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March for Jesus goes on

BOARDMAN — The annual March for Jesus, which usually is held in downtown Youngstown and draws hundreds of participants from the tri-county area, was a scaled-down version this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People met individually or in small groups to walk and pray in their neighborhoods, streets or parks.

A small group gathered at Boardman Park on May 30 for the local event, spending one hour walking in the park and then at noon finding a place to kneel and pray.

Rhonda Wilhelm of Boardman said the March for Jesus, which in past years had many people gathered to march in prayer in their communities, changed to an online format with people asked to walk and pray individually or in small groups.

The event is hosted nationwide as a way for communities to celebrate Jesus through a praise walk. Community members all over the country hit the streets for the march.

The number of local churches of different denominations participating in the Youngstown and Warren areas was about 50.

In past years, the March for Jesus consisted of rallies and big groups of people gathering to pray and praise God, but those in smaller groups say what took place also worked.

“We’re praying in unity, not only across our nation, but even internationally. We want people to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We are exalting the name of Jesus,” Wilhelm said.

“We can see with a pandemic that has swept an entire globe, there is one hope, and that is Jesus Christ,” Boardman resident Marilyn Johnson said.

Wilhelm said while the group was walking, they listened on her cellphone to the Rev. Gary Frost, one of the event organizers, speaking from a radio station in Cleveland and also playing music.

Victory Christian Center livestreamed praise and worship and messages on its Facebook page as some pastors united in prayer.

Alice Marshall of Cornersburg said she was taking part in order to have the glory of God come down upon the participants.

When the group knelt in prayer, they quoted Philippians 2:10, which states, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.”

Boardman resident Cathy Calo was participating for the first time, and when she got out of her car, she met up with the other participants.

“We were all drawn together. They approached me to see if I wanted to walk with them. It was like God has sent them to me to be part of this with them,” Calo said.

Wilhelm said she had one “Walk with Jesus” T-shirt left in her car and gave it to Calo.

“We are able to hear him. There is praise and worship and music. We were able to exalt Jesus’ power and glorify him and proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord,” Johnson said.

Roy Wright of Boardman said it was important to have a peaceful walk and to lift up people.

“Anything we can do to further the message of God’s love is important,” Jody Lewis of Boardman said.

Bianka Gonzales of Campbell said it was a unique way people in small groups can come together to pray to Jesus.

Frost said this year’s event was more of a “scattering” than a gathering in many neighborhoods.

Organizers said March for Jesus was very popular in the 1980s and ’90s when people marched in their city and spent a moment together in proclamation, prayer and worship to God. Organizers said the love of Jesus is what is so important as people from all denominations come together.

In addition to Youngstown, events also were held in Warren and Cleveland.

The event already has been scheduled for next year on May 22, 2021.

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