of the first Bible verses God gave me to memorize was Psalms 51:10-12, and for the last 8 years I have meditated daily on this prayer of King David:

“Create in my a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast (right) spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me by your generous Spirit.”

Psalms 51:10-12

This passage clearly identified for me that after my act of confession and repentance it was God who must act to bring restoration and renewal to our relationship. It wasn’t something that I could do, because only God has the power to make things new (Revelations 21:5).

According to Webster to restore something is to put it back in its former position. And to renew means to make new again, to start over. Only God could restore that feeling I had first experienced at the alter call so many years ago. Now I have that experience of Joy in my heart every day. God has given me a fresh start, a clean slate, a new spirit within me. He is growing my faith and continues to reveal Himself to me in His Word and miraculous works on my behalf.

I have been transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). And as a result God has given me new strength (Isaiah 42:31), a new attitude (Ephesians 4:23), and a new sense of purpose (Jeremiah 29:10).

Not only has He worked in me, but He has worked through me to share God’s love with others, to serve the church, and to encourage and disciple my younger Brothers in the faith. God has also been restoring my relationship with my family, and this prodigal son will be going home Tuesday. I can’t have back the life I had before and don’t want it if I could. Instead I am looking forward to my new life in Christ, and the plans He has for me.

In closing, my prayer for you my Keryx Brothers is:

“Do not lose heart. Even though your outward man is perishing, your inward man is being renewed day by day: for the light affliction you are dealing with will last but for a moment and is working for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Do not look at the things which are seen, rather at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Until

(An original poem I wrote in prison based on the promises of Scripture and inspired by reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren in April 2016)

Until I realized I couldn't do it on my own,
God could do nothing for me.
Until I asked for direction,
God couldn't show me the way.
Until I confessed my ignorance,
God couldn't teach me.
Until I laid down my burden,
God couldn't carry it for me.
Until I searched for Him,
God couldn't reveal Himself to me.
Until I died to self,
God couldn't bring me to life.
Until I emptied myself,
God couldn't fill me.
Until I surrendered,
God couldn't give me victory.
Until I submitted to His authority,
God couldn't free me from my bondage to sin.
Until I hungered and thirsted for righteousness,
God couldn't satisfy my appetite.
Until I obeyed like a child,
God couldn't treat me like a son.
Until I admitted my weakness,
God couldn't strengthen me.
Until I walked by faith,
God couldn't prepare me to run the race.
Until I acknowledged my purpose,
God couldn't use me.

Christian Community

(A talk presented to my Keryx Brothers in 2016)

Since my Keryx weekend in 2014, in addition to my faithful attendance at church and the weekly Keryx grouping I have read and studied about what it means to live in Christian community. So as my time draws near for me to go home I believe it was by divine appointment that I’ve been asked to present this talk summary and what it means to me.

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book “Life Together” had a lot to say about how we should live together in Christian community. I would like to bring out a few points from the book that are especially true for us here in prison and how it relates to Keryx.

First, “we should not take for granted the privilege we have of openly living among other Christians. Visible fellowship is a blessing that not all of our Brothers and Sisters around the world get to enjoy. The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” When we come together on Sunday nights for Keryx how many times have you been uplifted by the worship music, a testimony, or simply the enthusiastic greeting of a Brother? I know I have.

Secondly, “we need to recognize that as Christians we need other Christians in our lives to speak God’s Word into us.” We need our Brothers when we become uncertain and discouraged to speak God’s Word into us to provide certainty and courage. In our Keryx small groupings as we share our Christian walk together we have the opportunity to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. To encourage others and be encouraged ourselves.

Third, we realize that “in a Christian community each individual is an indispensable link in the chain. Not only do the weak need the strong, but also the strong can not exist without the weak. As a body we are only as strong as our weakest members. Therefore we must do all that we can to strengthen all our members.” Keryx creates a unique opportunity for us to get to know one another for who we are in Christ and how we can best serve each other in brotherly love.

