Ken Locke (R) looks on as Todd Gerst, lead pastor of Warsaw Community Church, gives the keynote address at Thursday's Day of Prayer meeting at Warsaw Community Church. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
Ken Locke (R) looks on as Todd Gerst, lead pastor of Warsaw Community Church, gives the keynote address at Thursday's Day of Prayer meeting at Warsaw Community Church. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
Keynote speaker Todd Gerst said the country is in a spiritual crisis and there’s power in prayer at the Kosciusko County National Day of Prayer Thursday at Warsaw Community Church.

“I don’t think anyone here in this room would disagree that we need prayer. We are in trouble. We are in trouble and we need prayer,” said Ken Locke, corps administrator of The Salvation Army in Warsaw and director of the Greater Warsaw Ministerial Association. Prayers are needed on a national, state and local level. “We need to constantly be seeking God’s guidance.”

Locke said he sees some things happen in his office that he wouldn’t believe happened in Kosciusko County, instead of places like Chicago and Fort Wayne.

“We’re in a spiritual crisis,” Locke said. This is why the people are brought together on the National Day of Prayer and pray.

Gerst, lead pastor of Warsaw Community Church, said, “Ken said it really well. We are in trouble. There’s no question about it. But we also know who can change things. We know who changed our hearts. We know who has all the power. We know the one who sees what we don’t. He understands things we can’t.”

Gerst said that during the National Day of Prayer, there’s an opportunity to do things they normally couldn’t be able to do with their own strength by kneeling before God and praying.

While he said people should pray for guidance and direction, Gerst said it shouldn’t be just on the National Day of Prayer that people pray. People should also be praying for our governing legislators and those that “have that burden to lead so we can live peacefully.”

“And that exactly doesn’t sound like our world today. There’s so much animosity,” Gerst said. He said he wanted to address some of those things as those in attendance prayed.

God answers prayers and “we know our great need can drive us to our knees and we can say help us. So we come here in unity, as well,” Gerst said. “Unity because there are so many things in our country that drive us apart.”

The differences of opinion draw battle lines, he said.

“It used to be our country used to unify us, but it’s apparent to him that’s no longer the case,” he said. There’s one thing that can pull people together and that’s faith in Jesus Christ, he stated. Because of that, people can come together in unity and humility.

“It may not be easy for us, but certainly prayer is that demonstration of our own humility, our coming to the end of our own resources and going to the one who has more, going to the one who is able,” Gerst said.

Gerst told the audience a little bit about himself.

In 1995, WCC sent Gerst, his wife Karen and their four children as missionaries to Papua New Guinea. They spent 15 years working with the Maleu people.

“And we were there to take the Gospel to the Maleu people,” Gerst said. The Maleu lived in a remote place and were waiting someone to come and “share the hope of the Gospel with them.”

The most important thing God taught Gerst and his family during that time is about his love and that God is worthy “of our praise.” Gerst learned about God in ways he hadn’t before during that time.

Gerst said growing up, he learned to love the United States. His parents loved the country, with his father and several other family members serving in the military. He said he was raised to love and honor the country and leaders, despite any flaws they might have.

When Gerst got to Papua New Guinea, his appreciation for the United States only grew. He said it’s the perspective of what the country does well, not ignoring any failures but addressing them.

He said the power in the country lies in the people, in the power of God’s people.

Gerst said the America he came back to was different than the one he left. He said the country is very divided.

One of the things that God showed him while in Papua New Guinea was the power of prayer and that’s what’s needed.

“I can tell you He works,” Gerst said.

Gerst said Papua New Guinea was a “godless place.” Gerst said he was praying that God would show Himself to the Maleu people as he learned their language and ways. Then, the light of the Gospel showed itself to the Maleu people and “the Maleu were saved,” he said. The Gospel transformed  families and communities.

He said the Papua New Guinea in 1995 is not the same Papua New Guinea that exists today as it has transformed. Gerst said the transformation is due to the power of prayer and God.

After Gerst spoke, several community leaders led prayers on different topics. They were: business, Dennis Cultice, executive pastor of operations at Warsaw Community Church; education, Jeffrey Peck, director of Presby Preschool and retired professor of education at Grace College; family, Rebecca Dawson, counselor and author with Simply Becoming; government, Craig Snow, Indiana state representative, District 18; media, Melissa Montana, CEO/president of Start Educational Media Network Star 88.3; military, Bill Cook, Vietnam veteran; ministry and missions, Christy Hill, professor of spiritual formation and women’s ministry at Grace College.