Finding strength through prayer

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 2, 2008

JACKSON – It was union between God and country.

On Thursday, various local church officials, war veterans and residents gathered together to recognize National Day of Prayer at Jackson’s Courthouse Square.

With Old Glory’s colors on display, participants listened to speeches by pastors, reverends and veterans as well as musical performances.

National Day of Prayer has a long history in the nation; the first Continental Congress called for the earliest National Day of Prayer in 1775. However, the event was not set in stone until 1952 when President Harry Truman signed a joint resolution into law.

Today, National Day of Prayer is held all across the nation on the first Thursday in May.

This year’s theme was “Prayer! America’s Strength & Shield,” focusing on honoring the military.

“Where ever they are right now we send our prayers…especially to those in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Pastor Paul Lee of the United Methodist Church in Jackson. “May God bless them abundantly.”

Northampton County Veterans’ Office Director Jeff Futrell recalled how he planned his remarks for the event while packing items to move to a new office. He said as he removed his American Flag from the former office’s wall he thought of his own time serving in the military.

He said it meant a lot to him as well as those who served before him, to those serving now and to those that will serve.

“It doesn’t matter your political views,” he said. “Keep them and everyone else in your thoughts and prayers.”

Veteran Steve Jackson from VFW Post 4312 in Seaboard spoke of the challenges veterans and current soldiers often face, including physical and mental scars.

“Unfortunately, we have to have wars to keep our country safe…The greatest thing you can do is serve God, but another great thing you can do is serve your country,” said Jackson. “Next time you see a veteran you need to tell him or her ‘thank you’.”

Duncan Jones also spoke of his time in the military and the demands soldiers often arise to.

“(The military is) is a force, almost strangely enough, will do what is asked of them,” he said.

Reverend Mark Barfield of Mount Hope Missionary Baptist Church spoke of the need for the nation to get back to God and to “continue to pray for this” and the uncertainties the nation faces today.

“For it’s times like these that we realized what unity is about,” he said. “Despite political beliefs we are all in the same boat.”

Reverend Willie McLawhorn of Conway Baptist Church addressed the reservations Christianity is met with by many Americans.

“I stand here today and I cannot tell you what the future holds, but I can tell you who holds the future,” said McLawhorn. “Be proud and pray to the God who made us.”

McLawhorn also spoke of how war has become personal, noting both he and Jackson Police Chief John Young both have sons serving in the military.

Reverend Mary Powell of Faith Temple noted how prayer can unify people, even if “we all might not come from the same walk of life, same side of the tracks or go to the same school.” She also noted how prayer can help the troops.

“Prayer gives them strength,” she said. “Because they need divine protection and guidance.”

Northampton County Department of Social Services Director and veteran Dr. Al Wentzy wrapped up comments from the speakers.

Wentzy spoke of the diverse types of veterans who have returned from war, from “the cop on the beach” to the “parade riding legioner.”

“They were and are America,” said Wentzy. “They were and truly are a peoples’ army.”

He also noted the local efforts to honor veterans from the placement of flags on veterans’ graves and the nearing completion of the Conway War Veterans’ Park.

“Not everyone has a calling to the military,” said Wentzy. “Everyone should answer the calling to be a good citizen.”