WASHINGTON – Evangelical "warriors" from around the country believe they can use prayer to help win the war on terror as they head to Washington, D.C., for the Fourth of July celebrations.
"God is in the midst of it and will give us protection," said Martha LeGette, who traveled from South Carolina to volunteer at this week's prayer activities.
LeGette is one of more than 2,000 End-Time Handmaidens and Servants who call themselves "warriors of prayer." The ministry, founded in 1974 by missionary Gwen Shaw, is holding its 27th annual conference in downtown Washington, D.C., this week.
"I think that God has placed the Handmaidens here to protect the nation because of the threats," said LeGette, who added that terrorist cells are no match for the ministry's worldwide prayer cells.
This Independence Day, many folks are debating whether to brave terror alerts and head down to celebrations in cities across the nation. And while Shaw, Devlin and fellow Handmaiden Linda Hertzell wave the colorful flags and speak inspirational words, they are pragmatic about their future.
As Handmaidens, the group's prayer cells are preparing for the "end-times," the prophesied end of the world, as dictated in the Bible's Book of Revelations.
"We are aware of what is going on — we can see it in the events that are taking place," said Devlin, referring to the violence in the Middle East, the Sept. 11 attacks and continued nuclear threats, here in the U.S. and abroad.
The Handmaidens and Servants are not alone. A recent Time magazine poll found that more than one-third of Americans say they are thinking more about the end of the world and how current events might relate to its arrival, while 59 percent said they fully believe the end-times described in the Book of Revelation will come true. Nearly 25 percent say they believe that the Sept. 11 attacks were predicted in the Bible.
The Internet is teeming with Web sites and message boards hailing the terrorist attacks and the Middle East conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis as proof of the impending Apocalypse. As with the Millennium, religious and non-religious sects are predicting the worst. And unlike the Handmaidens and Servants, they don't think prayer is necessarily going to help.
"The Book of Daniel says that these things are determined by God and Jesus said, 'behold as I told you before.' It can't be changed," said Texe Marrs, the founder of The Power of Prophecy Ministry, which mostly engages in short-wave radio broadcasts and newsletters. Marrs is also pastor at the Bible Home Church in Austin, Texas.
"We know these things are going to happen," said Marrs, who believes that beginning and the end will occur in the Middle East and that the turmoil there will blow over to the rest of the world. His group also believes that an underground movement seeking a "new world order" is responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, developing deadly vaccines and a purge on civil liberties.
Despite the conspiracies, growing fears and their own terrorist alerts, members of the Bush administration insisted over the weekend that Americans continue their Fourth of July festivities as normal. In the meantime, U.S. Capitol and Park Police, as well as local authorities are beefing up for what may prove to be the most secure holiday festivities since the Millennium celebration.
"In the course of the next couple of days, we'll be meeting on a regular basis to make an assessment of any additional threats that might be coming our way," said Secretary of State Colin Powell. "But I hope most Americans will go about their business and enjoy the Fourth of July. I intend to."
The Handmaidens and Servants say they plan to carry on as normal — in prayer.
"Last December I was in Israel with my mother. A bomb blew up a few blocks away from us," said Heather Buss, 14, of Arkansas. "My mother said you're safer in the middle of the war than you are in your own backyard when you are with the will of God, and prayer."