May 21, 2015

By Fred Koenig

Do you have any idea what 6,000 food items, mostly cans, looks like? Neither did Rev. Shawn Franssens, Lead Pastor of North Cross United Methodist Church in Kansas City. That was before the church responded to a prayer challenge.
    
“This Lent we pulled out the stops on prayer,” explains Franssens. 
    
Franssens preached a series on prayer titled “Two Cans and a String” using the metaphor of a tin can telephone to talk about prayer in a variety of ways. According to Franssens, “One of the highlights of worship was to play with the metaphor of the cans, I didn’t know what that would turn into.”
    
Following the first sermon, Franssens was approached by a woman wondering why he had not issued a challenge to bring in cans. So the next week he did.
    
“Some of us had been reading through Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker,” Franssens explains. “So when I issued the challenge I said ‘If we can do it on our own, why bother God with it? Let’s pick a number that we could only reach if God got involved.”
    
From 1,000 to 2,000, the church finally settled on 5,000 cans of food to be donated through North Cross by Easter Sunday, approximately 1,000 per week for the five weeks remaining in Lent when the challenge was made. During worship the church thanked God in advance for providing the food they had no idea how they were going to get, but they trusted God to provide.
    
Cans began coming in before the start of the second service and they did not stop. The financial donations also started appearing. Neighbors responded to the challenge on Facebook. Groups that meet at the church, including Scouts and the church’s preschool, were inspired to participate.
    
“When I was approached by a member who had felt moved to contribute their yearly tax refund, I thought ‘That’s very generous.’ When I learned it was $4,000, I was stunned.”
    
As of Easter Sunday, North Cross collected 6,714 food items and $5,465 to be distributed to area pantries, including Harvester’s in Kansas City.
    
“What can prayer do?,” Franssens ponders. “Check back. God hasn’t finished answering this prayer. We’re going to see an end to hunger and homelessness in Kansas City and then around the world!”
    
In addition to the church’s regular prayer groups and ministries, North Cross offered:
-Small group book studies and classes
-Prayer calendars highlighting different types of people to be in prayer with
-Prayer beads
-Small booklets containing original and collected prayers
-A trip to a labyrinth (and printed finger labyrinths)
-Prayer partners, including “adopting” principals and staff in the local school district