A Little Horsing Around Brings Smiles to Seniors

Little Mayble doesn’t speak a word of English, she stands just 34 inches tall, and has a ponytail that brushes the floor. But according to Chuck Kish, lead pastor of Bethel Assembly of God in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, this gentle girl — who is by far the church’s youngest commissioned EMS chaplain at just 15 months — is making a greater impact upon lives, gathering more media attention, and creating greater awareness of a desperate community (and national) need than anyone ever expected. 

Mayble is a therapy miniature horse, who comes complete with vest, two pairs of sparkling shoes, and a winsome personality that brings cries of joy and smiles to faces of those who have had little to smile about. 

“It’s scientifically proven that just being in the vicinity of a horse changes brain chemistry,” says Lindsey Jones, Mayble’s owner. “And Mayble proves that over and over again — when we walk into rooms at the nursing home, people’s faces light up, they clap their hands, and they’re simply filled with joy to have Mayble visit.” 

Although even the thought of a therapy miniature horse is heartwarming, Kish explains that Mayble is part of something much bigger that God is in the process of doing in the community. 

Kish says last fall he learned that the Church of God (COG) Home, which Kish describes as excellent, had close to two dozen people who never or rarely had any outside visitors – ever. He also learned this was not unusual — it was commonplace among most nursing homes. 

“There are several circumstances that lead to this,” says Kish, who is also an AG U.S. Missions chaplain. “A person can be estranged from his or her family, their family lives too far away to visit more than once or twice a year, or, for older residents, they have simply outlived all their friends and family.” 

Burdened with that thought, Kish says God stopped him in mid-sermon to ask for volunteers who desired to be a part of a compassion visitation team to regularly visit at least those who rarely, if ever, received visitors at the home. This is not all that unusual of a request at Bethel, as the church is known for its chaplaincy services it provides to area first responders. 

Among those who stood that day was retiree Nancy Poley, whose husband, Frank, volunteers as an EMS chaplain. She says it was just that week that God put nursing home visitation heavily upon her heart, explaining that Sunday proved to be a “God appointment” for her. Having cared for her mother in a nursing home for three years, Poley knew that there was a desperate need for this type of ministry. 

Poley says that after going through training, she along with several other started visiting the COG Home last fall. She visits with six to eight of the seniors on the list each time she goes for her weekly two- to three-hour visit. 

“One of the things that I’ve learned is that it often takes a long time to develop relationships because many of those I visit have Alzheimer’s or some sort of short-term memory struggles,” Poley says, “so it is so exciting for me when one of the residents recognizes me or welcomes me when I stop by their room to visit.” And recently she had one resident ask to pray for her! 

In December, long-time Bethel member Lindsey Jones, who had recently moved to a small farm, asked her husband, Michael, for a miniature horse for Christmas . . . enter Mayble, who Lindsey trained to ride in the back seat of her extended cab pick-up truck. 

Shortly after getting Mayble, Lindsey’s son, Levi, who had been struggling with illness for two years, became seriously ill and was admitted to Hershey Medical Center. Depressed and upset by his illness, Lindsey comforted her son, explaining how the Bible says that all things work together for the good of those who love Him [Romans 8:28]. “Perhaps you’re going through this right now so that we would train Mayble as a therapy horse and we could come back here, visiting other boys and girls, and you could empathize with them while at the same time bringing a horse to see them!” 

Lindsey would later mention the horse therapy idea to Kish. The church already had its nursing home ministry started, so when Lindsey started talking about a therapy horse going into places like hospitals, nursing homes quickly came up. 

“It just kind of began to spiral from there,” Lindsey says. Kish agrees, marveling at how God orchestrated things. 

When Lindsey and Mayble made their first visit to the COG Home in early September, it was like Christmas all over again. 

Jennifer Michaud, the recreational director for the COG Home, says the residents get very excited about Mayble visiting. “The staff gets pretty excited around here too,” she says. 

Poley adds, “When we walked into the room, you could see the excitement on their faces. And when we left, there were a lot more smiles on faces than usual!” 

