Serving Under a Perfect Senior Partner

Laurie W. Fiedler, a Christian attorney and member of Calvary Temple International in Wayne, New Jersey, relies on prayer for wisdom, discernment, strength, and grace in her high-energy professional life and family.

Dealing with knotty legal issues daily, prayer is a focus throughout the day.

“There is no dichotomy between practicing law and faith,” she says. “The Lord is my senior partner in every decision.”

Her well-worn prayer journal bulges with needs and answers to prayer. She views being an attorney as a ministry seeded by miracles. She recalls a Christian client desperate for legal help and short on funds. As the owner of a small business and lacking insurance, the man was being sued for several hundred thousand dollars. The plaintiff was a large firm with substantial financial resources, threatening an unequal David and Goliath battle.

“The Lord delivered my client when the lawsuit was disallowed in an arbitration hearing,” Fiedler says. “It was a legal miracle and answer to prayer.”

Fiedler’s career ambitions began as a teenager when God spoke to her about becoming a Christian attorney. Growing up in a conservative evangelical home, she gave her life to Jesus as Savior at an early age. In high school she excelled as a skilled debater, often staking out a lonely voice opposed to abortion during debates.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Gordon College in 1982 and earned a master’s in political science from Drew University in 1983. She married her husband, Alan, also a lawyer, in 1982.

Fiedler enrolled in the Seton Hall University School of Law night-school program, and soon joined a top Manhattan law firm as a legal assistant. It was a tough four-year grind before earning a doctor of jurisprudence degree in 1989. Married, working full time, commuting, and studying law piled one stress on top of another. Yet she learned early on to honor Christ by keeping the Sabbath holy by worshipping instead of working on Sundays.

“Even in law school I endeavored to honor the Sabbath and when I did, I accomplished more through the Lord in less time on the other six days,” Fiedler says. “It’s still a discipline and struggle, but God always honors our obedience.”

Fiedler has faced hard challenges in her personal life. She persevered through several years of treatments for infertility problems until she says the Lord healed her during a Communion service. The births of three children followed: Amber in 1991, Andrew in 1995, and Adam, with serious challenges in 1996.  

When prenatal tests revealed that Adam had Down syndrome, Fieldler endured pressure from medical personnel to terminate her pregnancy, especially when the baby was diagnosed with duodenal atresia and holes in his heart.

Meanwhile, Fiedler sustained complications that put her life in jeopardy if she carried full term. Medical pressure for an abortion escalated, but she refused. Adam was born four weeks early by Caesarean section, and the duodenal atresia was corrected by surgery 24 hours after birth. She says God healed the four holes in Adam’s heart at five months, baffling the doctors and nurses.

Today at 19 Adam is well, cherished, and loved by his family, members of Calvary Temple, and the local community. Adam inspires people with his unhampered worshipping style and praying freely in the Holy Spirit. He is a role model and an encouragement for special needs children and their parents.

The Fiedlers have been active in Calvary Temple since 1988. She serves as its go-to legal adviser, and Laurie and Alan lead a monthly life group in their home.

Fiedler’s law practice covers diverse areas. She advises churches and nonprofits and serves as general counsel for the Assemblies of God New Jersey District Council.

As a real estate attorney, Fiedler acts as HIS Fund attorney on loans made to AG churches in New Jersey through the Heritage Investment Services Fund.

“She provides legal advice to churches on a wide range of issues,” says HIS Fund CEO Michael T. Bongiorno. “She is an authentic believer and has a genuine love for the Lord Jesus Christ and his Church.”

Source: AG News

Remembering 9-11

Fifteen years after the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Stanley Praimnath still remembers the event as if it happened yesterday. While the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking and subsequent crashes of four commercial jets are seared in the memories of Americans, Praimnath had a graphic up-close view.

As he sat at his 81st floor desk in the south tower of the World Trade Center, the bottom wing of United Airlines Flight 175 plunged through a doorway, only 20 feet from his office space as assistant vice president of loan operations at Fuji Bank Ltd. In the ensuing minutes, Praimnath wended his way through the rubble, down the smoked-filled stairs, reaching the outdoors moments before the building collapsed.

By escaping the likelihood of being crushed by falling concrete, electrocuted, or incinerated, Praimnath became the most notable Assemblies of God constituent to survive the Sept. 11 plot by radical Muslim extremists.

