Faith groups ‘walk their talk’ in outer East Portland

See what happens when pastors and parishioners of a dozen churches gather to take their faith to the streets – and while there, to clean things up on the streets of outer East Portland …

Folks from “all flavors of Christianity” gather at Freedom Foursquare Church, before they take to the streets of outer East Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Some people hold signs and demonstrate for positive change in their community. Others pray for community healing. On the afternoon of June 12, members of more than a dozen congregations gathered to do both – by going on a “prayer walk”.

“There’s a dozen, maybe 14, churches participating in this year’s prayer walk,” said Pastor Dave Pauli, Freedom Foursquare Church, located just off SE Stark Street, in the northernmost section of the Centennial Neighborhood, at NE 162nd Avenue.

Pastor Dave Pauli of Freedom Foursquare Church welcomes the “prayer walkers” to the afternoon event.

“We’re all different flavors of Christianity: Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Foursquare, Friends (Quakers) – the whole spectrum,” Pauli pointed out. “This is an opportunity for us to stake a claim, saying ‘This community is worth taking a stand for; worth fighting for’.”

It’s been a couple of years since their first Prayer Walk, Pauli told the nearly 180 folks who came to the event. “The first prayer walk was a response to all of the homicides that were taking place, right here in our immediate community.

“I know a lot of you remember that, it is heavy on people’s minds. I don’t know if you’ve been watching the news, but immediately after the day that we prayed and took a stand, the gangs scattered away from this East County area.”

Pastor Emily Hicks prays for healing of outer East Portland’s many physical, emotional, and spiritual ills.

This year’s theme is from the Bible’s “Book of Chronicles”, Pauli continued. “ ‘People who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray’. One of the benefits that come with that, He says, is, ‘I will heal their land’. This is an invitation for God to bring all kinds of healing: Physical, personal, financial, family – all facets of healing that God wants to bring to our neighborhood. Prayer is an invitation for Him to do that.”

Pastors from area churches took turns praying for each facet that Pauli had listed.

Volunteer Mike Vander Veen, with Second Stories, checks SOLV waiver sheets, as the group gets ready for their walk.

In addition to praying as they walk, some volunteers pick up neighborhood trash along the way.

And then, the group splits up to walk the streets of outer East Portland – including areas that have seen more than their share of deadly violence.

Some carried signs; others had pick-up implements and held SOLV trash bags. One volunteer, Mike Vander Veen, later told us that 78 people filled out or were included on SOLV waivers – which are used to track participation. “We now have a good estimate of 30 large bags, full of litter that was gathered. That’s 900 lbs of trash off the streets – amazing!”

Walking north along NE 162nd Avenue into the Glenfair neighborhood, walkers let passers-by know of their mission.

Did this effort have a meaningful result?

Many say it already has. Keep watching the news, and you be the judge. It certainly hasn’t hurt.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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