The Drake University campus has been stunned by two student deaths in the past week. Following the deaths of senior Ryan Henderson of Lenexa, Kansas on Sept. 5 and Cliffton Murove of Gweru, Zimbabwe on Sept. 11, Drake’s Intervarsity Christian Fellowship scheduled a 24-hour prayer vigil beginning at 8 pm tonight, Tuesday, Sept. 14. The prayer vigil is being held in Morehouse Ballroom on the Drake campus until 8 pm Wednesday night and is open to people of all faiths.
I went to the prayer service this evening and was moved by how it encouraged people to pray. It wasn’t your typical prayer service where people sit with heads bowed, hands clasped firmly in their laps. There were different prayer “stations” set up throughout the room. On one end of the room was a sign-in sheet for those who came to pray, which was right next to a poster on the wall, encouraging you to write down your prayers. “Your kingdom come,” I wrote simply. I yearned for God’s kingdom to come and be made known on the Drake campus.
Following the path around the room, I approached another poster with the faces of Henderson and Murove. “Write down your memories of Ryan and Cliffton”, the sign read. Sharpies lay below each poster around the room. The next station I approached had a makeshift candle next to a beautiful Maya Angelou poem. Three small bottles of paint sat next to the candle, with a note encouraging you to dip your finger in the paint and leave your print as your “lit candle” in Henderson’s and Murove’s memory.
Next, I approached a sign that encouraged you to pray for the campus, with a blown-up map of the campus posted next to it. “Pray for specific places and people on campus,” the note read. Sitting right next to this station was a table with art supplies, from markers to pens to paint. The poster asked you to show your prayers to God through your art and drawings.
I crossed the room to find a string pattern hung on the wall. Index cards were clipped to the string with simple prayer requests, “My dad’s healing from colon cancer” or “Judy’s healing from ovarian cancer.” The note on the poster read, “Pray for a request and add your own.” At the final prayer station, a large map encouraged you to pray for people around the world.
After visiting the stations, I sat in the middle of the room, which was set up with blankets, pillows, books, notebooks and bibles. Upon arriving, before circling the room, I had prayed with my friend that organized the vigil before she left. Now on my own with a few other people already praying, I laid down on the blanket and rested my head on the pillow, offering up my prayers for God’s love, presence and peace for the family and friends of Henderson and Murove as well as the Drake campus.
Even if you aren’t able to make it to the vigil over the next 24 hours, I hope you’ll pray with me for the Drake students. Pray for comfort, peace and for the presence and love of God to be near to them. Pray for students’ lives to be touched, for God’s kingdom to come.
* A funeral service will be held for Cliffton this Thursday at 7 pm in Morehouse Ballroom, 2803 University Ave. For funeral information and to find out how you can donate to the Cliffton memorial fund, visit this link.