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Joy and pain have often collided and the weight of grief continues to be present, but Thomas and Jodie Barrett have chosen to concentrate on the joy in life rather than sadness.  

For the fourth year, along with a host of volunteers, they will stage the Community Prayer Tree beside their home at 787 Rivers Edge Parkway in Roanoke Rapids.  

This event, and the Prayer Tree, is in memory of Ryan Barrett, George Cesil, and James "Bo" Ussery.  

The three linemen lost their lives after they were struck by a drunken driver while helping to restore power in Florida in the aftermath of 2018’s Hurricane Michael.

The community is invited to join them in praying.   

Placed beside this year’s 12-foot tree, a mailbox will hold tags, protective sleeves, and pens, allowing visitors to write a prayer request and place it on the tree.  

Benches are present so that those stopping by may sit for a while and pray for their request and the others that have been placed on the tree.

“In the last three years we found healing, peace, joy, laughter, tears, and love at the foot of the tree. It was beautiful to have our community circle around the tree every Monday night from the beginning of December to the end,” said Jodie. “Again we want to offer prayer, sing songs of worship, and support one another as we fellowship and gather safely beneath the tree.”

Tammy Jean of Creative Designs and Gifts, located at 412 Becker Drive in Roanoke Rapids, will be joining the Barrett family again this year by displaying a prayer tree and a mailbox holding prayer tags outside of her shop. While there will not be a scheduled event at this location, people are encouraged to stop by and place a prayer on this tree also. 

This year a third prayer tree will be positioned in The Mill Coffee and Eatery at 1020 Roanoke Avenue.  

Melissa Harris, owner of the café nestled in the heart of Roanoke Rapids’ Historic District, invites everyone to stop in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and place a prayer tag on the tree.  

Last year, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, scores of people safely came to the Barretts home to decorate the Community Prayer Tree with prayer cards and watch as its lights were turned on.  

Jodie anticipates the tree will be laden with cards again this year. 

Different church groups will be onsite and available to assist visitors by helping them with cards and praying with them from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. each Monday in December through Christmas.  

As in past years, if you are unable to visit the prayer tree, you may contact Jodie Barrett, Donna Fender, or Kimberly Graybeal to express your prayer request and a tag will be placed upon the tree for you  

According to Kimberly Graybeal, Prayer Tree coordinator, each Monday evening will be diverse and unique because of the generosity of the community and its neighbors. 

As a special conclusion on the evening of December 20, luminarias will be lit in memory of others, providing a peaceful atmosphere of joy and hope.

The Monday schedule will be as follows:

December 6 —  Special music will be provided along with scripture reading and prayer.    

December 13 — Heather Wynne, ESL teacher, together with her students, will present a program in which her students will dress to represent their countries.  

The children will speak and read a familiar verse or prayer in their language.  

There will be Spanish and Indian speaking countries represented as well as those from Vietnam and the Philippines.  

Hope for Hardy will provide all those in attendance that night with a nostalgic Christmas fruit, candy, and nut bag.  

December 20 —  Members of First Christian Church will provide music, prayer, and a scripture reading by Justin Fender.  

The children of First Christian Church will proudly present a live Nativity.  

Cookies and hot chocolate will be served.