Mattea sat in the back of the classroom, her four-foot-seven frame all but dwarfed by a senior football player. Always, no matter what school she attended, Mattea was stuck in the very back behind the ever popular “Y” people.
Mrs. Hawkins went down the list and called names one by one. Each student acknowledged his presence with some kind of guttural sound, a nod and wave or a curt, “Here.”
The teacher looked down at her computer and called out, “Anthony Yoemans?”
“Yeah, boy.” Giggles filled the room as Anthony unfurled his tightly fit body from the too small desk and gave a bow.
“Thank you for that wonderful performance. Now will you kindly take your seat?”
The teacher talked above the noise of antsy students. “Mattea Zbiden?” The class turned as one to face the newcomer.
”I’m… heeere,” she squeaked through her dry throat.
The class once again erupted into giggles and Mattea sank even lower into her desk until the next interruption and she was forgotten.
At the bell the hallway filled with teens that shoved their way to their next class as they laughed and goofed off. Mattea walked hesitantly, head down until she heard her name through the noise.
“Mattea, wait up!” Anthony, the football player, came up behind her and grabbed her books.
“You brought your Bible. Are you a Christian?”
She suddenly felt at ease with this young man and answered, “Yeah, boy!”
Anthony smiled. “Funny. I’m trying to get a ‘See You at the Pole’ event set up here. You know, where we pray around the flagpole in September.”
“Tell me when and where.”
A meeting was scheduled and all church youth groups were invited. The two waited for reinforcements but none came. Disappointed but not discouraged, they made plans to advertise with posters and both agreed to wear Christian t-shirts throughout the month.
“Why’re you wearing that shirt? Haven’t you ever heard of separation of church and state?” The noisy hallway grew quiet as Mattea considered the question.
“We can wear Christian t-shirts and we can pray in school…”
Anthony came along beside her and finished, “and we can bring our Bibles.”
The boy argued, “That’s not what we learned in History class. Church is church and school is school.”
School officials try to bully us but it’s not legal.” Suddenly everyone scattered and Mattea and Anthony looked at each other.
Mr. Porter, the assistant Vice-Principal, walked confidently down the hall. “Office, now.”
They waited and silently prayed for what was to come.
“What is this, ‘See You at the Pole’?”
Anthony sat at the edge of his seat ready for a fight. Mattea pushed him back and warned him with her eyes. “Actually we were coming to talk to you today. Here’s a flyer. SYATP is student-led and is not a demonstration or a political rally. We’re not trying to make a statement or anything.”
“It’s a chance for students to get together to pray for our school, teachers, friends, whatever. “It’s all perfectly legal,” Anthony quickly added.
Mr. Porter looked them both in the eye with an air of authority and let them go with a word of warning. “No talking about it during class time or making any more scenes in the hallways.”
Anthony bristled but was held back by Mattea who answered, “If anyone asks, we’ll talk.”
The fourth Wednesday of September finally came. Mattea and Anthony stood by the school’s flag pole and prayed that someone would come. Busses unloaded students. Many stared but no one joined them.
“Mattea, you ready?”
They sang, quietly at first then louder with arms clenched to their sides. “Be bold; be strong, for the Lord your God is with you…” With each word their faith grew and they no longer cared if anyone joined in or who stared. Hands raised, they finished the song and started to pray aloud.
“God, thank You for the freedoms we have in the United States.” Mattea began.
Anthony continued, “Help others to come to know You and keep our schools free from violence.”
A voice rang out, “Thank You for Anthony and Mattea to have the courage to plan this, SYATP.”
Others prayed aloud and there was more singing. Before it was over, fifty students had joined them. Anthony and Mattea looked around with tears in their eyes. They realized what God plus two teenagers could accomplish and knew their work had just begun.
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