ANAHEIM, Calif. Twenty-five years ago Fern Nichols got on her knees with another mother and prayed fervently for their children as they headed off to junior high school.
"There was a burden to pray for them that was so big I knew I couldn't do it alone," she said. "I knew Satan was going to pull out all of the stops. I was actually fearful.
"This would be a serious time of battle. I had the sense of warfare in my heart."
And those were the good old days before school shootings, before Internet instructions on suicide and self-mutilation, before casual on-campus sexual encounters called "hooking up," and before curricula promoted such things as condom use and gay sex.
Eight grandchildren later Nichols heads Moms in Touch International, a worldwide prayer movement involving 175,000 women in 132 countries. In the United States alone, 17,500 schools are being prayed for, with every state represented. A Moms in Touch booklet she published in 1990 has been reprinted into 38 languages, including a Braille version.
"I didn't know it was the beginning of anything," she said.
To celebrate, Nichols is having a party and everyone's invited. Leave your gifts at home, though, all she's seeking is more prayer.
"You never stop praying, do you?" Nichols said.
The global prayer initiative called the Worldwide Day of Extraordinary Prayer, will be held Nov. 14 at 500 host sites. Participants in the global event will use a four-hour taped DVD format from a live two-day program hosted Oct. 9 and 10 in San Diego, where the ministry is headquartered. The staggered time zones will ensure that prayer covers the globe for 24 straight hours, Nichols said. Prayers will also cover "the generations."
International host sites include locations in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, Uganda and Ukraine.
In Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, a dozen churches have signed up to date to host the Nov. 14 event, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. They include First Christian, Anaheim; Calvary Chapel, Chino Hills; Inland Hills, Chino; Voyagers Bible, Irvine; La Mirada Nazarene, La Mirada; St. John's Presbyterian, Los Angeles; Calvary Chapel, Mission Viejo; The River Christian Reformed, Redlands; Living Faith Fellowship, San Dimas; Highland Cornerstone, Temple City; Victory Fellowship, Torrance and West Valley Christian, West Hills.
"It's a 24-hour war of the voices of moms for every culture in the world," she said. "There will be chords of prayers crying out for the generations. We really believe God is gathering the moms, the grandmothers, the aunts. This is a serious time."
Across the grain
Over the years, the prayer ministry has crossed denominational, cultural and generational lines. Moms pray for kids, grandmothers pray for kids, aunts pray for kids, strangers pray for kids.
"It's not just our children we pray for but it's the school," she said. "It's not just the school we pray for, but it's a community. If the school is covered, the community is covered."
As word about the prayer groups spread among friends, Focus on the Family, then based in Southern California, got wind of the movement. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, invited Nichols and a few of her group into the studio to discuss their work in schools. The response was so overwhelming, Dobson extended the discussion for two more shows, with 24,000 people contacting the ministry.
"I don't think we realized the significance of what we were doing," she said. "We've never been the same."
Today they employ 21 full- and part-time employees. More than 1,350 coordinators work across the United States, with 80 more overseas. The ministry produce three newsletters annually and offers several curricular items including training videos and a six-week study called "Igniting a Passion to Pray." Her latest book, "When Moms Pray Together" will soon be released by Focus on the Family.
"The Christian women need to be united and truly be serious about fighting for the hearts and minds of our children and for the next generation."
For more information, visit www.momsintouch.org.