God rewards prayer, faithfulness, and consistency, says Pastor Ricardo Volcy of Heart of Harrisburg (Pennsylvania). And Ricardo would know, having seen God use a weekly Prayer and Pasta Night to add six people to His family.
Since November 2015, Ricardo has invited neighbors to Heart of Harrisburg (Alliance) for a time of prayer and a meal. Every Wednesday he faithfully walks from the church to a bar across the street to tell those who gather there “I love them and Jesus loves them,” he says. Then he invites everyone to Prayer and Pasta Night.
Things went well at first, but interest waned as people grew impatient with the prayer part. Yet Ricardo didn’t give up.
Closed for Business
On Wednesday, January 20, 2016, as Ricardo worked on some things in front of the church, the bar owner, Otis, approached Ricardo. “I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing,” Otis said. “I’m glad you come to the bar, inviting folks. Tonight my plan is to close the bar and have everyone come to Prayer and Pasta Night.”
“You should have seen me when he told me that,” Ricardo says. “The bar owner tells a pastor that he’s going to close down the bar so the bar patrons can come and pray. Now, if God ain’t good, I don’t know what is!”
Ricardo was excited throughout the day, praying and anticipating what would happen if Otis really did close the bar. Then that evening Ricardo did what he does every Wednesday: He walked across the street to the bar. Otis, as always, reached for his remote and turned down the juke box. “Everybody was calling attention to everybody else in the bar to listen to the pastor—at the bar,” Ricardo recalls.
As Ricardo invited the people to church, Otis interjected, “Listen, this is it. Last call. This bar is shutting down for an hour, and all of you need to go to church.”
So Ricardo left, and a couple of people followed. “As I got to the door of the church, more people were coming from the bar,” Ricardo says. “We got into the fellowship hall and started [the service], and more people kept coming. More than 40 people left the bar to come and pray. It was incredible.”
First Time for Everything
After some time, Ricardo asked those in attendance to share their prayer requests. One man said he was homeless and needed to find a place to stay. Another guy started mumbling a prayer for him, and then he stopped, saying, “I need help; I don’t know how to pray.” This was his first time praying.
A young woman started weeping because she said she has so much hatred and was ready to let it go. “The more we talked, the more she shared and the more she cried, and others started crying,” Ricardo says.
Ricardo then turned to the group and said, “If you’re dealing with anger issues, stand up.” More than 15 people stood up, asking God to take away that pain.
As they continued to pray, Ricardo told the group that prayer is important and the way it starts is with a relationship. “As I asked for people who didn’t know Jesus [to identify themselves], we probably had a half-dozen folks raise their hands in willingness to pray and receive Jesus,” Ricardo says. Otis was one of them.
“This was a sheer miracle by the grace and power of God alone,” Ricardo says. “It was a God thing. It was not me, and I love it. I’ve had many experiences of God showing up and doing something incredible and amazing, and He did it again. And He did it so, so awesomely.”
Pray for God to continue to reveal Himself to this community so that people will come to know Him and live for Him. Pray also for Heart of Harrisburg’s continued impact and presence in its neighborhood and that God will provide for the church’s needs, including sending workers.
Watch the local CBS affiliate’s video report of this story “Pasta, Prayer and a Bar Closure Unite a Harrisburg Neighborhood.”
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