EDITOR'S NOTE: "See You at the Pole" is launching into its 20th year, and now draws about two million students across the United States to participate. Today is marks "See You at the Pole" 2009. This year's theme is "Engage: Go and Pray." The following is one participant's experience during the 2001 SYATP.
An inspiring sight greeted people arriving at Loudoun County High School in Leesburg, Va., this morning. After all, you can't ignore a group of dozens of students praying around a flagpole. These high schoolers were participating in the 11th Annual See You at the Pole (SYATP) event and were praying about everything from spreading God's word in their school to the tragedy that struck the nation last week, from personal protection to persecuted Christians. These kids are ready to make an impact for Christ, not only in their school, but in their world.
According to See You at the Pole's Web site (www.syatp.org) the event "is a student-led, student-initiated movement of prayer that revolves around students praying together on the third Wednesday of September, usually before school and usually at the school's flagpole." And, it is for kids of all ages. In 1990, when a youth group in Burleson, Texas, felt God leading them to pray at local schools, other students began to catch the vision, and since then a common day has been set aside for this event and has spread around this country and the world.
No one sponsors See You at the Pole; instead, it is up to students at each school to kick off and lead prayer, and, in some schools, worship, Bible reading and messages by student leaders.
And this year is unique. This event was scheduled long before America's national crisis occurred. At the Virginia school this morning, the sound of planes flying overhead and the sight of the school's flag flying at half-staff served as reminders of the recent terror attack on America. In fact, one student was wearing his "I Love NY" T-shirt, and many voices were heard crying out to Christ to bring healing to this land.
"I pray that You use this (tragedy) to bring others to You," one student voiced. Still others prayed about the news media, the victims who remain in the rubble and for all of the families and friends involved.
One student also asked, if the terrorists felt so passionately about their extreme beliefs that they killed people, then why can't students witness to others about their own passionate beliefs? His point? They can.
David Overstreet of SYATP said that it was a somber moment as the flag was being raised this morning in California where he participated in SYATP. He thinks that the horrific events that have taken place in the past couple of years, including the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, coupled with the searing images these students have been seeing the past week on television, are bringing them to "realize that this isn't just a physical ... war, but a spiritual war." He believes that kids, as well as adults, have seen the "unprecedented openness to the gospel this past week," and that these kids are wanting to take advantage of this on their campuses, to offer the peace that other students are craving, which is only found in Jesus Christ.
At Loudon County High School, a young man, sporting a bright orange T-shirt and an official SYATP lanyard around his neck, led the group in inspirational prayers. In between these segments, other students also prayed.
"I thank You for the ability and privilege to stand around this flagpole," one teenage girl prayed. "Please help us to spread Your word, spread Your truth."
"Even if for a long time we've been a little chilled," one teenage boy prayed, "(please help us to) warm up and reach out."
This unique gathering of students creates unity among campus Christians. Jeffery, a freshman at the school, said that SYATP is "really helpful. It shows me that there's more than just me here."
Another student, Jeff, commented that, "It's really cool that all of us are able to have the opportunity to minister to people who are walking or driving by."
It is heartening that this morning's flag meetings will not stop with today's event, and kids will not have to wait until next year to participate again. A core group of students finds its way to the school flagpole almost every weekday morning at many schools, including Loudon County High School. At the end of the prayer and worship this morning, one of these core-groupers caught everyone's attention before they began heading off to classes and encouraged them join their group at prayer each school day for the rest of the year. If the number of students who attended this morning means anything, this core group number will likely grow.
For more information, check out See You at the Pole's Web site (www.syatp.org), or call 817-HIS-PLAN.