Lindsey explains that Mayble is therapeutic as seniors use fine motor skills to pet her, engage in social conversations, and her presence provides a sense of joy and emotional support. 

“Last time we were at the home, Mayble and I would visit one room and then Nancy [Poley] would follow behind and see if she could pray with them,” Lindsey says. “I think having interacted with Mayble places the residents in a more positive and receptive mindset, so they may be more willing to share their prayer requests with Nancy.” 

Michaud says that after Mayble visits, she’s the topic of conversation throughout the home. In fact, Mayble’s visits have Michaud’s phone ringing off the hook as the local media has picked up on the story and have set up multiple interviews and news reports about Lindsey and Mayble. 

“Our prayer is that the media exposure will lead other churches to get involved in creating teams to visit perhaps the loneliest people in the world,” Kish says. “There are so many nursing homes and likely every single one has residents who rarely, if ever, have visitors. What an opportunity to show the compassion and love of Christ! Keep in mind, just because a person is older doesn’t mean he or she knows Christ.” 

Kish reports that already one person rededicated his life to Christ due to Mayble, but not someone he expected. He explains that two companies — an in-home care company (MedStaffers) and a funeral home — learned about Mayble, and together have sponsored her for $1,700 to help offset the cost of caring for her. A salesman for MedStaffers, when they were looking to sponsor Mayble, decided to attend the church service when Mayble was commissioned. There, the salesman was once again exposed to and convicted by the gospel message. He would return the next Sunday and give his life to Christ. 

“The young man later asked me, ‘You don’t suppose God brought that little pony into my life to get me back to church, do you?’” Kish recalls. “I told him He absolutely did!” 

Kish says Mayble’s and Lindsey’s work is already getting ready to expand beyond the nursing home. Once Lindsey finishes her training to be an EMS chaplain, she and Mayble will be on call with local law enforcement and possibly even funeral homes. “Young children are exposed to deaths and tragedies more times than we’d like to think,” Kish says. “Meeting with Mayble and a trained EMS chaplain will give children that opportunity to get away, process, and even ask questions.” 

As far as Lindsey is concerned, she’s shocked that she and Mayble have garnered so much media attention, but is excited at the growing opportunities to help make a difference in people’s lives. “As Pastor Chuck says, ‘Why wouldn’t God use one of His creations to open doors?’ That’s very much my hope!”

Source: AG News

New Church Fills Void in North Dallas

After more than 20 years of full-time ministry, one activity Jeff Kossack was confident he would never find himself doing was planting a church. But in 2012, he knew God was leading him to make a transition from the church he was pastoring in Mesa, Arizona. Jeff’s church leadership board gave him their full support and encouraged him to follow God’s leading.

Once several doors of ministry opportunity closed, Jeff realized that God was directing him toward church planting. He was interested in Austin, Texas, but in a meeting with the church planting director in the North Texas District of the Assemblies of God, Jeff was made aware of the great need for a church plant in north Dallas. To prepare for the task, Jeff and Melissa signed up for Boot Camp, a training session for church planters hosted by Church Multiplication Network.

One year ago this month (in September 2015), Jeff and Melissa Kossack launched Trilogy Community Church in Cross Roads, Texas. 

Located in the heart of the rapidly growing northeast section of Denton County in north Dallas, Cross Roads is a bedroom community and home to thousands of commuters that work in the cities of Denton, Frisco, and Dallas.

Prior to launching the church, the Kossacks moved into a community near Cross Roads and began a Bible study in their living room. When the size of the group outgrew the space, a local church offered them meeting space. Within nine months, the group grew to about 70 people and the couple knew it was time to launch.

About 150 people attended the launch at Cross Oak Ranch Elementary School in September 2015, and today the church’s weekly attendance averages 90-100. The church also has a group of leaders with Bible college degrees who want to be a part of this effort and are currently volunteering their ministry.

Trilogy church has hosted several community outreaches including an after-school mentoring program at Cross Oaks Elementary and movie nights throughout the summer for the local community. In the spring they had an Easter event and last Christmas they offered carriage rides and a photo booth to the community.

