Jim and Darlene Noffsinger loved the tight-knit group of believers they found at Concord Bible Fellowship. The only issue was that they lived in Lynchburg and most of the other members lived in Concord.

“I’d show up on a Sunday and find out something dreadful had happened to someone in the church. I just wished I had known so I could pray for them,” Darlene said. “There’s a sense of loss and missed chance of connecting with God about that persons needs.”

That desire prompted the church’s first prayer team. Using a prayer chain — a phone tree where one person is responsible for calling a number of others — Concord’s body began praying for each other in a new venue.

That was 32 years ago.

Over time, various people have helped to lead the prayer ministry at what would become Blue Ridge Community Church, including Darlene. Today, it is an email rather than a phone tree, but its purpose continues.

“To me, the whole purpose is so that we might hold each other up when there is a need,” she said. “It is a way to connect to people and to God in a meaningful way. You sense His presence in a special way.”

She said she’d feel an instant connection to people she was praying for. “And I’d see others at church meet and say, ‘I've been praying for you.’”

Darlene’s also been on the receiving end of the prayer ministry.

In 2007, she nearly died from sepsis. She spent 34 days in the hospital and was in four organ failure.

“I knew people were praying for me, because when I did come to, I was being told by my family that so many people were praying, even children at the Trust Home,” she said. Tom Bloyd printed out all of the prayer emails for Darlene and put them in a keepsake book. “I still every once in a while get out that notebook and read those prayers and responses.”

Darlene turned the prayer ministry over to Debi Martin recently, but she encourages all prayer warriors to sign up by emailing prayer@blue-ridge.org.

“It doesn't matter so much what the answer is …sometimes it’s not the answer we want,” Darlene said. “But what does matter is that people know you cared enough to pray, and you’ve had those special moments of connection with the Father.”