Showing Christ to the Campus

University campuses don’t seem to provide much for Christians to be encouraged about these days. Student protests, fraternity initiations turned deadly, and sexual assaults make the headlines. But at Winona State University in Minnesota, the news this fall is more uplifting, thanks to the efforts of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A. Following a summer of prayer and planning for back-to-school events, 49 students accepted Christ as Savior at the very first service!

James T. Bradford, who now serves as general secretary of the U.S. Assemblies of God, walked that campus as a student in the 1970s, praying for a move of God. Leaders during the 1990s invested countless hours of hard work and prayer. Those efforts, continued by current leadership, are paying off. Last year, an average of 150 students attended Chi Alpha services, and at this year’s opening service, 270 showed up.

Since its beginnings in 1953 at Missouri State University, Chi Alpha has established ministry on more than 300 college and university campuses throughout the United States. As one of the “Seven Windows to America” of U.S. Missions, Chi Alpha seeks to “reconcile students to Christ, equipping them through Spirit-filled communities of prayer, worship, fellowship, discipleship, and mission to transform the university, the marketplace, and the world.”   

The secular university campus is a huge and strategic mission field, with every religion, race, creed, and culture represented. Social, scientific, and spiritual theories on campuses today will be mainstream tomorrow. Chi Alpha offers Christian and non-Christian students alike a place to learn about God and discuss spiritual matters. Students, faculty, and campus staff can experience the love of Christ through the ministry of a local Chi Alpha group.

Many Christian students are living away from home for the first time, facing new challenges. Chi Alpha provides worship opportunities and fellowship to help protect the investment of time, money, and prayer into these young people by families and churches. Other students, though, have had no previous exposure to the gospel in an increasingly secular society. Reaching these future community leaders, business owners, scientists, or teachers for Christ is vital.

Chi Alpha also reaches out to international students. With well over one million students studying in the U.S. the campus is truly a place to impact nations. The list includes multiple nations where restrictive laws prevent students from ever hearing the gospel at home.

“God brings them to American universities, we believe, that they might come to know Him,” says U.S. missionary Steve Bortner at North Carolina State University. “Chi Alpha welcomes them and invites them to belong, even before they believe.”

Students who encounter Jesus through campus ministry may become missionaries to their countries upon returning home with their newfound faith.

At the beginning of the school year, Chi Alpha groups host back-to-school outreaches to connect with as many students as possible. Student leaders then follow up on the contacts made. The methods are as varied as the campus environments. They may include free Bible distribution, small group studies, fellowship activities, worship nights, or coffeehouse conversations.

This fall presented unusual opportunities for campus ministries in Texas and Florida. Student leaders mobilized volunteer teams for hurricane cleanup, and groups built friendships by serving together.

This Sunday, Sept. 24, is National Chi Alpha Awareness Day. Prayers of intercession are important to the success of campus ministry. Here are some ways to pray:

  • For the Chi Alpha leaders who have answered God’s call to serve on the campuses. Ask God to give wisdom as they encounter tough questions about spiritual matters.
  • For religious liberty on campuses. Chi Alpha is open to any student or staff member. Group leadership, however, must live by biblical values held by the Assemblies of God. This requirement has led to some occasional challenges from campus authorities. Pray for favor, open doors, and great relationships with faculty, staff, and administration.
  • For new Chi Alpha workers. Ask God to call more men and women into full-time campus ministry, and for pioneers to plant ministries at universities currently without one.
  • For a great awakening among students! Join Chi Alpha and U.S. Missions staff and leadership in asking God to pour out his Spirit in a supernatural and powerful way.

In addition to vital prayer support, local churches can bless campus ministries by hosting and partnering in events. Congregations also can welcome students who need a home church (or an occasional home-cooked meal). Other suggestions can be found here.

As fall semester progresses, reports similar to the one from Winona State continue to arrive. At North Dakota State University, over 50 students have made commitments to follow Christ in the first few meetings. At North Carolina State, Chi Alpha student leaders hosting an information booth connected with over 300 international students.

Source: AG News

AG Pastor Freed

Imprisoned Assemblies of God pastor Noe Carias walked to freedom Thursday night, nearly two months after being detained by U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The pastor’s wife, Victoria, and their children, Nylah, 7, and Abraham, 5, ran to hug him outside Adelanto Detention Center in Southern California. Victoria has been raising the children alone since federal officials took her husband into custody on July 24.

