Prayer evangelism - 2
From an article by Transform Our World
Dean and HollyKem Sunseri speak affectionately about their city, New Orleans, and play back a common reaction they receive when they tell people it’s their home. “When other Christians find out we’re from New Orleans, they usually ask, ‘but isn’t it spiritually dark there?’ We say, ‘Well, there is darkness, but isn’t Jesus greater than the darkness?’”
Dean, a licensed professional counselor, and HollyKem, a substance abuse counselor have built a successful clinic where their vocation is also their ministry.
As a teenager, Dean had a life-altering encounter with God during a retreat held by his Catholic high school. The experience was so intense that he decided to pursue the priesthood, spent time in Italy learning the scriptures, and later enrolled in seminary. A few years in, his fervour began to wane and was replaced with the realisation that certain aspects of a priest’s life were not for him, even though the pull to ministry remained strong. He completed his graduate degree but knew that whatever work God had for him would look different than what he thought, and it would include HollyKem, who had entered his life.
After graduation, Dean continued to read the Bible and pray but was no longer active in the Church. He and HollyKem married, adopted a boy from Cambodia and began their family life. HollyKem suggested they return to Church for the sake of their son, so they visited several fellowships before being led to a Methodist congregation. There Dean learned about a spiritual dimension he had only read about in the Bible, most of which he didn’t think was possible anymore. Soon, the Sunseris found themselves gaining insights from all over the Body of Christ, which deepened their burden to see lives transformed. All they needed now was the proper outlet.
Dean found it when he attended his thirty-year high school reunion. As he interacted with old friends, many of whom were spiritually destitute, compassion rose in his heart and he knew God had called him to minister to New Orleans. Dean sought God for a strategy and in prayer received a Divine impression, “If you can have the Heart, you can have the City! New Orleans is a city with a heart.” With that word reverberating in his spirit, in 2017 Dean went on a seven-day fast seeking God for strategy to win the heart of the city.
“I kept hearing the word ‘zip codes.’ As I pressed in more, I felt that the Lord wanted us to pray over the 43 zip codes that make up the New Orleans area on a daily basis for one year.” To accomplish this, the Sunseris rallied five ministries that divided up the zip codes to cover them in prayer every day for one year.
In addition to intercession, they made sure to address felt needs. Members from those ministries made over 60 meals a week and fed the homeless in the French Quarter and learned each homeless person by name in order to restore their dignity. Some of the homeless went on to rehab, and others moved into housing as a result.
Next, they hired seven worship teams and appointed them each one hour to worship over New Orleans on their designated day of the week. They also organized 50 intercessors who each were appointed a day of the week, who interceded at least 30 minutes on their designated day. The stage was set.
Did the Lord respond? The results speak loudly:
In 2018, the murder rate hit a 47-year low.
Shootings and armed robberies also dropped by double-digit percentages from the previous year.
The unemployment rate went down 2%.
The mayor opened a prayer room in City Hall to invite God’s presence into city government.
Eight major strip clubs were shut down.
One bar has a Church inside called “Saints and Sinners,” where local celebrities have received the Lord.
Spurred by this success, the second annual New Orleans Prayer Initiative began August 1, 2018. The Sunseris led a broad denominational assortment of believers through Transform Our World’s School of Transformation and have transformation practitioners speak into the group to crystallize their ministry effort. To Dean and HollyKem, New Orleans is a city where sin having abounded has set it up for God’s grace to overflow.
A bonus to the effort is the reconciliation and common purpose that’s being created between Christ-followers in the Catholic and Protestant streams, which brings Dean’s testimony full circle. “When asked if I am a Catholic, I say, ‘Yes,’ Methodist, ‘yes,’ Baptist, ‘yes,’ Pentecostal, ‘yes.’ I answer yes because there is only One Church in New Orleans with many different congregations!”
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