For the last two years, Sheila Warners has met regularly with her prayer partner from Second Reformed Christian Church in Grand Haven, Mich. What makes their partnership unusual is that her partner is 9-year-old Karlee French.
“Karlee is such a delightful little girl, and she has a heart for people. Sometimes she likes to include our mutual friend, Jasmine, who has had some medical issues in her life,” said Warners, who described their first meeting at a coffee shop, ordering hot chocolate and talking about prayer requests. “I have a wonderful friend in Karlee.”
This prayer partnership is part of Second CRC’s effort to encourage intergenerational prayer and support.
“We did not want it to be just a one way prayer responsibility, so we made it prayer partners, where both adults and students are asked to pray for one another,” said coordinator Steve Marotti, stressing that this is not a mentoring ministry.
Starting in third grade up through high school, students are paired with an adult in the church. They are encouraged to meet regularly. Some pairs stay together for years; others switch. A few times a year all the pairs get together at church for an activity.
Nine-year-old Nathan Koetje was paired last year with Herb Boelens, an older man in his 80s. Before they had a chance to meet, Boelens underwent minor surgery. Koetje made him a get-well card.
“Our family will never forget the following worship service when Herb came up to Nathan and gave him a great big hug of thanks for the card, letting Nathan know how much his prayers meant to him,” said Michael Koetje, Nathan’s father and pastor of Second CRC.
A few weeks later, Koetje found Nathan sitting at a table with Herb and other adults, eating his cookie and chatting after the service. “To me that's a picture of the Acts 2 church when the early Christians devoted themselves to fellowship,” Koetje said.
Koetje’s 12-year-old daughter has been partnered with Norma Schuitema since Alyssa was 9. Since Schuitema’s grandchildren do not live nearby, she attends many of Alyssa’s school and sporting events, and they remember each other’s birthdays.
“I really like the Prayer Partner Program,” said Alyssa Koetje. “For me, it’s almost like having another grandmother to do things with. I also like how I can pray and do things for Mrs. Schuitema, as well as her for me.”