From sunrise on the East Coast to sunset on the Aleutian Islands, the National Day of Prayer brought people from multiple denominations to flag poles around the country. In Eagle River, a few dozen of the faithful gathered at noon on May 4 near a small American flag fastened with duct tape to a pole in the Eagle River Town Square Park.
Pastor Gracie Jackson of Grace Community Mission and Until That Day Churches welcomed participants to the prayer circle. A slight breeze stirred the flag as the sun appeared from behind the morning clouds, warming the voices that were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Jackson is the executive director of Love, Inc., the local nonprofit, faith-based organization annually sponsoring the Eagle River prayer event. The name Love, Inc. is the acronym for Love In the Name of Christ.
“I always get excited for Prayer Day,’’ said Jackson. She was pleased to see new people show up for this year’s prayer service.
Virginia Marquez, a volunteer with Love, Inc., noted that many people who live in Eagle River actually work in Anchorage and most likely attended noon prayer services closer to work.
High school students and staff at various schools gathered around the flagpole in the early hours before school begins.
Dr. Hildon Guy of Until That Day Church said the number of people attending was similar to previous years. Guy read the Proclamation and gave a prayer for education and the media.
Prayers were raised for community businesses, the church, and the government. Quiet exclamations of “yes’ and “amen” filtered through as other raised their hands upward in praise.
Deacon Lisa Munson, a veteran of the U.S. military service and member of Eagle River Missionary Baptist Church, prayed for the safety and peace for the military, their missions and their families. She noted the sacrifices made by service members and their families and the need for constant watch.
The United States Congress designated the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer, asking people to “turn to God in prayer and mediation.” The most recent version of the law was formalized in 1952. As can be expected, a law involving a religious element is rife with contention. The constitutionality of the event was challenged in Court in 2011, but the attempt was dismissed.
Each year the president proclaims the day a National Day of Prayer with an executive order. President Trump did so this year.
Munson said there are 19 church partners in Eagle River. Each church has a ministry liaison with Love, Inc.
Love, Inc, a branch of the national organization, was started in Eagle River in 2007. The group follows a collaborative vision to assist those in need in the Chugiak-Eagle River community. Most requests for assistance go through a clearinghouse type process. Several days a week, intake volunteers listen to callers with needs, take notes and offer a prayer with the caller. According to their website, volunteers then verify the needs and match the Neighbor in Need with resources.
Jackson noted that the organization matches the need with volunteers and local resources that can help the situation with requests that range from a family in need of clothing, food or housing to assistance paying a bill.
Resources are usually local, and some are in coordination with other organizations. Often the solution is helping the caller connect with programs and organizations specializing in specific areas such as discounted prescription services, translators who can help a non-English speaking spouses understand medical needs of their injured soldier and groups who gather school supplies.
Marquez, a member of St. Andrews Church, coordinates the annual Love, Inc. Thanksgiving blessing in cooperation with the Food Bank of Alaska Eagle River location.
The need for volunteers and donations has increased as Love, Inc. sees increasing challenges of a struggling economy and a rising opioid epidemic in the community.
More information about getting involved, a list of participating churches and examples of success stories can be found at the Love, Inc website: www.loveincofeagleriver.org.
Editor’s Note: Gretchen Wehmhoff is a member of the ECHO News team, a longtime resident of Chugiak and a former journalism teacher at Chugiak High School.