Praimnath continues to work full-time in midtown Manhattan, for the past 13 years as loan administrator for another Japanese firm, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. He still speaks regularly at churches, colleges, and other venues around the nation.

“I have never stopped thinking about that day in all these years,” Praimnath says. “There is one image that I can never shake and it still haunts me.”

Praimnath escaped his trapped office with help from Brian Clark, who worked at a brokerage firm on the 84th floor. Arm in arm, the two men descended 1,620 steps. Around the 46th floor, they encountered a man with a broken back, lying in a pool of blood. A security guard stayed with the man and urged Praimnath and Clark to send help once they reached outside. Praimnath told the guard the building would blow up, but the guard responded that steel wouldn’t burn.  

The unidentified wounded man told Praimnath to tell his wife and baby that he loved them.

“I hear that cry every night before I go to sleep, and the image is vivid in my mind,” Praimnath says. “I could not help that man. The security guard could have chosen to escape, but he stayed with that man. They both perished.”

 

Of course at the time Praimnath’s wife, Jennifer, thought her husband had died in the tragedy as well. She worked in the New York Stock Exchange legal department, and heard co-workers shouting as they saw the disintegration of the south tower, where Stanley worked.

“I thought there’s no way he could make it out,” recalls Jennifer, now an administrative assistant at New York Life. “How could he get down all those stairs? No way in my wildest imagination did I think he would be alive.”

Initially numbed by the news, Jennifer says a peace came over her that everything would be all right. Later that day, a bruised, cut, and swollen Stanley, his tattered clothes covered with dust, arrived home safely.

Praimnath has repeated the account of God’s protection hundreds of times. His testimony has a twin purpose of evangelizing the unsaved and providing comfort to the afflicted.

“I honestly feel with all my fiber and being that I have a job to do, a task to perform, that has not ended yet,” Praimnath says. “Everybody needs to hear that good story of grace, unmerited love, and deliverance, and I am that person who can say it like nobody else because I lived through the destruction.”

When the jetliners hijacked by Islamic terrorists struck the Twin Towers, Praimnath served as a deacon and Sunday School superintendent at Bethel Assembly of God in South Ozone Park in Queens, New York. Today, he is associate pastor at the ethnically Guyanese church, pioneered by his father-in-law, Jim Persram.

Praimnath obtained Assemblies of God ministerial credentials in an effort to be more qualified to share his story in pulpits across the land. He never asks to go anywhere; churches have extended all invitations.

As a survivor, Praimnath had free sessions of counseling available to him from a company medical plan, but he went to only three. After he told his tale of escape to the counselor at the first session she wound up in tears, and he had to comfort her. Praimnath says the Lord healed him of the trauma he experienced.

“My job is to bring comfort to souls in distress,” Praimnath says.

With much gusto and joy in the Lord, Praimnath offers solace to the troubled. Despite a full-time financial industry job, a part-time pastoral position, and a weekend traveling schedule, the 59-year-old Praimnath seems to have boundless vigor.

“He has a lot of energy,” Jennifer says. “He encourages people to get traumatic stories off their chest. It’s healing for them, and it’s his way of healing, too.”

Praimnath maintains a friendship with Clark. When Praimnath’s daughter Stephanie wed Ryan Teekasingh in July, Clark attended the wedding. Praimnath  introduced Clark at the reception as the man who saved his life. The Praimnaths’ younger daughter Caitlin is about to start her second year at Hunter College in New York.

On Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the assault, Praimnath naturally will be speaking at an Assemblies of God church, Calvary Christian Center in Yuba City, California.

Source: AG News

Free Webinar Links Pornography and Sex Trafficking

The Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP) and guest presenter, Dr. Sandie Morgan, will host a free webinar at 12 p.m. (EDT) Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, and 9 p.m. (EDT) Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, to present the link between pornography and sex trafficking. Designed to empower faith communities to integrate strategic action plans to educate and protect children and families, Morgan will take an in-depth look at the fantasies of pornography that drive purchasers and lure victims into sex trafficking.

The Fantasy or Reality: The Pornography-Sex Trafficking Link webinar will cover subjects such as who is driving the demand and what the consequences are, the role of fantasy vs. reality in playing into victimization, and teaching faith communities how to prevent and protect by teaching the truth. It will also feature a sex-trafficked survivor’s personal story.

