Did you know that 580 cities in the world have a population of more than one million people? Did you know that in 45 of these cities, there are less than 10 Adventist church members? Did you know that 43 of these cities have no Adventist congregations? Clearly, there is a great work to be done, and students at Hillside Christian School, a Seventh-day Adventist institution in Wausau, Wisconsin, United States, are doing their part.
Every morning, Hillside students pray for a specific city in the North American Division that has a population of a million or more.
The project began when Paula Sachse, a member of The Shepherd’s House, a Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Wausau, talked to Charlyn Marsh, a teacher at the school, about a program she had heard about at Wisconsin camp meeting called “Mission to the Cities Prayer Map.” Sachse was excited about the discovery and explained to Marsh that the program is part of the General Conference’s “Reach the World” initiative. She asked Marsh if she was interested in having her school participate. Marsh replied that she was interested, so Sachse volunteered to come to the school and explain the prayer map to the students.
The heart of the program is a map that looks like a map of a subway system and lists all the cities in the world with a population of more than one million. Sachse gave each student a copy of the map. The goal, she said, was for volunteers to pray for cities on the map. The students were excited when they saw the map. Among their comments were, “This map looks cool. What is it?” “There are this many big cities in the world?” “My parents would like to see this. Can we have extra maps to take home?”
At the beginning of the school year, the students and their teacher discussed what line of the map to start with. They decided to start praying for cities in the North American Division. “We are almost done with the North American Division line,” says seventh-grader Carson. “I can’t wait to start a new line.”
The map has caused a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity. You might hear a conversation similar to this at prayer time: “I wonder what city we are praying for today?” Students take the map out of their desks each morning to find out which city they are praying for that day. “Melbourne is the next station on the line,” one student might say. “Melbourne is not in the NAD. It’s in Australia. Everyone knows that.”
“There must be another Melbourne. Let’s find out where it is,” his teacher says. Marsh leads them in a discussion of where the city is and what they know about it. Students then look it up to see how far it is from Wausau and learn more about the city. “It’s a great discussion starter,” Marsh says.
“There are a lot of big cities in North America I had never heard of,” says seventh-grader Carlos.
Questions printed on the back of the map have helped student prayers to focus on the needs of others and have enriched prayer time at school. Instead of each student praying a variation of “Bless the people of Indianapolis,” each student prays for a different aspect of the city for that day. One student will pray specifically for the leaders of that city. Another prays for the missionaries to that city; another for the families and marriages in that city; yet another for the health of the city’s residents. Another student prays for the education of the city’s children, and one prays for the homeless of the city. Another prays that everyone in the city will come to know Jesus.
“It’s nice to have something specific to pray for,” says fourth-grader Ayden. “I like that we are all praying for the different things, but for the same place,” said seventh-grader Emy.
This prayer ministry has helped Hillside students to look beyond their world. It can be quite shocking for an elementary student in a small, mostly Christian town to learn that billions of people in the world still need to know Jesus. “I had no idea there were so many people who haven’t heard about Jesus,” says second-grader Riley.
When they pray for the homeless and marriages and families of the city, they realize how blessed they are to have a home and family and be grateful for them. “I am grateful for my parents and all they do for me,” says seventh-grader Grace.
Hillside Christian School is a one-room school that has served Wausau, Wisconsin, for almost 70 years. Its mission is to develop leaders today who will walk with Jesus into eternity.
Mission to the Cities Prayer Map has helped Hillside implement its mission by helping students see the needs of others, to develop a more focused prayer experience and a deeper prayer life.
The original version of the story was posted by the Lake Union Herald. The Mission to the Cities Prayer Map is available from Mission to the Cities, a ministry of Adventist Mission.