Emerald Christian Academy
Wraps Bank in Prayer

 Probably one of the best attributes a church organization can be known for is a genuine connection to God through prayer. Over the last couple months, Emerald Christian Academy in Pleasant Hill, Oregon has become known to the community as a "praying school," according to school treasurer and secretary, DelJean Benton. She explains that Pleasant Hill--a small town twenty miles southeast of Eugene, population 5,600--was jarred by two gunpoint robberies of the town's only bank, Siuslaw Bank in March.

Given the connection of a small community, the crime had a strong ripple effect on every resident and business owner in the area. But clearly, the bank employees were the most shaken and fearful of yet another armed robbery.

According to Benton, a parent of one of the Academy's students made the comment that the school should surround the bank and its employees with prayer. That suggestion sparked Benton and other school staff to quickly organize a school event that would take the community pleasantly by surprise: a prayer walk around the bank.

"After the first robbery, the school took the bank employees flowers. The school has banked with Siuslaw for years, and they are our friends. But when the second robbery occurred at the end of March, we decided to bring a prayer walk to them, and lift the bank and employees up to the Lord," explains Benton.

Just five days prior to the planned prayer walk in early April, Lane County sheriff's detectives and FBI agents arrested three men they believe were behind the robberies. Despite these arrests, Siuslaw Bank's branch manager still felt that the bank's seven employees were struggling to cope with their everyday routine. They had left the doors locked, and required bank customers had to use the drive-up window after the second robbery.

Prior to the event, the Academy cleared the event with Siuslaw Bank's headquarters. To make it a true community event, school staff also placed twenty posters in local Pleasant Hill businesses advertising the prayer walk.

The day of the walk, April 7, the school loaded up the buses with all the 112 students. Teachers matched up younger students with older, ‘big brother/big sister' students who could help lead them in prayer. Because of the size of the turnout, the school staff set up a sound system, and then proceeded to sing one praise song and have group prayers outside each of the bank's walls.

After singing "We Are Family," and praying for the bank tellers to experience a feeling of peace and safety, the group moved to the side of the bank with drive through lanes. There, they sang another song, and prayed specifically for bank customers. Went to the back of bank, sang "I Will Lift My Eyes To The Hills" and prayed for their safety of employees.

On the last side of the bank, the group sang "I will lift your name on high" and prayed for those who had committed the robbery and for all to find forgiveness.

The concentrated focus on prayer and physical demonstration of support evoked many tears, and warm embraces. A week later, the bank manager called, and requested to bring chocolate sundaes for all school students and staff. "It was cool for kids to see that they are part of the community, and that they're support was appreciated," said Benton.

Since the prayer walk, Emerald Christian Academy has received several calls from the community, requesting prayer. One gentleman called and said that he understood they were a "praying school" and asked for the school to remember him and his wife in their prayers. At the end of the day, could there be a better epithet for a Christian school to have amongst their community?