When I was a teenager and just beginning to think about the possibility of getting my first car, I remember that when you talked about tires, you talked about Akron. Four of the biggest tire manufacturing companies in the world headquartered there, 58,000 people worked in the factories, and the smell of hot rubber hung pervasively over the city. By any measure, Akron, Ohio, was the rubber capital of the world.
Over time the major companies would merge, diversify and move on, but for a century tire production was the signature product of Akron. History records that the industry was strong but not peaceful. Labor and management were constantly at odds; annual wage talks almost inevitably led to disruptive and brutal strikes.
Until one day… Until Ron Blosser, president of the National City Bank of Akron, called together a group of business, church, and professional leaders and told them he thought the time had come for the community to come together and pray. Most of the group was startled. And skeptical. To announce that there would be a prayer breakfast comprised primarily of labor-management types could be divisive and maybe even explosive. But no one had a better idea, so the plan was reluctantly born and the date set: Thanksgiving weekend, 1987.
In spite of the 12” snowfall overnight, the next morning the Tangier, Akron’s largest meeting hall, was filled to capacity. A music group from one of the area churches sang. Several pastors prayed. One urged that a spirit of forgiveness might fill the place. One pastor invited the attendees to “pray for someone at work you don’t like.” Dr. Gordon Werkema, president of the local college, led in a time of thanksgiving that the community could come together and learn to love their neighbors as themselves. A twenty-minute talk followed, urging workers and managers alike to respect and value each other. At the close, the entire group of 500 rose and sang, “How Great Thou Art.” For the first time in history the unions and management settled their contact negotiations that year well before the December 31 deadline.
The New Testament narrative reminds us that after we come together and pray, everything is different. So, a question: Any ill will between your congregation and conference leaders? Between your church Board and school Board? How about between your church Board and your pastor/s? Anybody in your church you don’t like? Or maybe there’s some distance between you and your spouse? I urge you to put God to the test and let Him show how your church/home can be both strong and peaceful.
By Don Jacobsen