Prayer in Peru: Maria Isabelli ’11 reflects on life-transforming trip
Submitted and written by Maria Isabelli, Olivet’s assistant to the director of student ministries and missions
Posted: Jun 21, 2013
At the start of each day, the team gathered to pray.
Team member Christina Garza (Lansing, Mich.) pauses to pray.
Maria (R) and team member Jessica Ellison (Logansport, Ind.) invite people for prayer.
Maria (front, center, green sweater) was part of the 2013 M.I.A. team that served in Peru.
I learned at least three things in Peru. The street dogs are not friendly. No Peruvian meal is complete without a helping of rice and a side of potatoes. And most importantly, prayer works. God is faithful, and He pours out His Spirit when His people humble themselves before Him in prayer.
As our team of 16 from ONU’s Missions in Action (M.I.A.) program set out for Arequipa, Peru, there was much excitement and anticipation. We had sent support letters, gone through training and raised funds. Now, it was time to experience all that the Lord had planned for these two weeks.
Our goal was threefold: to provide encouragement and momentum to the missionaries, to gain contacts for the church and to PRAY. Every day, we gathered to spend an hour in communication with the Father. We submitted our day to Him, asking for guidance and direction. We prayed for one another. We boldly asked for salvation to come to those we would encounter. Then, we stood back and witnessed the power of prayer.
We watched as God changed the weather so we could do His work. One morning, our team was scheduled to do a flash mob in the city plaza. Unfortunately, it was raining. Most Peruvians do not leave their homes if there is rain during the dry season. In the Bible, Elijah asks God to send rain, so we figured we could ask Him to stop it. And He did. Just long enough for our team to spend two hours connecting with Peruvians and inviting them to church.
We learned Christians should pray with boldness and expectation. A boy showed up at our Reposteria [pastry-making activity] with no interest in learning how to make chocolate chip cookies. He wanted to practice English. Isaac Hale [ONU sophomore from Manvel, N.D.] spent the entire event talking with him. When the demonstration ended, the Gospel was presented, and Isaac started praying. He prayed that God would soften the heart of the boy beside him and that the boy would accept Christ. This was the first time in Isaac’s life that he prayed with expectation that God would answer his prayers. When the invitation was offered, the boy stepped forward and received new life in Christ.
We accomplished more by praying than we could through our own efforts. Prayer is our most effective weapon. A Peruvian named Prince came to an English class we hosted, not because he was invited by someone on our team, but because he found a flyer about it on the ground. Something stirred inside of him, and he felt an urgency to attend the event. Once there, he heard the testimonies of our team, repented of his own sin and asked God to dwell in his heart. We cannot take the credit for this conversion; God drew Prince to Himself.
We were reminded that God’s timing is often different than our own. Although we saw many instantaneous answers to prayer, we also observed the fruit of persistence. Cailyn, a missionary with Extreme Nazarene, had been praying for a young friend for several years. Although she invited this friend to church at every opportunity and spent numerous hours lifting her before the Lord, nothing was happening. On our last Sunday in Peru, Cailyn’s prayers were answered! Her friend finally came back to church. God is faithful and always answers those prayers that align with His will.
Deuteronomy 4:7 says, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?”
While in Peru, our team spent 625 collective hours in prayer, and God was near. His presence was evident as our team was able to gather 480 new church contacts, and 70 people accepted Christ! All of this is due to the labor of prayer. It had nothing to do with us. We simply prayed and expected God to show up, which He did in incredible ways.
I feel blessed to be part of a community like Olivet that fosters opportunities for students to serve, grow and learn life-altering lessons like the power of prayer!