Transforming El Paso, Texas, USA

Law enforcement officers in El Paso, Texas, are being offered some heavenly protection when they report for duty. Hundreds have signed up for the backup of a personal prayer partner through the "Shield A Badge" program run by local churches as part of a concerted effort to impact the city for God. The names of officers who want to be part of the project are passed on to volunteers who agree to pray for them every day.

"Because of their jobs officers are in a certain amount of danger, and we want to pray for protection for them," said Barney Field, director of El Paso for Jesus (EPFJ), the organisation that coordinates a wide-range of collaborative projects by approximately 100 churches in the city. "They can face temptations in their jobs, too. Some guys are having problems with their marriages. It's good to know that every day somebody is asking God to look after you. We tell them that it is non-denominational and that no one will go to your house and preach at you. You don't even need to know who your partner is."

Sheriff Leo Samaniego said that he lets his officers know about the program and estimated that several hundred had signed up. He has enthusiastically endorsed the simple program. Samaniego believes it has helped play a part in reducing crime in the area.

Samaniego said that one deputy had an amazing escape when he stopped a car in the early hours one morning. As he struggled with a man armed with a knife, another person put a gun to the side of his head, but it misfired. "I told him somebody was watching after him, because that doesn't happen too often. Even though no one was praying for him in particular, I think that he got some of the blessing anyway," Samaniego said.

The sheriff also said that crime has dropped in El Paso by approximately 33 percent since 1996. "No one can tell me why. Some people say it is the economy, but that doesn't make any difference to juveniles," Samaniego said. "Most of the time they just commit crimes because they feel like it. I think [the prayer] does have an impact."

Similar prayer partner projects are in place for community leaders and local schools. Prayer is an important part of the EPFJ movement, Field said. A pastors prayer meeting has been held for more than 80 consecutive months. "People are realising that one church won't reach the city by itself," he said.

The falling crime rate is not the only statistic to encourage EPFJ participants. Divorce has decreased by 30 percent since 1996, when churches adopted the Marriage Savers program that includes premarital screening and counselling.

Local pastors persuaded the editor of the local newspaper to replace the daily horoscope with a daily Bible reading in 1997. The next year the paper featured a pro-family story each day. Last year the publication promoted good neighborliness.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 June 2006 08:40


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