“The link between pornography and sex trafficking occurs in the person’s mind,” states Morgan, the director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice. “An ancient proverb says, ‘as a man thinks, so is he.’ When a man entertains the fantasy portrayed in pornography, it begins to reconstruct his reality. When a woman mentally accepts pornography, it normalizes being purchased. When a culture is saturated with pornography, reality is distorted, fantasy becomes the norm, and anything — anyone — can be purchased and sold for sex.”

Beth Grant, an Assemblies of God missionary and co-founder of Project Rescue, is a strong proponent of parents and churches providing children and young people with a healthy, “follower-of-Jesus” perspective on sexuality, pornography, prostitution, and trafficking. “If we don’t,” Grant counters, “should we be surprised when our children, by default, have the secular culture’s perspective on these issues?”

Grant, an AG executive presbyter who has ministered with her husband, David, in Eurasia for the last 39 years, believes too many people don’t understand how addictive pornography is, how destructive it is, or its direct connection to the sex trafficking trade. 

“This webinar is being offered to provide needed talking points to parents, leaders and members of our churches on the realities of pornography,” Grant says. “In order to have these critically needed conversations with a younger generation, we ourselves must know the realities of how destructive pornography is not only to those who view it, but also to the women and children in front of the camera — many who are there as trafficking victims.” 

In a 2015 PE News Conversation on the porn plague featuring responses to key questions by Grant, Thomas E. Trask, and Todd Bowman concerning pornography, Grant states, “Church should be the best place that those addicted to pornography and in sexual bondage can find help and healing. If our churches aren’t those kinds of places, where can struggling people go?

To take part in either of the free webinar times, register online prior to the scheduled time desired.  

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — September 9, 1951

Sixty-five years ago, General Superintendent Wesley Steelberg opened the 24th General Council of the Assemblies of God with a heartfelt plea to remain true to “our dual spiritual heritage in Pentecost.”  

Steelberg’s address, which was published in the Sept. 9, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, showed concern over the direction of the broader culture and church world. He prayed that “the Assemblies of God may not drift in the swift current of worldliness towards the precipice of apostasy.” He encouraged listeners to instead “stand true to God,” so that when the trumpet sounds, “we will all rise to meet him — an uncontaminated, untarnished host who believe in all the fullness of the Pentecostal experience.” 

Even before Steelberg spoke, the platform was nearly filled with people on their knees in prayer. Delegates started singing, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” and God’s presence became palpable. Another article in the same issue reported that crowds at the altar “stood in God’s presence and lifted up their voices in united praise to the Lord.” According to the account, the prayer was reminiscent of the Book of Acts and sounded “as the mighty rush of many waters.” 

The General Superintendent took the platform and identified two important aspects of the Pentecostal movement’s heritage: 1) the gift of the presence of the Holy Ghost; and 2) the faith of our forefathers. He admonished hearers to not neglect this heritage. 

Steelberg asked a question of the audience: “Are we as appreciative of the Holy Spirit and His presence in our individual lives, in our churches, in our districts, in our great world-wide fellowship as we ought to be?” He reminded the ministers and lay delegates that it is frightfully easy to treat lightly that which has become familiar. According to Steelberg, Pentecostals must never allow themselves to be comfortable with the Third Person of the Trinity. He asserted that God did not intend for the Assemblies of God to be content to become “another in the long line of denominations.” Pentecostals must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, he cautioned, and not merely on the wisdom of men. 

According to Steelberg, the faith handed down by Pentecostal pioneers should continue to characterize the Assemblies of God. “I have a firm conviction in my heart,” he declared, “that we are called to be a people for a specific service in a specific hour.” He characterized the Pentecostal heritage as a testimony more so than a tradition. The testimonies of Pentecostal pioneers, he spoke, “should be our testimony.” He pleaded with his listeners to pass on the fullness of the testimony of the Pentecostal experience to the next generation. 

Concluded his message, Steelberg quoted Luke 18:8: “When Christ cometh will He find faith on the earth?” Steelberg prayed that succeeding generations would be able to respond to the question with a resounding, “Yes!” 

Read Steelberg’s full address, “Our Dual Spiritual Heritage,” on pages 3-4 and 13-14 of the Sept. 9, 1951, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. 

Also featured in this issue: 

• “What Happened in Atlanta,” a report of the 24th Biennial General Council

• “How to Be Healed and Stay Healed,” by Evangelist W.V. Grant

• “Famine in India,” by Maynard Ketchum 

And many more!

Click to read this issue now. 