“I cannot describe with words the emotion I have to be with my family again,” Noe Carias told PE News on Friday. “God answered the prayers of many people.”

Carias, 42, is pastor of Iglesia Pentecostal Cristo la Roca de Poder Asambleas de Dios in Los Angeles. Although he has lived in the U.S. for the past quarter century and has been married to his American-born wife for 14 years, Carias, a native of Guatemala, faced the threat of deportation. Federal officials in July denied his renewal petition for a stay of removal and placed him in Adelanto Detention Center.

Despite the release, that order remains.

“This is a first step, a good step, in a long process,” says Carias’ attorney Noemí G. Ramirez.

Ramirez says ICE released Carias because he had no criminal past, doesn’t pose a flight risk, and isn’t a deportation priority. He didn’t have to post bond.

However, Carias must wear an ankle bracelet to monitor his whereabouts, and check in with ICE periodically, beginning Sept. 28.

U.S. AG General Superintendent George O. Wood pressured the Trump administration for Carias’ release. Wood brought the issue before the General Council in Anaheim in August, introducing Victoria and the couple’s two children on stage.

“I am delighted to learn of Pastor Carias’ release,” Wood said Friday. “What a wonderful day this is for him, his family, his church, and for all of those who have prayed for him.”

Ramirez says waiver requests for three deportation orders dating back to the mid-1990s have been submitted. Legal petitions could take up to a year to be resolved. She is confident the path to citizenship will be realized, and that authorities will factor in the pastor’s ties to the community, model behavior, and his American wife and children.

“It’s a long fight,” says Ada Valienta, a Baptist pastor with the Southern California Matthew 25 Movement that has been pressing for Carias’ release. “This is a critical case, and the deportation order is still in place. A judge would have to remove it.”

In the meantime, Carias isn’t allowed to be employed in the U.S. His identification papers, work authorization, and Social Security documentation all have been stripped.

Victoria and Noe met as teenagers at a Los Angeles AG church, and Noe converted to Christ at 17. The couple started a church in their living room six years ago, and Carias has taken courses through the AG’s Southern Pacific District Bible school. Sergio Navarrete, superintendent of the Hispanic district, has been working for Carias’ release.

Navarrette says he never has seen such interdenominational unity on a project in 35 years of ministry. He believes the pressure applied by various Christian coalitions, including the Assemblies of God, spurred the sudden emancipation.

Carias says he didn’t know he would be freed until Thursday, and ICE representatives offered no explanations.

“I never lost my faith,” Carias says. “My superintendent (Navarrette) told me, ‘We are with you to the end.’”

Navarrette says the 35 AG Los Angeles sectional churches have been supporting the Carias family in practical and financial ways on an almost daily basis.

The U.S. Assemblies of God made a donation to the Carias family at General Council. Offerings taken at General Council and subsequent donations to a designated fund website have raised additional funds.

Carias, who plans to preach at the church on Sunday, also expressed gratitude to Wood.

“I never thought in my mind I would receive that humongous support from the Assemblies of God,” Carias says. “The wonderful economic support has been a big blessing.”

Source: AG News

Reaching the Addicted

Less than a year ago, Crystal was an angry young woman who didn’t really care what happened to her. She didn’t know if God cared either, but in her pain, she cried out to Him that she just couldn’t take it anymore.

Growing up, Crystal was abandoned by her parents and moved from foster home to foster home. At 17, she got pregnant. Although the situation was far from ideal, at last she felt as though she had someone in her life to love. But at only 7 months old, her baby boy died. That sent Crystal headfirst into a life of addiction. She gave birth to another child, a daughter, but lost her parental rights because of incarceration for drug offenses.

The number of addicts like Crystal has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. In 1958, rural Pennsylvania pastor David Wilkerson felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to intervene in a murder trial of young gang members in New York City. That event, immortalized in the book and movie The Cross and the Switchblade, grew into Teen Challenge. Centers sprang up in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and other major cities, bringing hope in Christ and freedom from addiction. The early centers focused on reaching gang members and other vulnerable youth, usually from poor urban neighborhoods, through evangelism and discipleship.

