McALLEN — The sound of rams’ horn shofars filled the parking lot of McAllen Medical Center Wednesday morning, a final invocation for God’s intercession on behalf of the doctors, nurses and patients battling COVID-19, being asked for by two congregations gathered in front of the hospital in prayer.
The supplicants were members of Rivers of Living Water in Christ Church in Sullivan City and Iglesia del Valle Santa Pentecostes in San Juan.
They prayed and beseeched, knelt and cried out, rams’ horns held aloft and prayer shawls fluttering in the breeze. They spoke in tongues, muttering and ululating; letting the Holy Spirit fill their hearts and hoping it filled the hearts of people suffering from the coronavirus across the Rio Grande Valley.
The windows of the COVID-19 ward — visible by the white panels instead of glass panes — stared back in stark, stoic contrast to the unabashed passion on display below.
Diana Alcocer, wife of Rivers of Living Water in Christ Church Pastor Edelmiro Alcocer, said she and the other members of her husband’s flock were praying Wednesday for God to fight on the side of the people behind those white panels.
“We’re calling upon the Lord, that he may make a turnaround and bring his grace and his favor and his mercy upon his nation. Upon the border of Mexico, and the Rio Grande Valley, being hit drastically with the COVID,” she said.
Before they ended the service, the worshippers blew their shofars to the north, south, east and west. Alcocer says Wednesday’s trumpet blasts are no different than the one’s Joshua had sounded in front of Jericho, and they hope that they have a similar effect.
“We’re asking God to bring down the walls of COVID-19 in this Valley, because the Valley is getting hit hard. I mean, just like other big cities, this virus has flooded our hospitals. So we’re asking God to bring down the walls like he did in Jericho,” she said. “We are destroying the enemy’s work and asking God for mercy, that he might reverse the decree … We’re asking God for his favor and his grace, because God delights himself in providing mercy.”
According to Alcocer, God has already shown his hand in the Valley’s fight against the pandemic. She recounted the story of a family in Rio Grande City that was infected with the coronavirus not long ago. The whole family — eight people in total — were infected, she said. One was pregnant.
Alcocer prayed for them with other members of her church.
“None of them suffered any loss,” she said. “No loss. Nothing missing, nothing broken. They had the virus but the church was in prayer, we were praying every single day for them, and the whole family came out in victory.”
Members of Rivers of Living Water in Christ Church have been taking more temporal steps to fight the virus as well. Despite the potential risk to their own safety, Alcocer, her husband, and their congregation have been making sure that members in the community, regardless of whether or not they’re part of the church, are cared for.
“We’re distributing to people who are homebound, that are quarantined due to the COVID virus. We find out who it is and every day, we take turns and one of our church members drops food off and prays, every day, interceding for those families,” Alcocer said.
That support is needed now more than ever, Alcocer says — especially the spiritual support. She says she’s seen men of the cloth draw back from their followers as the pandemic rampages.
“I feel that people are so scared of it, preachers that used to pull their text out and preach the gospel — where are those that are called upon in the name of Jesus Christ, where are they?” Alcocer asked.
Those people and their spiritual leadership are especially needed by people suffering from the coronavirus, who Alcocer says often feel emotionally isolated as well as physically isolated.
“There’s a lot of discrimination when people get COVID,” she said. “People do not even want to tell people that they have COVID because they don’t want to feel the rejection, and this is where we come in and show the love of God.”
Rivers of Living Water in Christ Church weren’t alone in prayer at McAllen Medical on Wednesday. Iglesia del Valle Santa Pentecostes joined them in the parking lot, almost providentially.
Anabel Cavazos, chaplain with that church, said her congregation came out Wednesday one member felt compelled to pray there. She says the churches didn’t plan to be there together.
“The holy spirit told her to go pray,” Cavazos said.
Cavazos says she hopes the prayers brought some relief to the people in the hospital and their loved ones.
“Some of them, the parents or the wife or the husband cannot go in there. We were asking the Lord to go to each room, and to visit them and heal them,” she said. “We could feel the presence of the Lord, we could feel the presence. If we were feeling it out there, imagine in there what they’re feeling? I’m sure they felt something inside as well.”