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

Source: AG News

Marketplace Chaplains Direct

Stephen C. and Brooksyne Weber go to work in 10 different places every week.

As Assemblies of God U.S. Missions corporate chaplains, the married couple visit 10 jobsites in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. With the exception of a pair of national motel chains in the community, small local companies have hired them. In each case, owners and managers want the Webers to meet the spiritual needs of employees.

The overseers of all 10 enterprises, ranging from a heating and air conditioning firm to a livestock equipment manufacturer, are Christians who have contracted independently with the Webers. The firms pay a monthly fee of $10 per worker for their personnel, which range in size from 25 to 200 employees.

In any given week, Stephen and Brooksyne have face time with more than 400 workers. They greet individuals by name, and perhaps inquire about the status of a recent health problem or how a wayward child is getting along. Besides worksite visitation, the Webers are available for counseling, conflict mediation, and leadership development.

Stephen, 61, graduated from Central Bible College in 1977 and pastored AG churches for a quarter century. But he wearied of church administrative duties and of being confined to an office without community interaction. Stephen and Brooksyne became part-time Marketplace Ministries chaplains in 1998. They struck out on their own in 2005, contracting directly with small businesses.

The Webers — who have been married 40 years — go to the workplaces together, then typically split up by gender. Stephen spends time with male workers while Brooksyne visits the women. Although there are more males than females, it takes about the same time because females tend to share greater details and more frequently.

“Women, from day one when we introduce ourselves, are more willing to go in depth with problems than men,” Brooksyne says. “Women are sometimes in tears because they have bottled up problems. It is not uncommon to pray personally right at the worksite with an employee who expresses a need.”

The chaplains encourage those who are Christians and try to steer those who aren’t toward the Lord. Many at these companies are steady workers who have been in the same position for decades.

Non-Christians sometimes aren’t receptive — until a crisis hits. That’s especially true for the largely young female maid staff at the motels, where Brooksyne may be viewed as a mother, or even grandmother, figure. The greatest opportunity for ministry occurs when a tragedy such as the death of a parent occurs.

“The relationship changes with people who wouldn’t give me a chance to talk to them,” Brooksyne says. “The floodgates open.”   

If a troubled worker needs extra time with the chaplain, they can meet in a conference room, or later at a restaurant or in the Weber home.

Stephen and Brooksyne also write a devotional message at a website called Daily Encouragement. Many employees subscribe to the online Bible teaching ministry, which is based on Hebrews 3:13.

The Webers have no desire to grow their business larger for the time being. They believe it is at the optimum size to give individual attention to staff members.

“These people take their troubles with them to work and are loaded down,” Brooksyne says. “To be a presence in their menial work when they are bearing a burden is the greatest blessing of what we do.”

IMAGE: Brooksyne Weber (left) and Stephen Weber (right) meet with project managers of JK Mechanical, one of the companies where they serve as chaplains.
Source: AG News

Teen Challenge of the Smokies: From Dilapidated Camp to Dream Site 

For nearly a decade, Camp Cullasaja, the old 15-acre campgrounds owned by the North Carolina District Council (AG), had sat empty — unusable. The buildings on the grounds had everything from leaking and sagging roofs to significant interior damage, not to mention septic, gas, electrical, and serious water line problems. 

Although Camp Cullasaja, located in Franklin, was literally falling apart, it was a dream destination to Mike and Betty Barres. God had given them a vision to not only transform the dilapidated campground, but to transform lives being destroyed by addiction into lives dedicated to God through re-establishing the Men’s Teen Challenge of the Smokies.

The Barres’ have been married and in ministry for 37 years, having pastored Assembly of God congregations in North Carolina and Kentucky for most of those years. However, in looking back at their ministry and those they connected with, it was as if God had simply been preparing them for becoming Teen Challenge directors from the start. 

“Through the years, I helped some individuals get into Teen Challenge centers,” Mike says. “I had a heart for those struggling to break out of addiction — I knew that the problem wasn’t just a drug problem, it was also a spiritual problem.” 

The Barres would spend decades in the Smoky Mountain area ministering, pastoring, connecting with people, giving of themselves, and offering counsel and wisdom to individuals and their family members, including those who battled addiction, which Mike says was not uncommon in the area. 

The Barreses seemed like obvious candidates to be involved in Teen Challenge International, U.S.A., a ministry of AG U.S. Missions, but it was an unplanned stop at a thrift store that launched the possibility. In December 2014, while vacationing in North Carolina, they saw an unusual sign: Teen Challenge of the Smokies Thrift Store. 

