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Sep23WedA Salvation Army church gives new meaning to “special delivery.” September 23, 2015 by Ken Ramstead
Captain Tracy Savage was looking for inspiration. The co-pastor at The Salvation Army's Westminster Park church in London, Ont., Captain Tracy wanted a way to reach out to the wider community beyond the church's walls.
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- Faith & Friends
“I know there are people out there who are seeking God,” she says, “and they're looking for answers.”
As Captain Tracy idly browsed the Internet, she came across a photo posted by a church in Florida, of a prayer mailbox, where people could anonymously post prayer requests.
What an idea! she thought. This would be perfect for our community.
A church member who owns his own contracting company volunteered to construct it, even installing a cement base to make it tamper-proof.
“He was the one who came up with the prayer verse: 'The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective' (James 5:16),” says Captain Tracy. “He took the design I gave him and improved on my rough sketches.”
The prayer mailbox went up in April, though not without some growing pains.
“It took a couple of weeks to get it going because we had to deal with Canada Post,” smiles Captain Tracy. “They were confused with the presence of another mailbox on the premises. But once that was sorted out, the response was immediate. The word-of-mouth from our own church members was augmented by flyers and postcards we handed out at various community events.
“People with cancer to mental-health issues, families with children that have been taken away from them by Children's Aid, people who have lost their jobs as well as their hope—these are just some of the prayers that are coming in. The prayer requests are heartbreaking to read, but their hearts are reaching out to God.”
Between five and 20 requests come in through the prayer mailbox each week. When the prayers come in, the church's pastoral-care team alerts Captain Tracy. If they're anonymous, she'll post them on the church's Facebook page. If it's a specific request, the church's prayer team will pray about them during the Sunday-morning service.
Serving the Community
Most prayer requests are anonymous, but Captain Tracy was gratified when a lady approached her one day to thank her for praying for her grandchildren.
Recently, Captain Tracy was delivering a food hamper when a man with a guitar stopped her and said, “Oh, you're the lady with the prayer box! I dropped a prayer off.”
Right there and then, he proceeded to play her a tune he had written. Then, out of the blue, he said, “You know, you can pray for me now if you'd like.”
“And so I did,” says Captain Tracy. “It was a moving experience for me.”
Word of Westminster Park's success has spread, and a couple of other Salvation Army churches have installed their own prayer mailboxes, including one in Simcoe, Ont.
“We saw the London mailbox on Facebook and thought it was such a great idea, that we put up our own, after contacting Captain Tracy,” says the co-pastor, Captain Stephen Holland. “It's a great way for our corps to become more community focused.”
“With the community prayer box, we're showing our neighbourhood that we provide more than a food bank and thrift store,” states Captain Tracy. “We're telling them we're concerned about their spiritual lives as well.”