"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
2 Corinthians 3:18
By Kaia Kloster
Early in the morning, around 4:30am, I was awakened by a cat’s persistent meowing outside my window. Now, I had spent the last few weeks figuring out how to get my own aging cat to let me sleep all night…setting out canned food each night, making sure the water was fresh, the litter box was clean…and it had seemed to be working. But, for the last three mornings – early mornings! – a feline was once again disrupting my sleep. Our cat is a neutered male, so I could not see what interest this cat outside my window might have in our house, or our cat? It didn’t seem like the caterwauling of a tom, nor the mew of a lost kitten. But it meowed…and meowed…and meowed. Now three nights in a row. Each time I was annoyed that it had interrupted my sleep. I didn’t want to get out of my warm, comfortable bed to see about this cat outside my window. I would finally get up, go to the bathroom, perhaps peer out the window at a dark yard where I could see nothing, and then wander back to the comfort of my bed. Eventually, the cat either quit…or I simply fell back asleep.
But this morning, as I lay there, annoyed, and trying to will the cat to quit or myself to fall back asleep, it suddenly occurred to me…what if the cat had fallen into the deep egress window well just below our window! Not only that, what if the poor thing had been there for three days!!! Suddenly, I was spurred to jump out of my bed, find my robe and my flip-flops (thank goodness it was unusually warm for mid-November!) and head out into the dark. Suddenly my annoyance turned to empathy, my frustration to action. This could actually be a matter of life-and-death! I rounded the corners of the house to get to our bedroom window and, sure enough, a tabby calico cat hunkered in the window well, frightened and desperate. As I peered closer, she attempted to jump out – slamming repeatedly into the corrugated steel of the window well, just shy of the upper rim, unable to get out. She crouched in the corner, unsure what to do. I took off my robe (again, thankful for the unseasonably warm temps and the cover of darkness!) and tossed it over the edge of the window well. Maybe she would use it to get her claws into and climb out. She didn’t dare to try again. I decided to go get our ladder. I rounded the house again and entered the garage. Locating the ladder, I somehow maneuvered it down and around the boat and the pick-up taking up over 98% of our garage space and somehow got it outside without scratching anything. Back around the house, I lowered the ladder into the window well and took a few steps back. It wasn’t too long before I saw her hesitantly climbing, one rung at a time. Then she was out, free! She raced off and slipped through the slats of our fence, disappearing into the night.
After returning the ladder and returning to bed, I lay there pondering on what had just happened. As he so often does, the Lord used a seemingly inconsequential event to teach me something…to open my eyes. Isn’t it so often the very same in our faith journey? The cries of the hurting are perceived as merely annoyances or inconveniences. We attempt to ignore them or will them to go away. We make every excuse in order to remain in our comfortable existence, even as they continue to cry for help, hunkered down in the pit, frightened and desperate. It isn’t until our belief in a heaven and a hell and eternity becomes more than head knowledge of scripture, but rather a fact that warrants reckoning that we will be moved from our complacency to action. In the moment that we realize unbelievers will indeed perish and suffer eternal separation from God the Father, that is when we are compelled to actually do something about it. Suddenly we are spurred to action, leaving our comfortable lives, not caring what others think, desiring only to help those who are perishing. Suddenly our annoyance turns to empathy, our frustration to action. This is actually a matter of life-and-death! And just like the cat in the window well, we can’t actually save them. But we can offer that which can. Sharing the gospel is like lowering the ladder down into the pit. It’s up to them to accept it, and if they do…they will find freedom.
"Who will help me?"
By Kaia Kloster
As my friend, Julie, and I began our women’s ministry at the county jail, I began noticing that many of these women would talk about their ‘mom’ or their ‘daughter,’ yet realizing they weren’t their real mom or daughter. At first, I thought it may just be one of those blended family issues, with steps and exes, etc. But then I began realizing there was no formal relationship at all. These were simply broken women, who had lost their moms and been placed in foster care and then had borne children that were taken from them and placed in foster care. Younger women and older women who found each other – on the streets or in the jail – and bonded in a special way. It made me realize how strong the desire is to be nurtured and to nurture. Even in the chaos of their worlds, where the God-given family structure was nowhere to be found and even their version of family had been annihilated by their circumstances and their choices, these women longed to be mothers and longed to be daughters. And so, I would see these 40 somethings taking the 20 somethings under their wings, to console, to mentor, to teach. It was beautiful in a sad way. Strong testament to the God-given urge to give and receive love, heart-breaking to see how far removed it was from what God had originally intended.
