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These assembly line workers celebrate more than Labor Day

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Churning out General Electric dishwashers, the assembly line is a demonstration of the power of prayer.
Each worker earned a $100 bonus for 103 consecutive days of perfect production at GE’s Louisville, Ky., plant. Not everyone on the line believes in God. But the second shift that earned the award is where GE’s employee prayer groups originated. Since 1981, participants say, they have led to salvations, healings and positive changes at work.
“People who transfer in from other buildings talk about the difference they see here,” said Danny Lewis, noting the presence of many Christians on his line has led some to label it “the Bible belt.”
“When people need prayer they know where to go,” said Lewis, an Assembly of God church member. “We’ve seen the hand of God move in a number of ways. I think prayer groups in the workplace are important.”
Judy Holbrook said the groups will “forever be special” because they led her to salvation in the early ’80s. While she accepted Christ as her Savior at a church, her spiritual search began on the job.
The sessions have strengthened her faith and made her bolder, she said, by giving her the opportunity to lead Bible studies and discussions.
“I can’t tell you what it means to me to have a group every day during (break) where I can go and pray and learn,” said Holbrook, who attends a nondenominational church.
“It’s built a strong foundation in me. We’ve seen people come closer to the Lord and help others be able to share their testimony.”
Noah Vance, a 31-year employee of GE, said the first group began through the efforts of a bivocational African American pastor who is now retired.
Since then at least five others started throughout the plant, he said, as some employees transferred to other divisions. But the 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. shift can’t take credit for all of them, he laughed: “I think God had something to do with that.”
The spiritual emphasis even affects those who don’t attend, said Vance, a member of a Separate Baptist church. He said before the prayer groups existed alcoholism was a problem in his building and others. “There’s been a big change over the years, but it doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve seen people that were really into sin that God delivered. That’s a highlight, to see people move from sin to salvation.”
Another is tangible expressions of faith. One time an employee was in danger of losing his job after repeated absences, Lewis recounted. After the company and union officials were unable to get him to visit a doctor, they asked Lewis and co-worker Tom Allen to intervene. It took two visits to convince the man to go. When the medication prescribed by the physician didn’t help, they checked him in to a mental health center.
The man had been suffering from a chemical imbalance in his brain, Lewis said, and though upset at first about the long-term treatment he later thanked them. Today he is back on the job.
“It’s not so much what we do but what God does through us,” Lewis said. “People will come to the group for counsel when they need it.”
The prayer groups use various formats. Some rotate leaders for prayer and Scripture studies, while others rely on one teacher. One group discusses a daily devotion distributed over the company’s e-mail system.
Attendance ranges from a handful to more than a dozen, although as many as 50 have attended some meetings. Daily turnouts were higher, for example, during the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91.
In the building where dishwashers are manufactured, the noises of the mammoth line grind so loudly the company issues workers earplugs as well as safety glasses and shoes.
Inside the meeting rooms the company makes available for prayer, the atmosphere is much different. Lewis recalled a woman who came to ask for prayer for her granddaughter, who was suffering from cancer.
Her granddaughter went to the doctor a few days after they prayed and the physician couldn’t find any cancer in her body. Yet after that, the woman never returned.
“I thought, ‘Man, if God did that for me, you couldn’t keep me out of the prayer group,'” said Lewis.
Allen, a deacon at Louisville’s Clifton Baptist Church and graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is pleased the groups have drawn from a diverse group of denominations but remained centered on faith in Christ.
“They keep you focused on God,” Allen said. “It keeps me in close fellowship with him and other Christians.”
While the groups don’t maintain any prayer logs or records of salvations and healings, Vance has seen the sessions affect people in many ways.
After coming for six months, one man who was a deacon in his church confessed he had lived one way at home and a different way at work. Saying it had changed his life, he told the group he was now the same person everywhere.
“Things like that are really satisfying,” Vance said.
Holbrook said the good that has emerged from this lay-led effort demonstrates what can be accomplished by ordinary church members.
“People don’t realize how much light can penetrate the work place,” she said. “You don’t need a lot of people, just a handful to pray, study the Bible and give testimonies. It makes a difference.”

    About the Author

  • Ken Walker