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Called to Heal the Brokenhearted - Stories from Kairos Prison Ministry International

Called to Heal the Brokenhearted

Stories from Kairos Prison Ministry International

By William H. Barnwell
Afterword by Jed Horne
Hardcover : 9781496805256, 324 pages, March 2016

How a ministry in the largest prison in Louisiana and across the country transforms lives


In this stirring book, William H. Barnwell tells the stories of prison inmates and the Kairos Prison Ministry volunteers who work with them. Set mostly at the huge Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Barnwell's narrative illustrates how offenders who have done the worst can and do change, becoming model inmates and, if released, productive citizens. The stories also reveal how Kairos volunteers have found healing for broken hearts.

Given that the United States incarcerates more people per capita than any country in the world, reformers are seeking radically new ways to reduce our prison populations. Kairos volunteers and inmates alike have much to contribute to the ongoing reform discussions. Now serving 300 state and federal prisons, 30,000 Kairos volunteers work with 20,000 inmates each year. They take part in long weekend retreats with the inmates and follow up with regular prison visits. Since its beginning in 1976, Kairos has served over 250,000 inmates. Broad-based, nondenominational, and nonjudgmental Christian, Kairos seeks to carry out its slogan—“listen, listen, love, love"—among inmates who have had few to listen to them, and fewer still to love them.

In Called to Heal the Brokenhearted are stories of undeniable redemption. They point the way to personal transformation for the inmates and the volunteers. One Kairos inmate speaks of the change this way: he makes guitars out of the good wood “hidden beneath the surface” of throwaway pianos. “I find my work incredibly fulfilling,” he says. “I see myself in every piano, discarded by society but redeemed and put to use in a new way. ”


"Once again William Barnwell takes us inside a too little explored American institution. This time it's our prison system; our guides are the inmates themselves and Kairos volunteers driven by faith. The result is deep insight into encounters between justice and love. This is a brilliant book—and an important one. "

- Shannon Ravenel, retired director of Shannon Ravenel Books, an imprint of Algonquin Books

"William Barnwell's Called to Heal the Brokenhearted: Stories from Kairos Prison Ministry International shows how compassion can be a powerful force, especially in the lives of the 20,000 inmates that Kairos volunteers work with each year. Barnwell sheds light on the important work Kairos Prison Ministry does each year sharing faith's capacity to heal and proves that redemption is possible if we just listen and love. "

- Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States