Subzero temperatures overnight may have kept people away from an anti-violence prayer rally Saturday, but one participant likened the light turnout to the biblical example of Gideon's small army.
“It's not in numbers,” said Lillian Rogers of Omaha. “It's who God chooses.”
Twenty-four people attended the event at Salem Baptist Church, 31st and Lake Streets. It was organized by Anna Green, 77, a longtime Omahan who raised six successful children, including one who is a college professor.
By the time the event started at midmorning, the air temperature outside had risen to 2 degrees.
“I once lived in Alaska, so this doesn't bother me,” said Green, whose former husband spent a career in the Air Force. “I'm not discouraged and I won't stop. We'll do it again in the spring.”
Green had sent letters to churches of all denominations across the Omaha area, hoping for 1,000 women in red to gather and pray for a reduction in street violence.
Inside the church, Green prayed and lamented “weapons, weapons, weapons.”
Rogers prayed for a decrease in the crime rate and asked that the Lord “cover this city with your blood” and thereby help stop the bloodshed in the streets.
Sally Hadley of Omaha brought her great-nephew, President Mickens, a sophomore at Benson High School. They were spending the entire day together, she said, and she thought it appropriate to start it in prayer.
President said his mother wanted him to have a special name, and that friends call him “Prez.”
A member of Antioch God in Christ Church, he said young people are dying and “they don't get to know God.”
Attendees were welcomed Saturday by the Rev. Selwyn Bachus, pastor of Salem Baptist. A musical selection promised that, “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.”
Charles Billups of the safe-neighborhoods initiative Enough Is Enough called Saturday's prayer event a good start.
“A majority of times, people wait to see what happens,” he said. “Once a movement gets started, they're more likely to get involved. It's a great thing that Miss Anna did today.”
Anna Green grew up in Alabama and came to Omaha when her husband was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base. The family lived in Berlin and elsewhere.
As a young woman, she flew from Omaha to Alabama to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak and to walk in the historic voting rights march between Selma and Montgomery.
This August she attended the 50th anniversary observance of King's “I Have a Dream” speech. She returned saying her own dream was to rally women of all races, religions and parts of the Omaha area to pray for an end to violence.
She is black; about a third of the people attending Saturday were white.
“This is a blessing,” she said. “We knew there would not be a big turnout. But I am uplifted.”