KISSIMMEE – This month, community pastor Gonzalo Venegas kicked off an event consisting of 40 days of prayer with the Kissimmee community for citizens to encounter God in a local civic office and on the Johnson University Florida campus.
The first community prayer took place at city commissioner Olga Gonzalez’s office on Feb. 20 before the ribbon cutting of the Church and Community Assistance Program. Each day of prayer will continue to be held from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., until Mar. 30 in the Johnson University Florida plaza.
Feb. 21., the first morning of prayer on the JUFL campus, approximately 20 community members and students met to pray. Before they commenced, one participant blew a shofar, an instrument typically correlated to Israeli religious ceremonies, several times.
Venegas was inspired to hold “The Jonah Movement” in Kissimmee by a movement called “Decreto De 40 Días de Ayuno y Oración Mundial,” which can be translated to “40 Day Worldwide Decree of Prayer and Fasting”. In this movement, communities proclaim periods of prayer for certain needs, such as a decrease in crime or an increase in revival.
“Our number one [prayer] is to seek God, to turn our face to God and seek his guidance for our city,” Venegas said. “And that includes [prayer for] wisdom and unity for all of us.”
Last year, the Kissimmee city council issued a proclamation, “40 Days of Celebration of Life, Love, and Family” in response to the effects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
City commissioner Olga Gonzalez helped initiate the proclamation last year, and said she wanted this year’s 40 days of prayer to bring unity to the community.
The title of Kissimmee’s prayer movement, “The Jonah Movement ” was chosen by Venegas because, Biblically, the people of Nineveh prayed and fasted in repentance when they were told God would destroy their city, and in response God had mercy on them.
Community leaders, religious clergy, first responders, doctors, and teachers, among all other Kissimmee residents, are invited to sign up to lead prayers at Johnson.
JUFL professor Gyasi Francisco led a day of prayer Feb. 27.
“It just seems like a beneficial thing to partake in,” Francisco said. “I think it’s beneficial for faculty, as best as we can, to partake in, because this community is important.”
While leading, Venegas prayed over certain topics and asked others to join him, but prayer leaders have freedom to lead how they wish.
Francisco, in particular, considered incorporating a devotional into her morning of leading prayer. Each leader also has the option of providing worship.
Students, faculty or community members who are interested in leading a day of prayer can sign up here.
To follow “The Jonah Movement”, stay updated with Johnson University Florida on Facebook.