Blue Sunday: Hundreds of churches will pray for the safety of children, rescuers and an end to abuse Sunday

Published: Friday, April 26 2013 8:10 a.m. MDT

HARLINGEN, Texas — Janet Magee was horrified when a child who sometimes came to the church she attended was murdered, one of the nation's 1,570 children who die each year from abuse. But the sheer magnitude of young lives slammed by child abuse and neglect didn't hit home until she found herself in a family court trying to rescue her own grandchildren.

She'd never have predicted it within her own family. She'd somehow felt that going to church and serving as director of children's programs there was a kind of "kid insurance." By the time she recognized what was happening to her grandkids, "the neglect was serious — our own personal tragedy."

She and her husband John also saw children whose parents or grandparents simply never showed up to court. So she started praying for those kids, too, and then for the ones she would never see. The Magees asked their church and then other churches nearby to pray for all those children who were abused and neglected or are at risk — as many as 3 million any given year in America, according to national child protection numbers.

As the Magees pray Sunday for children at the First Christian Fellowship Church in Harlingen, Texas, they will have lots of company. Hundreds of churches in more than 30 states — about 2.5 million people — have registered for "Blue Sunday," a day when congregations across America pray for endangered or at-risk children and rescuers. Others will join in, too, uncounted. On the last Sunday in April, they pray first for the kids. Then they pray for the social workers and police officers who will try to protect them, the judges that will sort out their cases, the families that will change, and new families that will open hearts and homes in cases where change doesn't happen. And they pray for policymakers who need wisdom to craft sound rules.

Blue's not just the color of bruises, Magee said. It's also a color of hope.

Acting on it

Prayer is a starting point, but not the whole job, said the Rev. Aaron Graham, lead pastor of The District Church, an interdenominational evangelical church in the nation's capital that embraces Blue Sunday and the challenges of kids in foster care.

"Not all people can do everything, but everybody can do something," he said. "The key message for us is that so many are overwhelmed by the scope of the issues. Just break it down."

He said individuals can mentor, provide stressed parents or foster parents with respite, or maybe even become a foster-adoptive parent. He and his wife are going through that process, anxious to impact a young life. Anyone can pray, both for the children and for those who could better their lives.

Child abuse and neglect are on the hearts of his congregation, he said, and they've embraced what they call a D.C. 127 campaign. It's a riff on a campaign Colorado Community Church in Aurora launched several years ago called Project 127. The number comes from the Bible's James 1:27, which says to look after orphans and widows and those in distress.

Graham knows how many children are in the D.C. foster care system and what portion will likely never reunite with their families. His church's goal, he said, is to reverse things so that the number of people on waiting lists to adopt or foster children is longer than that of kids who need temporary or permanent homes. It's backwards now, and his congregation wants so badly to set it right that they'll announce this Sunday a $20,000 gift to programs to bolster recruiting and foster parent training, he told the Deseret News.

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