Fourth, Christian community requires forgiveness. “We must forgive each other on a daily basis and it occurs without words as we pray in intercession for one another.” C.S. Lewis once said that “to believe in the forgiveness of sin is not so easy as I thought. Real belief in it is the sort of thing that very easily slips away if we don’t keep polishing up on it.” We close every Keryx meeting with the Lord’s Prayer, reciting the words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Reminding us forgiveness is not a natural action but the key to working out our salvation.

Fifth, in the Christian community, “thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little recieves the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?”

“If we do not give thanks daily for Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measures and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” Like many of you I’ve been tempted to quit Keryx, but I stuck it out, got involved and worked to make our community a better place. I thank God daily for what we’ve got, confident that the best is yet to come.

And finally, “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. We are summoned from the outset to combine as creatures with our Chreator, as mortals, with the Immortal, as redeemed sinners with the sinless Redeemer. His presence, the interaction between Him and us, must always be the overwhelming dominate factor in the life we are to live in the body.”

Romans 12:12-14 says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts: and though all its part are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one spirit into one body, and were given the one Spirit to drink.”

Keryx provides us with a unique opportunity to live life in Christian community. To be the hands and feet of Jesus, ministering to one another and witnessing to the lost and wounded souls on this compound. Individually our lights may not seem like much shinning into the darkness that surrounds us, however, when we come together we are like a city on a hill that can not and will not be hidden.

The Sherpa’s Perspective

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.

Mountain Top Experience

A mountain top experience is a time in your life when you experienced God in a deeply profound and meaningful way. A time when you felt closer to God than any other time in your life. It is the pinnical of both emotional and spiritual awareness. It is a life altering encounter with the Almighty. While the euphoria of the emotional component made fade over time, the power of the spiritual component should grow and increase.

The mountain top is not the culmination of the journey, but is in many ways the starting point of the next. You can’t live your life on the mountain top, as much as you would like to. Life is really lived out on the hills, valleys, and plains.

They say that lightning never strikes the same place, in the same way twice but mountain tops are a frequent target. We need to take the energy we absorbed on the mountain top and channel it into action. This may be to prune away the old dead parts of our lives and burn them up. It may be in stepping out in obedience to follow a call into ministry. Or it may be to return to our daily lives with renewed purpose and vigor.

Mountain top experiences are something that every Christian has at least once in their lives, when they are born again. But God wants us to continually seek him and when we do we will continue to have new mountain top experiences. Each one a unique and personal encounter with the living God, who loves us and wants our undivided attention, so that we can clearly hear the message He has especially prepared for us.


I wrote this meditation after I participated in a Keryx spiritual formation weekend while I was incarcerated in the MDOC.  This is a three-day short course in Christianity modeled after the Cursillos in Christianity.

Cursillos in Christianity (Spanish: Cursillos de Cristiandad, “Short courses of Christianity”) is an apostolic movement of the Roman Catholic Church. It was founded in Majorca, Spain, by a group of laymen in 1944, while they were refining a technique to train pilgrimage Christian leaders.

Cursillo is the original three-day movement, and has since been licensed for use by several mainline Christian denominations, some of which have retained the trademarked “Cursillo” name, while others have modified its talks/methods and given it a different name. In the United States, Cursillo is a registered trademark of the National Cursillo Center in Jarrell, Texas.

The Cursillo focuses on showing Christian laypeople how to become effective Christian leaders over the course of a three-day weekend. The weekend includes fifteen talks, called rollos, which are given by priests and by laypeople. The major emphasis of the weekend is to ask participants to take what they have learned back into the world, on what is known as the “fourth day.” The method stresses personal spiritual development, as accelerated by weekly group reunions after the initial weekend.

Today, Cursillo is a worldwide movement with centers in nearly all South and Central American countries, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand Aotearoa, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and in several African countries. The movement is recognized by the Holy See as member of the International Catholic Organizations of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in Rome.

