Community gathers to pray for soldiers, nation's leaders

By Abby Morris
Star Staff

   More than one hundred members of the Elizabethton community gathered together Monday night at First Baptist Church to bow their heads in prayer and ask God to care for the soldiers who are fighting in Iraq, to help the leaders of our nation, and to protect the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan.
   Brent Seals, pastor of First Baptist Church, 212 East F St., said he began calling other area ministers on Friday to organize the service, which featured a community choir and an orchestra also made up of community members.
   Concern not only for the American people, but also the people of Iraq was the main reason Seals organized the service. "We wanted it to be a time we prayed for ourselves and also the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, people who are different from us, Muslim people," he said. "It was not a time to say 'look how great we are' but it was a time to pray for peace."
   The church held a similar service in 1991 when American troops, including the 776th Maintenance Company of the National Guard, were deployed to the Middle East.
   Many different pastors from the community spoke to those in attendance, offering them words of encouragement and hope as they read from the scriptures. Luis O'Bourke, pastor at Elizabethton Alliance Church, spoke to the crowd and read a verse from Psalms Chapter 27, "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?"
   Buford Hankins, pastor of First United Methodist Church, stated that many times he had found comfort in the Bible during troubled times. "If I could speak to each of our soldiers and their families I would point them to the scriptures because, in uncertain times, that's where we need to stand," he said.
   The pastor at Roan Street Church of God, Ken Bewley, reminded the audience to also pray for those people who live in Iraq and Afghanistan. He read the verse John 3:16 to those in attendance and reminded them that God intended those words for all people. "He just didn't mean that for America and he just didn't mean Israel, but he meant the whole world," he said.
   Many of the pastors who spoke prayed for a quick end to the fighting. "We pray that you preserve life and let the casualties be a minimum," said O'Bourke as he lead the audience in prayer. Prayers were also said for the American soldiers who are currently being held as prisoners of war.