Pleasant Hill, (population 5,665) sits quietly in a verdant section of the state of Oregon, just south of Eugene. To call it a sleepy little community might be a bit over-dramatic. Lots of good people live there; not many of them make headlines.
That is until Monday morning, March 2, 2009. A few minutes after the little bank on Highway 58 opened its door, three masked gunmen entered and threatened the staff and customers. Chaos ensued; the robbers shouted violent demands, forced everyone to the floor, scooped up an undetermined amount of cash and fled.
Although no one was injured, the entire town of Pleasant Hill was stunned; understandably the bank employees were traumatized. The students of a local Christian school – Emerald Christian Academy (ECA) – wanted to express their concern so they pooled their resources, bought a huge bouquet of flowers and with a card signed by every student, delivered them to the bank.
Peace began to return to Pleasant Hill. But three weeks later, March 26, it was like a movie re-run, a sequel. The same three thugs entered the same bank, went through the same routine and escaped. Pleasant Hill was in shock.
The students of ECA came together to think and pray about what had happened to their precious hometown. They decided they couldn’t just do nothing. But what? What could a bunch of kids do to help heal wounds that ran this deep?
As they talked and prayed they sensed God birthing a plan in their hearts. They chose the date of Tuesday, April 7, and began to circulate the word. They would invite the whole city to a time of praise and prayer in the parking lot beside the bank. Other students, pastors, teachers, business folks, local bank staff and regional bank administrators joined together. They sang. And they prayed…for strength, for healing for the bank staff and community, peace for their village, and for the capture and repentance of the three guilty robbers.
As I watched that story unfold I sensed some powerful take-aways. One of the most insistent was this: Our kids can be some of the most intrepid pray-ers in our congregations. Let’s make sure they learn to see themselves as part of the spiritual resources God makes available to our communities.
Let them pray (and sing) at the senior center where you go to cheer up the residents. Let a couple of them meet with the elders before the worship service, to pray for the pastor’s message. Make sure there’s a teen on your Church Board. Send a delegation to the Mayor’s office to pray. Assign a couple of them to pray in the school parking lot as parents drop off their kids. Imagine what it might mean for God’s kingdom agenda if there would arise among us a generation of praying kids.
By Don Jacobsen