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Town prays for rain to ease 4-year drought

SHELBY, N.C. (BP)–After four years of drought conditions and recent mandatory water restrictions, the town of Shelby, N.C., gathered to pray for God to send rain.

The mayors of Shelby and neighboring King’s Mountain declared Aug. 22 a “Day of Prayer for Drought Relief,” gathering at Bethel Baptist Church in Shelby with more than 400 local citizens to ask God’s blessing of rain on the land.

One man prayed, “Any rain that’s going to come is going to come from you,” the Shelby Star reported. Someone else acknowledged that God is able to send rain but prayed that he would be willing.

Kneeling at the altar, in the pews or at a microphone, people also asked forgiveness for taking water for granted in the past and prayed for God to send spiritual rain on the community.

Since the day of prayer, the community has had four days of rain and expects three more.

“We’re thankful for whatever God gives us,” said Larry Franks, associate pastor at Bethel Baptist Church. “We would have to have good rain for several months to even be close to getting back to the starting point.”

Franks went on to explain that they have to appropriately handle the way God answers prayer because some would say the praying didn’t work well enough.

“When we walk outside after praying for rain and it’s not raining, people question. Then after these days of rain, people might say it’s not enough. But we realize God is in control, and we’re willing to take whatever he gives us,” Franks said.

As of Aug. 26, the water in the First Broad River, Shelby’s main water source, was flowing 2.25 inches over the dam, which is estimated at a rate of 10 million gallons a day. With mandatory restrictions including no watering of lawns, no washing cars, no filling swimming pools and even limited use of drinking water in restaurants, the city used 3.4 million gallons of water Aug. 25.

The city of Shelby had been purchasing water from the owner of a large lake and from neighboring King’s Mountain, but that town is also experiencing emergency conditions.

Both mayors chose on their own initiative to invite the cities to gather in prayer for rain, and their decision drew criticism from those who believed it was unacceptable for elected officials to be involved in a religious issue.

Others say it’s no different than declaring a National Day of Prayer.

“We thank you for these leaders, for their boldness and backbone to take a stand for Christ,” one man prayed, according to the Shelby Star. People also prayed for a hedge of protection around the mayors as they faced opposition. During the 20-minute prayer meeting held from 12:20-12:40 p.m. to accommodate people on their lunch breaks, those gathered prayed for people to cross denominational and racial lines in order to join as brothers and sisters in Christ united for one purpose — seeking rain. They also used 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” as a guide, according to the Shelby Star.

In nearby Boiling Springs, home of Gardner-Webb University, the nearly 2,200 students arriving on campus for the beginning of a new semester were advised of the mandatory water restrictions and encouraged to use water sparingly for showers and washing clothes and dishes. The athletic department continued to irrigate fields but pumped the water on an as-needed basis from a lake located on campus.

While irrigating the fields might seem unnecessary to some, athletic director Chuck Burch said if fields are not irrigated, the ground could clump and cause injury to athletes, according to the Shelby Star. The athletic department also faces challenges in conserving water because extreme heat makes it necessary for players to drink lots of water, and practice uniforms and gear must be washed in order to kill germs, Burch said, but they are mindful of conservation needs.

The cafeteria at the school is using paper plates and cups, and students are not using trays in order to reduce the times the dishwasher is used. School officials say they will continue the restrictions until there is no longer a major water shortage in the county.

“The only way we can get out of this thing,” Franks said, “is for God to come through.”

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  • Erin Curry