Nearly 60 years later, one can find serious substance abuse in urban areas, suburbs, and small towns. Making and dealing drugs has become a problem even in some of the most remote communities and the most affluent suburbs. Business owners, corporate executives, homemakers, and student or professional athletes find themselves addicted to painkillers following surgery or an injury. And as Crystal’s story shows, teens remain vulnerable, especially those seeking to escape broken families.  Even churchgoing youth aren’t immune to the social pressures of alcohol and drugs.

Teen Challenge has expanded its ministry and methods to face the growing, changing need. As part of U.S. Missions, Adult & Teen Challenge USA now offers residential centers for adults as well as youth. A detox center recently opened. Prevention programs target local schools. Discipleship curriculum helps recovered addicts transition to successful Christian living.

What continues to make Teen Challenge a good choice for those needing help, either for themselves or for a loved one? Adult & Teen Challenge USA President and CEO Joe Batluck, Sr. offers some conversation starters for National Teen Challenge Day on Sept. 24 that may be beneficial in reaching out to a struggling friend or family member. Teen Challenge:

  • Is one of a kind, a faith-based, holistic approach to long-term recovery with nearly 60 years of successful ministry.
  • Provides a full range of services, from outreach and prevention to recovery, restoration, and integration.
  • Is adaptable to a variety of settings such as community-based support groups, institutional (jail or prison), or traditional residential programs.
  • Is multigenerational, ministering to sons and daughters, moms and dads, and grandparents, sometimes simultaneously.
  • Has retained its original DNA of evangelism and discipleship. It continues to be built on 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
  • Reacts to a specific problem — addiction — but is proactive in equipping people for a new life of service in Christ.

Crystal is one who has been set free from the pain of her addiction and her troubled past. Facing major prison time when she cried out to God, she was astounded to hear the judge say, “You’re going to Teen Challenge.” She has been in the program since February.

“I have experienced true compassion, encouragement, and love,” Crystal says. I see now that I was never alone. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead, because now I know God is with me.”

Source: AG News

Puerto Rico District Suffers Dramatic Losses

No water, no lights, no power, and devastation everywhere — that’s the reality for much of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, a deadly category 4 hurricane that struck the island Wednesday and has been called the most powerful to strike Puerto Rico in more than 80 years.

The AG Puerto Rico district has suffered significant confirmed material losses at the district offices and highly likely at local churches, but as communications are down for the majority of the island, the extent of those damages have not yet been reported. Iván De la Torre, the district superintendent, posted to the district Facebook page Wednesday evening — noting in a text message sent to the AG national office that he had miraculously found a location with Internet access:

Today I was able to get to our district offices and the Caribbean Theological College of the Assemblies of God and found a large part of the trees on the floor. Broken doors and windows. In different areas, gates were destroyed. The water flooded much of it and ruined much of the equipment. Thank God we are well, which is the most important thing. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will rise.”

Manuel Cordero, director of U.S. Missions Chaplaincy Ministries, says that 461 Response, a U.S. Missions Chaplaincy-affiliated ministry, has joined with FEMA and the Red Cross to provide assistance. “The district has a well-organized 461 Response ministry team,” Cordero says. “My understanding is that one of their responsibilities is to escort rescue workers to the district camp, which is being used as a staging area.”

Convoy of Hope is also prepped to respond. A team with supplies is ready to fly in as soon as the airport is re-opened.

Puerto Rico was clipped by Hurricane Irma about two weeks ago, but left nearly one-third of the nation without power. Hurricane Maria centered the island on Wednesday causing massive damage and outages. Officials believe that many residents will be without power for months. The damage from Maria is expected to be compounded by heavy rains as forecasts predict a total of two to three feet of rain through today.

For those who would like to financially assist in the ongoing hurricane relief and recovery efforts, the Assemblies of God national office has established a giving link: click here to give to AG Disaster Relief.

Source: AG News

CTS Leads the Charge for European Missions

The nation of Belgium is small, barely half the size of West Virginia, but its influence belies its size. As the seat of the European Union as well as NATO, Belgium remains quietly but firmly on the international stage.

Some 11 million Belgians comprise one of the world’s most diverse and secular populations. Prostitution is legal, as is euthanasia (including for children) and abortion. The traditional definition of marriage has been thoroughly and legally overthrown. Witchcraft maintains a heavy presence.