“The Matching Funds provided by AGTrust helped us to create a portable worship environment at the school location that speaks of excellence,” Jeff says. “Visitors have remarked that the church far surpasses their expectations of a church meeting at an elementary school. We are also grateful to an AG church in Corinth, Texas, that provided us with a substantial financial gift of support.”

The Kossacks have been in ministry together since they were married 17 years ago. Jeff has served as a youth pastor, district youth director, and most recently as pastor of the church in Mesa, Arizona, for six years. He and Melissa have six children, ranging in age from eight months to 14 years.

“The heart of Trilogy is to see new stories written in people’s lives,” Jeff says. At the church’s first water baptismal service in July, Jeff baptized 14 people, including his daughter, Hannah.

“A lot of people who attend church grew up in church,” Jeff says. “They’ve almost become inoculated to the gospel because they’ve heard it so many times, and it’s never taken root in their lives. Our goal at Trilogy is to show them what authentic Christianity looks like. Through the way we do church and do life together, we want them to see authentic community and what living for Jesus looks like.”

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — September 23, 1951

U.S. Congressman William D. Upshaw (1866-1952), one of the best-known physically disabled American politicians of his era, was healed in a 1951 Pentecostal revival meeting. 

Upshaw was a well-known figure in American politics. The Georgia Democrat served four terms in Congress (1919-1927) and was a leading proponent of the temperance movement. He even ran for U.S. President on the Prohibition Party ticket in 1932. His inability to walk without crutches did not prevent him from a life of public service. 

Then, near the end of his life, something amazing happened. Upshaw testified that, at age 84, he was miraculously healed on Feb. 8, 1951, in a revival service conducted by Pentecostal evangelists William Branham and Ern Baxter. He was able to walk unassisted for the first time in 59 years, discarding his crutches. His testimony of healing was published 65 years ago in the Sept. 23, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. 

Upshaw related the story of the accident that led to his spinal injury and years of disability: “When I was eighteen years old I fell on a crosspiece in a wagon frame, fracturing my spine.” After the accident, he was bedridden for seven years, and then for the next 59 years he was able to walk with the aid of crutches.

He longed to be instantly healed. “Every time I prayed to be immediately healed,” he wrote, “the Lord seemed to say to me, ‘Not yet! I am going to do something through you in this condition that could not be done otherwise — leave it to Me!’”

Throughout the years, Upshaw made this his motto: “Let nothing discourage you — never give up.” And he didn’t. 

In an era when people with physical disabilities often had very limited opportunities, he became a noted politician and public speaker. When he ran for U.S. President on the Prohibition Party ticket in 1932, he received 81,869 votes. Interestingly, he lost to Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was also physically disabled. While Roosevelt hid his inability to walk from the public, Upshaw did not. 

Moving to California later in life, Upshaw became vice president and a faculty member of Linda Vista Bible College in San Diego. At age 72, he was ordained as a Baptist minister, and he continued to speak and preach across the nation.

In his 1951 testimony, Upshaw wrote that two years earlier he was healed of cancer on his face after Assemblies of God evangelist Wilbur Ogilvie had prayed for him. With his faith inspired, Upshaw continued to pray for faith to walk unassisted. 

Upshaw noted that when he walked into the 1951 Pentecostal meeting where he was healed, he was “leaning on my crutches that had been my ‘buddies,’ my inseparable companions, for 59 of my 66 years as a cripple.” During concerted prayer at the end of the service, the evangelist declared: “the Congressman is healed.” Upshaw recalled that, after the service, “I walked out that night leaving my crutches on the platform, a song of deliverance ringing in my heart in happy consonance with the shouts of victory from those who thronged about me.” 

After 66 years, William Upshaw was healed! 

Read the article, “84-Year Old Cripple Discards Crutches,” on page 12 of the Sept. 23, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. 

Also featured in this issue: 

• “The Ministry of Tears,” by Arne Vick 

• “Tested but Triumphant,” by J. A. Synan

• “The General Council at a Glance” 

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now. 

