Forty Days of Prayer is entering its third year in El Dorado, and the reason for its success can perhaps be found in the results of a recent survey that was conducted by a California-based research group.
The El Dorado-Monroe, Louisiana, region has the highest percentage (65 percent) of practicing Christians in the nation, according to a survey that was conducted by the Barna Group, a research and resource company in Ventura, California.
The national average for practicing Christians is 36 percent.
Barna took a comprehensive look at faith trends, including profiles and metrics in 131 metro markets and 48 states.
Kent Jobe — Preaching Minister of College Avenue Church of Christ — shared the news about the survey as he presided over a 40 Days of Prayer organizational meeting Tuesday in City Hall.
Community and faith leaders representing a cross-section of El Dorado and Union County gathered in the Council Chamber to hear preliminary plans for the third annual 40 Days of Prayer.
The event was launched in El Dorado in 2015 to form a coordinated effort to promote peace and unity, with spiritual support from all corners of the community.
El Dorado Alderman Judy Ward introduced the idea of 40 Days to El Dorado, hoping to replicate the success that had been reported with a similar campaign in Peoria, Illinois.
Ward called on faith leaders to help launch the event in response to the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy.
Comesico T. Pumphrey was gunned down on July 3, 2015, as he stood in his grandmother’s front yard at the intersection of Cook and Louisiana.
A dispute among several men escalated into a shooting, sending a stray bullet nearly two blocks away to where the pre-teen was helping with yard work in preparation for a neighborhood block party that was scheduled the next day.
The tragedy prompted an outpouring of grief from the community, and spawned several events and fundraisers to honor and memorialize Pumphrey and provide support for his family.
Calls to end violence echoed throughout El Dorado, and weeks later, 40 Days of Prayer got under way.
The format of the campaign includes different prayer topics, scriptures and devotionals that are submitted by participants who volunteer to write them and disseminated throughout the community — via social media, the El Dorado News-Times, word-of-mouth and other outlets — each day for 40 days.
40 Days 2017
On Tuesday, Jobe said the 2017 event will maintain the same format, and the group settled on a launch date of Oct. 1.
The campaign will run through Nov. 9.
This year will also mark the return of the Prayer Walk on Nov. 8.
The walk was held on the eve of the final day of of 40 Days in 2015.
Participants convened at City Hall and walked to the Union County Courthouse, stopping at various prayer stations along the way.
Jobe noted that the walk was suspended in 2016 because the final day 40 Days was the same days as the General Election.
“I’d like to do that again. Prayer isn’t simple, but the simplicity of the prayer walk is part of the charm,” Jobe said.
He also said that he has been asked about a theme for 40 Days.
For the past two years, prayer topics have gravitated toward peace, unity, revival, reconciliation and forgiveness, he said.
“That all comes out when people begin to share,” Jobe said.
Several in attendance Tuesday encouraged more churches, pastors and individuals to participate.
“We need to reach out and get folks from all segments of our city. This needs to not only be diverse, but it needs to be thorough,” Mayor Frank Hash said.
LaDebra Van Hook — pastor of New Jerusalem Christian Ministry, who has participated in 40 Days since 2015 — said she is also hoping for more participation.
Van Hook and Jobe noted that several people could not attend the kick-off meeting on Tuesday, but have expressed interest in being a part of the 2017 campaign.
Van Hook and Jobe said they hoped those who missed the meeting on Tuesday will be able to make it to the next one at 2 p.m. on Sept. 27.
“I think this is healthy for the community, especially the part that’s being nourished … I think God is pleased that the city is taking this initiative,” Van Hook said. “These are the voices of some of the people that are crying out for this city.”
Jobe said the success of the local 40 Days campaign has been two-fold.
“It’s unifying people in prayer, and you’ve got churches in the community participating,” he said.
“The more, different congregations you have involved, the better campaign it is,” Jobe continued. “The success of 40 Days is that no one has been in charge. That’s why we’ve been able to do it for three years.”
For more information, call Ward at 870-863-8131 or 870-863-4526. Jobe may be reached 870-862-1552, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on his Facebook and Twitter pages.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.