“Subjects, like euthanasia, that are still being hotly debated in America have been accepted by some European cultures and are no longer even a discussion,” says Dr. Joseph Dimitrov, president of the Assemblies of God’s Continental Theological Seminary (CTS) in Sint-Pieters Leeuw just outside the capital, Brussels.

With Dimitrov at the helm, Continental Theological Seminary pursues its mission to train students for ministry in Belgium and beyond. Located in a beautiful chateau with a rich history dating back to the 1100s, the seminary trains graduate and undergraduate students from around the world. The goal: to prepare men and women to impact with the gospel diverse societies that have no connection with evangelical Christians, and are even less receptive to Pentecostal Christians.

The students preparing for ministry at CTS are passionate about reconnecting millions of Europeans with the hope of the gospel, and God is honoring that passion. On a continent filled with seminaries and theological programs that study theology solely for academic reasons, CTS is one of the very few seminaries where Bible-believing faculty and students have accepted Christ, are filled with the Holy Spirit, and live biblically based lives.

That distinction has brought them both disdain and honor on Europe’s academic scene. But it was the prayers of a young African student that brought the most dramatic honor of all. Sitting on a train one day, the young man bowed his head in prayer. He was startled when a dignified woman next to him asked him what he was doing.

“I am praying,” he replied.

“Why?”

“I am a Christian, and a pastoral student at Continental Theological Seminary.”

The woman had never heard of CTS, but was intrigued. She told the young man she too was a Christian, and wished to learn more. He was shocked to learn that she was a high-ranking official within the educational area of the Belgian government. Because of that “chance” connection, CTS’ Master of Theology program was able to become fully accredited by the Belgian Board of Education — a recognition they had long sought.

Currently, around 150 students from 30 nations are enrolled at CTS. Approximately one half of them are pursuing doctoral degrees. Regardless of a student’s program, Dimitrov and the faculty work diligently to ensure that the vital link between study and ministry experience remains intact. Each week, students fan out to share ministry responsibilities at 25 churches around Belgium. Upon completion of their studies, many students expect to return to their home countries. In most cases, they will be lonely voices for Christ in very secular places.

Dimitrov concludes, “Our students know that by coming here, they are being prepared to go against the stream on a very secular continent. We believe we are on the frontline of missions — one of God’s voices for our continent. As such, we need protection. Please pray for the security of our campus, for wisdom for our professors as they equip students for Europe’s rapidly changing value system, and for provision for our students. We have nothing but the Holy Spirit.”

 

For more on this topic, please pick up a copy of the August 2017 WorldView magazine, Lights Among Shadows, or click here. To learn more about Continental Theological Seminary, visit ctsem.edu.
Source: AG News

Planting in a Secular Bastion

In the shadow of one of the nation’s top party schools and in a city where two-thirds of the population claim no religious affiliation, a new church plant has entered its second year seeking to increase its influence.

For the past 12 months, CityChurch has held services in downtown Iowa City, which has nearly 75,000 residents. The church sets up each Sunday in a senior citizen’s center a block away from the campus of the University of Iowa, a Big 10 school with an enrollment of more than 33,000 students.

Lead pastor Heather W. Weber originally didn’t see herself as a church planter. Weber, a published author who holds a master’s degree in creative writing, felt the tug in 2014 while serving on the pastoral staff at LIFEChurch, a rapidly growing Assemblies of God congregation in the nearby community of Coralville.

“I had this experience when I was alone at home,” she says. “I felt like the Holy Spirit came down in this tangible way and said, ‘Iowa City: church plant.’”

With the support of LIFEChurch, Weber began the process. CityChurch launched on Sept. 11, 2016, with a core group of 15 — five being Weber, her husband, Mark, and their three children.

In its first year, the congregation doubled to 30. Due to its downtown location, Weber says a variety of people walk by — and through — the doors. In addition to college students, attendees have ranged from physicians to lodgers at a nearby homeless shelter.

Weber says many in Iowa City are turned off by their perceptions of previous encounters with Christianity. Most locals lack an active involvement in a community of any faith, she says.

“People have been hurt or offended because of the judgmentalism that they’ve experienced,” she says. “I have a heart for those people.”

The result has been a church that welcomes those of all walks of life. It’s an atmosphere Siya Mali, who moved with Weber from LIFEchurch to CityChurch when it began, says combines relevance with a refreshingly down-to-earth approach.

