Tennessee WMU ‘travel’ to Denver church planters without leaving home
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — For the past three years, Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union prayer warriors have traveled to Colorado as part of the Send Denver partnership to meet and pray with church planters on their home turf.
Six teams which included 24 women were able to work with 14 church planters in and around Denver, said Vickie Anderson, executive director of Tennessee WMU.
Two trips were scheduled for April and May of this year before COVID-19 changed everyone’s plans.
The Tennessee women, however, would not be deterred from praying, so Anderson and Dave Howeth, Send Denver missionary with the North American Mission Board, set up three virtual prayerwalks for May 5, 12 and 19.
The cancelation of the prayer tours actually proved to be beneficial, Howeth observed. The virtual tours were a way to “reactivate the amazing WMU prayer warriors and actually recruit more than would normally fly to Denver,” Howeth said.
Howeth said the prayer tours are so important to church planters in Denver and surrounding area. “To hear of how encouraging this has been to the church planters at the end of the prayer time is incredible,” he added.
Lisa Hendrich, a Tennessee native from Elizabethton, agreed. She and her husband, Bruce, a former Tennessee Baptist pastor, are now church planters in Mead, near Denver. “We don’t have people pray for us that often. We pray for everybody. We’re usually in your shoes.
“It is so awesome to have someone pray for us.”
Anderson agreed. Not only have the prayer warriors encouraged the church planters, the prayer tours have “reenergized the commitment of those who have prayerwalked in Denver and captured the hearts of new prayer advocates for Denver.”
Prayer is critical to the success of church planting efforts in Denver, Howeth stressed. “Church planting is a ‘declaration of war.’ Church planters are in the trenches of moving forward with the mission of the gospel in spite of all the obstacles they face daily,” Howeth said.
“The Great Commission has not been put on pause due to the pandemic but the opportunity of advancing the gospel has grown during these days. We see this as a great opportunity for the gospel to advance,” he noted.
Denver and its surrounding region (the Front Range) has 4.6 million people with 92 percent of them lost without Christ, Howeth told the prayer team. In the actual city of Denver there are 726,000 people and only 15 SBC churches — one church for every 48,000 people, he added.
The tours allow prayer teams to meet the planters, either on site or by video, to hear their hearts and concern for the area.
The virtual prayer tours also allowed many of the prayer warriors to participate in each “trip” instead of choosing only one to attend in person.
Ann Davenport of Belle Aire Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, has been to Denver and has participated in this year’s virtual prayer tours. While she does not think the virtual experience can ever replace on site prayerwalks, Davenport said they have been “a wonderful alternative” given the COVID-19 crisis in the world.
“The past two weeks I met two church planters that I did not know. I was delighted to hear their stories and hearts for the lost. I found each planter’s account of their call to church planting and the Scripture (that spoke to them) to be intriguing. God is in every detail,” Davenport observed.
Alisha Hill of First Baptist Church, Lexington, agreed that virtual prayerwalking is a “wonderful tool,” but it “will not fully replace actual prayerwalking.
“There is something very powerful about walking the streets and seeing the people you are praying for,” Hill said.
However, she added that virtual prayerwalking also is important. “The best thing about virtual prayerwalking is that more people can be involved so there are more people pleading with God on behalf of the church planters and the people to whom they are ministering,” Hill said.
Glenda Roach of Blue Springs Baptist Church, Rutledge, observed that “the Lord hears and answers every prayer.
“I believe the virtual prayerwalk can be an avenue for increasing exponentially the number who would support and pray for church planters if they knew them and their needs,” Roach said,
She added that those who participate virtually might eventually go to the site and pray. “Those who can should go and walk the streets of Denver and other towns. Being there is something the Lord can use in a mighty way,” Roach said.
Judy Luck of East Athens Baptist Church, Athens, said the best part of the virtual experience was “seeing and hearing their stories. We saw and heard the hearts of the missionaries. Each one spoke to me in different ways.”
Howeth expressed appreciation for the Send Denver partnership with Tennessee that began five years ago.
“We love the partnership with Tennessee Baptists. This is a great opportunity to mobilize the Tennessee prayer warriors and give them access and opportunity to carve out a couple of hours to watch and pray for the church planters in Denver,” he said.
“This also gives the WMU leadership time to expand the number of people who would join in the time to pray. This keeps the partnership on the front burner for churches and church planters. We hope this will give our planters and others ideas on expanding this with churches they partner with in Tennessee and with their own churches.”
DENVER CHURCH PLANTERS
Journey Point Church, Denver
Pinewood Church, Boulder
Peak Church, Louisville
Grandview Church, Mead
Dwell Church, Denver
The Oaks Church, Denver
Living Stone Church, Broomfield
Stone Bridge, Wellington
The Christ Church, Windsor
Cross Family Church, Parker
Keystone Church, Loveland