Many local students woke up earlier than usual last Wednesday to gather in front of their schools for prayer. The annual nationwide See You at the Pole event took place between 7 and 7:30 a.m., at local schools under a heavily overcast sky that broke into sunshine as they prayed.
"It's very good to be getting a chance to do this and get this world back to Christ and fix this nation," said Jonathan Rosier, an eighth grader at Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School.
Jonathan joined approximately 40 of his peers for the event, in which students divided themselves into small groups to pray. After the initial prayer time was over, about a third of the crowd remained at the base of the flagpole to sing praise songs and continue praying.
Although the event was student-led by members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, local pastors from Springfield Baptist, Marshall Baptist, First Baptist, Dearing Baptist and First United Methodist churches attended at various schools to pray with the students.
"I think it's very important to do this," said David Harbeson, minister of music and youth minister at Dearing Baptist Church.
Rev. Harbeson was with the students in front of Thomson Middle School. "It gives kids a way to come together with different denominations and show their faith. It gives them similar values and beliefs."
Members of the FCA at Thomson High School also went to TMS to help coordinate the event.
"We came out to show that we love God, no matter what," said Beth Cheely, a senior.
See you at the Pole is an annual gathering of students of all ages at a flagpole in front of their school for prayer, scripture-reading and singing before the start of the school day. The national event takes place every September.
The event began in Texas in 1990 with a small group of students. The event is not intended to be a demonstration, political rally, nor a stand for or against anything, according to the SYATP Web site.
Approximately 40 students gathered at each of the McDuffie schools, a number that did not surprise Shantell Crockett, FCA teacher at the junior high. Ms. Crockett said approximately 30 students attend the school's weekly FCA meeting for the same type of devotion and prayer.
"It is surprising that at this age, there's a lot who are spirit-filled already, and that's a good thing," she said.
A larger number gathered at Briarwood Academy, where 198 students and faculty in kindergarten through 12th grade and some parents joined to pray. That event was led by the school's FCA and the chorus.
Before gathering at the flag poles last Wednesday, many of the McDuffie students met at First Baptist Church for a prayer rally and breakfast.
Thomson First Baptist Youth Minister David Lambert said the breakfast was cooked by the Kilpatrick Baptist Association disaster relief team, and former Green Bay Packers' football player and current Thomson schools' faculty member Eddie Lee Ivery was the keynote speaker. The youth praise band from the Thomson First United Methodist Church led the music.
"We were very blessed at the breakfast," Ms. Crockett said.
But not all the students made it to the breakfast. In fact, two students at the junior high were distracted during the gathering at the flagpole. Ninth graders Ariel Youngblood and Jaricurio Howard kept looking back across the driveway into the well-lit windows of the school's cafeteria, watching the spot where they'd left their breakfast. The girls laughed afterwards when they discovered their breakfast had disappeared during prayer time.
"Somebody stole it, so Jesus is going to get them," Ariel quipped.
In spite of their hunger, the girls didn't regret their time praying around the flagpole with their peers.
"I think we should do it more often because a lot of students need prayer," Ariel said.
Staff Writer Billy W. Hobbs contributed to this article.