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Source: AG News

Overdue Diversity

In 1992, Belkis Lehmann, a Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A. leader on the Eastern Michigan University campus, walked into the school’s food court and noticed that all the black students sat on one side and the white students sat on the other. The self-segregation bothered Lehmann. She knew that wasn’t God’s will for the campus.

Her thoughts turned to the college’s Chi Alpha group, which consisted of almost 100 percent white students. She knew that wasn’t God’s desire either, so she and her husband, Steve, EMU’s Chi Alpha director, prayed, and strategized about ways to change the demographics.

When Lehmann left EMU 14 years later, the share of white Chi Alpha students had dropped to nearly one in three, and participation reflected the overall number of African-American and international students on campus.

Not content to let the issue fade, in 2010 she led a breakout session on diversity at Chi Alpha’s national conference. Out of that session, Lehmann, along with other leaders, created a national task force. Lehmann now is an AG U.S. missionary heading the task force as Chi Alpha’s national diversity specialist.

Chi Alpha, the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions ministry on secular college and university campuses, always has been intentional about drawing people to Christ and making disciples. But Lehmann, a Cuban-American, is passionate about creating a community of multiethnic followers, stating that the Scriptures and AG’s heritage mandates such a commitment.

“Any entity that is homogeneous as a group is by its very nature weak,” says Lehmann. She acknowledges that such a worldview and even theology are limited; conversely, a multiethnic community exhibits richness because of a broader range of life experiences and perspectives.

Thankfully, national Chi Alpha leadership is on board.

“We have a responsibility on campus to welcome students who are different from us,” says E. Scott Martin, senior director of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A. “The university is a diverse institution, and Chi Alpha needs to reflect the students on campus. Belkis has done a remarkable job of making sure that the diversity issue is on the forefront of everything we do.”

Martin believes that mirroring the student demographic of a school is a sign of a healthy Chi Alpha group.

There has been great progress in making student groups not so overwhelmingly white. But Martin concedes diversifying Chi Alpha’s missionary staff has been more of a challenge. It’s a leadership dilemma that affects the AG as a whole.

One of the diversity task force’s main goals is to bring more missionaries onto campuses who reflect the demographic makeup there. That’s quite a task, given that the current number of Chi Alpha minority student leaders makes up only little more than 15 percent.

One area in which Chi Alpha is striving to change those statistics is through the Minority Mobilization Fund, which offers grants to minority missionaries going through training.

Another focus is to gain a toehold on historically black colleges (HBCUs), believing that by reaching students there, minority Chi Alpha leaders will follow.

“Forty to 80 percent of black professionals come from HBCUs,” says Lehmann. “For us to not be on those campuses is beyond insane.”

Deanna Ceasar agrees. Ceasar, a member of the task force and a missionary associate at Xavier University, a small, private, Catholic HBCU in New Orleans, specifically became a Chi Alpha leader to encourage other minorities to follow the Great Commission. When she first attended Chi Alpha as a student at Louisiana State University, she recognized there weren’t a whole lot of people who looked like her.

“I wanted other African-American students to experience the life-transforming faith that I had, through the help of Chi Alpha,” she says. Because Ceasar didn’t see a large reflection of that diversity, she decided to instigate the change she wanted to see.

So five years ago, after a one-year internship, Ceasar started an outreach to Xavier students with Chi Alpha New Orleans. During that first year, she and others on the leadership team experienced much opposition, but they persevered. She started a prayer group with some students and focused on building relationships and sharing the vision of Chi Alpha. Each year the group maintained a core of about 10 students. Just last year, Xavier allowed Chi Alpha to do official events on campus. This year, a few weeks into the new school term, the group has connected with more students than ever before, and has a full student leadership team, and one intern.

“Our main question is always, What does God desire?” Lehmann says. That has led them to making radical shifts in how they implement ministry. “In our worship, relationship time, prayer time — on every level we’re aware of the differences and reach out to all students.”

Source: AG News

Multiethnic Neighborhood

Christ Church International is an appropriately named congregation on the south side of Minneapolis. The Assemblies of God church is located in the midst of the biggest Somali population outside of Somalia and the largest group of Native Americans anywhere except reservations. An influx of Hmong also has moved into the ever-evolving neighborhood, which has experienced a 500 percent Hispanic population increase in the past 15 years due to immigration from various countries.

