A Call to Prayer

June 4, 2003

When Barby Williams' children began classes at Baylor, she felt lost. A PTA leader and Sunday school teacher, the busy Waco mother of two had centered her activities around her children's lives. When her oldest son, Brady, BA '02, left home for Baylor in 1998, she sought a way to stay connected. She began by attending a luncheon in honor of new Baylor moms, hosted by Baylor First Lady Sue Sloan.
"It was so wonderful to spend time with women who knew exactly what I was going through," she says. "As I left Sue's home, I thought, 'We should do this again.' It was like a lightbulb went on inside. I knew that as parents, we had to do this not to fellowship, but to pray."
Williams, BS '75, says another factor in forming First Call, a monthly prayer group, in 1999 was the number of Baylor students who had died in car accidents the previous year. "The year before the prayer group began, several students were killed, and there was a sincere need for prayer on campus," says Williams, whose husband, Dale, also is an alum, BA '75, JD '78. "So many parents want to pray for Baylor and its students; they just need to know what to pray for."
Williams formally organized First Call when her daughter, Brook, who graduated in May with a BA in psychology, enrolled at Baylor in 1999. Williams received administrative support from the University, including encouragement from University Ministries and the Baylor Parents League, part of University Development. 
"First Call blossomed under the Parents League. We did everything we could to get the word out," says Judy Maggard, Parents League director. "When a parent wants to start a prayer group, my office makes the initial contact with other area parents. Student send-off parties are an ideal setting to encourage parents to become involved."
Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. is supportive of the program, and his wife regularly attends the prayer group. She says it is a humbling experience.
"It has been a privilege of mine to be acquainted with the First Call group," Sue Sloan says. "Personally, it has been very encouraging to know that other parents are praying for students, faulty, staff and administration." 
First Call meets the first Tuesday of every month in the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center on campus. Those who can't attend a meeting can log onto its Web site (www.planetbaylor.com), where each meeting's prayer concerns are posted. 
"Once we pray, there is such a peace about the group knowing that God has heard you and he will answer," Williams says. "On the first Tuesday of every month, Baylor University is blanketed in prayer."
Although attendance at the Waco First Call group averages only about 10 members, other First Call groups join to pray for Baylor that first Tuesday, including groups in Maine and Southern California. Many are tied to Parents League chapters, but the Internet option allows for unlimited participation. 
"When my family transferred from Southern California back to northwest Houston, I had a strong desire to start a First Call group in the area," says Rebecca Coy Henry, BS '75. "The response has been wonderful. We average about 17 Baylor moms each month, but sometimes have as many as 28. Many moms in the area stay in touch via the e-mail list. We even have a few Baylor alumni who attend each month."
Because Williams wanted the program to be interactive, she created the Planet Baylor Web site to post and review prayer requests. It has become an informal site for parents to keep current on Baylor life, check calendars, find ticket information or buy Baylor gifts for their students. 
"I did not start First Call," Williams says. "God started this prayer group. I just happened to be the one he used. It is an amazing feeling to know that you are doing what God truly wants you to do with your life." 
If you would like information on how to start a First Call group in your area, e-mail Judy_Maggard@baylor.edu.

Treadwell is a junior public relations and religion major from Oklahoma City and a student intern on Baylor Magazine.