We prayed in the park to heal our community’s fractured heart

By Josh Beavers

Jessica Allums said it best.

“This is what’s most important – community, coming together and focusing on what we can do as a community.”

I spoke to Jessica along with her husband, Kyle, and their two little ones (Kyson and Kylon) Saturday morning at Academy Park in Minden. The occasion was a Community Prayer in the Park, and the purpose was to ask God for guidance and aid in these uncertain days for our community and nation.

The Allums family was one of many who braved the humid early morning heat to hear words of hope and encouragement from community members. Also on hand was our sheriff, our chief of police, city council members, our superintendent and school board members and supervisors. There were business leaders in attendance and teachers and retirees and police officers and church leaders and young and old and pretty much everyone in between.

And while I was there to take pictures and bring you, the dear constant reader the story, I was also there for encouragement of my own, to share in the power of prayer and fellowship and hope for our community to heal.

Because we are fractured. That’s the truth everyone, and all the PR in the world can’t hide that fact. Our community. Our nation. Fractured.

It’s been a rough summer in Minden and Webster Parish. Senseless murders of our young people and our community defenders. A city council that can’t agree on the color of the sky much less on how to effectively govern within these city limits. Political division unlike anything in modern history. School leaders doing their best to keep children safe while struggling with a deadly and highly politicized virus. Poverty. Cruelty. Lack of empathy. And a slew of people embracing willful ignorance and championing hate.

That’s what we are facing in Minden. That’s what we are facing in America. Fractured. We are fractured.

But the thing about being fractured, just like a bone, is that a broken community can mend. Oh sure, the scars will still be there, but a scar is only a remembrance of a past trauma and proof you survived.

And that’s what Michael and Chequella Walker hoped to accomplish when they organized the Prayer in the Park. I spoke to Mr. Walker Friday afternoon.

“It’s about healing our land,” he told me. “It’s about the community coming together and acknowledging that things are rough right now in our community. And when things are rough, we have to ask for help and guidance.”

Mr. Walker continued by telling me the Prayer in the Park was not only to ask for guidance but also to remember all of the good in the community. He wanted the fellowship to serve as a vehicle for those in attendance to see one another face to face and not over a digital screen. Seeing each other in person, shaking hands or bumping fists, smiling with one another and remembering our common humanity and love for Minden is a powerful motivator and reminder of what we pray for, what we fight for.

“So much negativity,” he said. “There is so much negativity. We can heal our land. It just takes coming together and asking God to guide us and aid us.”

Wes Barnett, a community member and educator, opened in prayer. “I see some of the best we have to offer, but I also am privy to some of the darkness we have in our community. It’s OK to say we are concerned. It’s OK to see there are things that need to be improved.”

Barnette spoke at length about the power of community, the power of prayer, the power of good people coming together to lead and educate and work together to make their home a better place, a place where children feel safe and a place where families want to put down roots and grow old. As Tim McGraw said, to find a place where the green grass grows and see all that is good and decent in the world.

“There is power in prayer,” he said. “We know there is a Power that can take care of it all.” He continued about the need for the community to pray with vigilance and to not forget when the attendees went their separate ways. Prayer moves the heart of God, he said, and “we ask You to help us to remember to pray every day for our community and each other.”

He spoke of the good, the positive, the high school sports we all enjoy, the festivals, our shared humanity and our times of smiles as we remember the positives of what it means to be from Minden.

“We praise You for the good,” he led the crowd in prayer. “But we ask You for help with the bad.”

Mr. Barnette and others prayed specifically for our elected officials who are tasked with governing and making sometimes difficult decisions. Prayers were spoken for unity and compromise and communication in our government. Prayers were spoken for our first responders, our police officers as they remain a community shield from the violence and evil in our world. Prayers were spoken for our teachers as school began this week.

“Grace and mercy,” Barnette said. He asked God for aid as we all try to educate our youth so that they do not follow down the dark paths of so many young people in recent times.

Prayers were spoken for leadership and that officials are able to steer clear of those who would want them to make decisions that are not in the best interest of the entire community. Prayers were spoken for community members to respect one another, to walk side by side with a common goal and hearts that were not hardened by cynicism and hate.

Grace and mercy. That’s what we asked for Saturday morning in the park. Prayer and a call for aid. We are fractured, that’s not up for debate. But even the fractured can be mended. And Minden can be healed. All it takes is continued community, continued prayer, continued pledges from everyone to do what they can every day and in every way to put aside differences and and realize our common humanity.

We are a community. And we will live or die together.

I prefer the first option, and I hope you do, too.

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