“I always dreamed of pastoring a multiethnic congregation,” says Darrell John Geddes, who has been senior pastor for 14 years. “Not every community lends itself to that.”

Evangelization has proven difficult with such diverse cultures, some of which have had little, if any, previous contact with Christians.

“Employing traditional methods just won’t work,” says Geddes, who is secretary for the AG’s National Black Fellowship. “Aggressive confrontation doesn’t work with first-generation immigrants.”

Geddes, who earlier spent nine years on the faculty of North Central University, has discovered that gradually building relationships is a better way to break down barriers. Subsequently, Christ Church International strives to be proactive as a way to raise its profile in the community.

For instance, the church is involved in providing tutors for an afterschool reading program, periodic block parties with inflatables and a catered meal, and a “Come Grow With Us” outreach that invites residents to plant seeds and raise vegetables on abutting land.

While 17 nations are represented in the congregation of 200 regular attendees, the majority are first- and second-generation churchgoers from the West African nations of Nigeria, Togo, and Sierra Leone.

“The biggest challenge we face is breaking down the barriers inside the church,” says Geddes, 60. “What tends to happen is everyone comes to worship together, but they fellowship in their affinity group. We have to be very intentional about getting people outside their comfort zone. Cross mingling almost has to be scheduled.”

And that’s what Christ Church International does with an after-service quarterly luncheon, with churchgoers exhorted to fellowship with people from a different ethnic group.

Part of the blending of the body involves music. Fine Arts Pastor Marquel McGhee says he is intentional about mixing various worship styles for Sunday services. A set may include a contemporary worship song composed by Israel Houghton, a black gospel tune written by Kirk Franklin, a 19th century hymn penned by Fanny Crosby, and a West African tribal melody.

“We would be stifled if we had to stick to one genre,” McGhee says. “Pastor Darrell is good at bridging the gaps and helping people who may feel threatened by the tensions in society.”

Source: AG News

The Trivocational Pastor

As a teenager, Ronaldo Pascua felt God calling him to ministry. He wanted to work in law enforcement instead.

As a young adult, Pascua pursued both vocations. While employed as a police officer, he also served on a church staff. He met his wife, Joy, while he worked as a part-time youth pastor. The couple married in 1995. As a licensed Assemblies of God minister, he officiated at weddings and conducted funerals.

Pascua says he sensed God’s tug to full-time ministry as he served on the Honolulu Police Department. He ended his police career in 2008 as an investigative detective on the force. Pascua doesn’t regret leaving the good-paying job.

“As we follow the Lord we may have our plans, but God has His,” says the soft-spoken Pascua.

Many pastors are bivocational. Yet Ronaldo Pascua holds down three jobs. In additional to his primary role as pastor of Paradise Chapel in Waianae, Hawaii, Pascua is a chaplain for both the Honolulu Police Department as well as the Hawaii Army National Guard.

For the past decade, Pascua, 50, has been a National Guard Reserve brigade chaplain, spending one weekend a month providing religious and spiritual support to those in the military and their family members. He also trains for two weeks annually as a reservist.

“Seeing soldiers only one weekend a month is more of a challenge for ministry,” says the fit-looking Pascua, who during five years on active-duty orders was deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan.

Pascua spends around 20 hours a month as a U.S. Missions Assemblies of God Chaplaincy Crisis Ministries voluntary police chaplain for the Honolulu Police Department. As one of eight chaplains on the force, he provides a “ministry of presence” by going along on rides as well as responding to line of duty injuries or death notifications.

Honolulu Police Department Sgt. Tenari Ma’afala has known Pascua since 2001, when they served on the force together. Ma’afala is commander of the HPD Peer Support Unit under which the department’s chaplaincy program operates. He is responsible for coordinating assignments involving traumatic events that affect police officers and their families.

