By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
Student-led prayer was the main focus on the final Wednesday in September.
Whether they gathered in a group of two or as many as 400, the students’ mission was the same – pray for their families, friends, nation and school in the 23rd annual See You At The Pole.
Started in 1990 with 10 students praying at their school in Texas, the grass roots movement has spread to thousands of campuses worldwide. Millions of students in public and private schools and colleges gather each year to pray on the fourth Wednesday of every September around their respective flagpoles.
Grant Phillips was one of the more than 100 students who gathered to pray before the school day began at Alfred M. Barbe High School in Lake Charles. The senior from the school and member of Sale Street Baptist Church in Lake Charles said seeing his fellow classmates gather for prayer was a moving experience.
“Today God moved in the hearts of teenagers,” Phillips said. “Brokenness over sin should be the driving force of our everyday lives. Our schools are not merely a sea of faces, but a place of God’s children.
“Students were realizing the burdens of their classmates,” he continued. “A need for change was identified. A need for a Savior is the answer. A mighty movement begins with a seemingly humble beginning. That beginning is prayer.”
At Berwick High School, which is located west of Houma, Cari Powell was among the 80 students who turned out at her school flagpole. Powell, a junior and member at Bayou Vista Baptist Church in Morgan City, said a prayer for her teachers and sang the National Anthem.
“See You At The Pole really means a lot to me,” Powell said. “Not only do I get to get together with Christians from my school to pray, but those people from my school who aren’t Christians get to see me pray and know that I’m a Christian! It holds me accountable to my faith. I also marvel at the thought of thousands of Christian students gathering all over the country for the same reason I am.”
Meanwhile, the campus of Buckeye High and Buckeye Junior High School in Deville was one of many locations in Central Louisiana where students met to pray. More than 300 students gathered at Buckeye for SYATP ceremonies.
Further north, around 400 students met to pray at Forest High School. Goodwill Baptist Church in Oak Grove and Forest Baptist Church provided donuts and orange juice for those in attendance.
Jay Avance, pastor at Forest Baptist, was encouraged to see so many students turning out to pray. Avance said he witnessed 2 Chronicles 7:14 – the theme verse for See You At The Pole – in action that day.
“They not only believe that scripture but they live it out,” he said. “This is one of the few places that I have pastored where I have seen a turnout like this for See You At The Pole. This is a great testimony to this community and the families who live there.”
For their part, 75 students assembled around the flagpole at Franklin Academy in Winnsboro. Chloe Wolleson, a student and member of First Baptist Winnsboro, came away energized.
“I really loved getting to worship and pray with my school,” Wolleson said. “Can’t wait until next year.”
In Monroe, around 60 students attending the morning prayer gathering at Ouachita Parish High School. A local church band led in songs of praise and three Fellowship of Christian Student officers shared thoughts.
Kendrick Banks, youth minister at First Baptist Church Monroe, said he was impressed to see students articulate the gospel with such authenticity, urgency and compassion.
“Altogether it was a solid presentation of the gospel and how it is always relevant,” Banks said. “Their point was it brings life to all who believe.
“It should continue to work in us even beyond salvation, so we need to hear it often,” Banks said. “Furthermore, we must not be ashamed, as read from Romans 1:16. They finished by issuing a charge for the students present to be witnesses to the lost students in their school.”
Prayer in the morning was not the only See You At The Pole gathering held in the state. Several Louisiana Baptist churches hosted a Saw You At The Pole later that evening.
Churches hosting such event included Crockett Point Baptist Church in Crowville, with 280 students from seven churches attending; Kingsville Baptist Church in Ball, with 80 students from four Central Louisiana churches attending; and Grand Cane Baptist Church, with 275 students from nine churches in attendance.
First West Monroe hosted an event to coincide with See You At The Pole called Impact. More than 1,600 students from 20 churches in the area attended the three-day annual youth event, including 900 on the Wednesday evening of See You At The Pole. Forty-five students made first-time decisions for Christ at the event on that Wednesday afternoon, which was sponsored by Northeast Louisiana Baptist Association.
Travis Roge, a student who is a member of Grand Cane Baptist Church, says the rally was the perfect ending to the day.
“I thought the rally was awesome,” Roge said. “I couldn’t stop smiling because there were so many kids. I had a lot of fun and saw old faces.”
John Carruth of First Priority in Shreveport, at the Saw You At the Pole at Grand Cane Baptist, told the students their school is their mission field.
“Nine months out of the year, you are on the mission field,” Caruth said. “It’s an incredible mission field in this country. God put you there to share the love of Christ.”