NEW ORLEANS, La. (BP)–Ninth-grader Theressa Sanon offered an impassioned prayer for classmates and administrators at Helen Cox High School in New Orleans Sept. 28, saddened that only two students joined her for the 21st annual See You at the Pole global day of student prayer.
Sanon, 15, was still thankful she obeyed God’s command in asking her classmates to join her in a global moment of prayer that organizers say draws more than 3 million students at schools in all 50 states and 20 other countries. Students gather at their school’s flag pole before the start of the school day to pray for classmates, administrators, teachers and others.
“This year, God just put in on my heart to do it,” said Sanon, whose father is the former pastor of a Haitian mission church in New Orleans. “I prayed that God would just move into the school. I prayed that God will open their hearts and they’d be able to see He’s the one who will help them through their problems.”
Jimbo Stewart, Sanon’s youth pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, said he was moved by the gathering, however small.
“It was heartwarming for me that as she prayed, she literally was weeping and moaning for her school,” Stewart said. “It has been my burden for the past year to charge our students to be missionaries in their schools.”
Stewart encouraged the 60 or so members of his youth ministry to initiate See You at the Pole events at the 35 schools represented among the membership. He believes the students initiated events at seven area schools.
The event has the potential to reach more students than Stewart could reach as an individual youth pastor, Stewart said, and has the added strength of being led by students themselves.
“I challenged our students to take this as an opportunity to stand for Christ. Many of them are scared because no one at their school does it,” Stewart said. “When a student owns that, I think you see something pretty incredible.”
Calvary Baptist ended the day with a special service during its weekly youth ministry meeting to which students invited their classmates to hear Stewart’s Gospel message. Of the 250,000 teenagers in Orleans and Jefferson parishes, Stewart said, only 3 percent attend church on a regular basis, according to a survey conducted by First Priority Nola, a ministry that encourages students to disciple classmates.
Among other area Southern Baptist churches, First Baptist in Marrero and First Baptist in Avondale held a joint See You at the Pole rally Wednesday evening in Marrero, which drew 60 students.
“We had a real good meeting,” said Ben Kreeger, a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary student and youth ministry intern with the Marrero congregation. “I hope this is going to be a challenge and a learning experience for them … in the sense of living out their faith, and maybe they’ll get bold.”
Kreeger said as many as seven of the 25 students active in his youth ministry participated in Pole events at their schools.
“They all said they were glad they went. I think it was a little bit uncomfortable for them, having people see a different side of them,” Kreeger said. “I think God was moving. I really see this as something that will continue. The kingdom of God is going to be reaping the benefits.”
See You at the Pole was birthed during a 1990 DiscipleNow weekend in Burleson, Texas, when a small group of students were burdened to travel to area schools and pray for their classmates and leaders. The students organized a See You At the Pole prayer meeting in June of that year at Reunion Arena in Dallas, drawing 20,000 students.
When the 1990-1991 school year began a few months later, 45,000 students in four states participated in the inaugural See You at the Pole. Participation reached 1 million the following year, according to organizers.
Diana Chandler is a freelance writer in New Orleans. For more information about See You at the Pole, visit www.syatp.com.