See You at the Pole prayers include pleas for strength

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Under an ominous early morning sky, Jackson High School sophomore Aaron Oberle and senior Jared Rouggly unloaded sound equipment from the back of a pickup in preparation for a prayer service near the school entrance.

Rouggly looked to the heavens. "I pray it doesn't rain," he said.

And it never did.

Students all over the country woke up a few minutes early Wednesday so they could celebrate See You at the Pole, the 11th annual national day of student prayer.

Some students arrived right at the scheduled 7 a.m. start time while others trickled in as the morning progressed. By 8 a.m., more than 100 students had gathered around the half-staff flag in front of Jackson High's main entrance to hold hands and pray together.

The scene was repeated at schools across the region and nation.

Jackson High School principal Richard McClard said the school sponsors Fellowship of Christian Athletes and New Life, both programs for young Christians, but schools around the country do not sponsor See You at the Pole. The day is totally organized by the students, he said.

Oberle, who has participated in See You at the Pole since junior high school, looks forward to the day every year because it is a time when students can come together and pray openly at school. He predicted this year would bring more people because of the terrorist attacks on America, and he was right.

Although no one had an exact count of how many people attended last year, many said this year's crowd was larger.

"I was amazed at how many people came out," said Rouggly. "It was definitely more than the last two years. God is awesome."

As students stood around the flag, onlookers in cars passed by with radios blaring and motors rumbling. And while some drivers paused for a moment to look at the group, the noise of the traffic and the talk of the other students arriving at school didn't stop those who, with heads bowed, held hands and prayed.

Many prayed for strength in this time of tragedy and asked for help in sharing their faith with classmates.

After each of the students had said their prayers, sophomore Melissa Walters offered her testimonial. She told the group she had been trapped in the life of a sinner. She said when she took her problems to the cross and laid them at the foot of the Lord, she no longer felt the guilt she once had. Walters challenged the students to "come to the foot of the cross with all of your burdens, because there is no freedom until you do that."

A few minutes before school was to begin, several students came forward to rededicate their life as a Christian or to accept Christ as their savior for the first time. The students wrapped up the service with a prayer for the nation and the people affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Cape Girardeau gatherings

Phillip Davidson, a youth pastor at Lynwood Baptist Church, said about 85 students, parents and teachers gathered in Cape Girardeau outside Central High School and about 60 gathered outside L.J. Schultz School.

Davidson said the terrorist attacks intensified the need for prayer. Wednesday's event marked the first time in his 18 years in the ministry that he witnessed a prayer day held around a flag at half-staff.

See You at the Pole Day began in 1990 in Burleson, Texas, as a day for students to ask God to bring a moral and spiritual awakening to their campuses and countries. In 2000, more than 2 million students met around flag poles in all 50 states and in many countries including Canada, Germany, Ireland and Brazil.

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