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Schools buoyed by prayer, as were the praying churches

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–While recent school shootings in Colorado and Georgia shocked the nation, a group of Southern Baptist churches in Kentucky have prayed for schools since August of last year with encouraging results.
More than 50 churches in the Long Run Baptist Association in metropolitan Louisville, Ky., responded to a letter from the association’s prayer council. It assigned each a school and asked them to pray regularly for it during the fall term.
Roughly a third continued until the end of May, among them South Jefferson Baptist Church. The congregation concluded its nine-month effort with a special Sunday evening service recognizing teachers and staff at Medora Elementary School.
Afterwards, a teacher came to then-pastor Greg Burton to relate how she and her sister committed to pray for their schools each morning when they pulled up into the parking lot.
Not only was it their best year ever, they often sensed God’s presence walking into the building, she said.
“I naively took credit for that,” the woman told Burton, who recently accepted a call to be pastor of First Baptist Church, Lawrenceburg, Ky. “Until tonight, when you explained the many different ways you were praying for us. Now we know why it was a school year like no other.”
“I was stunned at the testimony of sensing the presence of God,” Burton said. “That told me we were doing something right. There seems to be a consensus to continue our prayer ministry for schools and expand it. The church is looking at adding two or three others this fall.”
The pastor even saw the hand of God in their assignment, since there were others closer to South Jefferson. Medora used to be nearby, but in the 1950s a new building opened two miles away. Three-quarters of South Jefferson’s members over age 60 attended the old school, and one prayed for his or her alma mater each Wednesday night.
Members also did monthly prayer walks around Medora. Since the pastor is part of the school’s site-based decision-making council, he learned of specific requests throughout the year, which he relayed to the congregation.
“People joke that as long as there are tests in school there will be prayer,” Burton said. “That trivializes prayer. As long as they are teachers who will pray before and after school, and as long as there is salt and light in schools, there will be prayer there.”
Principal Judy Toomes said the church’s support was valuable during the year because of a number of crises, such as deaths and serious accidents among the staff’s families. She is also cheered by another church’s offer to send more than a dozen women to read to students this fall.
Aside from the personal tragedies, “this was one of our best years,” she said. “The prayer was wonderful.”
Other churches who participated in the effort say it stimulated a greater awareness of the need to intercede for neighboring schools.
“They’re next door, but you can drive in and not pay much attention,” said Wilma Owen, administrative coordinator for Bashford Manor Baptist Church, which prayed for the adjacent Buechel Metropolitan High School.
The prayers led to action. Several times members baked cookies and delivered them to the office with reminders that they were praying for students, teachers and administrators. While no plans are set, it is likely Bashford Manor will resume its praying for the fall term.
“After the Colorado shootings it intensified our efforts,” Owen said. “This is a serious responsibility.”
At Jefferstown Baptist Church, lifting up petitions for more than a dozen schools this past year has been part of a widening emphasis on prayer.
Pastor Sanford Hill said several prayer groups have formed as part of interdenominational Celebrate Jesus 2000 initiative. As a result, the church has seen 14 baptisms in recent months, compared to 10 all of last year.
The pastor attributes the success of a Friday night teen gathering at the church to these and other prayers, which he said helped the congregation follow God’s direction.
“This gave us a heightened awareness of the role we play,” Hill said. “Not just in praying for schools, but in being a witness there. We’ll definitely pick back up.
“We’ve changed to praying for students while they’re on break this summer. Praying for schools is important, but so is praying in general. As we have prayed about what teens are facing today, we have become more interested in the solutions.”
Greg Smith, chairman of the association’s prayer council and pastor of New Cut Road Baptist Church, said another letter will be mailed this summer. If each church responds, every Jefferson County school will be covered, he said.
New Cut prayed for Lassiter Middle and Auburndale Elementary schools this past year, which had an impact on the church.
“Everything we have done in praying for our community has enlarged our vision,” he said, “and reminds us that God tells us to intercede for our community. This is spiritual warfare.”
Rolfe Dorsey, director of church development for the association, hopes more churches will respond to the letter for the new school year.
“I think a lot of people want to do this, but they just don’t know how,” Dorsey said. “I believe more churches will participate as time goes on. There are a host of prayer groups being raised up across the city.”

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  • Ken Walker