A Virginia Nonprofit Changing the Lives of One Inmate at a Time


RICHMOND, Va. – A life-transforming prison ministry takes inmates by surprise.

Volunteers on a mission to show the power of love and forgiveness say they are making an impact.

“Prison ministry is not a people’s ministry, it’s not a ministry that gets a lot of fanfare, but it is real,” Lindell Tinsley said.

Before the pandemic, a weekend visit to the prison was a regular occurrence for Kairos, a faith-based nonprofit.

“We operate in 39 states and nine different countries. Our goal is to share the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ with inmates and their families,” Tinsley said.

Lindell Tinsley is the state president of Virginia Kairos. He and other local volunteers regularly pray and wrap cookies before going to share time with people behind bars.

“Our ministry is often known as the cookie ministry. We bring homemade cookies into the prison.”

According to the organization, Virginia has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country. Kairos said the work of their volunteers plays an important role in helping inmates stay out of trouble when they are released.

“If you understand that you have value, that your life has a purpose and that you are someone who is worth it, who has a purpose and a destiny, then you become a contributor to society,” said Tinsley.

The group’s transformation mission has been strongly impacted by the coronavirus as visitors have not been able to visit the prisons. Tinsley said the facilities also suffered from a critical lack of resources and low staff numbers.

This month, Kairos held a ceremony to thank former Governor Ralph Northam and members of his administration for Tinsley’s efforts to help and protect prisoners during this difficult time.

Harvey Williams, who was recently pardoned by Northam, attended the ceremony.

“I still had 25 years to serve and I had already served 23 and a half years for a bank robbery charge which now carries a sentence of one to 10 years. I got 50 years,” said said Williams.

In prison, Williams said Kairos volunteers gave him the hope and strength he needed.

“When I was first introduced I was skeptical. But the energy from the moment I walked into the room where the men were coming in and sitting down and eating prison food with us and were spending all day with us, that was telling me that they must really care,” Williams said.

Williams plans to give back to the world that same life-changing love and support as a free man.

“I look forward to being a part of Kairos when they are allowed back into the prisons. I also want to give back,” Williams said.

He hopes he can be an example of what love and forgiveness can do.

“I understand that the things I want are available to me if I work hard to make them a reality in my life and I’m grateful for that,” Williams said.

Tinsley said Kairos needs more volunteers with hearts to help out so the organization can continue to strengthen communities by changing lives.

“Please if you are a churchgoer or a church member or a believer in Christ or even a sinner, join the ministry. There is something you can do,” Tinsley said.


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