At the pole, students gather to pray

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2011

At Nansemond River High School, students (from left) Caitlyn Rucker, Kendall Duke, Cody Edwards and Haley Maddrey bow their heads in prayer during the See You at the Pole prayer rally at the school, one of several held around Suffolk before school on Wednesday.

Hundreds of youth and adults gathered around flagpoles at schools all over Suffolk before school on Wednesday for the annual See You at the Pole prayer rally.

They came in cars, trucks and buses, and one group of adults, the FAITH Riders from Southside Baptist Church, even showed up on motorcycles and in full riding gear.

Upon arriving at the participating schools, students dropped backpacks on grass or sidewalks, walked up and joined loose circles of Christians with heads bowed, hands raised and voices lifted to heaven, crying out for God’s blessing on schools, on communities and on their nation.

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“We’re the youth of this generation, so if we just sit around and don’t spread the word of Jesus how it is going to be spread?” Nansemond River High School sophomore Allyn Letourneau asked. “It’s important we spread the word of Jesus and give people prayer because they need it.”

Letourneau attends The City Life Church in Newport News, just one of many churches represented by youth and the adults who came to support them and join them in prayer.

The events began at high schools and middle schools in Suffolk at 7 a.m., but students joined in whenever they arrived, some walking straight from buses to the already assembled groups, where they prayed, sang and shared their testimonies until time to head inside for the school day.

Nansemond River had about two dozen students and adults participating. Lakeland High School, where members of Southside Baptist and Family Harvest Church had organized a major effort in support of the rally, had more than 100 people grouped around the flagpole as the sun rose over the trees in the neighborhood.

Family Harvest Youth Pastor Win Anderson led the Lakeland group in praise songs, and then everyone joined hands in prayer, with students and adults taking turns around the circle.

“You’re assembling a mighty crew of one more and one more and one more,” Anderson told the group.

“We’re just showing other people that we love Jesus,” said student Tavon Walker. “I was looking forward to this. People in China … die every day for their faith. I’m just so grateful we can do this.”

The numbers might have been smaller at Nansemond River, but the commitment was the same.

Suffolk Church of God youth leader Janet Bryant and her husband, Randy, attended the group to support one of the students who attends the church.

They prayed for the boldness to continue to show their faith and to continue to be examples for others, asking that God give the students “hearts of lions and spirits of dedication.”

“I really wanted to praise God and represent my church here at school,” freshman Cody Edwards said. “I wanted to come here and meet other Christians at school, so I can have a great group to talk to and invite them to my church.”

The event got its start in 1990, when a small group of teenagers in Burleson, Texas, were on a youth retreat together. Feeling compelled to pray for their friends, they drove to three different schools, gathered around the flagpoles and prayed.

In recent years, more than three million students from 20 countries have taken part.

Staff writer Emily Collins contributed to this report.