“Having experienced firsthand the demands and sacrifices of being a police officer is a huge advantage to Chaplain Ronaldo in his role as an HPD chaplain,” Ma’afala says. “I am truly blessed to be serving alongside Chaplain Ronaldo, whom I consider as a spiritual mentor.”

Since January 2015, Pascua’s full-time role has been as senior pastor of Paradise Chapel in Waianae, an area where he says homelessness, poverty, drug addiction, and crime are issues. Pascua succeeded George Nagato, who retired after 34 years at Paradise Chapel, located on the west side of Oahu, 20 miles west of the capital Honolulu.

The church of 150 looks much like the islands: a mixture of Hawaiians, Koreans, Filipinos, Japanese, African-Americans, and Caucasians. Pascua and his wife are Filipino.

IMAGE: Chaplain Ronaldo Pascua (right) is a friend to many on the Honolulu Police Department, including Sgt Robert Lee (left) and Sgt Joel Gonsalves.
Source: AG News

Protest Brings Opportunity to Missionaries

Thousands of protesters recently flooded Puerta del Sol, the main square in Madrid, Spain, and the location of the Ontheredbox Ministry Center, on Saturday, Sept. 10. The protesters weren’t there to oppose Ontheredbox – they were there participating in a march for animal rights, specifically against bull fighting.

Yet, for Jacob and Julie Boch, who have been serving as Assemblies of God missionaries to Madrid, Spain, and surrounding communities for more than three decades, the protest proved to be a ministry bonanza for their Ontheredbox outreach.

What is the Ontheredbox game plan? Simply explained, a red trunk filled with Light for the Lost (LFTL) Spanish postcard tracts and gospel portions is legally placed in an active pedestrian area in the square, an Ontheredbox team member stands on the red trunk, and then gives his or her testimony or offers a gospel presentation. 

A typical effort sees the Ontheredbox team, made up of a mixture of missionaries — including AG world missionaries Dan and Joy West and Kevin and Karen Prevost — and trained volunteers begin by distributing tracts. Then, about every 30 minutes, a team member stands on the trunk and begins to speak. In an average three-hour, six-days-a-week effort, the teams give out 1,000 tracts and 25 gospel portions a day. 

“[The messages] always focus on what Jesus did for us on the Cross, challenging the public to repent and put their faith in Jesus,” Julie Boch says. “After the preaching, we offer people a LFTL gospel portion and talk with those who have gathered. When the conversations have finished, we do another gospel presentation.” 

However, Sept. 10 was different as the square was teaming with protesters. “We chose to distribute postcard tracts with an animal on them — we distributed at least 5,000 tracts,” Julie says. “What fun!” 

Although some may question the effectiveness of street witnessing and tract distribution, the Bochs have Scripture on their side. 

“As Romans 10:14 says, ‘How can they believe if they don´t hear?’” Julie states. “We believe in the power of proclaiming the gospel, in any and every way possible. That is why we stand up on a box and proclaim what Jesus did in our lives and what He wants to do in their lives.” 

The Bochs also see the postcard tracts as powerful opportunities in several ways — and not just for those receiving them. 

“The postcards give a simple direct message to the person that receives it, which plants that thought in people’s minds,” Julie explains. “I also believe tracts are powerful because we hand them to people. We reach into their lives, look them in the eyes, and respond to them — the tracts open up many conversations each night. I have also found that passing out tracts is very beneficial in my life. It helps me to reach out to people and open my heart to them.” 

Although Ontheredbox does plenty of ministry in the Puerta del Sol, it also provides a training center for churches to send people to so they can learn through teaching and experience how to replicate the ministry in their own cities — they even offer an online training course. 

Julie says the secret to having the courage and effectively sharing the gospel is not complicated: “We need to pray and be full of the Holy Spirit and then, together, go to the streets and proclaim the great news of the gospel.” 

The Bochs estimate that in the past 14 years since they’ve began Ontheredbox, they’ve order about 2 million LFTL tracts to distribute — about 300,000 a year! 

