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Mon, Nov 24 2008 

Published: November 23, 2008 08:54 pm    print this story   email this story   comment on this story  

Church blesses 'Prayer Bears'

By Bill Archer
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — When the soldiers of the 150th Armored Reconnaissance Squadron of the West Virginia Army National Guard leave Dec. 5, for deployment in the Global War on Terrorism, they’ll be carrying the prayers of Trinity United Methodist Church along with them.

With members of the Trinity Methodist congregation clutching 218 “Prayer Bears” in their hands, The Reverend Susan Rector prayed for God’s protection for the soldiers “this day and all days” as they return to active duty, and asked that the hand-sewn prayer bears and knitted camouflage shawls remind them to the people at home who are praying for them and their families until their safe return home.

The creation of the 200-plus prayer bears was no small feat. After learning last summer that her brother was going to be called to active duty with the 150th in December, Krysta Lawrence, 20, a fourth year student at Bluefield State College and member of Trinity Methodist, approached Mary Alice Kaufman, chair of the church’s Prayer Bear Committee, and asked if the committee could make enough of the small, stuffed prayer bears for her brother and each of the soldiers in the 150th. Kaufman and the committee agreed to the request, but several weeks went past before the committee started the process of actually making the prayer bears in October.

“It makes me so very proud seeing the display here, and thinking about the sacrifices these young men and women are making for me and all of you. It makes me proud to be an American,” Kaufman said, after Rector asked her to tell the congregation how the prayer bear project came about.

“Trinity rallied and the friends of Trinity came together to help,” Kaufman said. She explained that after the material has been cut and the components of each prayer bear have been gathered together, it takes more than one-half hour to make each prayer bear. She said the Bluewell United Methodist Quilters as well as the 150th’s Family Resource Group pitched in to get the job done. Rector and The Reverend David Hall, pastor of Bland Street United Methodist Church, came up with the idea of making camo-shaws for the khaki camo-colored prayer bears.

“Thank you all so much for accomplishing something that we didn’t know if we could accomplish when we started,” Rector said. “Thank you for being here.”

Rector asked the members of the congregation to come to the altar, pick up one of the prayer bears and hold it in their hands as she prayed. The church was silent with the exception of several members in the congregation sobbing and sniffing back tears. Rector had throat surgery on Friday, and Dr. Don Scott delivered the message, but she managed to call on God’s protection for the soldiers.

Cliff Lawrence, the father of Krysta and Specialist 4 Nicholas Lawrence who will leave the National Guard Armory in Brushfork on Dec. 5, for Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Va., stood and thanked Kaufman and the church on behalf of his wife, Donita, and the family. “I want to thank Mary Alice and all the people who made this possible,” he said. He paused, appeared to be swept up in the emotion of the moment, and sat down without saying another word.

Gladys Gray, stood and asked the congregation for prayer for her nephew, Major David Vandevander, who will be deployed in the Global War on Terrorism in January. “He’ll be home for Christmas before he leaves,” Gray said.

“This is a really nice gesture on the part of the church and everyone who helped,” Spec. 4 Nicholas Lawrence, 24 said. In civilian life, Lawrence is a mechanic. “It’s nice to know that they are keeping all of us in their thoughts and prayers.”

Krysta Lawrence said she was thinking about the families of the other soldiers when she asked the committee to take on the project. “I wanted their families to have something when they’re in Iraq.”

Prior to the start of the service, Cliff Lawrence said that his son will return to active duty on Dec. 1, reporting to the National Guard Armory in Brushfork and the soldiers will leave for Fort Pickett on Dec. 5, to start a period of training that will continue until they are deployed from Fort Bragg later in the spring. This will mark the 150th’s second deployment. Soldiers of the 150th were sent to Iraq in October of 2004.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders indicated in an e-mail message to Cindy Romano of Bluefield that they have been invited to participate in a send-off for the soldiers of the 150th including escorting the soldiers from Eleanor and other locations to Brushfork on Dec. 4, and escorting the soldiers to Fort Pickett the following day. The West Virginia riders were making arrangements to participate, according to the e-main message.

– Contact Bill Archer at

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Trinity United Methodist Church. will give these 'Prayer Bears' to soldiers of the 150th Armored Recon Squadron before they leave Dec. 5 to return to the Global War on Terror. Bill Archer/Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Click for larger image)

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