ATC4S Prayer Tent Ministers to Community
For the staff and residents of the Adult & Teen Challenge of the Four States
(ATC4S), in Neosho, Missouri, life as they knew it — just as so many people have experienced — has come to a shuddering halt. But the one thing that continues more than ever is prayer. And now their prayers are involving their community.
The COVID-19 pandemic means the “family” of about 20 residents currently at the ATC4S, stay on site — no longer able to go on ministry outings, meet with pastors, or provide assistance when needed. Staff members are permitted off campus to acquire essentials, but for the most part, they are living a “lock down” existence.
Zach Norris, 33, is the director of Program Development for the Neosho facility as well as for a Missouri women and children’s facility in Clark, Missouri.
Norris, himself a 2013 U.S. Missions Adult & Teen Challenge
graduate, explains that the lock down has not been easy as the staff and residents are used to being out in the community and ministering. However, he explains that Kathie Lowans, the Corporate Women’s director, came up with an idea to keep the men involved in the community as well as use a proven ministry technique — prayer.
At the end of ACT4S driveway, a “prayer tent” canopy has been set up to cover a table that provides a lockbox, pens, paper, and a note of explanation. Through a Facebook
announcement, a notification on the Chamber of Commerce’s website, and an article in the local paper, community members have been invited to stop by and fill out a prayer request and slip it into the box.
“We also made signs and stuck them in the yard next to the road, encouraging people to pray,” Norris says. “And every day at noon, we pray over the prayer requests we have received.”
Neosho is a rural community of about 12,000 and the ATC4S center is located on a rural highway with few neighbors. Yet, even though the prayer canopy has been up only a few days, they’ve already had more than a half-dozen people come by to fill out prayer requests.
Glen Nichols is a 58-year-old intern at the campus. Part of his responsibilities is to care for the prayer canopy — taking it down in bad weather, putting it back up in good. He also makes sure supplies are available and collects the requests from the prayer box.
“I’m a bit older than the average graduate/intern,” Nichols says. “Our prayer stop here has shown me the power and need for prayer and how God provides . . . But even if nobody had stopped, we would still have our prayer stop up for just that one person who does (have a prayer request).”
Norris says that the prayer requests ATC4S have received are all of a serious nature.
“Folks are worried about careers, jobs, loved ones,” he says. “One request was from a family who was worried about having enough money to cover this month’s rent and the possibility of being out on the streets.”
Yet for the men of ATC4S, no prayer request is too daunting. Many have already personally witnessed God answer “impossible” prayers of deliverance in their own lives. When they pray, they know and believe that God hears and will answer.
However, praying for others’ difficulties and needs isn’t all these men are challenged with. In addition to continuing to allow God to heal them of their addictions, the COVID-19 essential-travel-only and gathering restrictions means that residents can only connect with family online.
“I think the men have seen the power of prayer and realize that even when they can’t be at home physically, they can be strong and be men and still help carry the burdens of their families and community through prayer,” Norris says. “They see that prayer is an action word, a verb, enabling them to feel confident and useful knowing they’re making an impact.”
In addition to praying for their community, recently Norris has been delivering care packages to some of ATC4S’s elderly local donors.
“Kathie is at home with her husband, Jim (who oversees Central and Southwest Missouri Adult and Teen Challenge and Global Teen Challenge in Asia/Pacific). She’s been cooking and baking, so I get to call these elderly saints and set up a time to drop the packages off on their steps. Honestly, I think they’re just happy to have someone to talk to.”
In reflecting on the opportunity to pray for their community, Norris says it has been encouraging for them as well. ATC4S’s mission statement is: Putting hope within reach of every addict. But recently, for the men and staff, their mission has included putting God in sight of their community.
Nichols sums it up simply, stating, “I hope our stop reminds people that God loves them and hears their prayers.”