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Clearwater prayers go out to war-torn Lebanon

(ran West, Beach and Seminole editions)

In June, the girl and a group of young friends were playing in a southern Lebanese field when she stepped on a land mine.

There was a loud noise. Blood splattered. Then, there was shock.

Right in front of her friends, the blast blew off most of the girl's legs. What was left of them had to be amputated.

Yasmina was only 9.

There are more than 139,000 live mines in that country, remnants of war hidden in the grass and rocks, waiting to kill or maim. The mines won't be cleared for probably 30 years.

On Friday morning, a church in Clearwater remembered the plight of the girl and her country.

Mimi Judd, a 72-year-old Clearwater resident, spoke Yasmina's words during a 10 a.m. World Day of Prayer service at Northwood Presbyterian Church in Clearwater.

"I was emotional," Judd said afterward. "As a mother, you hate to imagine that happening to any child."

Five church women read aloud words written by Lebanese women to enlighten an audience of 50 to the pain that country is suffering, and to pray for their well being.

There are many World Days of Prayer organized by different denominations on different dates. This one was organized by a group called the Women of Lebanon and sponsored by Church Women United, a Christian movement founded in 1941 that includes some 25-million participants.

Lebanon is a small, rugged country with 4-million mostly Arab people, although there are Christian, Jewish and Muslims living there. Its neighbors are Syria and Israel.

A civil war between Christians and Lebanese Muslims who received help from the Palestine Liberation Organization, erupted in the mid-1970s. Rival groups joined in the fighting. The unrest caused destruction, killings and damage to the economy.

Now, people from around the world pray for the country's healing.

The Northwood Presbyterian service was in an airy sanctuary with bouquets of yellow, purple and red flowers. Under skylights near the alter sat potted palms. On a wall nearby was a banner showing a white dove of peace against a red background.

During the worship, the group's voices rose up in song: "We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord ... one day we will be restored. And they'll know we are Christians by our love."

Then they said a prayer for those who have been kidnapped or are imprisoned.

Said Vicki Krueger, a member of Northwood Presbyterian, "I see prayer as a great way to disconnect from the noise of the world and reconnect with God."

Krueger, who is married to a St. Petersburg Times reporter, said this service brought fresh perspective among Christians about the struggles of women around the world, and how their faith sustains them.

The service touched on the impending war with Iraq, and those gathered sang God Bless America.

But the program, which is planned years in advance, focused mainly on asking God to help the people of Lebanon.

Said Lois Marsh: "I just know God hears us."

Roberta McIntosh, 66, and her mother, Carlene Eads, 92, both of Dunedin, hold hands during a prayer Friday morning at Northwood Presbyterian Church in Clearwater. The ceremony is part of World Day of Prayer, an international event.