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Like most Americans, COVID-19 forced comedian Tracy DeGraaf to pivot amid the fallout of “sheltering in place.”
With shows canceled, she went from traveling comedian to couch potato overnight.
“Our 2020 calendar was looking great and we were preparing for a national tour,” DeGraaf said in a news release. “Now that’s all changed.”
Still wanting to connect with her audience, DeGraaf decided to do something unconventional.
Fans reached out to her on Facebook asking for live comedy. She responded with a daily live broadcast, but instead of comedy she brings hope and peace through prayer.
“People were asking me to do something funny online, but I was like ‘You realize there’s a worldwide pandemic right?’ The thought of being funny in the middle of it didn’t sit well with me,” she said in the news release. “Plus, I tore my rotator cuff before the shut down and was in horrible pain. I couldn’t have surgery because it was considered elective.”
Instead, DeGraaf launched 31 Days of Prayer for the USA, which will continue as a live 10-minute Facebook broadcast at 6:30 p.m. through May 1.
She shares something fun or inspirational followed by a brief scripture reading and prayer.
In some broadcasts, DeGraaf has ice on her shoulder and shows her progress after working with her physical therapist and getting a cortisone shot.
“I’ve gotten private messages from people saying how the prayer sessions has helped them to have peace during this hard time," she said in the release. "Strangers in the group have encouraged each other in the comment section of the live feed. One person sent me $50 because I’m out of work, but I knew of another family who was in greater need and felt like I should take that $50 and add $50 to it and deliver it to them, so I did."
DeGraaf, a Christian and breast cancer survivor, uses comedy as a way to bring two core messages to the public: Jesus and mammograms. Her primary clients are churches and hospitals.
"I want people to know Jesus, but I don’t want them to meet him face-to-face just yet,”she said in the news release.
Her one-woman show “Life Happens Laugh Anyway” was her primary way to communicate that message.
“In my show, I take the audience through the seasons of a woman’s life from getting married and having kids to gaining weight and growing a beard … and then they meet Jesus," she said in the news release.
"At the end of the show for churches, I point the audience to their faith and encourage everyone to take another step like go to church, read the Bible, join a prayer group, etc. When I work for hospitals, I do the same jokes, but instead of pointing to faith at the end, I encourage the audience to get and stay current with all cancer screenings.”
DeGraaf has used her prayer calendar to fuel her mission since 2012.
"I launched my ministry through my home church and wanted a prayer calendar for all of us to follow that I could give to churches who host my event. It’s so important to marinate everything in prayer,” DeGraaf said in the news release.
“My friend — who also happens to be married to a pastor so that makes her extra spiritual — Kristy Grell helped me create the calendar and we’ve been using it ever since. I decided to use my calendar but apply it to COVID and boom ... live prayer broadcast.”
DeGraaf’s prayer calendar includes seven categories: For God’s Glory, protection, love/unity, strength/endurance, prepared hearts, planning/logistics and joy/laughter.
Each day on the calendar has a short scripture verse or passage that coincides with the topic.
During her prayer broadcasts, she has prayed for patients with COVID, caregivers and political leaders, and more.
“My hope is that 10 years from now, when we look back on 2020, we will remember that we responded with prayer,” she said.
To join in the nightly live broadcasts, visit Tracy’s Prayer Team on Facebook. For more information on DeGraaf, visit TracyDeGraaf.com.