This retreat is also used by Episcopalian/Anglican Cursillo, Presbyterian Cursillo/Pilgrimage, Lutheran Via de Cristo, Mennonite Way of Christ and various interdenominational communities as Tres Días.

Analogous retreats: The Cursillo method is used by ACTS, Encounter, Antioch, Search, Awakening (college students), Cum Christo, DeColores (adult ecumenical), the Great Banquet, Happening, The Journey (United Church of Christ), Kairos Prison Ministry, Kairos (for older teenagers), Emmaus in Connecticut (for high school age teens), Gennesaret (for those living with a serious illness), Koinonia, Lamplighter Ministries, Light of Love, LOGOS (Love Of God, Others, and Self) (Lutheran teen), Teens Encounter Christ (teen ecumenical), Residents Encounter Christ (REC) (a jail/prison ministry), Tres Dias, Unidos en Cristo, Via de Cristo (Lutheran Adult), Chrysalis Flight (Methodist Youth), Walk to Emmaus (Methodist Adult), The Walk with Christ (interdenominational), Anglican 4th Day (Anglican Adult), The Way of Christ (Canadian Lutheran adult), Tres Arroyos (Charismatic Episcopal Church). and Journey to Damascus (Catholic hosted Ecumenical with weekly reunion groups for alumni) in the Corpus Christi, Houston, and Austin, Texas, areas.

Wikipedia

April 2018 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

Greetings Brother,

Thanks for the notice on your parole board hearing. I’ve marked my calendar and will be praying for you. I know that you have done all that you can to prepare and will interview well.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your brothers as you prepare for the upcoming KERYX* weekend. What will happen will be life changing for everyone involved. The lost will find what they are looking for. The spiritually hungry will be fed. Servants will get better at serving. Spiritual mentors will meet new disciples. Leaders will have their leadership tested.

Funny how that works. That’s probably why the Apostle Paul cautions those who would aspire to be leaders in I Timothy 3. My observation is that leadership is often a thankless task that involves the arcane skill of herding cats. Christian leaders do it from their knees with their hands firmly clasped together and their heads bowed. While this sounds like a Zen thing it is really a Sinai thing. Moses is the archetype of a Christian leader. His leadership ability was recognized in the Old Testament in Psalms 106, the New Testament in Hebrews 11:23-28, and in the Apocrypha in Sirach 45:1-5. (Yes, I really did reference the Apocrypha.) The characteristics of Christian leadership that he modeled include:

  1. Standing in the gap for your flock.
  2. Speaking only the words given to you by God.
  3. Leading only where God’s Spirit guides.
  4. You will take heat for your leadership from the people, it’s about how you handle the heat.
  5. Leaders are called by God to serve.
  6. Believe in miracles.
  7. Fast and Pray!
  8. Not all leaders will make it to the promised land.
  9. A leaders responsibility is to prepare the next generation of leaders.

Use your final months wisely. Leave your mark on prison rather than letting prison leave it’s mark on you. Even while you are looking forward, don’t forget to keep you head on a swivel.

Your Brother in Christ

*Keryx is a lay-led, non-profit, interdenominational, Christian  ministry using the Cursillo method, designed to be conducted in any correctional institution without substantive change in format or procedure.

The purpose of Keryx Ministries is the Christianization of the correctional institution or community through the actions of small apostolic prayer support groups, trained and encouraged by Keryx volunteers, working within their environment. Through a systematic, structured program, the participants are given the opportunity to experience a religious renewal and to accept God’s call to a life of Christian witness and service to one another .

Keryx has been called the most effective program at changing basic attitudes of the incarcerated currently offered in prisons.  This statement has been said over and over again by prison administrators where the ministry has been active long enough for its impact on the institution to have been evaluated by correctional staff.

Keryx is a highly structured program that promotes solid Christian life-skills.  The program builds a positive and loving environment.  Keryx calls upon a spirituality that has long been dormant in many of the resident leaders within the institution.

keryx.org website