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Day of Prayer focuses on unity

They came in plain clothes and colorful scrubs on the National Day of Prayer to gather in a parking lot at King’s Daughters Medical Center to ask God for his mercy and grace for themselves and others.

Later in the day, as church bells chimed the noon hour, dozens of individuals joined in praying for the “seven centers of influence” in the nation: government, military, media arts, business, education, church and family.

At the fifth annual KDMC Prayer Walk, Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins told the crowd of about 50 that he didn’t always please God — or his mother — with his actions. One day, the young boy’s attitude got him in trouble with his teacher and someone interrupted his mother at work at the dry cleaners to let her know. She arrived at school soon after.

“My mama whooped me out of class all the way up the hallway,” he said. “I have a personality.”

But that event helped shape him, he said.

Later, his size helped him succeed on the football field, and when he graduated from Brookhaven High School he joined the National Guard.

“God puts people in your life to change the path that you’re headed. He surrounds you with people all the times,” he said. “God surrounds you with people to change your direction.”

His path led him to his own tree-cutting business and a career in law enforcement. As the latter, he told about the day he nearly died in a shootout with an armed suspect who barricaded himself in an apartment.

Collins hit the door, but it didn’t budge like he expected it to. Then something told him to move so he dropped to the floor to the side of it just as two bullets whizzed past him.

“Just as I jumped down, two shots came through the door where I’d been standing,” he said. “The metal fragments got into my face and time stood still at that time.”

He and the other officers started shooting as they took cover.

“I knew his mother, I knew his family. I knew him,” Collins said, recalling the 2015 standoff between Rudolph “Toby” Smith, who’d received eviction papers, and law enforcement officers who responded to the call at Smith’s apartment.

Collins, Sheriff Steve Rushing and Smith’s mother talked to the man near the end of the six-hour standoff.

“He asked was I OK and I said, ‘Yea, I’m OK man, come on out. He said, ‘I’m not coming today,’” Collins said, recalling the man’s final moments.

“You never know. When God created you, he knows the present, the past and the future. Also, the devil knows. And the greatest trick of the devil is to make you not believe in Jesus. That’s his trick. His job is to steal your future. His job is to put things in your path to stop you from achieving what God’s got for you,” Collins said.

He’s grateful to the people who made sure he put his trust in God.

“It took everybody in this community to raise a child into a man until he gained some wisdom,” he said. “Everyday, I ask God if this is the day for me to die, give me the strength to fight. If you want me to make it another day, give me the courage and the wisdom and the patience to make it another day.”

Collins said he’s trying to be that positive influence on children in Brookhaven by investing time and attention on them now.

“Kids grow up. They become adults,” he said. “This world is trying to separate us based on color and religion, because the devil knows the only way he has power is to separate God’s children. We’re all children of God. It makes no difference what color you are. It don’t make any difference how much money you make. We’re all children of God and we must get along with each other and try to love each other. There is no greater power in the world than love.”

Collins encouraged prayer for unity in Brookhaven.

“This is the community that raised me,” he said. “We’ve got to stick together to keep our community safe. It’s about right and wrong, it’s not about the color of your skin. God made the sun to brighten the day, and at night, he made the moonlight and the starlight to help us find our way. God will return someday, so let’s show him what we can do in Jesus’ name.”

Following Collins’ remarks, KDMC CEO Alvin Hoover and Chaplain Woody Rimes led those in attendance around the perimeter of the hospital, stopping to pray at specially-marked stations. Booklets were given out with suggestions for prayers.

Hoover said KDMC’s mission is to provide quality health and wellness in a Christian environment.

“One of the really neat things about King’s Daughters Medical Center is that people pray for the work that we do, which for me as the leader here, I think it’s just a cool thing that we can get people to come out and pray for us,” he said. “Our heart is to do the Lord’s work here, and healing and helping folks feel better. Prayer ought to be part of who we are.”

At the courthouse, the Lincoln County Baptist Association hosted a non-denominational prayer service focused on the theme, “Love One Another” from John 13:34.

LCBA Director of Missions Rev. Steve Jackson stressed that the program was not focused on one denomination. 

The program featured Rev. Jackson, Rev. Robert Mayfield, Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop, Rev. Bobby McKay, Rev. Brett Campbell, Lance Moak, Rob McCreary, Rev. Lynn Mote, Johnnie Turner and Rev. Wayne Moak.

The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. In 1988, the law was unanimously amended by the House and Senate, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, to designate the first Thursday of May every year henceforth for a day of prayer for the nation.