Students from the General Ignacio de la Llave Adventist School in South Veracruz, in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, pray during an online program to highlight the annual day of prayer across schools in Inter-America on Mar. 10, 2021. For the 11th consecutive year, 790 primary and secondary schools in Inter-America have celebrated annual day of prayer every second Wednesday in March. [Photo: Screenshot]

March 11, 2021 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

Hundreds of Seventh-day Adventist schools throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory celebrated an annual day of prayer on Mar. 10. Students set aside their regular classes to focus on praying for others during a pandemic that has turned them into full-time virtual learners.

“This has been a very difficult and sad year in our Adventist educational institutions because so many parents and teachers died from the coronavirus, families have been financially affected, and just the normal program in our schools was completely altered,” said Pastor Gamaliel Flórez, education director for the church in Inter-America. “What’s most important during this day of prayer is for students and teachers to understand that communion with God makes the difference in their lives, that any challenge can be faced with God and with Him there is hope.”

Affirming the power of prayer

The celebration was another opportunity to affirm the power of leading a daily prayer life not only for students and teachers but for their families as well.

Lenika Yutiana López of the Jose Bates Adventist School in Huixtla, Chiapas, Mexico, moments before she was baptized by Pastor Alejandro de la cruz Castellanos on Mar. 10, 2021. [Photo: Obeth Méndez Velasco]

“God is real and He loves you,” said Flórez as he addressed more than 6,300 students enrolled in 30 primary and secondary schools in Chiapas, Mexico, during the live online program. “If you allow God to act in your life, if you live for His honor and glory, He will answer your supplications, so trust in Him and make Him your friend,” said Flórez.

This was the IAD’s first virtual day of prayer since it was established 11 years ago. In previous years, leaders traveled to various regions to meet and pray personally with students and teachers.

During a special segment of the live program, Lenika Yutiana López, a 14-year old student from the Jose Bates Adventist School in Huixtla, Chiapas, was baptized.

A student from Guatemala watches during the Pastor Guenther García, president of the church in Guatemala, during an online morning program transmitted to the thousands of students across the country, Mar. 10. [Photo: Courtesy of Guatemala Union]

Reflecting on Bible heroes of faith

The special day of prayer saw students reflecting on the theme of the week, which was bible heroes of faith. They also sang together and engaged in several interactive activities from their homes.

In Guatemala, the more than 5,800 students enrolled at 27 primary and secondary schools took part in their own school’s program for the day and later joined the prayer emphasis program.  “All this week we have had special devotional nuggets before class, with mid-morning prayer sessions, a time to make posters, children perform dramas and more,” said Yanet de Cima, education director for the Church in Guatemala.

The school system has been hit hard with about 500 less students due to a mandate that preschool classes stay closed during the pandemic, said Cima. Unemployment and financial struggles have been evident also. “Adventist schools have been a beacon of hope because through each spiritual program, prayer has been offered for so many families whose parents have been unemployed and are in need of food,” said Cima.  Schools have collected goods to distribute among the most needy families and the church at the union and local levels have provided scholarships to two students in each of the 27 schools, she added. 45 Percent of the students are not members of the church, so that assistance is a testament to the love and care that the mission of the church stands for, she explained.

Part of the code of honor design used during the week of prayer highlighting “Heroes of Faith” theme across the schools in North Mexico.  [Photo: Courtesy North Mexican Union]

In North Mexico, with its nearly 5,000 students in 34 schools, saw a specially designed program themed “Codes of Honor” where students reviewed the story of the Naaman’s servant girl. The story drew similarities to what children are going through with the separation caused by a coronavirus pandemic that has closed in-person classes structure, with the importance of the family unity, forgiveness and the way in which her faith was strengthened even through the challenging circumstances.

Praying for others

Students took time to pray for health professionals who are assisting so many during the pandemic, and for spiritual leaders and government officials. A group of teachers and secondary students from the Obregón Adventist School in Sonora set up a station on campus to collect food, toiletries and diapers for babies and the elderly and toys for the needy.

In the Caribbean Union, with its 53 Adventist primary and secondary schools and more than 9,000 students across dozens of islands, CUC Secondary Adventist School in Trinidad celebrated a special prayer program with testimonies from parents and students on Adventist education, special music and spoken word performances, interactive virtual bible games and spiritual messages.

Victoria Raji-Kehinde of the CUC Secondary School in Trinidad, recites a poem during the online prayer program transmitted throughout the string of Caribbean Union islands. [Photo: Screenshot CUC Secondary School]

Parents of students enrolled in the Inter-Ocenic Mexican Union, with 71 schools and more than 7,200 students, testified during an online program on the benefits and values of Adventist schools toward students and their families.

Testimonies from parents

Gisela López Vázquez, a parent of four children enrolled at General Ignacio de la Llave Adventist School in South Veracruz, thanked teachers and school leaders for their commitment to instilling principles and values in their students.

“I am delighted, overjoyed and satisfied by seeing how my children have been strengthened spiritually and their values as well,” said López. She encouraged all viewers to continue praying for the school so that they can continue reinforcing biblical principles through their work.

Students from the  Obregón Adventist School in Sonora, North Mexico sing along to a praise song during the online program, on Mar. 10, 2021. [Photo: IAD Screenshot]

Students witnessed the baptisms of two primary-school aged children from the school during the online program.

Prayer program resources

A week of prayer program based on “Heroes of Faith”, complete with video resources, was sent to all Adventist schools across the IAD, said Faye Patterson, associate education director for the church in Inter-America. “This day of prayer is like a day of celebration in our schools, with students all excited to take part in it,” she said. “It’s part of our culture in the Adventist school system already and it’s been a real blessing to witness.”

Church leaders and educators across the IAD will continue to promote a daily study of the bible and daily prayer life to its more than 164,000 students enrolled at 790 primary and secondary schools.

Keila Urbano and Uriel Castellanos contributed to this report.

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