When Bishop Albert Venson of True Deliverance Church of God in Dupont Heights began planning a four-story brick and glass prayer tower two years ago, he had 27 cents in his pocket and a recurring vision from the Lord.
Last week, Venson presided over the dedication of the structure built to serve "all peoples, all denominations, 24 hours a day."
"It was a vision the Lord gave to me about seven years ago and I kept praying about it. And then in 1981, I got it again about midnight," Venson said.
The tower, which took a year to build, will operate a 24-hour telephone counseling and prayer service. "The Lord showed me that things happen about 2 or 3 a.m. that people need to talk about," Venson said.
Venson said personal consultation will be available to persons needing extended counseling.
"I had 27 cents in my pocket and the Lord made the way for the man to dig the foundation. We had a contractor who wanted $187,000 to build it. The Lord said 'not so.' We completed it for $62,000," said Venson, who used skills he had learned from his contractor father to direct the construction of the tower on land adjacent to the church at 1804 Quarter Ave., in the DuPont Heights area of Prince George's County.
In addition to appeals made during the church's daily WUST radio broadcast, Venson sent letters to churches in the metropolitian area asking for a one-time donation of $50 to help build the interdenominational chapel.
"I wrote just about every church in Washington and we didn't get that much participation," Venson said, noting that only five of the 150 churches he contacted responded.
Venson said those five churches also will help staff the tower with ministers, evangelists and prayer warriors in six-hour shifts.
For those metropolitian area residents who want to help in prayer or counseling at the tower, Deliverance will operate a training course so that "all are of one accord," said Venson, who noted that persons of all denominations are welcome "as long as they are saved."
"They have to be a believer," he said, emphasizing that the person must be "living a clean life and going by the full counsel of the Bible."
On the tower's first floor is a reception area, containing a fountain called the Well of Jacob, and the 24-hour prayer altar, where someone will always be in prayer. The second floor holds a private consultation chapel and a mail room to handle the letters generated by the radio broadcast and the tower operations, which Venson said were run independently of the church.
In addition to a private prayer chapel and the office of the consultation ministry, the third floor houses the telephone prayer room, designed to have at least three people on duty all times to answer the five incoming lines.
The top floor, which has a smoked glass exterior, houses the communications center where the daily broadcasts originate. The center includes a production studio, which will produce tapes of the Bible and a study course to be sent free to listeners or played over the phone to the blind and illiterate.