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Prayer walks for schools under way in Georgia, led by Baptist agencies

ATLANTA (BP)–If Georgia Baptists have anything to do with it, 12-year-old Casey Lowery will have a great school year this fall at Ringgold Middle School. And Andrew Braley, a 10th-grader at Valdosta High School, will be able to concentrate on his grades rather than news reports of school violence.
Prayer changes things, and Georgia Baptists are on their way to helping make sure public and private schools statewide are a better place to work and learn in the coming months.
To make that dream a reality, Georgia Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union and Men’s Ministries are teaming up to encourage churches to conduct prayer walks around each school in their communities. Whether public or private, it is hoped each school will be the object of “focused, intentional praying,” said Barbara Curnutt, Georgia WMU executive director-treasurer.
The two GBC entities were unknowingly walking down parallel paths, promoting prayer walking among their constituencies. Now they are uniting in a convention-wide effort to encourage churches to adopt each school in their community as a target of prayer for students, faculty and staff. “We hope all of our churches will join together in August to conduct a prayer walk around their schools,” said Ray Newman, specialist for GBC Men’s Ministries.
Both Newman and Curnutt stress the ease of the effort and the benefits to be realized.
“It’s not a rally, you don’t need a city permit, you don’t need to schedule a speaker,” Newman said. “You just get some folks together at the school on public property and walk around the property as you intercede for the students, staff and teachers.”
Curnutt said it is hoped that the prayer walks could be completed in August before the schools open for the new year.
The WMU effort is an outgrowth of a national WMU emphasis called “Project Help” which focuses on a different societal need every two years. The current emphasis is on curbing violence. In addition, the state WMU tailored its approach after a prayer walk modeled by Thomas County Baptist Association’s WMU.
Joyce Thomaston, the associational WMU director and Georgia WMU divisional vice president, said the approach — which has been expanded to include prayer driving around the schools and community — has met with favorable results.
“I have had one school principal to contact me and express her appreciation for what we were doing, saying she felt it did make a difference in the life of the school,” Thomaston reported.
Permission is not needed if participants stay on public sidewalks around the schools. But Thomaston urged churches to first contact their school principal to explain their intent if no sidewalk is present and the group has to walk on the perimeter of school property.
“You can do a prayer walk as an individual, but Saturdays are the best time for a group activity to avoid opposition from parents or school staff who may object,” Thomaston advised.
In planning a group event, she stressed the need to keep school officials fully informed of the intent of the participants to prevent misconceptions.
“On a few occasions school officials were at first opposed to a prayer walk, but after it was explained that is was not a protest against the school but an affirmation, and we were praying for the welfare of the students and their families, the opposition melted away.”
Georgia WMU already has mailed packets to each association to build awareness and enlist support for the venture.
“We need to be combating Satan’s strongholds in our schools to prevent a recurrence of what happened at Columbine in Colorado or Heritage in Conyers [Ga],” Curnutt stressed, referring to two of the outbreaks of school violence in recent months.
Christy Daniel, member of Union Baptist Church in Winder, Ga., which just conducted its first prayer walk, said the emphasis “is an awesome way of letting our school leaders and children know that we are here praying for them.”
Daniel, a mother of two, including Kelley who will be a third-grader this year, also is praying for the parents to give their children a better home life and to spend more time with their children. “What students hear and learn at home is what they carry to school the next day,” she said.
Standing in front of Winder-Barrow High School, with its 6,000-student population the same size as Colorado’s Columbine High School, she thought for a moment and then added, “I may not know who all of these kids are by name, but I can pray for them to have a safe and productive school year.”

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  • Joe Westbury