Power of prayer fills her life
Long before her near-death experience in 2002, Roela Victoria Rivera knew the value of prayer.
While growing up in the Philippines, Rivera said, her parents taught their children to pray "not only at mealtime but any time that we need God's strength and also guidance in everything that we do, in all aspects of our lives."
"My parents, they were instrumental in me to believe in the power of prayer," Rivera said.
Prayer has been significant throughout her life, she said, recalling instances that go all the way back to early elementary school.
When she was in first grade, Rivera said, her father, who helped her become an artist, entered one of her paintings - titled "Thank you, God, for my family"- into a children's art competition, where it won first prize. The same painting then won a special award in the International Children's Art Competition in Paris.
When Rivera was in college, she again came to understand the benefits of prayer.
"When I was about to graduate from the University of the East, there was a question about my completion of my bachelor of science in education because I transferred from one university to another. The board said I was qualified to be given the honors, but there was a little challenge there," Rivera explained.
"But my parents prayed hard for me, and my father especially explained to me that God was in control of everything and that he would direct the people who would review my case."
Rivera said the board eventually decided to allow her to graduate summa cum laude and even presented her with "the most outstanding graduate award."
In 1991, Rivera moved to the United States to attend seminary at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. She then moved to Nashville, Tenn., where she served as a diaconal minister in the Tennessee Annual (regional) Conference and as a commissioner of United Methodist Communications.
Rivera works on a painting in her Nashville home in this
2010 file photo. A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry.
Rivera, who launched her book July 24 at the centennial convocation of the National Association of Filipino American United Methodists, again experienced the power of prayer in 2002. While in the Philippines to help publish a history of Methodism in the Philippines, Rivera's health suffered. She was hospitalized twice, and when she returned to her home in Nashville, her husband immediately took her to the emergency room.
"Everything stopped, and I did not know what happened," Rivera said about passing out at the hospital.
For three days, she lay in a coma. Doctors told her husband, Jun, that she would not recover and that he should call their family to come and say goodbye.
But, because he "believed in the power of prayer," Jun Rivera called friends, family and church leaders and asked them to pray.
"While everybody was praying for me," Rivera said, "I had a wonderful experience to be in heaven." There, she said she felt "the wonderful and powerful touch of God's grace."
"I was walking somewhere there in heaven, and I felt a gentle touch on my head that sent warmth throughout my body, and I slowly opened my eyes and came back to earthly life."
'It's not your time'
Rivera, who is legally blind now due to her medical problems, said before she woke from the coma, she heard the voice of God speaking to her.
"'Roela, it's not your time,'" she said the "small but gentle" voice told her. "'Know that I have a new purpose and plan for your life. Go and tell and share the good news with others.'
"(Since) that time that I really tried to fill my covenant with God to use my new life to fulfill his plan."
That covenant came to fruition in 2009 with the creation of GraceNotes Creative Ministry. Churches benefit from donations of the financial proceeds from sales of inspirational items Rivera designs, such as greeting cards, calendars, notepads and picture frames.
"Prayer, for me, is the center of our Christian life," she said, noting that GraceNotes has funded prayer-related projects like altars and a prayer chapel.
Rivera said her personal prayer life was transformed by the near-death experience.
"Before, just like many people, we would pray for a goal that we want for ourselves, achievement in school, in a profession or career, but now my prayer is different," she said. "My prayers have become focused now, mostly about healing and about God's grace."
She personally uses one particular prayer, called "GraceNotes Prayer by Roela," any time she prepares to create a design or write.
"That's my daily prayer, thanking God for my new life and new hope and thanks for the day," she said. "What I will do for that day will be my gift to God, so I am asking God to grant me grace, love, wisdom, courage and creative power each day, so that I can use this for His glory and honor."
Rivera's book "Glimpses of Heaven: Lessons on Faith and Hope, Love and Joy" can be purchased at online bookstores westbowpress.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million.
*Snell is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy Noble, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.