COMMENTARY

A community on its knees

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RUSSELL, Ky. (KT) – A community prayer meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at First Baptist Church in Russell in the wake of the shocking news that Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital will be closing at the end of September.


More than 1,000 jobs will be lost in northeastern Kentucky when OLBH shuts its doors for good and payroll tax alone means $1 million in losses to the small river town. The hospital has been operating in Russell since 1953. It has been a staple and a friend to the community for seven decades. Babies were born there, cuts were stitched there, broken bones set there, and goodbyes said there.


Now we’re saying goodbye. What will the community do without her light?

That part of Kentucky isn't alone in the misery that comes with major job loss. Other places in the state are asking why me as well after stunning announcements.

In Glasgow last week came the news that 600 jobs were going to be lost with the closing of LSC Communications, a printing plant and the second-largest manufacturer in Barren County, saying it was shuttering in May. It once employed well over 1,000 in that community as the top employer. And now, just like that, it’s gone. Hopelessness threatens to prevail.


In Murray, the Briggs and Stratton Facility that provided excellent jobs for  years, stunningly announced it was closing last August and taking 600 good-paying jobs with it. Tens of millions of dollars in lost wages went with it, too, leaving a community reeling and wondering what they were going to do to make up the difference.


In Hopkinsville, Ebonite announced it was closing after 52 years operating in the city. A total of 110 hourly workers and 61 salaried employees were laid off in Christian County. While maybe not as significant in job loss numbers as the other places in Kentucky, each loss represents a family that has taken an unexpected hit, leaving hundreds affected.


These announcements may catch Kentuckians unaware, but they don't catch God unaware. Our King isn’t surprised. Ever.


Local, state and federal lawmakers are scrambling for answers as they react to the bombshell news that was dropped so suddenly earlier this week on the Ashland area. It came with no warning. It was jarring. It was that unexpected defeat.


It’s paralyzed the community and become the talk of several towns. OLBH employees are going to job fairs and looking online for opportunities that could move them away from here and cause the hospital to shut down even sooner. Will families have to move? Will businesses suffer? What about schools? The ripple effect that comes with this gut-punch cannot be measured.

The Ashland community is strong. We have been knocked to our knees before.  Maybe this time we need to stay there.


The community prayer time on Wednesday will be from noon to 12:30 at FBC Russell. It’s not a show, it’s a start. It’s a heart-to-heart time with God for those truly interested in believing in a divine supernatural solution to this community’s situation. Prayer warriors are needed and necessary. The church should be full, not for looks, but for action.


Prayer is more than just a good idea. It’s what we should already be doing. We should go expecting.


God has the power and wisdom to use our prayers as He sees fit and to do what we could never imagine. If He weren’t all-powerful and all-knowing, there’d be no point in praying. If he weren’t the wise counselor, why would we bother taking our problems to Him? God uses prayer as a way for us to participate in the work He has ordained. In other words, it’s a privilege to pray to Him. Come alongside Him and see how prayer can reshape your life or even breathe new life back into an entire community.

Pray specifically for our leaders. Pray God will open their eyes to a vision for what could be put in the new open spaces. Pray for jobs to come to all these Kentucky communities. Our leaders are under tremendous pressures to create new jobs, find replacements for jobs lost, and build back hope.

Pray that those who are losing jobs will find another position quickly and disruption to their family’s lives will be minimal. Job loss isn’t just tough on the one who is losing the job, but every family member can be affected by it. Pray for peace over those families.


Pray for the community at large, that we can work together to find a solution to this situation and others. Pray for strength because we’re all going to need it.

Pray for the churches and pastors as they minister to those going through difficult days for our community. Job losses can affect churches too in many ways, including spiritually. Pray that God’s light will shine through the darkness that has come over these Kentucky communities and households.


I’ve been a witness to the power of answered prayer. It’s stunning, and breathtaking, and beautiful, and you don’t want to miss it. God Almighty allows this supreme intervention. It’s our choice to use it. Put your trust and faith in Him.


Corporations will leave you. God never will.


MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today and can be reached at mark.maynard@kentuckytoday.com

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