NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Students across the nation took advantage of their freedom of speech and assembly Sept. 26 as they gathered around flagpoles to pray, share testimonies and worship God with songs.
Chad Childress, director of student evangelism at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, described See You at the Pole as “empowering to students because it gives 3 million students throughout the United States an opportunity to gather in a cross-denominational setting and see other students who believe as they do — that there’s something greater.”
“It also is an awakening, on a small scale, for students who for the first time ever begin to see their school as a mission field,” Childress said. “That’s what NAMB is about, so we want to be behind anything that does that.”
In Mississippi, even the governor took part in the annual student-led event.
“It’s powerful and very emotional when children pray for you,” Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said. “When they were praying for me and Marsha, they were praying for the state and the future.”
Barbour joined more than 100 students for a 45-minute ceremony at Madison Central High School in Jackson, Miss., after proclaiming the fourth Wednesday in September as See You at the Pole Day statewide, the Clarion-Ledger newspaper said.
“It’s very important the state be part of this,” Barbour said.
In Georgia, Jeff Jackson was one of several pastors who showed up for See You at the Pole in order to show his support of students.
“We participate in See You at the Pole events at several Forsyth County middle and high schools every year…,” said Jackson, adult education pastor at First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Ga., a Southern Baptist congregation.
“Not only did we have 50 or so students involved today, we had more than a dozen of our lay youth ministry leaders to show up at each school,” Jackson added. “We want our First Redeemer students to know that their youth leaders are behind them and proud of their stand.”
Mark Hall, lead singer of the Christian group Casting Crowns, told the Associated Press that students who gather around their school flagpoles for prayer before classes “are changing the world for the better.” Hall is a student pastor at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in Georgia.
In South Carolina, it wasn’t just high school students praying around flagpoles. At Anderson University, more than 70 students and faculty gathered in front of the school’s administration building at dawn to pray and sing.
Louie Audelo, 19, of Whittier, Calif., and a junior at Anderson, told the Independent-Mail newspaper See You at the Pole is less widely observed in California, so he didn’t want to miss it at his new location.
“It’s nice to be where it’s encouraged,” Audelo said.
Anderson University is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and Russ Bennett, the university’s associate campus minister, told the local newspaper See You at the Pole gives students a chance to offer prayers for fellow students, faculty and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Our theme is to gather, unite and pray,” Bennett said, referring to this year’s official nationwide theme based on Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-23.
See You at the Pole started with a group of youth in Burleson, Texas, in 1990 and has taken root nationwide as students proclaim their faith publicly and ask God to intervene in circumstances they face together. The event’s official website, www.syatp.com, has set up a forum for reporting what God has done at rallies this year.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach, with reporting by Mickey Noah of the North American Mission Board.