The Rev. Michael Henderson challenged residents at the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center, or ARC, to ask God for a vision.
He was surprised by the enthusiastic response of one resident, Joe Yontz.
"I put the challenge out there and Joe really believed in it and worked for it," said Mr. Henderson, head counselor at ARC and the pastor of Harvest Christian Training Center.
Mr. Yontz told Mr. Henderson that God gave him a vision of Toledo churches coming together for a day of prayer and music in Promenade Park.
That vision will soon become a reality when "God of Our City: Praise in Promenade Park" takes place from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 8 in the downtown riverfront venue.
The nondenominational Christian gathering will feature music, poetry, rap, and prayer by local musicians, bands, and individuals, as well as prayer times and brief sermons by local ministers.
Mr. Henderson said Mr. Yontz was determined to make it work but needed assistance.
"It was Joe's idea and we just kind of orchestrated it for him. Because of his position being a resident here [at the ARC], we had to do all the footwork for him," he said.
Mr. Yontz graduated from the Salvation Army rehabilitation center on Sunday, after 14 months of treatment, and is now on his own and working, he added.
"When we got started, Joe wanted to know what the first step would be and I said let's pray," Mr. Henderson said. "The next step was to write it all down. Then we made phone calls. His vision was contagious and we all became infected together."
Jim Greer, a member of Toledo's Vineyard Church who volunteers at the ARC, said he didn't take Mr. Yontz's vision very seriously at first.
"But Joe kept on us, and Michael and I said, 'OK, let's go for it.' We thought maybe we could get a couple of churches to come to the park for a few hours."
When he called the city to inquire about getting a permit to use Promenade Park, he was told that the park had already been reserved for a Christian praise and prayer service on Aug. 8.
He then contacted the event's organizer, Chris Zemmerman, and the different groups decided to work together.
The leadership team has been meeting weekly for about two months and "we have about a dozen churches involved," Mr. Greer said.
Mr. Henderson, 32, said he has met more ministers and local church leaders in the last few months working on God of This City than he did in five years of being pastor of Harvest Christian Training Center.
"It's wonderful to have a group of Christian believers who decided to partner together to pursue the vision of Joe Yontz," he said.
It was too late to arrange for food vendors for the event, Mr. Henderson said, so organizers are recommending that people bring lawn chairs and a picnic lunch to the park.
He also recommends that visitors bring an extra sandwich or other food, and some bottled water to share with people in need.
The day's schedule will offer prayer from 10 a.m. to noon and then 14 groups or individuals performing 30-minute sets, with breaks in between during with ministers will give short sermons.
More information on the Aug. 8 "God of our City: Praise in Promenade Park" is available by calling 419-868-5949 or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- David Yonke