“Any student who walks in and stays for coffee and bagels and chats with any of the members for five minutes will stay,” he says. 

While some may find it out of the ordinary to see a woman pastor planting a church, Weber says she’s been well-received. She has been looking for ways to minister in the community that her male counterparts cannot, such as seeking to assist female sexual assault victims at the university.

“In this context, being female is a bonus,” she says. “Iowa Citians appreciate diversity.”

Weber’s goal is for CityChurch to be outwardly focused, building bridges with local organizations and reaching out to those in need. The church has partnered with the nearby organization United Action for Youth to support teen parents and their families through food drives and donations. 

That focus will continue to grow in year two, she says, building on the progress the church has experienced so far.

“Whether they are artists or bartenders or students or educators or some other kind of professional, I see God is working through the networks of people coming to CityChurch,” Weber says. “Their friends are coming and there are conversations, and that’s really encouraging.”

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — September 23, 1962<br />

“A new age is upon us! It is an age of jet travel, space consciousness, pleasure madness, and moral indifference. Our boys are growing up in this overpowering environment. They will be the victims of it unless our church men do something to guide the energies and thoughts of the boys into right spiritual channels. Action must be taken quickly.”

Johnnie Barnes wrote these words in 1962, introducing readers of the Pentecostal Evangel to the new Royal Rangers discipleship program for boys.

Assemblies of God leaders in the 1950s and 1960s realized that shifting cultural currents posed significant challenges to the development of Christian manhood. They chose Johnnie Barnes (1927-1989), an energetic young preacher from Texas, to craft a new program to respond to this emerging discipleship crisis.

Barnes’ boyhood experience as a Boy Scout helped to prepare him for this new challenge. As a teenager, he was an Eagle Scout recipient, and his heart was set on being a park ranger. But God called him into the ministry, and by his early 20s he became a Methodist circuit-riding preacher. Barnes soon received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which flooded his heart with a sense of God’s grace and power, accompanied by greater personal humility and power in his ministry. Barnes transferred his ministry credentials to the Assemblies of God, where he quickly became noted for his passion for ministry to men and boys.

When developing Royal Rangers, Barnes drew upon aspects of Boy Scouts, the Royal Ambassadors program of the Southern Baptist Convention, and similar programs. What resulted was a unique Pentecostal mentoring program that melded outdoor adventure, Christian service, and biblical training. Royal Rangers became a familiar rite of passage for boys in Assemblies of God churches across America and around the world.

As head of Royal Rangers, Barnes had a broad vision and built bridges across denominational lines. In 1975, Royal Rangers began allowing other denominations to charter groups. The Congregational Holiness Church was the first, followed by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and others. Today, churches of numerous denominations use the Royal Rangers program.

Since the founding of Royal Rangers in 1962, the spiritual and cultural decline of America has quickened, and the need for godly mentors for boys is greater. The legacy of Royal Rangers is demonstrated in the lives of over 2.5 million boys around the world who have participated in this program designed to mold boys into godly, responsible men. 

Read the article by Johnnie Barnes, “A Bird’s-Eye View of our New Boys Program,” on pages 9 and 19 of the Sept. 23, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

To learn more about Royal Rangers and its flexible and adaptable programs, visit the Royal Rangers website.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Rescue the Prayer Meeting,” by Lloyd Christiansen

* “Always be Joyful,” by F. Helen Jarvis

* “The Pentecostal Dimension in Education,” by G. Raymond Carlson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Source: AG News

Making Inroads in the Last Frontier

For Jeremiah and Sharnay Niemuth, “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” is not a catchy title for a reality television show. But their adventure as Assemblies of God U.S. missionaries in the 49th state does entail long subzero winters and brief, sweltering summers.

The Niemuths are Intercultural Ministries missionaries who pastor a small but growing congregation comprised mostly of native Gwich’in people of Fort Yukon. The northwestern Alaskan village is indeed “frontier” remote, a place accessible only by riverboat or small plane, and where 35-below zero seems like a balmy winter’s day. The Niemuths have two children, 6-year-old Lucas and Araya, 2.

