It is always a blessing to hear from Kathy Branzell of National Day of Prayer!
Praying, Caring, and Sharing in the North Central States
Gary and Barb Hibma, the North Central National Area Leaders, are truly ambassadors for the Lord. As they have followed the Lord’s direction, their ministry influence and leadership has grown beyond their hometown of Sheldon, Iowa, all the way to Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. “It wasn’t what we thought we were going to be doing, but we are doing what God wants us to do,” said Barbara.
The Hibmas are dedicated to following God’s calling on their lives and are about glorifying God through trust, love and service, always listening to where the Lord will lead next. Gary has been a travelling salesman and is retired from the Army National Guard, so he knows what it means to focus on others and serve diligently. While Barb focuses on the day to day functions of their NDP and other ministry responsibilities, together they model service and prayer to each other first – then to others, a principal that they have practiced through 47 years of marriage.
Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Following the Lord’s guidance from this scripture is central to Barb and Gary’s ministry. Along with leading prayer, God put on their hearts to plant a church in Sheldon and start a ministry where they feed the hungry. Even though Sheldon only has a population of around 5,000, their ministry stays busy with people from nearby communities who come to the food bank, and who gather together for a monthly unity meal, serving anyone, regardless of their means or social status.
A large number of the people in their area are farmers, many of whom have been hit hard by floods this last year. “Some people have lost everything, and farmers can’t plant their crops,” Gary said. These events not only disrupt peoples lives, but there is a negative economic impact in the state for years to come. During these disasters, the Hibmas helped coordinate prayer events in Iowa and Nebraska to encourage the communities through prayer and to seek God in times of trauma. “We praise our God—that’s how we respond in joy and in grief,” Barb said.
These meetings can gather in a relatively short amount of time, because the Hibmas have laid the groundwork of a relationship with local leaders. When Barb first began going to the meetings of the ministerial alliance in Sheldon, they were meeting in a restaurant—a nice place for socializing, but not a good environment for serious prayer or discussing local issues. “I took the initiative to secure a private meeting space and cater their meal once a month,” Barb said. “There they can go to meet, pray and make decisions. They appreciated that, and it promoted a good working relationship. Now, when we need to call people to prayer—they rally rather quickly.”
So much of ministry is extending the love of Christ to those who don’t know Him, and brotherly love to fellow believers in all circumstances. God brings brothers and sisters to us through ministry to walk the journeys of life with us through good and challenging seasons. While it is wonderful to have good neighbors and a tight community, this is only a shadow of what God intended. The church is called to be like a family, gathering together and using our time and resources according to God’s instruction to bring glory to Him. In the north central states, the Lord is bringing people together across states and within communities to pray and seek His face, using Gary and Barb to help set the example.
“When you’ve been through deep waters and come out of it, you want other people to know how that happens,” Barb said. “When we are dead and gone, we want our kids and grandkids to remember from our example, that it’s our relationship with Jesus Christ that is the most important.”
Every time a need is met or a prayer is uttered, it is to point to an unending trust in the Lord’s ability to provide and hear our longing hearts. We come into the knowledge of the Lord through salvation in Jesus Christ, and every act of ministry is borne out of faith in Jesus and the desire to obey Him and follow His example.
“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:16-17
Article by Amy McDonald
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About the National Day of Prayer
The National Day of Prayer tradition predates the founding of the United States of America, evidenced by the Continental Congress’ proclamation in 1775 setting aside a day of prayer. In 1952, Congress established an annual day of prayer and, in 1988, that law was amended, designating the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May.
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