Hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Americans were flocking to houses of worship, many of them on their knees in prayer. Churches reported record numbers of people attending worship services the weekend after the attack.
But within two months, attendance was back to about what it was before the attack.
Pastor Arthur Guice, of Chicago Heights, is calling on people of all faiths to make time for a prayer for renewal and awakening this coming Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the attacks. He has volunteered to coordinate efforts of a civic prayer gathering in the Markham Courthouse south parking lot at 3 p.m on Sept. 11. The gathering is part of a nationwide prayer initiative called Cry Out America!
"9/11 was a wakeup call," Guice said. "It's amazing to me that the two sites (the World Trade Center and the Pentagon) that were attacked were symbols of American pride, military and money. It reminds me that God is calling us to trust Him, not to be arrogant."
Patch visited the Chicago Heights resident at his church, Spirit of Liberty Church of God in Markham, to learn the history of his church, his struggles with his own personal tragedies, and his plans for the 9/11 prayer gathering.
"My church is an affiliate of an international denomination of the Church of God in Cleveland, Tenn.," Guice said. "Since I've been a pastor here in 2003, I've been involved in developing a pastors consortium in the south suburban area.
“I've also worked with Pastor Flint at , working with him in ministry endeavors. Pastor Flint puts on a Christian Education workshop every February. I was invited to be a keynote speaker and to teach workshops for several years.
“I am dedicated to doing the work of Christ. That's why I got involved in Cry Out America!"
The Pool Player Hears a Calling
Pastor Guice was not always involved in the ministry. Ten years ago he was a pool player.
"I used to like to play pool after I got married," Guice said. "I made my wife a pool widow."
It was during a national pool tournament nine years ago in Las Vegas that Guice said he heard a voice that would change his life.
"The Lord spoke up to me in the pool hall," he said. "He wanted me to leave my pool-playing career. He had something for me to do. I began to bargain with the Lord, telling Him I was second place on the MVP list for pool. 'Let me finish this one out,' I told him."
His protests went unheard, Guice said. He said he didn't hear God's voice again for months, and he experienced one of his greatest faith trials of his life.
"I was at the pool hall, I bent down to pick up a piece of chalk and the next thing I knew I was out cold," Guice said. "It was so dramatic, when I was coming to, I was having hallucinations of terrorists coming to get me."
It wasn't terrorists, but rather paramedics coming to get Guice. Nonetheless, he said, he was terrified.
"I was screaming at the top of my lungs, calling on the name of the Lord," Guice said. "In 2002, I found out I had tachycardia (rapid heart rate). They inserted a pacemaker in my chest and it cured me. In 2003, I was invited to be the Pastor of Spirit of Liberty Church of God, I accepted the call and began to pastor."
Tragic Health Problems
Two years later, the trials would continue to pile up for Guice and his wife, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time he began to have more health issues.
"It just so happened in July 2005 we were both scheduled for surgery the same day," Guice said. "My wife had a mastectomy and I had a left ventricular assist device implanted. It was a heart pump. What was so dramatic about it, the pump had to be powered, so they bored a hole in my side to allow a cord to come out to attach to a system drive device."
He used the 8-pound heart pump for four years before it was removed. Guice's wife did not make it as far.
"My wife, she fought a very courageous battle with breast cancer," he said. "She went home to be with the Lord in 2006."
Health issues still were not over for the preacher, as the right side of his heart began to deteriorate and doctors suggested a transplant.
"I was not too keen on the idea," Guice said. "I was believing in God for restoration of health. I decided to consent to go through with it because I decided the destiny of what God called me to do was too important. I needed to know I was moving in wisdom and according to the will of God."
Being on a donor list doesn't guarantee a match will be found very quickly. The doctors told Guice it could be days, six months or three years.
The next day, the weight got even heavier for Guice.
"I had a meeting with a couple I was counseling for marriage," he said. "They had set a wedding date for Sept. 18. This was May. I asked if another pastor could marry them in case I would be in transplant surgery. They told me 'no,' they would rent out the hospital chapel if they could. I was in tears at that point. I said, ‘God you're gonna have to perform a miracle.’ "
Just over three weeks later, Guice got a call from the hospital. They had the organs he needed. Guice underwent two surgeries that June.
"One of my prayers was that I would have surgery without mishap, that I would have a complete recovery that would astound the doctors and that I would have no rejection," Guice said. "I was back driving in August and back preaching in September and, yes, I got to marry that couple."
Time for Revival
Guice said he believes God healed him to be a part of Cry Out America, for the Awakening Summit.
"I would like the churches to consider setting aside time Sunday morning, 9/11, for prayer, for revival, for transformation in America," Guice said. "We are inviting the churches from the south suburbs to join with us. This is a non-partisan, ethnic and multi-cultural, multi-denominational prayer gathering to pray and seek God together.
"This is not just for Chicagoland," Guice added. "This is a national outpouring of support. We have pastors from all over the country that are setting aside time on that Sunday morning where we can seek God together."
Those interested in getting involved can contact Pastor Arthur Guice at 708-308-6187. You can also visit the Awakening America Alliance Website or the Cook County Awakening America Alliance Facebook page.
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