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Believers gather to pray for Wilmington

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Under the Just Jesus tent, as it was prominently labeled, a woman strummed her guitar and sang softly: Come out of hiding, you are safe here …

Spread out among a sea of metal chairs, or on the carpet in front of the stage, believers took in those words, or didn’t. Some eyes were on the singer, Amanda Henderson of Georgetown, S.C., while others were closed in deep worship. Still others focused on the assorted Christian texts carried into this 24/7 time of prayer and worship for Wilmington.

Those who came and went on Tuesday had different reasons for being at the event near Legion Stadium. Lauren Smith of Greenville was with a group familiar with Michael Thornton, the Ignite Wilmington organizer. Thornton and his wife, Amber, are cofounders of Ignite Ministry. He is also the outreach pastor at Global River Church.

“We know Michael,” she said, clutching the worn Bible she carried in. “I got this when I got saved,” she said of the book covered with underlines and notations.

Smith’s group, Burn Greenville, has much the same mission as Ignite Wilmington: to use faith and the power of prayer to bring together a city and help heal its people.

The 10-day event, which began Sunday with a packed house, is at its core all about unity in the body of Christ as well as individual relationships with God. But the overarching theme is “10 Days of Strategic Prayer for Wilmington,” as a sign states.

Sunday night’s crowd in the 500-person tent was standing room only. Free food is cooked and shared nightly.

There are some organized segments. The founder of Touch of Fire Ministries, Pastor Bob Hazlett, who encourages believers to live prophetically and walk powerfully, will minister on Thursday night. Congressman David Rouser is slated to pray at 8 a.m. on Saturday. But much of the event is simply worship.

Spontaneous prayers were common Tuesday midday. Near the stage, a pair of women — one black, one white — stood facing one another, eyes closed and clasping each other’s hands while praying aloud. A similar scene played out in another area.

Many simply sat in deep contemplation, Kathy Kersnowski among them. Kersnowski classifies herself as “a Jewish believer” who attends Global River and occasionally drops in on other congregations around town.

“I think the whole idea is for us to try to pray for a whole city,” she said. “There is so much chaos in the world, so much destruction. People need some faith — and hope.”

Henderson, whose sweet voice set the tone for the lunchtime worship, came with her husband and children. While their mother sang, the youngsters stood at a table, snapping together Lego blocks.

Shane Stilwell drove in from the Charlotte area and said it’s been worth it.

“I’m a firm believer in the power of prayer, as well as singing songs offered up to Jesus,” he said. “I just really wanted to be here and be a part of what is going on. It’s kind of like a fire pit that’s continually being stoked.”

Next to him sat Bradley Walter of Wilmington, who said he is a member of The Refinery Church, which meets at the Brigade Boys and Girls Club. He was particularly impressed that Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and District Court Judge James Faison were among the first-night attendees.

“It is awesome to see some people of government here,” Walter said. “It’s all about unity.”

The Ignite Wilmington’s Just Jesus tent is set up in the grassy area of the old National Guard Armory, 2221 Carolina Beach Road, beside Legion Stadium. The worship and prayer continues day and night until 9 p.m. Sept. 23.

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