“What a privilege it is to provide Ontheredbox postcard tracts and gospel portions to place the truth and love of Christ into the hands, hearts, and minds of hundreds of thousands of people each year,” says Rick Allen, national Light for the Lost director. “Every piece of literature distributed is a seed planted, watered, or prepared for harvest — and that’s exciting to consider!”    

The Ontheredbox Ministry Center, which has a prayer room overlooking the Puerta del Sol, also has a coffee house, where people are welcomed and can engage in conversations with the staff. “We are currently in the process of raising funds to buy this building,” Julie says. “Its location is ideal as on a normal day as many as 100,000 people walk through the square — and through Ontheredbox can be exposed to the gospel!”

Source: AG News

Determined Despite Disease

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of 20 PE News articles on 20 people in the Assemblies of God under the age of 20 who are making an impact in their communities.

In many ways, Brie Porubsky, 14, of Wadsworth, Ohio, is a typical teenage girl. She loves cheerleading, swimming, playing the piano, and leading worship at Radiant Life Church in Wadsworth, where her parents, Lance and Angel, serve as lead pastors.

However, unlike most of her peers, Brie does all of these activities while dealing with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, a rare autoimmune disorder.

Shortly after being diagnosed three years ago, Brie lost lung capacity and her range of motion became limited. That made simple tasks — such as opening her mouth to eat or sing — difficult.

Despite weekly doctor visits and multiple hospitalizations, Brie has maintained a positive attitude and inspires others by speaking at churches and various girls’ ministries throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Mandy Groot, director of Assemblies of God National Girls Ministries, describes Brie as an exceptional girl who is upbeat, down to earth, and encouraging.

These characteristics are what led Groot to ask Brie to author the All Star Girl Devotional Journal to coincide with the 2016-17 National Girls Ministries annual theme. The goal is to inspire girls to love Jesus, honor others, value themselves, be confident in truth, and influence their world.

The goal is enlist 10,000 All Star Girl participants during the next year.

Groot says an adult traditionally has written the annual devotional, but she wanted the voice of a youth to speak to younger girls.

“Brie completely embodies what we would say an All Star Girl is about,” says Groot. “She’s not perfect, but when life gets hard, she recalibrates and goes back to what she’s committed to, and that’s loving and trusting Jesus.”

Brie says she drew from her own experiences to encourage girls that no matter what they’re going through — at school, at home, or with friends — they can be the “All Star” God wants them to be.

Her sisters Kierstynn, 13, and Alyvia, 10, will be among the thousands of young girls going through the journal and making that commitment.

Inspiring others is nothing new to Brie. Her sermon, “Be Bold, Be Brave, and Be Blessed,” which encourages others to be thankful during good and bad times, took fourth place in the Junior Short Sermon category at the 2016 National Fine Arts festival.

“We have loved watching Brie use this situation and not allow it to make her bitter, but to make her better,” says her mother, Angel. “What you see in the here and now isn’t always what’s there. It’s about what’s next, and what God can do despite what we’re going through.”

Angel and Lance established Hope 4 MCTD in 2014 to raise awareness of the disease.

“As followers of Christ, we have the hope that one day we will spend eternity with our Lord and Savior,” says Lance. “Brie lives with that hope that keeps her moving forward, and she is able to inspire people through it.”

Brie’s next endeavor is to learn to play the guitar and she dreams of traveling overseas.

Though it hasn’t been an easy road, Brie says she is not bitter about her disease because it is in God’s hands.

“I want to encourage people to love Jesus and keep pressing on, even through the hard circumstances,” says Brie. “At the end of the day, Jesus is going to help us with everything that we need.”

Source: AG News

JBQ Ninja Challenge is Now in Session

Junior Bible Quiz (JBQ) leaders are known for their ability to inspire kids to memorize Scripture and Bible truths. But this year, the National JBQ office is switching things up just a bit to help get leaders and kids get excited about the upcoming quiz season. 

Recently, Mark Entzminger, senior director of AG Children’s Ministries, helped launched the JBQ Ninja Challenge. However, this unique challenge isn’t aimed at the students; it’s aimed at JBQ leaders. 

