By Bill Bray, Special to ASSIST News Service
MONTPELIER, VA (ANS, July 23, 2015) – In a remarkable turn of events, local community leaders and an African American church have united with university professors to welcome a group of young African leaders to Virginia.
The 25 African students are now at the University of William and Mary in historic Williamsburg, completing the third leg of a six-week journey to historic Virginia. It has included daily classes and events at host universities. The group has stayed at or visited the homes of former American presidents Jefferson, Madison and Monroe in Ash Lawn-Highland, Monticello and Montpelier. Their journey ends at the White House a week from now where they will meet with President Obama before returning home.
Their unscheduled visits and stops at the Church of the Living God in Orange was the result of an initiative of African-American pastors who heard about the students at the weekly Operation Esther Prayer Circle which meets to pray on Fridays for the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
As the group prayed for the visiting students, one of the leaders in the room felt “led of the Holy Spirit” to approach the leaders of the delegation and invite them for a meal and fellowship while they were at the home of former President Madison here.
“This was prayer-in-action like in the days of apostles,” explains Circle President Debra Yarde. “The initiative was birthed in prayer and exploded from there to a series of encounters that lasted over several days. I think we have made friends for life with some of these brilliant leaders. This is what happens when Christians pray – spontaneous, miraculous outreach.”
Sister Yarde is organizing Operation Esther Circles in University campuses in all 50 American States. “Eventually, we hope to have one or more community prayer Circles interceding for all 3,500 campuses in the USA and Canada.”
The 25 students in the delegation came to Virginia from 21 African nations. They were selected from among 500 African leaders between 25-35 years of age. Over 60,000 applicants applied for the Mandela Fellowships in Africa’s 56 nation-states. The students expressed a profound sense of gratitude for being chosen. The program is open to humanitarians, nonprofit leaders, political advocates, journalists and government officials.
One of the Christian political leaders in the delegation, who was invited by the pastor to come and share from the pulpit, said that this was his first opportunity to actually preach.
“Just standing and speaking from a pulpit for the first time in my life is changing me – I’m sensing a call from God to speak his word to the problems of my people. I am going to go home a different man after this.”
Although the candidates are chosen from all tribal, political and religious groups, many of them were Christians. They welcomed a break from the tightly orchestrated itinerary to fellowship with grassroots American believers. Among the visits were a week night and Sunday morning service, both of which involved much sharing of vision for the needs of Africa.
The local congregation arranged rides and meals for their international visitors to both services. To contact Debra Yarde regarding her national plans for the movement, interested community leaders can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the African speakers, Grace Alache Jerry from Nigeria, is the Joni Erickson Tada of Africa – a leading advocate for the disabled and sang from her wheelchair to standing ovations.
About the writer: Bill Bray, 68, is an author, retired foreign correspondent and frequent contributor to ASSIST News Service. He specializes in covering international student ministries and foreign missions. He has traveled to over 65 countries as a missionary journalist to report on missions and development ministries, returning to some countries as many as 30 times over the years. He can be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.
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