Mike decided to stop in — he didn’t know Teen Challenge had a center in the area. Striking up a conversation with Norma, the store manager, he learned that Teen Challenge had the thrift store, but it no longer had a center. Mike expressed his strong support of Teen Challenge to Norma and how he believed the organization offered the only way to help people truly gain victory over their addictions. 

As Mike shared a bit of his history, Norma grew more interested and finally asked if he would like to meet with a Teen Challenge board member, Richard Tirrell, who “happened” to be in the back of the store. Tirrell, likewise, had a favorable impression and recommended Mike contact Paul Hensley, the president of the board of directors — a man Mike knew well, but didn’t realize his connection with Teen Challenge. 

“By the time I was asked to meet Richard, I knew this was no ordinary, by chance, stop,” Mike says. “God was doing something.” 

Mike would call Paul Hensley and express his curiosity about the executive director position of the Teen Challenge of the Smokies. Hensley’s thought on the matter? Mike would be the perfect fit! After much prayer and meeting with the board, the Barreses agreed to take on the position. 

“I took this position at age 59, and I noticed that it was the same age Tommy Barnett decided to do the Dream Center and the same age David Wilkerson was when he went back to New York City to restart his ministry there in the Times Square Church, so I figured I was in good company,” Mike says, with a laugh. “My wife and I felt like we were going into the fourth quarter of life and we wanted to do something that would outlive us, that would really make a difference.” 

At first, all Mike could do was make referrals to people who needed help with addictions, because they didn’t have a center. However, he knew from the start that Camp Cullasaja would be the perfect location for the new center and the man he wanted as program director was Phil Sanders — a man with 15 years of experience directing a Teen Challenge center . . . and one of the young men Mike had original assisted getting into Teen Challenge to overcome drug addiction years ago. 

Not long afterwards, Charles Kelly, then the North Carolina District superintendent, having learned about Mike’s desire to make the old campgrounds a Teen Challenge center, helped work out a long-term lease agreement with an option to purchase for Mike and Teen Challenge of the Smokies. The dream location was now theirs! 

“When I called Phil and told him what we were doing and offered him the position of program director, he and his wife took some time to pray about it before accepting,” Mike recalls. “What’s really cool about this, is that Phil was baptized in the river that runs through the campgrounds when he was a young teen!” 

Rick Ross, the new North Carolina District superintendent, understands why the camp had such appeal to the Barreses. “It’s a beautiful piece of property, located in the mountains, away from everything,” Ross says. “It’s a great setting that will allow men to truly concentrate on getting their lives together.” 

With the camp now “theirs,” Mike was told that in order to make the camp operational and bring it up to code it would probably take at least $200,000 — quite a bit of money, especially when starting out with no money. 

“I have a friend, Harold Johnson, who has a history in construction,” Mike says. “He told me early on that if we were able to get the camp, he would come out and help me.”

Mike took Harold up on his offer and made him the construction and volunteer coordinator. He also let churches know that they needed their help to get the center up and running. And help they did! 

“We began the renovation of the camp (video) in Sept. 2015,” Mike says. “After emptying all the trash out of the buildings, which was a project in itself, we pulled off all of the siding and installed insulation, put a new roof on the main building that housed our offices and dorms; jacked up the support beams to straighten the auditorium roof; renovated the kitchen, chapel, and café; renovated the offices and dorms; added a laundry; and renovated the program director’s housing — in addition to redoing the septic, electrical, gas, and the water pipes that had burst.”

Over the next nine months, Johnson would coordinate teams from all over North Carolina, including a team from Georgia, to help turn the camp from an eyesore into an attractive and fully operational Teen Challenge facility. 

“We had 256 volunteers, from AG churches and other denominations, come and volunteer their labor — with some even providing the materials to do their job,” Mike says. 

In June 2016, the Men’s Teen Challenge of the Smokies became operational and they hired additional staff. Already they have men on site beginning the 12-month program. Mike is excited about the transformation of the renovated camp. Instead of a price tag that easily would have exceeded $200,000, the renovations only cost about $30,000 due to all the donated labor and supplies 

“I’ve seen first hand the power of what God can do through Teen Challenge,” says Ross, whose father, Delmar, was a Teen Challenge director for 20 years. “And this new center is a win-win-win for us all — a deteriorating facility has been beautifully renovated and is now usable for the Kingdom’s sake, the center is making a major impact in lives of men, and they rallied churches together and got them involved in this making this ministry possible!” 

