Like a cartographer planning a transoceanic journey, Kimberly Terry draws across her city map in green highlighter, tracing the streets where households are prayed for.
From Dubuque’s western edge to its North End, residents are watched over by a patrol of the faithful, who cruise every road, avenue and boulevard, invoking God’s mercy and compassion upon those within the vicinity.
“I have the spirit of God in me,” Terry said. “When I go places, I leave that spiritual influence behind.”
Terry is a founding member of the Prayer Patrol, a 16-member cadre from Faith Temple United Pentecostal Church.
They pray for those who are ill, and the health care workers who tend to them. They pray for an end to domestic violence and addiction, and that people will develop a personal relationship with God.
The mobile ministry, created in June, has taken on a newfound sense of urgency as supplicants aim to offer an additional path to healing while the community copes with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want to take our faith outside of the church walls and into our city,” said founding member Michelle Mihalakis. “Faith moves. It doesn’t sit stagnant.”
Passersby might notice the Prayer Patrol by the magnetic signs that are affixed to members’ cars. The recently acquired placards beseech onlookers to submit prayer requests to 563-599-2980.
Sometimes Terry, who rolls through neighborhoods in her Toyota Prius, gets funny looks, but on other occasions, she receives a smile or thumbs-up. She prefers tackling her route in the mornings when the roads are quiet.
“The more I did it, the more driven I felt to do it,” she said. “I get into my car, and instantly, I get into prayer mode.”
Terry, Faith Temple’s missions coordinator, organizes the patrol. When people volunteer, she assigns them a “prayer territory” and checks in weekly to see which streets are covered.
Even though supplicants do not always know for whom they pray, Terry provides pointers. A person might utter, she said, “God, I’m asking you to give people peace. I don’t know their situation.”
For Sarah Weekley, prayer is a conversation with God.
Weekley witnessed its power last year when her then-5-month-old son suffered from a bout of seizures. The boy’s arms flailed and his head drooped in the ambulance on the way to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City.
His physicians told her that he had a type of infantile epilepsy and might experience seizures throughout his life. That night, she prayed, and a feeling of peace descended.
“That next morning, he smiled at me,” Weekley said. “I took that as a sign that God would take care of it.”
She said her son, now 1, has recovered.
Weekley has turned the patrol into a family affair and loads her children into the family’s Chrysler Town & Country van about every week.
“I want my kids to understand, too, that even though this is a fearful time, that we’re not scared — we do have peace,” Weekley said.
Of the approximately 7,000 languages worldwide, prayer is one that can unify everyone, said member Linda Schueller.
But prayer is especially valuable when the supplicant is physically present.
Ever since Mihalakis began to pray for a friend whose son was hospitalized for COVID-19 in late March, she circles Dubuque’s two hospitals after she retrieves her morning coffee.
“I let loose angels on Finley and Mercy every day,” she said. “I pray that people that come in there with COVID walk out alive. And we pray for their families that God comforts them.”
It gives people hope to know that someone prays on their behalf, Mihalakis said.
She believes prayer works, pointing to the recovery of the hospitalized man, who was released from UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital in April. Prayer was not a replacement for allopathic medicine but rather a way to strengthen the good works already being performed.
Mihalakis described a biblical passage in the Books of Chronicles in which God promises to “heal (the) land” if people “humble themselves and pray.”
“This is what we’re doing,” she said, standing in the Finley parking lot at the start of her morning route. “We’re being obedient to the Scriptures.”
A masked hospital staff member peaked out the sliding doors of the emergency room entrance.
Spotting Mihalakis’ Prayer Patrol sign, the woman waved.
“Thank you!” she shouted.