Florida man challenges conference to 'lead way' in starting Hispanic prayer line



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Florida man challenges conference to 'lead way' in starting Hispanic prayer line

Sept. 6, 2008   News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  
tparham@flumc.org  Orlando {0907}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

As chairman of ministries and missions for the Florida Conference United Methodist Men, Leland McKeown says he can’t help but be on the lookout for ways to help people in need.

Leland McKeown looks at a New Testament he calls his “Leesburg New Testament,” which has been signed by about 100 men’s retreat speakers, including several bishops. McKeown says he has attended men’s retreats continuously since 1973. Photo courtesy of Leland McKeown. Photo #08-0984. For longer description see photo gallery.

Right now, his mission is making a toll-free prayer telephone line available for the Hispanic community.

At a February/March 2008 meeting of the United Methodist Men Conference Presidents and Prayer Advocates in Nashville, Tenn., McKeown shared his vision and hope for the prayer line and asked what would be needed to make it happen.

An English prayer line is already available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through the Upper Room Living Prayer Center in Nashville.

“It would be a national prayer line (like) the Upper Room prayer line (but) for Spanish-speaking people, and it would cover the United States and Canada and the Caribbean,” McKeown said.

McKeown learned three key steps are needed to establish a Spanish prayer line.

“The answer was basically three things,” McKeown said in a letter to local churches. “First, the United Methodist Men’s Foundation would set up a special account for this purpose that would have to accumulate a minimum of $300,000 to fund the program. This was started with a free-will offering that raised the first $1,000. Secondly, we would need to establish as many remote units as possible that could take calls and pray with people in Spanish. Third, we would need to set up a number of covenant prayer groups to pray over the requests.”

McKeown says all United Methodist churches and conferences can contribute to the start-up, although it is his “prayer that the membership of the Florida Conference will lead the way to attain the three basic needs it will take to fulfill this mission.”

More than 175 volunteers staff the current English prayer line and, each month the Living Prayer Center averages about 30,000 toll-free telephone prayer requests, 7,000 e-mail requests and many written requests. More than 300 groups pray for the requests.

Migdiel Pérez, manager of the Upper Room Living Prayer Center, sees a need for the Hispanic prayer line, citing United Methodist Church statistics on people of Hispanic/Latino descent: there are 51,871 members, 357 congregations, 506 clergy and three bishops. Meanwhile, United States Census information indicates Hispanics comprised half the population growth — 1.4 million people out of a total 2.9 million — from July 2005 through July 2006. California, Texas and Florida have the largest populations of Hispanics.

“We are a diverse community with many needs and gifts,” Pérez said. “Despite a common language and shared cultural values and practices, it manifests rich variations of linguistic and cultural expression that reflect regional and national origin differences. Taking all of this into consideration, the staff of Upper Room Living Prayer Center feel that God is leading us to work with this growing community by making our prayer ministry available in Spanish, their heart language.”

The $300,000 goal was established as a benchmark that will allow the program to be fully funded for at least two years. Until that time, the Hispanic community may make e-mail prayer requests on the Upper Room Prayer Center’s Website, although there are no Spanish speaking volunteers currently answering telephone lines.

“We do have the Website, and they can go in and actually read the magazine, the meditation and (make) the prayer requests,” Pérez said.

Pérez gives the Spanish prayer requests to several of his staff members who are Hispanic, who take them home or to their churches for prayer.

Pérez, who hails from Puerto Rico, offers several ways United Methodists may support the birth of the Hispanic prayer line, such as praying for the people who will be a part of it, as well as for the lives that will be touched by it. Pérez also requests help from annual conferences and local churches in promoting this ministry and in forming the covenant groups that will be praying for the requests.

Anyone who wants to make financial contributions to the ministry or learn more about forming a covenant group may do so by contacting Pérez at 877-899-2780, extension 7215, or http://www.upperroom.org/prayer_center.

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*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tenn.




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