by Britt Aamodt
About five years ago, the homes on either side of Pastor Jeff Krogstad went up for sale. New families moved in. Unfamiliar cars and faces came and went. The patterns of turning on lights and mowing lawns altered according to the routines of these new people.
Krogstad, a pastor at Central Lutheran Church in Elk River, went with the flow. He could’ve gone with the flow so much he hardly noticed his new neighbors.
“But I felt very called to pray for these homeowners,” he says.
As he and his wife strolled the neighborhood, they prayed, and gradually opportunities arose to meet the neighbors and to linger over conversation.
Prayer walking is nothing new. People have been walking in prayer, driving in prayer, showing up to work in prayer, for a long time.
But Pastor Krogstad and the other pastors, churches, organizations and individuals taking part in Bless Minnesota are not only praying for the homes and people and businesses in their neighborhoods but adopting their community one street at a time.
Bless Minnesota was founded November 2011 with the aim of blessing the state of Minnesota by adopting every street in prayer.
It doesn’t have to be a street. Some people choose to adopt a workplace, sports team or a city hall, says Greg Pagh, chair of Bless Minnesota and pastor at Christ Church, Otsego. Pastor Pagh has adopted the Denny’s restaurant across from his church.
“Everybody needs prayer,” he says. He instances the recent tragedy in Zimmerman. “People are hurting and we don’t even know about it. We pray and ask the Lord to let us be used if needed.”
Adopting a street isn’t about evangelizing or getting people to church. It’s about being intentional with prayer and being present to the people around you.
Pastor Bob Holtz of Rogers’ Hope of Zion has a quote that embodies that attitude: “Talk to God about your neighbors before you talk to your neighbors about God.”
But why do this at all?
Pastor Pagh was first drawn to the concept when he read about a similar initiative in Newark, New Jersey. The city’s crime rate was soaring. Then a group organized a grass-roots effort to pray for every single street in the city.
The crime rate dropped significantly, says Pastor Pagh, “and Newark experienced its first murder-free month in 44 years.”
Law enforcement may attribute the reduction to a task force, city and county government to social programs. But to Pastor Pagh and the other members of Bless Minnesota it’s about prayer.
“It starts with prayers and blessings,” he says, “but then it goes out there and encourages us to foster relationships with our neighbors.”
Sometimes that’s a hard thing to do in suburbs.
“Years ago, you had front porches,” says Pastor Krogstad. “You’d walk by and your neighbors would be on the front porch and you could stand there and talk with them.”
Nowadays, commuters turn off streets and right into attached garages. Maybe they sit on their decks but neighbors don’t feel comfortable going in a backyard.
So Pastor Krogstad and his wife continue their prayer walks. They’ve gotten to know their new neighbors, and during the holidays left small gifts for them.
After the recent spring blizzard, says Pastor Krogstad, “We were talking to our neighbor and he says, ‘Hey, I notice you haven’t had time to plow your driveway yet. How about if I bring my ATV over and plow you out?’”
To him, Bless Minnesota is about being a positive factor in his city and helping “create the kind of community you’re looking for.”
For Pastor Percy Kallevig, Twin Lakes Christian, his prayer walk on his adopted street made him not just aware of the pothole in his neighbor’s driveway but that he could go over and fix it.
Currently, 12 local churches are participating in Bless Minnesota. Statewide 491 streets have been adopted. Anyone can log in to BlessMN.org and adopt a street. Pastor Pagh’s goal is to see 500 local streets adopted by May 31.
“I call it prayer with legs,” he says. “Because you take the prayer out of the church and bring it into every area of the community.”