July 11, 2014

Changing Hearts US stresses ‘returning the culture to God’

Kay Dodds, founder of Changing Hearts US, prepares to record her weekly two-minute radio spot via Skype. (Submitted photo)

Kay Dodds, founder of Changing Hearts US, prepares to record her weekly two-minute radio spot via Skype. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

As the Dodds family gathered for a Labor Day weekend celebration five years ago, conversation turned to the state of the country.

“We were all talking about how horrible the culture is,” said Kay Dodds. “Someone said, ‘Kay, you get right on it!’ I saw [my husband] Don’s face sink, because he knew what that would do to me.”

It turns out Don was right. Since that conversation in September of 2009, Kay and her team have launched a national initiative of prayer and fasting called Changing Hearts US, seeking to change hearts—and the culture—across the nation and beyond.

‘The Lord opened doors’

“I tried to ignore the comment,” said Dodds of her relative’s challenge. “But the Lord wouldn’t let me alone.”

Nor did she leave the Lord alone. Dodds, a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield, started an unusual novena—nine days with time spent in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, in addition to prayer and fasting at home.

By the end of the novena, an ecumenical plan had emerged. It was a grand plan, and Dodds was concerned.

“I said, ‘Lord, if you really want this, you’ve got to open some doors for me,’ ” she said. “One was for my husband to agree that the plan was feasible. Second was for [then-St. Michael Parish pastor Benedictine] Father Severin [Messick] to agree and approve the plan. And third was for local ministers to agree.

“The Lord opened all three doors.”

The plan was to distribute bookmarks with a prayer for a change of hearts to local Christian congregations, and to have ecumenical prayer services monthly throughout 2010 at various churches in Hancock County, including St. Michael Church in Greenfield.

The year of efforts ended with a large ecumenical gathering for song and prayer at Park Chapel Christian Church in Greenfield in October of 2010.

When it was over, Dodds felt relief.

“I told my spiritual director, [Legion of Christ] Father Robert [DeCesare], ‘I think we’re done!’ He looked at me with a straight face and said, ‘But the culture hasn’t changed yet.’ My face dropped,” said Dodds.

‘Prayer, fasting and education’

Four years later, what started out as a local ministry has become a national non-profit organization called Changing Hearts US.

“We have three goals to help change the culture—prayer, fasting and education,” Dodds explained. “We need more prayer warriors because that’s how we’re going to change the culture, and we need to educate because the mainstream media isn’t going to tell the truth.”

Changing Hearts US still encourages prayer through monthly ecumenical prayer services at churches in Hancock County, with St. Michael Parish hosting one on July 17 (see note at end of article).

Prayer is also still promoted through distribution of the bookmarks. But now they’re finding their way far beyond the boundaries of Hancock County into perpetual adoration chapels and churches in all 50 states. (Related: See the Changing Hearts US Prayer)

‘I settled on two minutes’

In 2011, a way to address prayer, fasting and education at the same time presented itself when Dodds was invited by a local Christian radio station owner to have her own hour-long radio program.

“That was way too long,” she said. “I settled on two minutes.”

With the help of Jim Ganley, general manager of Catholic Radio Indy, Dodds created the current format of the radio spot.

“We pray for two states each week, offer a fasting suggestion, and give one praise and one prayer point having to do with a moral issue,” she said. “We pick something in the news that most people probably haven’t heard about, or give a comment about things that are making headlines.”

In addition to the Christian station near Greenfield, the spots now air on 89.1 and 90.9 FM Catholic Radio Indy at 10:55 a.m. and 4:55 p.m. They also air on Real Life Radio 1380 AM, a Catholic radio station in Lexington, Ky.

Dodds now records her messages via Skype through the station in Lexington.

“On Wednesday mornings, they call and we Skype it, and in 10 minutes they send it back,” said Dodds. “It saves so much time.”

‘I ran ... yelling, “Alleluia!” ’

Prayer services, bookmarks and radio spots were a good start, but Dodds was told she needed to get the message on the Internet for it to really take off.

“One day, I talked to a friend about needing to get on the Internet,” she said.

“Then one night, the phone rings. A man says, ‘I understand you have a need for a website for Changing Hearts US. I believe in your message. I’m a web developer, and I will put a website together for you for free.’ I ran through the house yelling, ‘Alleluia!’ ”

The website shares the Changing Hearts US prayer in four languages, posts a newsletter with the text of each week’s radio spot (also available in newsletter form via e-mail), features a prayer intention section and offers a means to order bookmarks and donate.

“We also had a girl put up a Facebook page for us,” said Dodds.

“Of course, this is all volunteer. No one here gets paid.”

Going global

To help further spread the message of prayer and fasting to return the culture to God, Changing Hearts US became a non-profit organization last year as an apostolate under the umbrella of the Legion of Christ’s Summit Seekers, Inc.

“That opened new doors,” Dodds said, noting that the non-profit status enabled the organization to apply for grants.

In 2013, with a grant for $2,500, Dodds and her team had red bracelets made with the message, “Return the culture to God” written in English on one side, in Portuguese on the other, and included their website. They gave the bracelets to a group of World Youth Day pilgrims from Kentucky to distribute at the week-long event in Brazil.

“[The kids] told a story how on the last day, a group from Argentina came up and said ‘Are you the group with the red bracelets? We’ve been looking for you! Do you have enough for us?’ And they did!” said Dodds.

Through the message of the bracelets, Changing Hearts US now has three youths in Brazil helping to spread the message in their country.

‘The power of one’

The success of the World Youth Day bracelets is just one example Dodds cites as proof that the Changing Hearts US message is working.

“I also see [results] in Hancock County, where I see the churches working together in unity to return the culture to God,” she said.

“And I can’t help but feel our prayer and fasting has helped a number of the recent changes,” she said in reference to several religious-related rulings by the Supreme Court in June.

Such results give Dodds hope.

“I think people feel powerless,” she said. “The culture is so strong. What can one person do?

“But I encourage people to have faith in the power of one. The Lord calls us to try, not to succeed—that’s his job. Nothing would happen if we didn’t try.

“One person can stand in the gap and ask God, through prayer and fasting, to change the culture.”

(To join, support or for more information on Changing Hearts US, log on to www.changinghearts.us. To receive their newsletter via e-mail, contact Kay Dodds at praywithus@changinghearts.us. The next Changing Hearts US-sponsored ecumenical prayer service will be held at St. Michael Catholic Church, 519 Jefferson Blvd., in Greenfield, at 7 p.m. on July 17.)

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