September 15, 2010

Pray 4U Ministry

 How are we going to assure our young adults who are away from home that we still care about them? A number of women in the Atholton Adventist Church in Columbia, Maryland, pondered this question three years ago. After much prayer and discussion, their answer was a “prayer and care” ministry, today called Pray4U.
“The Atholton Adventist Church historically is a place that values our children,” Linda Elliott, ministry organizer, says. “When the church began more than 50 years ago, the school was built first, then the gym, then the sanctuary. Our Sabbath schools and Adventurer/?Pathfinder groups are vibrant places that continually encourage our children. So it was natural that we would continue to minister to them when they left home.”
Pray4U’s philosophy is to actively provide unconditional love, acceptance, and encouragement to the young adults so they know they are integral members of the church family and of God’s family. The target groups are academy and college students living away from home, graduate students, college-age young adults not attending school, and college graduates during the first year after they leave school.
Each student provides program leaders with their e-mail and home addresses; phone number; and major field of study, if in college. A church member contacts them monthly via e-mail to ask for their specific prayer requests. Students respond with concerns on issues ranging from social relationships, problems with teachers and heavy academic loads, employment needs, and test worries, to requests for healing for family members and friends.
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Dedicatory Prayer: Pray4U students participate in a prayer of dedication for the 2009-2010 school year at the Atholton Adventist Church in Columbia, Maryland.

Each adult who participates in this ministry “adopts” some young people for the school year, agreeing to pray for them each day, send a note to them once a month, and attend the church’s monthly two-hour prayer meeting specifically to pray for each young adult. While this is the minimum commitment, adoptive parents are free to do more—and many do.

Pray4U focuses on three main areas:
PRAYER—Parents and other concerned adults may no longer be in a position to instruct and counsel young adults directly, but through prayer they can ask God to guide, protect, and shelter the youth.
CONTACT—Staying in touch with each young adult at least once a month via e-mail, cards, and text messages, or calling them on the phone, lets them know adult church members care about them.
PACKAGES—Twice during the school year church members send care packages, keeping individual tastes and preferences in mind.
In the Beginning
When the ministry started in 2007, Pray4U participants were praying for 49 young adults. The program had a “zero” budget, but the church members believed that “God equips the called.” God honored that faith, and blessings flowed.
Words of Appreciation
Young adults frequently write messages of appreciation for the church members’ thoughtfulness.
“I have found it very pleasing how all of the adults have come together to give us gift packages and letters, for I indeed read and use the gifts inside,” writes Oakwood University student Joseph Chetram. “Thank you for continually instilling God’s message in our minds, to give us hope for the future and understanding.”
Julia Straub, a student at Andrews University in Michigan, describes a care package Pray4U sent to her as a very creative “party in a box.” “It’s nice to know people are thinking [about] and praying for you,” she says.
Great Lakes Adventist Academy student Kathlyn Bearce portrays her academy years as “a time in our lives when we go through a lot of change and begin to own our faith more and more.” She adds, “It’s an encouragement to have the knowledge and the visual reminders that your church is praying for you.”
Student missionaries living a long way from home are often particularly grateful for a friendly word and a gift from church members. Megan, a student missionary in Saipan, writes that receiving a package from her church home makes her smile and brings her happiness, particularly because she is “so far away.”
Blessings for the Parents
The “adoptive parents” say they also receive many unexpected blessings from their involvement in Pray4U, including seeing how prayers were answered, a strengthening of their faith, the enjoyment of becoming involved in the lives of the youth, and a growing unity with other parents and church members as they pray together for the youth.
“It was exciting to hear young adults say that the card or package came right when they needed it,” one person notes. “God always delivered items when they were most needed, even if we had sent them weeks before.”
During the 2009-2010 school year, Atholton church members ministered to 52 young adults through the Pray4U program. This 2010–2011 school year it is 50—one tenth of the church’s congregation.
Members are praying that God will continue to show His mighty love in a personal way to each one of these young adults. 
Christina Hudgins is associate director of marketing and development for Adventist Development and Relief Agency International. This article was published September 28, 2010.