Right now the facilities can house up to 15 men, but Mike already has dreams of adding a woodshop to teach men woodworking, renovating some small cabins to begin offering low-cost housing to men who graduate and need to gradually re-enter society, and perhaps even build a separate building for the offices, so they can expand the center to help 24 men at a time. 

Mike also wants to build a fund to be able to help scholarship men who can’t otherwise afford to come. “We’ve had 52 inquiries in the last month,” Mike says. “And I know, even though we keep the cost as low as we can, some of them can’t come because they simply don’t have the money.” 

With the center just launching, Mike spends a lot of time fundraising, applying for grants, and expressing his appreciation for groups that help support the center.

“For me,” Mike says, “sharing the vision and the need wherever I can in order to see the lives of men transformed by God is worth every effort — it’s what God has called me to do.” 

Source: AG News

The Backyard Mission Field

After serving as a professional educator for more than 30 years, Sherrie Burnette Nickell has concluded that schools are the most overlooked mission field in the country.

 

Nickell, who recently retired as superintendent of public schools in Polk County, Florida, is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, where she now serves as professor of education.

 

“It is easy to label traditional mission fields: a village in Africa or India, for example,” says Nickell, 57. “What we sometimes fail to realize is that pertaining to the Great Commission, Jesus challenged us to start with our own Jerusalem, then branch out into our Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 

She believes Christians often miss the mission field in their own backyard.

 

“There are thousands of Christian educators throughout our country who can serve as salt and light,” Nickell says. “They can be His hand extended.”

 

Nickell knows this from experience. Selected as Polk County school superintendent after an extensive national search in 2010, Nickell encouraged ministries and churches to make inroads in area schools as a mission field.

 

Plenty of opportunities existed to partner with faith-based organizations, Nickell says. While direct evangelizing couldn’t happen, a local church “adopted” a nearby neighborhood elementary school. The church provided tutors and mentors to come into the school each week, as well as a clothes closet where children received specific items such as jackets or shoes. The congregation also donated gifts at holidays and birthdays for underprivileged children, as well as food baskets to needy families.

 

“The church even sent a bus to the school each afternoon to pick up the children and take them to the church for activities, tutoring, snacks, and care until time for parents to get off work,” Nickell says. “That church became a beacon of Christ’s love throughout the community.”

 

A member of Victory Church in Lakeland, Nickell notes that the ministries and churches that partnered with Polk County schools served as an example of Christianity in action.

 

“Jesus said that ‘whatsoever you do to the least of these… you do unto Me,’ ” Nickell says. “The school setting is the ideal spot for that as many of the nation’s school children come from dysfunctional homes, abusive homes, or homes where love is missing.”

 

Nickell believes more congregations need to focus on reaching out to local schools.

 

“Churches can provide tutors or mentors to not only help the students, but also show them how a person of integrity behaves,” Nickell says. “Children are starving for love and attention from a caring adult.”

 

Nickell adds that Polk County has a higher than average number of evangelical Christian schoolteachers, in part because of the presence of Southeastern University.

 

“For several years now, the school district has grown and can hire as many teachers as the local colleges can produce,” Nickell says. “Many of the district’s teachers, administrators, and other personnel are people of faith and their influence is pervasive. Christian educators have the opportunity to be a positive influence on the students and their families.”

 

Southeastern University President Kent Ingle believes Nickell is fulfilling the school’s mission of equipping students to serve in education or whatever field they serve upon graduation.

 

“Sherrie’s career stands as a hallmark of effective Christ-centered living by being salt and light in the educational market place,” Ingle says. “We’re grateful for Sherrie’s investment in our students and our local community.”

Source: AG News

Spared: Tragedy was Only a Spark Away

It was to be a weeklong family reunion of fun and fishing on the Oregon coast for Kent and LeAnn Sullivan and their son, Josiah. But today they’re thanking God just to be alive as the fifth wheel they were towing on the highway burst into flames! 

“Every year, about 25 to 30 of us gather for a family reunion,” says Kent, who has been serving as the Southern Idaho AG Network Ministries Coordinator for the past 13 years. “So, on Thursday, Sept. 1, we left our home in Nampa [about 20 miles southwest of Boise, Idaho] and headed up Interstate 84.” 