Indeed, Fort Yukon, 8 miles above the Arctic Circle near the confluence of the Porcupine and Yukon rivers, is no place for the faint of heart. Still, while Fort Yukon may represent a raw, tough and icy existence, the hearts of many of its 583 souls are warm toward the Niemuths and their one-room church of 30 adults, plus dozens of children.

Jeremiah and Sharnay, having just graduated from the Masters Commission program in North Pole, Alaska, first came to Fort Yukon in 2008. The local church — having endured decades of a near-revolving door history with pastors, many of whom stayed less than a year — had almost closed.

“The Yukon Flats Mission District basically needed somebody to hold down the fort,” Jeremiah recalls with a chuckle. “This was our ‘problem church’ in the district, and I was too young and ignorant to know what a problem church it was.”

He and Sharnay began with just two parishioners in a ramshackle, 70-year-old building without plumbing, and barely heated by a single wood-burning stove. A year later, seven adults and a small youth group huddled inside.

After a year of this stewardship, Jeremiah asked district officials how the search for a permanent pastor was going, fully expecting he and Sharnay would be sent to another assignment. District officials told Jeremiah they had found a new pastor: him.

Eight years later — joined by his younger brother Joshua Niemuth and Cheyenne Norberg, both missionary associates — Jeremiah, Sharnay, and their extended congregational family are working to erect a new church. The building, at 4,800 square feet, will be more than four times the size of the current structure; have two staff apartments, a furnace to warm it through the coldest months; and indoor plumbing and restrooms.

Along with the Niemuths and their parishioners lending muscle, carpentry and other on-site construction, the Alaska Ministry Network has pledged district-level support to the $350,000 project.

When completed, Fort Yukon Assembly of God will have room for 100 worshippers, ending the need for two Sunday services in the old, tiny sanctuary. The Niemuths hope to see the congregation’s steady growth continue; they also will expand outreach efforts to eight, even smaller neighboring native villages — if you consider Arctic Village, population 150, neighboring, being 100 miles north of Fort Yukon and accessible only by boat or plane.

Niemuth has been able to reverse the near extinction of the AG church by moving outside the four walls. That meant patience, building trust with the village elders, and seeking their counsel.

“We call it ‘going through the front gate,’ acknowledging their authority and positions in the village,” Jeremiah says. “You learn to sit and listen to elders and not interrupt, letting them share their stories, respecting them and the ways of their people.”

The village tribal and town councils contribute to youth camps, anti-drug and alcohol programs, and other events in which Fort Yukon Assembly joins with other churches to make a difference.

Though small, Fort Yukon faces many challenges typical to inner cities: substance abuse, poverty, joblessness, and single-parent homes. Subsequently, Jeremiah and Sharnay have become parental figures to some kids.

John E. Maracle, chief of the AG’s Native American Fellowship and an AG executive presbyter, says the Niemuths have done a tremendous job in the Alaskan bush, a mission field with over 100 isolated and disconnected communities.

“I’m grateful to God for using them out there, where nobody else wants to go,” Maracle says. “They pastor not just a church, but the whole village. This is what we really need in native ministry, pastors willing to go to the hard places, out in the wilderness, the last frontier.”

Source: AG News

Hundreds Killed in Second Mexico Quake

On Tuesday, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico near the town of Raboso in Puebla, about 76 miles southeast of Mexico City. More than 225 people have lost their lives, and many more are missing. Rescuers continue to search through the rubble of schools, offices, and apartments.

Among the most tragic scenes reported by multiple news sources is that of a collapsed school building, where all through the night rescuers clawed rubble with their bare hands, looking for children trapped underneath. They worked in silence as often as possible so that they would be able to hear tiny voices crying out for help.

This second disaster in a month struck on the 32nd anniversary of a 1985 earthquake that killed 10,000 people and left tens of thousands more injured and/or homeless. Just two weeks ago, a magnitude 8.1 tremor in southern Mexico caused buildings in Mexico City to rock for more than 60 seconds and killed 90 people. Experts have stated that much of Mexico City is built on a former lakebed, which can amplify earthquakes even hundreds of miles away.

In light of these conditions, and in honor of the 1985 quake anniversary, the region conducted earthquake drills just hours before Tuesday’s earthquake occurred.

All AGWM missionaries in Mexico have been safely accounted for, but details about the quake’s effects on AG churches and other ministries around the country are pending.

