Prayer Commission walks the “Quarter,” meets with ministry leaders
John Maempa, Recording Secretary, PCCNA Prayer Commission
In the middle of the morning session of the Prayer Commission meeting at PCCNA on February 20, members boarded a couple of vans and made their way to prayer walk New Orleans’ famed French Quarter. Doug Small, Commission Chairman, had stated early on, “We cannot meet in New Orleans without taking time to pray for the city.”
Arriving in the Quarter, we were met by prayer walk coordinator, Ben Comer of Giving Hope, New Orleans, and member of Saints Community Church pastored by Wayne and Kristi Northrup. After introductions of Commission members and New Orleans ministry leaders, Commission members were divided into teams of three or four and joined with ministry leaders. A prayer guide was distributed to each person listing issues such as homelessness, human trafficking, domestic violence, hunger and poverty, gambling, substance abuse, crime, witchcraft and voodoo, and tarot card readers. Targeted prayers were listed on the back of the sheet. Clearly, the needs and challenges in the Quarter and across New Orleans are monumental. With this information in hand, we began our prayer walk.
Walking only a short distance, evidence of the challenges became readily apparent. Voodoo shops offering merchandise and “voodoo tours” were numerous as were tarot card reading shops and booths. Homeless people were sleeping on the streets. An atmosphere of spiritual darkness and hopelessness prevailed. As we walked, we prayed, often in the Spirit, for there are times when it is impossible to articulate the need with our own understanding.
Upon returning to our meeting place and having lunch together, Commission members shared impressions and areas of prayer focus; for example, praying that strongholds would be broken, and unlike a hurricane’s destructive force, that a powerful flood of God’s presence would overflow the city. Others observed the obvious spiritual hunger and emptiness evidenced by the voodoo shops and tarot card readers; a deep spiritual void that can be filled only by the Holy Spirit’s presence. Another prayed that God would raise up sidewalk prophets who would declare His truth and love with wisdom and authority. Still another prayed that the sounds of praise and worship would resonate throughout the city of music.
In the midst of the spiritual darkness and hopelessness, we gratefully learned of people and ministries that are piercing the darkness with Christ’s love, compassion, and care. Dr. Kay Bennett, executive director of Baptist Friendship House, focuses ministry on hurting and homeless people and those caught up in sexual trafficking. “We open our doors to the brokenhearted, helpless, and homeless to come in and hear about Jesus’ love,” she said. An important part of the ministry is to help break the vicious cycle of homelessness. “We don’t just put band aids on problems, but help people become self-sufficient,” she added.
Kay also works closely with the Human Trafficking Hotline in Washington D.C., the FBI, Homeland Security, and local law enforcement in dealing with human trafficking. “When we become aware of trafficked victims, we pick them up and try to meet their needs through getting them home or into a treatment program or helping them find a safe place at Friendship House until further help can be given,” she stated. When law enforcement agencies are doing special operations, they allow Kay to be part of their command center. “This tells you how big an issue trafficking is when law enforcement allows a missionary to come in and be a part of that,” Kay stated.
Jim Gerhardt, executive director of Urban Impact New Orleans, provided a snapshot of the greater New Orleans area. “Much of the city is still struggling through racial divide and socio-economic divide,” he stated. He also noted that in one area, 80 percent of the houses are torn down or are still vacant following Hurricane Katrina and that some 52 percent of African-American males age 16 and above are unemployed. The needs are tremendous. Through Urban Impact, children and youth are being helped through sports activities, Bible studies, study groups, summer camps, and more. An important goal is to provide a safe place for children to ride their bikes without fear. “Not one kid who comes to our youth group doesn’t personally know someone who has been murdered,” Gerhardt stated. Such tremendous needs exist that we often take for granted. “We need to stop driving around ‘Samerica’ on our way to the airport to fly to another country” Gerhardt stated, “we need to seek the welfare of the cities where we live.”
Ministering to the university community is Morgan Smith’s priority as Chi Alpha campus pastor at Tulane University, one of nine college level institutions in New Orleans. “Our vision is to reconcile students to Christ transforming the university into a marketplace for reaching the world,” Smith stated. “Countries from all over the world are in our backyard,” she added. Many countries are closed to preaching the gospel; so, reaching students for Christ is key to reaching those parts of the world. Also, through Chi Alpha, students who attend from our churches are being raised up to be leaders who impact other students for Christ.
A concluding reflection was shared by Wayne Northup, pastor of Saints Community Church. Relating his personal journey, he noted that while a student at North Central University, Minneapolis, MN, he was invited to be part of a mission trip to New Orleans. “God wrecked me that week,” he said. God poured into him a love for the city. Though he served a number of years in fruitful ministry as an evangelist, Northup led outreaches in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras celebrations. “I knew that eventually God would ask Kristi and me to move to New Orleans to minister.”
“When we came seven years ago with 23 others who joined us, we began the most exciting and hardest journey of our lives.” He and his team were turned away 53 times in trying to find a venue in which to meet as a church. That was followed by an intense physical struggle for Wayne as he fought high fever, pneumonia, multiple hospitalizations and operations, and a rare lung disease. Northup states that at one point in that journey God spoke to him saying, “You have only known 50 percent of Me. Up to now you have known the power of my resurrection; now you will know the fellowship of my suffering.”
“This started a new relationship with Jesus and with the city,” Northup stated. “I saw New Orleans as a city of hurting people that need hope. I also understood that I needed to rely much more on Christ and spend more time in prayer.”
Northup implored the Commission members to please pray for all who are on the front lines in New Orleans, to connect with the sufferings on the local churches and other ministries. “God has called us all to reach the city,” he concluded. We all can partner through prayer and care to see this happen.
Following the presentations, Doug Small invited participants to lead in prayer for one another in all the endeavors that are in place to reach our cities and our world for Christ.
NOLA Ministry Leaders Contact Information
Pastor Wayne & Kristi Northup
Saints Community Church
Address: 123 N. Lester Ave, Metairie, LA 70003
Mail: 5000 W. Esplanade Ave., Suite 217, Metairie, LA 70006
Giving Hope New Orleans
Chi Alpha Campus Pastor