There was nothing unusual about the start of the trip. The couple had packed their fifth wheel like usual and with Josiah — a quadriplegic, having survived a horrific car accident years earlier — headed out. The fifth wheel was fully stocked with all the gear and clothing needed for the trip, along with Kent’s laptop and iPad and Josiah’s medical equipment, his power wheelchair, and a regular wheelchair. 

About two-and-a-half hours into their trip, when they were in the Columbia River Gorge area, Kent suddenly noticed smoke pouring from the back of the fifth wheel. Immediately pulling to the side of the narrow, four-lane highway, he quickly unhooked the truck and pulled it away to keep the family safe. He considered trying to put the fire out himself, but the fire was too intense and there was a growing danger.

“Not only were we carrying three tanks of propane fuel in the fifth wheel, we also had a fuel station with 25 gallons of gas in its garage,” Kent says. “I ran to the front door of the fifth wheel, grabbed Josiah’s regular wheelchair, which already was melting in some places, and got away as fast as I could.” Kent laughs as he explains he made the risky decision to get the wheelchair because otherwise he would have to be giving Josiah piggyback rides for the rest of the week! 

From a distance, Kent would take pictures as the fifth wheel burned. The fire was so intense that it caught brush on both sides of the highway on fire. “What was crazy to me was that cars were driving right past and through the flames of the fifth wheel as it burned,” Kent says. “If it had exploded . . . .” 

Police would arrive within minutes and block off both sides of the highway. Unfortunately, very little remained of the fifth wheel by the time the fire department arrived to douse the flames, and over the course of the next two-plus hours, they also were able to contain and put out the pair of brush fires. 

Kent says he’s not sure why the propane tanks or fuel station didn’t explode. “We could hear the propane tanks whistling as they vented somehow,” he says. “And the gas, the only thing I can think of is that maybe the heat melted the hose and the gas drained out . . . , God really protected us!” 

Following discussion with police and insurance calls, the Sullivans traveled on to Woodland, Washington, where Kent’s sister lives. Kent says they’re thankful for God’s protection. “We’re all safe and praising the Lord for that; things, they can be replaced.”

Source: AG News

Still Quipping

U.S. Navy machinist repairman Bruce Gunn made a vow to God following a Japanese kamikaze plane attack that damaged the PT boat on which he served during World War II.

“I looked up and said, ‘Lord, if you get me through this, I’ll serve you,’ ” Gunn recalls.

The 50-year ministerial certificate in Gunn’s den attests to his faithfulness in keeping the promise.

The 95-year-old Gunn, and his 92-year-old wife, Elizabeth “Pat” Gunn, have lived in the retirement community of Maranatha Village in Springfield, Missouri, for more than a decade. They went to high school together in Detroit, and eloped as teenagers — Bruce at 19 and Pat at 16. The couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in March.

Bruce quit his job as a Ford Motor Co. engine repairman and joined the Navy in 1942, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Gunn and his three brothers went overseas in the armed forces during World War II. All came back alive.

“I was the oldest — and best-looking, too,” Bruce quips.

Bruce says he always felt content working as “second fiddle” in ministry, with 37 of those 55 years at Brightmoor Christian Church in the Detroit suburb of Novi, Michigan. He started as youth leader and finished ministering to seniors, under Thomas E. Trask, who went on to become general superintendent of the U.S. Assemblies of God from 1993-2007.

“He loved people and people loved him,” remembers Trask, who continues to call on the Gunns regularly. “Whether he visited people in the hospital or met their material needs, Bruce was dedicated.”

Physically, the Gunns have challenges. Pat uses a walker, has an aching hip that’s been replaced, and struggles with neuropathy in her feet. Bruce is blind in one eye, has congestive heart failure and arthritis, and finds walking difficult.

But they are sharp mentally. Bruce has a knack for memorization, which comes in handy with Scripture. Trask, who has been married 60 years himself, says Bruce still knows the Bible as well as anyone he’s ever met.

The Gunns continue to live independently in their well-appointed residence. Part of what keeps the Gunns young is their senses of humor.

“We’ve never had an argument, although people could hear our discussions three or four blocks away,” Bruce jokes.

“I don’t talk back,” Pat chimes in. “I’d rather ask the Lord to forgive me for what I was thinking rather than to ask forgiveness for what I said to my husband.”

