Prayer Walks Shift Focus to the Mission Field

Date Posted: 5/14/2015

Several churches have received an extra boost of encouragement and support from their district leaders recently.
When laity and district leaders participated in a prayer walk to the “hot spots” around McCabe Roberts Avenue (MCRA) UMC, they were not heading to the newest restaurant hangouts.  Rev. Rodney Graves shares, “We chose to walk to the hot spots defined as places which either: 1) represent areas where persons are crying/dying for help (i.e. involved in illicit/immoral activity) or, 2) represent areas where children and youth play.” Southeast District Leadership Team Prayer walkers included DS Dick White, John Warren, Wayne Flowers, Tom Abbage, Pastor Rodney Graves, Michael Matthews, Robert Plair, and son.  
Adds Rodney, “At the combined Core Leadership Team (CLT) and District Leadership Teams (DLT) 2014 fall meeting, Bishop Huie gave each district a challenge to adopt a church in their respective districts to nominate and support in the VCI process. We were chosen to be a part of that Project Hope which is designed for churches who have the potential to participate in Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI). Participation in VCI will happen as our congregational attendance increases.”

“It was a fantastic experience meeting neighbors and business people and offering to pray with them,” District Superintendent Dick White shares. “It was this kind of breakthrough prayer that opened my eyes to see this neighborhood differently. I saw its potential rather than its decay, and we talked excitedly about what could happen if we opened ourselves up more to the spirit of God.”
To complement McCabe’s active outreach ministry, the DLT decided that a neighborhood prayer walk could bless both the community and God's kingdom-building process at MCRA. Pastor Rodney shares, “McCabe is very connected to the people in our neighborhood and viewed as the ‘people's’ church -- even for many young people who do not attend MCRA. One of the desired outcomes is that neighborhood residents who appreciate our community presence but have no church home would find our church to be a place where their faith can be nurtured.” 

McCabe UMC’s current community outreach includes a community garden, an initiative called Ben’s Kids that ministers to at-risk students, and plans to begin tutoring elementary school students this fall. Shares Rodney, “As we proceeded on our prayer walk, two young men who are newcomers to our fellowship decided to join us on the last leg of our journey. We stopped in a neighborhood store and prayed with the owner who was feeling stressed; that moment of prayer gave her some relief and further connected us to the people in our mission field.”
In the Southwest District, leaders gathered to walk the community around Mission Bend UMC, pastored by Rev. Josh Hale. District Superintendent Jay Jackson says, “It was a powerful experience to eat lunch with our district pastors, DLT members and representatives from the Mission Bend congregation, who made prayer squares to remind everyone to keep them lifted in prayer.” Collectively, the prayer warriors focused on area schools, businesses, law enforcement and government officials, and local apartments and subdivisions.
Adds Jay, “We split into four groups led by Mission Bend laity who gave us a tour of their facility and talked about their changing mission field.  At the end of the tour, we shared prayers for the church and the mission field, as well as prayed for our guides and the ministry of the congregation in this unique place. I was personally touched by the faithfulness and dedication of this congregation in an extremely challenging mission field that is in the midst of massive transitions.”
Prayer walks provide a unique external perspective of the immediate mission field for church members and visitors. Pastor Rodney describes this as a special opportunity to act on the words of John Wesley, "The world is my parish.”