Missionary Sandy Kazim reports from her apartment in Portales (an area of Mexico City). “I spent most of the afternoon outside consoling the elderly in our building who were quite shaken up,” she says. “Nothing like a crisis to bring people together. The movement here during the quake was up and down so much so that I couldn’t stand up and walk. It was the strongest jolting I have experienced in that fashion.”

According to Kazim, AGWM missionary Peter Breit was downtown with a team when it happened, and they witnessed parts of a cathedral falling. Kazim checked in with a local Teen Challenge center to make sure the pastors and men there were safe.

“One of the kids working there, Luis, is an only child with a mom and dad in Jojutla,” Kazim says. “He is very shaken up. He heard from a friend that his mom had to be hospitalized. He has no idea if his dad is alive. He cannot get there, as the bridge into that part of Morelos has collapsed. An apartment building two blocks from our house collapsed on itself. They are not letting people on that street.”

David Ellis, AGWM regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, is asking for special prayer. “Following the devastation caused by hurricanes in the Caribbean and the USA, and the two earthquakes that have rattled Mexico, I am calling us to prayer for the people suffering and grieving from these natural disasters,” Ellis says. “All missionaries are accounted for, but our hearts go out to our Mexican brothers and sisters, and to those who don’t know the Lord. Join us in prayer for our colleagues who live and serve in the countries affected, for the national churches, and for the churches and donors in the United States who reach out to those who need help with relief and rebuilding.”

For more information about specific relief and rebuilding efforts in the Caribbean and Mexico, visit agwm.com and click on the “Give” button on the top menu bar. A pull-down list includes the specific relief and rebuilding accounts for Hurricane Irma and the Mexico quakes. A downloadable video concerning Cuba with AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis is available at crisisresponse.ag.org/pastors.

Source: AG News

Royal Rangers Edge Girls Ministries in National Giving Challenge

What began as a national giving challenge in August at General Council with Karl Fleig, the Royal Rangers national director, being covered in cans of Silly String spray, came to a slimy, goopy, gummy conclusion on Friday when buckets of a creative mixture of slime, glitter, beads, gummy bears, rubber mice and snakes — even live nightcrawlers — were poured over the heads of Mandy Groot, national Girls Ministries director, and her staff.

The national challenge? Who could give more to their missions project during the month of August — Royal Rangers (Master’s Toolbox) or Girls Ministries (Coins for Kids)?

At General Council in Anaheim, the two groups paired off for a weeklong mini-challenge held Aug. 7-11. Girls Ministries dominated the week, raising more than $10,400. The Royal Rangers raised nearly $3,600, a respectable amount, but seemed to be hopelessly behind.

However, in a Facebook live event, the final totals for August giving were revealed, and the Royal Rangers came from behind to outgive Girls Ministries for the month of August, $21,964.73 to $17,050.15, resulting in Groot and her team experiencing a slime shower.

“The girls really blew us away at General Council,” Fleig admits, “but the guys really came through in a big way — I was glad to have the Silly String then, rather than the slime now!”

The competition was held in good faith and fun. The Royal Rangers are working on their Catapult 700 Boys and Girls Ministries Challenge (BGMC) project that will result in 700 outposts being planted in Africa and Royal Rangers materials translated into Swahili over the next two years. Girls Ministries 2017 project is Caring for Baneasa (Romania), where a children’s center with a playground will be completed under the direction of AG missionaries.

What’s remarkable for both ministries is that they are on pace to break last year’s giving totals.

“We’re above our giving at this point last year [a total of $88,900 so far], if the trend continues, we hope to have a record-breaking year,” Groot says. “Our goal is to break the $300,000 mark and this will really help.”

Fleig is also excited about the Royal Rangers giving. “Last year our total giving was a record $101,000,” he says. “We’re currently just $11,000 below what we did all of last year and traditionally a bulk of our giving comes in the last months of the year.”

According to Mark Entzminger, senior director of AG Children’s Ministries, BGMC as a whole is up and looking to break another giving record by reaching $8 million this year.

“I love when I see the ministries working together for missions,” Entzminger says. “I love when kids can give to missions together, even though it may be for different projects. When national leaders go first — demonstrating their commitment to missions — they show that they’re as invested in missions as the local leaders are. I believe this kind of fun, positive leadership is easy to follow.”

Source: AG News