One day, only two came out for bible study. It may have been one of those ‘mother’/’daughter’ relationships. The 40 something had been coming regularly, and it was clear that she had a lot of clout in the block. Even as she attended bible study and was truly making strides in her faith walk, it was pretty clear that only certain gals came out when she came and others would stay back, even if they may have liked to come. (Justification may come quickly, sanctification is most certainly a process!) Regardless, this day just the two of them came to bible study. It didn’t take long to realize that the 40 something had a bit of an agenda, and it seemed to be an attempt for the 20 something to have a place to share her story and seek the help she needed. God could use even the ‘clout’ and the ‘screening’ for his good!
The young woman began to just pour her heart out. In the times that I had met her it was clear that she had little to no education. She had made it sound like she was in trouble for stealing at Walmart. She had had questions about whether it was okay to lie in order to protect people she cared about or to try to minimize her sentence. Yet on that day, as her story poured out, so much became clear. No wonder she did not have an education, she had already been in the sex industry for years. She had been arrested at Walmart, but it was for trying to ‘recruit’ other young girls into the trade. She was wondering about lying because she was looking at some serious charges and a lengthy sentence for her role in the sex trafficking circles.
And yet, as I listened to her and watched her, I couldn’t help but wonder…who was the victim here? This was the same girl that had naively asked what would happen if a woman had sex with a horse when we were studying how kinds reproduced after their own kinds in Genesis! She went on to explain that when she was like 5, she and her cousin were watching a porn movie where a woman was having sex with a horse. (She did offer a brief comment that she realized she shouldn’t have been watching that. You think?!) Her older and wiser cousin – age 7 – had informed her that the baby would be half human and half horse. This 20 something still did not know that this was not how it really was! I had an innocent, five-year-old grandson at the time. I tried to keep my jaw from hitting the table as she shared this story from her childhood. What kind of life could a child hope to lead if they were exposed to bestiality at 5!!!
I can still remember her just sobbing. The feds wanted to meet with her. They expected her to rat on the others in the racket – who happened to also be her cousins or some relation – and in exchange they would give her some leniency in her sentencing. The sobs racked her body as she cried out, “Who is going to look out for me! The feds expect me to help them out, but who will help me! Sure, I might get out or get out earlier, but to what? I’ll just get sucked right back into the same lifestyle, the same awful things, the same running and hiding. Who is going to look out for me!” Julie and I just looked at each other. It was about our third visit to the jail. We were green, we were naïve, we were shocked to our core as we caught glimpses of a life we knew absolutely nothing of. A life that we wanted to pretend didn’t really happen, not in the real world. But the hard truth was that it did. And this 20 something was just one of so many.
Julie and I had come wanting to make a difference. Julie had made the comment she needed to find her Bethel. Well, this was it. The jail would teach us so many things, hard truths, helpful responses, not-so-helpful responses. The light of Christ certainly shines brightly in such darkness, and that was something that we could bring in with us – past all the security guards, the metal detectors, through the heavy doors that slammed shut behind us. But what about when these women walked out those heavy, slamming doors? What would they be returning to? And what was God asking us to do about it.
God had put a horse ministry on my heart and I had just visited one for young girls in Minnesota. We shared that bit of hope with her. Maybe she could find a place like that to help her start a new life. Julie had been learning all about trauma-informed care because of her adopted son, Max. She had shared of her desire to start, what she called, The Brain House. A place where people understood how trauma impacted the brain and, thus, behaviors. At one of our first coffees, we had agreed, maybe we were to combine our visions. Horses are a really powerful tool in the battle against trauma. As we stood in the hub area at the jail, waiting for the next block to come out, she just looked at me and said, “We need to build The Brain House.”
Little did we know that these little steps of obedience would lead us to the founding of Chrysalis…
By Kaia Kloster
As I go into the jail to ‘proclaim the gospel with evidence’, I never know who will choose to
come to bible study – or why. One day, a woman shared with me why she had decided to
come. Although her mom had been raised in the Church, they hadn’t been taken as kids
because her mom didn’t want to ‘force her beliefs on them’. So while not raised as a Christian,
she was aware of ‘them’ and it seemed to her in her daily encounters with people that at times
she was quite certain she could identify them. There was something different…it seemed there
was a glow about them. She and her boyfriend came to call them ‘shiny faces’. Upon leaving a
gas station, for example, she might turn to him and say, “She was a ‘shiny face’, wasn’t she!” It
was as if there was a light from within… The difference was undeniable, and always desirable.
