By Sharon Mager
SILVER SPRING, Md. — Georgia Avenue Baptist Church (GABC) will have a 20th-anniversary celebration of their prayer workshop at the church from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on April 18. Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Executive Director Kevin Smith will be the guest speaker, and the theme will be “Praying in Wicked Days,” based on Exodus 33-34. Additional speakers include Montgomery Baptist Association (MBA) Director of Missions Ron Blankenship and MBA Language Church Missionary Michael Mattar, Sr.
Helen Corrothers, the founder and coordinator of the event, laughed when she shared about how God called her to start prayer workshops at GABC twenty years ago.
A supernatural calling
During a regular worship over 20 years ago, then Pastor Michael Cox shared an idea for a prayer ministry. A nearby church was having a meeting about such a ministry and Cox rallied members to go, even asking someone to ready the church van to make it easy for a lot of people to travel together. Corrothers said the pastor stressed that he wanted as many people as possible to attend.
“I was half-listening. No one else talked about it. When that Saturday morning arrived, It was like I was having an out-of-body experience. I found myself getting up and getting dressed. At that time, Saturdays were precious as I was busy all week and I just wanted to rest,” she chuckled. “It was supernatural. I was not interested,” Corrothers admitted.
Church member Marie Yolene Limontas, Deacon Elmer Diggs, the van driver, and his daughter were in the church parking lot. They chatted as they awaited the crowd – and then no one else arrived. So, the small group went to the meeting.
Afterward, Diggs tried to find someone who would be interested in coordinating a prayer ministry. No one would volunteer. Limontas agreed to be the coordinator, and Corrothers said she would help. “I don’t know why, but I found I just couldn’t leave it alone,” she said.
They formed a small but diverse group of two Caucasian men, two African-American woman, and one Haitian woman, and planned their first meeting. The group developed their primary mission and purpose and shared ideas for activities that would ensure they would accomplish the objective.
Corrothers stated that the primary mission of the GABC prayer ministry is to sustain and nourish the personal prayer life of the membership and to undergird all of the departments and other ministries of the church. “We saw it as a primary mission to pray about everything in the church,” she said.
They developed activities, including prayer walks and drives, a prayer-based Bible study, and a prayer chain – all to enhance the prayer life of individuals.
Room to pray
The group later focused on their prayer room. While they regularly met in a classroom, there was a room that had been designated for prayer. But it was unimproved, with cinder block walls and exposed pipes. Upon examining the room, Corrothers and Ellis Moore, who succeeded Cox as the pastor, felt it was a bad reflection on the church’s commitment to prayer. The group worked with a decorator and significantly improved and updated the room. They gave it a makeover with soft colors to make it more conducive to prayer. The prayer ministry group provided flooring, walls, and furniture at no expense to the church, demonstrating their level of commitment.
Now, every Sunday following worship service, Corrothers, Limontas, and others meet anyone who would like to pray before leaving the church. At first, no one came, but after a while, people began to slip into the room.
“Over time, people began to come to pray about the week’s problems, for their children, and other concerns. It became a great unburdening time.
“Sometimes it is so crowded I wish we had a bigger room,” Corrothers said. She and Limontas occasionally stay until late in the afternoon, praying with people in need.
Regarding the workshops, Corrothers said God gave her that vision. “It just came to me. I received the Pastor’s approval, ensuring that the workshop would fit into the mission, and then spoke to the prayer group,” she said. They moved forward to implement the plan and through the years the workshop evolved into a twice-a-year event, once in the spring and once in the fall.
At the first event, the little group worried. What if no one came? What if there was no interest? But then they decided that if no one arrived they would do the workshop anyway. “We decided that we’ll be our own speakers,” she said.
They promoted the event through word-of-mouth and with flyers. Limontas visited a variety of places, sharing about the workshop and placing flyers throughout the area, including several homeless shelters.
“For our first workshop, not a single person came from our congregation, but we had 25 people. Many were from the homeless shelter. I recall this one couple that had paper and pen in hand. They were the most dedicated people there, and they were from the homeless shelter. We were so encouraged. It was wonderful,” she remembered.
The following year, Corrothers prayed for 25 people again and laughed as she recalled that 25 people attended, different people in the same seats. “I learned that when you pray, you need to make your prayers big enough. I should have prayed bigger. Why would I ask God for only 25?” she said.
Moore was enthusiastic about the prayer ministry. “After each workshop, he would say, ‘That was the best.’ I would say, ‘You said the last one was the best,’ and he would say, ‘Yes, I did,'” Corrothers said.
Each year Corrothers and the team invite a different speaker to the spring and fall workshops. “For whatever reason, pastors are very willing to participate,” Corrothers observes. As the Lord lays a topic on that speaker’s heart, she uses that topic as the theme for the conference.
Some speakers have used a workshop format, others more of a preaching platform. She leaves the decision to the speaker, relying on the Holy Spirit. The events always include an edifying word, and times of music, food, and fellowship.
For many years, Melvin Caldwell and Company, a band, have provided the music. This year, in conjunction with the anniversary, the church choir will sing. In addition, students in the church’s Children In Action program always participate, sharing songs and Bible verses.
This year’s menu includes meatloaf and chicken, ribs, vegetables, salad, a celebratory cake, and ice cream.
“After 20 years, it’s still so exciting to me,” said Corrothers. “I can’t believe that I had no interest in doing this, and now, it’s a passion for me. I guess that’s how a calling works.”