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Curbside Prayer Curbs Costco-Sized Fears

Church’s creative efforts offer hope and calm in the midst of COVID-19.
LifeBridge Community Church sits adjacent to Costco in northwest Fresno, California, and when the coronavirus fear began spreading through the U.S., pastor Kevin D. Foster noticed that people at the big-box retailer were “freaking out at the thought of not getting anything.”

“The vibe over at Costco was hysteria, panic, fear,” says Foster, 47. “I thought, here we are right across the street from Costco. How can we operate in the opposite spirit of this culture? We wanted to spread a pandemic of hope, not of fear.”

Foster read a social media post from a friend who owns a cafe in another state and offered curbside dining to go. That sparked an idea how to offer hope in the midst of COVID-19.

“I thought, what would it look like if we offered curbside prayer?” Foster says. “What could we do to still minister to people and connect with them in a way that would be appropriate for social distancing?”

Two days later, on March 15, LifeBridge set up orange cones to guide drivers to the side of the church building, and sent a group of people to the Costco entrance to announce the availability of drive-through prayer nearby. While the church live-streamed its Sunday morning services, drivers pulled alongside the building and received ministry from the prayer team — without ever leaving their vehicles.

“It really encouraged people that the church is alive and well, that we are there to support them,” says Tammie S. Packard, 59, who leads the church’s prayer ministry. “It was a relief for some people to see that we’re here for each other.”

Prayer team members wore green neon safety jackets, greeted drivers and passengers at arm’s-length — as advised by the county — asked for prayer requests, read parts of Psalm 91 aloud, then prayed for those in the vehicles and sent them on their way. About 75 drivers participated over several hours. Other drivers waved and honked in support.

A city council member, after seeing the drive-through prayers on a local TV news affiliate, came by to observe. Foster invited him to address the church’s Spanish congregation during the live stream, then prayed for him.

Many drive-through participants requested prayer for peace in the city.

“People sensed that others in the community were becoming anxious about having enough food, or what would happen to them health-wise,” Foster says. “They were good-hearted and praying for the betterment of our community.”

Packard and her team prayed “listening prayers” so they could speak specific words they felt led by the Lord to say.

“For our church, it’s been a good experience because we’re putting our faith in action,” she says.

LifeBridge, planted 14 years ago by Foster and his wife, Ellen, 41, counts 600 attendees and offers services in English and Spanish. The virus outbreak forced a change in ministry thinking.

“God is bringing lots of new opportunities to churches, causing us to be creative through the power of the Holy Spirit,” Foster says. “We as Pentecostals can lean into the Holy Spirit to be witnesses and see signs, wonders, and miracles.”

When the city’s shelter-in-place order is lifted, Foster intends to have drive-in church in the parking lot, where he will preach from a lift while people in their vehicles tune in via FM radio. He envisions the prayer team walking around the property and laying hands on every car.

“The question is, How can we touch people without violating the social distance policy?” Foster says. “How can we minister grace to them?”

Joel Kilpatrick

Joel Kilpatrick is a writer living in Southern California who has authored or ghostwritten dozens of books. Kilpatrick, who served as associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel in the 1990s, is a credentialed Assemblies of God minister.