I am uncertain of the circumstances that brought her to the jail, but once there she received a
Life Recovery bible. As she opened the cover to check it out, a verse at the bottom of the very
first page caught her eye. It was Psalm 34:5:
“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
She had been right! They were ‘shiny faces’! This simple connection between what the bible
says and what she saw in the world was an important part of her newfound spark of faith. It
was a joy to watch her seek truth and grow in her faith as she made more connections between
what the bible says and the evidence we see in the world.
As I thought about her testimony, I found her observations were convicting in some ways…I
couldn’t help but wonder, was I a ‘shiny face’? How many people who claim to be Christians
shine in this dark world? Maybe it’s time to ask…are you a ‘shiny face’?
Soaking in His Illumination Now and for Eternity
"It would mean everything..."
By Kaia Kloster
Sometimes they call me the science lady…or the dinosaur lady. I’m sure they’ve never been to a bible study quite like mine! There are many times I question whether it is really important to bring evidence-based teaching to the women in the jail. It seems like I should just bring love and grace! They are in such great need of both. But I constantly need to remind myself of the call God placed on my life to help restore the authority of His Word, to help dispel the myth-like qualities that have been put on the Christian faith – the ‘Santa Claus effect’ as I call it – and to replace them with solid truth and a firm foundation.
There are times when I question and then there are times I am affirmed! I believe we were addressing the reliability of the New Testament – the fact that there are nearly 25,000 manuscripts, found as early as within 40 years of Jesus’ death (well within the eyewitness period), found in abundance in every century since, and copied with 99.8% accuracy all the way up to the time of the printing press. Not too shabby, eh! The best manuscript evidence for any writing of antiquity…BY FAR! And with archaeological evidence to back it up. So it was in the aftermath of bar graphs and a nearly cold-case style investigation of the evidence for the authenticity of the New Testament that I posed a simple question, “If we can trust the Bible and God’s promises, how would your life be different?” It was then I heard the nearly inaudible response from the woman who had sat quietly to my left the whole time. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she said, "It would mean everything - I would need to start living my life for Him; I would need to be sure my kiddos knew about God." It was one of the most honest confessions of faith – and its implications – that I had ever heard.
She went on to share that in the absence of a responsible mother in her life, her grandmother had been the one to take her to church. When she lost her grandma at the age of 9, she started to question God and slide away from the faith. It was an inexorable descent to the place she found herself in – incarcerated, separated from her own children, unwittingly filling the shoes of a mother she had not intended to emulate. I asked if it was that she had become angry with God or if it was just that she no longer had a spiritual leader in her life. She felt it was likely a combination of both. But on that day, in the aftermath of bar graphs and a cold-case style investigation, she inadvertently discovered what I had desired to bring in the first place - love and grace! She discovered she could believe in God and she could trust his Word. She discovered that the promises found there were for her…and for her children. That they themselves could become children of God, and heirs to his kingdom. That day, I was A-OK with being ‘the dinosaur lady’! May we continue to proclaim the truth boldly – in love!
It's a Test
By Kaia Kloster
In visiting with a young man in a correctional facility, he came to a point where he began to pull back the veil on some of the awful things he had done in the past. I shared that it didn’t matter to me what he had done in the past. I didn’t see him according to what he had done or who he had been, but rather I saw him for what he could be…what God desired for him to be. He responded with way too much wisdom for a 16 year old, “Sometimes people like me want to tell you what we have done. It’s a test, in some ways, to see if you will still like us.” Ouch. How many had failed the test in the past? How many people, Christians included, had written him off once they found out the things he had done? Labeled him as delinquent, troubled, dangerous, cruel…evil – and left him for ‘the system’ to take care of? The walls he would have had to put up to protect his heart from that hurt had to be tall and wide. Will we love with the love of Christ? A love that sees beyond the behaviors to the hurt beneath and the heart within? Only love can tear those walls down and God alone can heal those wounds. Yet we are the hands and feet! “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15 May we come to love like Christ as we walk with the hurting and the broken, looking past what has been – even what is – to what could be. May we enter every encounter believing that they will be redeemed and transformed. Sometimes we have to believe for them, before they can believe it for themselves.