The challenge, which exposes the mental nimbleness — or lack thereof — of JBQ leaders attempting to answer JBQ questions in rapid-fire succession over a two-minute time limit all while being videoed, is self-perpetuating. Entzminger, following his remarkable 31-questions-answered-in-two-minutes performance, issued the challenge to eight other JBQ leaders, who then have 24 hours to post a video of themselves on Facebook LIVE attempting the challenge. Following their JBQ Ninja Challenge efforts, these eight leaders are to call out at least two other JBQ leaders to participate, who will then post and call out more leaders. 

“This is not about winning any big prize,” Entzminger says, “but it is a fun way of getting leaders and students excited about the upcoming quizzing year. And we have some really creative leaders out there, so I’m hoping we’ll be seeing some videos that, while perhaps not setting a record for answered questions, may set the bar for fun and laughter.” 

Junior Bible Quiz is a program designed for elementary-age children. Using the 576 graded questions (varying from 10 to 30 points) found in the Bible Fact-Pak, which cover Bible truths, facts, and Scripture quotation questions, JBQ teams compete against each other in seasonal tournaments that advance to regional and then national competition. 

In concert with the challenge, Entzminger says that the Bible Fact-Pak is being offered by My Healthy Church at a 20 percent discount through the end of September 2016. “To get the discount,” says Entzminger, “just use ‘JBQNinja’ as the coupon code when checking out online.” 

Entzminger says that videos will be posted on the National JBQ Facebook page, and although the challenge isn’t for JBQ students, they could possibly participate in the video. “Would it raise the bar if a leader was taking on the JBQ Ninja Challenge while, say, being bombed with water balloons?” Entzminger theorizes with a smile. “Who knows, maybe we’ll find out!”

Source: AG News

Pouring into Others

Pastor Shell Osbon has modeled a servant’s heart, and the congregation of Life Church in Smyrna, Georgia, has responded. Committed to letting service be its local mission work, the vision of Life Church continues to move forward and change the community.

The concept of Community Partnerships has led Life Church to reach out to over 30 organizations in an effort to improve the quality of life in the city – as well as more than 60 other missionaries the church supports each month.

Community Partnerships are exploding, exhausting, and expensive, but they’re worth everything that we pour into them!” Osbon says.

The church accomplishes goals through volunteering, hosting events on campus, and providing financial assistance to help various organizations. What begins as a practical relationship quickly turns into a spiritual relationship as bridges form between the church and the community. Jim N’ Nicks BBQ Restaurant, Wellstar Cobb Hospital, Northstar Psychological Services, Keep Smyrna Beautiful, and many other groups in the suburban Atlanta city benefit from the partnerships.

Community Partnerships shapes the heartbeat of Life Church, which has a weekly attendance of 250. Osbon says building relationships with other ministries and mentoring other leaders maintains the momentum.

Jeremy Bryan came into Life Church as a college student hoping to learn biblical ministry in today’s culture.

“I saw Community Partnerships as a vision that positively impacted hundreds of lives in the community and well beyond the Life Church Smyrna family,” Bryan says. During his time on staff, Bryan says Shell continually communicated the vision through teaching and preaching and through planning, hard work, and divine favor within the community. When the church staff and members made it their goal to make the local community, including schools, government, and businesses successful, they earned the right to be heard in the community, Bryan says.

Not only is the area near Life Church being changed, but also those who serve in other communities. In the past 13 years, Osbon has mentored many pastors in developing Community Partnerships.

Larry Grawey, pastor of Kennesaw Family Life Church, met Osbon five years ago when preparing to plant a church. As Grawey pioneered the congregation, Life Church provided support with finances and guidance.

“Through Pastor Osbon and his team we learned how to connect with our community in ways that we never thought about,” Grawey says. “Much of what we do as a church is a reflection of what we learned at our time under his ministry.”

Phil A. Wall, secretary/treasurer of the AG Georgia District, sees Life Church as a healthy model.

“They engage their city by intentionally partnering with other service organizations to provide a variety of helps to those in need,” Wall says.  “Life Church is a vibrant multi-culture church that reflects the city they serve.”

Source: AG News