Visitors to The Square on Mondays around lunchtime will notice a white and purple tent advertising ‘Free Prayer.’ Awaken His Church, the brainchild of Holly Hayes and Tarita Kuhns, started during the coronavirus pandemic. Two years later, the movement now grows throughout the state.
by Kari Apted
The Bible teems with stories of ordinary women who did extraordinary things. These wives, mothers and daughters continue to inspire women to follow in their footsteps. Several such women can be found on The Square in downtown Covington on Mondays, clad in purple T-shirts, inviting others to pray with them beneath the purple tent emblazoned with their name: Awaken His Church.
AHC started small in spring 2017, when friends Holly Hayes and Tarita Kuhns met for Bible study and prayer. Driven by a desire for true revival, the pair felt the church as a whole had fallen into a state of complacency.
“It’s like the church was lulled to sleep,” Hayes said. “We knew that revival had to start with the body of Christ first. We felt a burden to take His message outside the walls of the church building.” Kuhns agreed: “I felt like the Bride of Christ was sick and needed reviving.” They based their mission on Joel 2, which they summed up in four words: fast, pray, mourn and weep.
Kuhns’ initial vision was for local churches to join together in unity. She contacted hundreds of local congregations, hoping to find one that would open its doors to the new prayer ministry.
“So many people are receptive to prayer, even if they might not ever set foot inside a church.”Holly Hayes
“I didn’t see this as a time to come pray for Aunt Susie’s uncle’s brother’s cat,” Kuhns said with a laugh. “I wanted us to gather in a holy time and cry out to God in unity.”
Kuhns was disappointed to find a lukewarm response until she reached out to Larry Cheek, of the Stone Mountain Baptist Association. With his help, Kuhns found 12 churches willing to partner with her. “All we asked was for them to allow us to use their facility,” she said. “We didn’t want to put anything else on their plate. We just needed a place to gather and pray.” Milstead Baptist Church in Conyers opened its doors to the women, and they met there on Mondays. Soon, Hayes and Kuhns felt led to take their prayers out onto the streets of Conyers and Covington.
“It was way—way—outside our comfort zones to walk around, asking strangers on the street if they needed prayer,” Hayes said. They were joined by another friend, Sally Hawkins, whose boldness was an inspiration. “One day while Sally was prayer walking, a copperhead snake bit her toe. Sally beat it to death with her flip flop,” Kuhns said. Miraculously, a doctor came riding down the road on a bicycle at just that moment and stopped to assist her.
Hawkins encouraged the ladies to prayer walk with her in some of the area’s more challenging neighborhoods. Miraculous events began to happen as the women reached beyond their personal comfort zones. One of Kuhns’ first prayer walk encounters happened at a drug house in Milstead. She felt apprehensive about knocking on the door, but a man came outside and sat with her on the porch.
“He had a heartbreaking story,” Kuhns said. “His daughter had died of a seizure, and his wife committed suicide. In his grief, he stepped out in front of an 18-wheeler to end his own life. He said that as he was picking his intestines up off the ground, he told God he would serve Him if he let him live. Over time, he’d withdrawn from God. We prayed for his faith to be restored.”
Another time, an angry man pulled a gun on the women. Undeterred, they continued to the next house. A young woman answered the door and poured out her heart, asking for prayer and direction. A cult had been actively recruiting her, but before the prayer team left, she called the cult recruiters and told them not to return because she had accepted Jesus.
The group chose The Square as their gathering place when COVID-19 restricted them from praying door-to-door or meeting inside a building. On Sept. 1, 2020, Hayes and Kuhns fasted and prayed on The Square from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. It was a Monday, and the group has not missed a Monday since. The first day went so well that they showed up every day that September. Daily prayer sessions continued through October. Hayes described what happened those first two months.
“We would approach people on benches and ask if they needed prayer,” she said. “So many people are receptive to prayer, even if they might not ever set foot inside a church. That might’ve been their one opportunity to hear the Gospel and have someone minister to them.” The process follows the same model today, but Hayes and Kuhns find that more people approach them directly. “They often say they aren’t sure how they ended up there,” Kuhns said. “They’ll say they saw our sign and just had to turn around and talk to us. People will come up weeping and pour out their stories even though we’re complete strangers.”
Awaken His Church has seen hundreds of people become Christians and many others return to the tent to share how their prayers were answered. AHC always has a paper scroll available for people to write down prayer requests. To date, the group has filled three, 200-foot-long scrolls. Larry Rodriguez was on The Square with his wife one Monday when Hayes approached them.
“I’d been going through a lot in my life, and we were in a long season of trying to bring ourselves back up,” Rodriguez said. His struggles included bone cancer, COVID-19, losing his mother and losing his job after his cancer diagnosis. “When Holly asked me if she could pray with us, I said, ‘I don’t know why not.’ I told them I was a believer but asked them to pray for my health.” After the prayer, Hayes gave him a pamphlet bearing the name of the church she attended. Rodriguez was stunned. “My son goes to that church—Michael Rodriguez,” he said. Hayes’ jaw dropped as she realized their connection. “I know Michael,” she said. “I’ve already been praying for you for two weeks.”
Kuhns’ desire to connect with the local church body has been realized. AHC has volunteers from numerous congregations and now has weekly prayer tents in Athens and Madison. Other groups are using the free prayer tent model in Griffin, Monroe and Thomaston.
“The tent has been the catalyst, and God keeps opening more connections and opportunities,” Kuhns said. “He obviously has a plan. We’re just going with the flow to see what He’s doing next.”
For information on Awaken His Church, visit www.awakenhischurch.wixsite.com/awaken.