NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For eight years, the Rev. Karl Goodfellow has been using the power of prayer to help farmers in Iowa and surrounding states.
Now the United Methodist pastor is expanding the Safety Net Prayer Ministry to add even more states to the program.
Goodfellow believes that swelling the ranks of prayer warriors can only be good for America’s endangered farm families.
“Around the nation, our farm families are just really getting devastated,” he said.
“When you recognize how many United Methodist churches in this nation were built in small communities by the offerings that came from farms … sometimes I feel like we’ve turned our back on these people.”
Helping hand. Goodfellow, of Miles, Iowa, is pastor of the Preston and Sabula United Methodist churches in the eastern part of the state. Besides maintaining the network, he produces a devotional guide and other resources that prayer groups can use to support farm families in their areas.
“This year, we’re praying for about 40 percent of the farmers of Iowa,” he said.
In the past eight years, the network has prayed consistently for at least 25 to 30 percent of the farmers in the state, he said. He estimates that the network has almost 4,000 people praying.
Most of those are in Iowa, but the network also includes groups in Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Wisconsin, the Dakotas and Nebraska.
Endorsed by the United Methodist Church in Iowa, the Safety Net Prayer Ministry includes Lutherans, Baptists, Mennonites, Presbyterians, Catholics and members of the United Church of Christ and other denominations.
In addition, Goodfellow is making prayer materials available to civic organizations and other groups.
Power of prayer. “Research is showing that prayer is probably one of the most powerful forces on earth, and how many churches have effective prayer ministries?” he asked.
“We piddle around with prayer chains,” but a lot of churches don’t do much with prayer ministries, he said.
The Safety Net Prayer program’s resources include a 60-day devotional guide, which offers a farm or rural theme for each day.
Prayer group members are asked to pray for 10 to 15 minutes a day, focusing on such concerns as the ongoing drought and recent flooding, the need for a successful harvest as well as safety in what is often a dangerous occupation.
“A lot of the miracle stories that I hear are with farm accident-type things,” Goodfellow said.
This year, some of the farmers have bills that must be paid now, but their crops didn’t come through, he said. Moreover, many of the states are experiencing drought, and cattle and pig farmers have had to sell their stock at low prices.
One farmer told Goodfellow of losing $300 on every head of stock that he was selling.
Not isolation. Some farm families deal with their problems amid a sense of isolation, while others feel ashamed that they’re struggling with financial issues, the pastor said.
“Sometimes, somebody from the outside needs to reach out and say, ‘You know, we’re thinking about you.'”
The resource materials include a letter or postcard that can be sent to each family on the prayer group’s list. Each group is asked to develop a list of local farm families from a plat book. In a high-farming area, each group member will usually pray for about 10 families.
The farmer who reads a letter from the prayer group could be struggling today, Goodfellow said. The letter or postcard lets the family know that Jesus Christ cares and that the church is concerned, he said.
Looking for more. Goodfellow is looking for more groups, noting that the prayer power increases with the number of people involved.
While one person probably spends 20 hours praying during the course of the two months, a group of five increases that amount to 100 hours, he said.
Having 3,000 people praying would amount to 60,000 hours of prayer over the course of two months, he said.
“That’s pretty powerful.”
The Safety Net Prayer devotional is free, though Goodfellow asks that the prayer group assist with the price of shipping, usually a couple of dollars. He also asks that each group order at least five devotionals.
For more information, contact Goodfellow at Safety Net Prayer Ministries, P.O. Box 236, Miles, IA 52064; 563-682-7824; or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Details are also available at www.snprayer.org.
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