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Burning their plows

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Landmark takes message of love to Kershaw Streets

By Greg Summers

KERSHAW – For Landmark Pentecostal Holiness Church, there is no going back. 

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If you look for cars in the parking lot of the Kershaw Camden Highway Church on Wednesday evenings, there will be none. Those cars are parked in a small lot near East Fourth Street on the edge of Kershaw’s once-thriving mill village.

The church lights won’t be burning on Wednesday, either. 

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t shining. They shine every week when Landmark’s T.A.R.G.E.T. (Teaching and Restoring God’s Eternal Truth) Outreach Ministries team takes God into neighborhoods where few would venture during daylight, much less dusk.

But it’s been that way since Easter 2012. 

Just as Elisha did in 1 Kings 19, members of this congregation have burned their plows when it comes to midweek worship. 

They have exchanged the ordinary for the extraordinary by taking prayers wrapped in love and compassion to mill houses bordered by overgrown lots and, sometimes, litter-covered streets.

Jesus amid discarded malt liquor bottles and beer cans? 

You can bank on it, especially when he sends you there, said the Rev. Larry Hancock, Landmark’s pastor.

If residents here aren’t comfortable coming to church, no problem. The “Good News” comes to them, one footstep at a time.

“I’ve found two things that break down every barrier – Jesus and freezer pops,” Hancock said. “There are people who have told me they wouldn’t dare drive where we go, but we’ve never had any trouble. 

“Now, I know there’s a lot of stuff that goes on, but there’s a lot of real good, hard-working people who are just trying to make it through,” he said. 

After joining hands and praying for God to add his blessing for the Wednesday, Oct. 2, prayer walk, T.A.R.G.E.T. team members left the lot where they hold sidewalk Sunday school each Saturday and started their weekly Wednesday evening stroll. Thanks to cooperating weather, it’s been that way for 78 of the last 80 Wednesdays. 

While they have walked every street in downtown Kershaw in prayer, they have developed a special affection for residents in the area of East Third and Fourth streets.

This particular evening, they walked to the accompaniment of chirping songbirds and children singing “Jesus Loves Me.”

“We’ve never had to knock on a door; they’re always out,” said Reggie Lowery. “You can’t do what we’re doing just anywhere, but God knows what he’s doing when he puts you somewhere.”

As soon as Frankie Stover heard the kids singing, he turned his head to this group of blue and gold T-shirt-wearing missionaries and smiled. Hancock immediately went over and shook Stover’s hand and asked him how he was doing.

Stover nodded with an “OK” and grinned. Last spring, after having leg surgery, Stover developed a stubborn infection. 

Then one Wednesday evening, Hancock said the Landmark flock stopped by for an unplanned visit and prayed for him. Slowly, his infection started to heal, an occurrence which hasn’t been lost on Stover.

“Y’all are good people. I like y’all,” Stover said.

That was enough for Hancock, who rejoined the walk.

“We saw him two weeks after praying with him and he almost ran to us. How’s that? You know,” Hancock said, shrugging, “Frankie is still struggling, but he knows that somebody cares about him and that’s all that matters.”

As they headed down the street, Mike Walden hurriedly headed their direction. 

Landmark’s Cory Jones reached out to shake Walden’s hand, as the man, who lives on White Street, with his wife, Michelle, and 6-year-old daughter, Kayleigh, eagerly talked to the group, which stopped in the Walden yard. 

“Y’all do that thing on the weekend. My daughter, Kayleigh, comes up there,” he said.

That “thing” is the sidewalk Sunday school led by Jones each Saturday morning. The program is held in a small lot near the intersection of East Third and North Hampton streets. The church, Hancock said, bought the small tract from the daughter of a JAARS missionary.

“God’s all over this thing,” Hancock said. “Cory had the vision for sidewalk Sunday school. We tried it about 10 years ago, but it didn’t work. Now, were seeing up to 15 kids coming on Saturdays.” 

Michelle Walden, her husband said, had surgery earlier in the day, and was inside trying to get comfortable. She needed prayer but didn’t feel like coming outside. 

“That’s OK,” Jones said. “We can pray for her right here.” 

The members of Landmark immediately encircled Kayleigh, joined hands with her dad, and prayed for her mom.

“Thank you,” Mike Walden said, before hugging Jones and several others. “We appreciate that. Maybe I’ll come up there with Kayleigh on Saturday.”

That, Hancock said, is what Landmark is trying to do, reach out to those in need right where they are.

“I came to the conclusion that, we, as a congregation, could die out in 30 years and the people who  need ministering to the most would never step foot inside the church. If we don’t step outside the doors, we’ll rot and die, never making a difference. We need to hit the streets and that’s what we are doing.

“It’s a known fact they aren’t coming to us. We have to do like Jesus said and go to them,” Hancock said.

“The Lord put in on my heart to get us out of the house,” Jones said. “Whenever you are called to do something and you do it, there is nothing better to be had. Nothing better.” 

The church, Lowery said, gets more of a blessing from the prayer walks than those they stop to pray for and minister to. 

It’s even been an eye-opening experience for all of Landmark’s members. 

Six-year-old Michaela Catoe, the daughter of Casey and Scott Catoe, decided to write about the Wednesday night prayer walks for a recent class assignment at Buford Elementary School.    

“It has to be making a difference when our children start talking and writing about it,” Lowery said.  

While some of the residents of Kershaw’s mill village may have been forgotten, God hasn’t forgotten them.

“Isn’t it amazing how different things look when you walk instead of ride? You see things you wouldn’t normally notice. 

“You see people,” Lowery said.

The Oct. 2, Wednesday night prayer walk lasted until the final traces of light disappeared from the sky, revealing a canopy of stars. 

The lights of Landmark were burning brightly, hearts internally warmed by fire of burning plows. 

When it comes to Wednesday night prayer service, Larry Hancock’s wife, Jan Hancock, said there is nothing gained by embracing the old habit of midweek prayer. She said the Landmark church family has learned that its all about letting go, and letting God.

“Sure, we could go back, but come on, look around. Why would we want to?” she said.   

Contact Greg Summers  at (803) 283-1156