Bruce’s 89-year-old brother Jack, who also ministered in the Assemblies of God for more than half a century, lives a block away.

Bruce and Pat’s only child, 74-year-old Patricia Bates, is retired and lives in Florida. She has been married for 49 years to Rollie Bates, whose grandfather Alonzo Bates started Brightmore Tabernacle (now Brightmore Christian Church) in Southfield, Michigan, 1929.

Longevity doesn’t run in Bruce’s family; his dad died at 68 and his mother at 48. He attributes his endurance to eschewing tobacco and alcohol, and having a forbearing wife. Likewise, Pat isn’t necessarily from a durable gene pool. Four younger brothers have died. Pat also has endured five miscarriages and she lost another child shortly after giving birth.

Patricia Bates counters her parents’ good-natured pretense of irritability.

“I never heard my parents quarrel,” she says. “They gave me a safe, solid foundation that’s served me well.”

Source: AG News

Not Finished Yet

More than 800 older adults took part in the first National Senior Adults Conference in the 102-year history of the Assemblies of God this week in Branson, Missouri.

The three-day event far exceeded anything the planners had imagined, according to Wes Bartel, national director of the AG’s Senior Adult Ministries. The original registration target of 600 was surpassed in the first six weeks, and, though the ministry added 200 more slots at substantial cost, registrations reached the absolute limit by the end of eight weeks.

Bartel said another 1,600 wanting to register after the cutoff had to be turned away. Registrants snatched up available rooms at the contracted hotels, the host Chateau on the Lake, the nearby Lawrence Welk Resort, and then spilled over to other Branson motels.

The conference was designed primarily to place an emphasis on the value of seniors, bringing them together to help them see God isn’t finished with them, according to Bartel.

He cited a second reason in the need for effective networking.

“We have seniors scattered all over the nation, and they seldom have the opportunity of relating to and enjoying fellowship with brothers and sisters in their same age group,” Bartel said.

The event drew seniors from 34 states, including 240 from Missouri, 114 from Texas, and 80 from Ohio.

Bartel listed a third basic reason for the event.

“We’ve created so many great resources that sometimes seniors are not even aware they exist,” Bartel said. “This gives us an opportunity to make them aware of the ministries and resources available.”

Indeed, a steady stream filed through the ministry and resource exhibits and seniors lined up at the My Healthy Church store to buy books from the “Pentecostal Classics” shelves and a wide variety of resources for themselves, their children, and, especially, their grandchildren. The Fire Bible for Kids with a new interactive app for IPads sold out.

Loren Unruh from Great Bend, Kansas, a longtime Light for the Lost supporter, said seniors need to be challenged more.

“There’s a chunk of us builders and boomers out there!” Unruh said.

Bartel said he heard numerous seniors at the conference express sentiments that they didn’t feel their ministry work was over.

Mike Futhey of Memphis, Tennessee, said the most important aspect of the event, against the backdrop of gloom and doom in society and in some churches, was “an air of opportunity and optimism” for what seniors have ahead.

“We’re not wringing our hands,” Futhey said. “This is what we’ve been yearning for!” He and his wife, April, took home ideas to use in their senior adults small group.

Four Assemblies of God national executives developed the conference theme, “It’s About Time,” in evening and morning services. General Superintendent George O. Wood opened by preaching a sermon entitled “It’s Your Time,” in which he examined the Bible characters Simeon and Anna as models of senior adults passionate about God, focused on His promises, and faithful in His service despite situations they couldn’t  approve.

General Secretary James T. Bradford followed with the message, “It’s Time to Serve.” Assistant Superintendent Alton Garrison led an extended time of worship and recounted miracles of salvation, deliverance, and healing in his family and the family of his wife, Johanna, during a free-wheeling message, “It’s Time to Reach Out.”

General Treasurer Doug E. Clay and his 84-year-old mother, Audrey, led a “song for every season,” as she unfolded the story of her life and ministry. They focused on “It’s Time to Re-engage.” She called seniors to look to new chapters and new horizons in their lives.

“There is Kingdom work to be done!” she said.

Bartel said two statistics alone demonstrate senior adults are important to the Fellowship and to the nation. Official estimates place the number of individuals over age 60 in the year 2030 between one in every four to five people in the U.S. This same age group is expected to control approximately 40 percent of the nation’s finances.

“We have awakened, to a certain extent, a sleeping giant,” Bartel said.

 

Source: AG News