India AG Partners with ICOM to Nearly Triple Churches

In 2010, the 8,000-church India Assemblies of God set a lofty goal of planting 25,000 house churches and training 30,000 workers in 10 years. As 2019 drew to a close, more than 14,200 new house churches had been opened and approximately 34,000 students have enrolled in the India College of Ministry, a school of Global University.

At first glance, it may appear there is little chance of the church reaching its goal of 25,000 churches. However, the number of students enrolled in ICOM has already exceeded the goal, and as a graduation requirement each student is expected to open a house church — placing the goal of planting 25,000 house churches within reach. It is evident that a powerful move of God is taking place in a country where currently only 2% are Christians.

The AG World Missions area director for India (name withheld) was initially uncertain that roughly seven house churches a day were being opened in India — was this an exaggeration or approximation? Not at all. The leader of the India AG provided detailed records, documenting each house church plant.

One of the keys to the rapid growth through house church planting has been the availability of translated training materials through Global University to the India College of Ministry (ICOM). The materials are used to train lay workers to plant and lead house churches.

According to Global University, of the 34,000 students enrolled at ICOM, 4,000 have graduated in the past two years, 400 more will graduate early this year, and a “mega-graduation” of about 2,000 students is slated for this fall.

Global University offers a 16-course Certificate based on the Christian Life program and a 24-course Diploma based on the Christian Service and Berean programs for lay workers, with each course designed to be completed in one month — 3 1/2 years total.

However, the task of providing materials goes well beyond simply raising the money to purchase the materials — which Light for the Lost, districts, and individuals as well as national churches continue to do — it also includes overcoming language barriers.

“There are hundreds of different languages in India, including 15 national languages,” explains the area director. “Making the materials available to India in the different languages is a challenge, but there’s always great excitement anytime we’re able to get ICOM materials translated into another language.” Currently the Global courses are translated into nine major languages of India.

The area director explains that in India, few materials are available for the “small” language groups. “Small” is a relative term. For example, a language spoken by 70 million people in India is considered small as it represents roughly just 5% of the population. Yet, in comparison to the rest of the world, those 70 million people exceed the total populations of all but 20 countries, including Thailand, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Canada.

What’s particularly impressive is that these house churches are opening in a country that has repeatedly challenged Christianity in certain regions. Slightly more than 80% of the population are Hindu and just over 14% are Muslim.

“God is moving in India, but what people need to grasp is that the population in India is greater than the population of the continent of Africa, and there are more people groups in India than in the continent of Africa — we describe India as nations within a nation,” the area director explains. “We hear stories of great growth [in the church], but great growth of one section of India does not mean great growth in India . . . of the 2,718 people groups in India, 273 have been reached.”

Rick Allen, director of Light for the Lost, agrees and recognizes the challenge that awaits. However, he notes that the growth of the India Assemblies of God through its house church initiative has begun to break into regions of the country that are unfamiliar with the gospel, and as the gospel is being presented in native languages, the more acceptance it is given.

“In working with the leader of the India AG, we’ve learned that for just $100, a student can receive three years of training and plant a church,” Allen says. “With an economical use of resources like that, we in LFTL have found many people and churches willing to partner in planting churches and training pastors in India.”
Source: AG News

Continuing the Legacy

Although Pentecostal Hispanic patriarch Jesse Miranda Jr. died last July at age 82, his legacy continues to be felt throughout the Latino evangelical world.

One of those carrying out Miranda’s vision is his older son, Jesse R. Miranda III, who is executive director at the institute that bears his father’s name, the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership in La Puente, California. The center’s mission is devoted to educating Hispanic students and training ministry leaders.

“The triad of church, campus, and community is critical toward building the Kingdom,” says Jesse Miranda III, who goes by Jack.

Jesse Miranda Jr. served as a bridge builder among various ethnic, generational, denominational, and political entities. With his irenic personality, he was widely regarded as the driving force behind uniting disparate U.S. Hispanic evangelicals on issues such as theological education, social ethics, and racial reconciliation.

Miranda served as an Assemblies of God executive presbyter for 22 years, ending in 2017. He became the first Hispanic nonresident to the body, which serves as the board of directors for the Fellowship. He also served as executive director of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), the nation’s largest Christian Latino organization. Around 750 people attended an Office of Hispanic Relations reception honoring Miranda at the 2017 General Council.

After serving as an AG Hispanic district superintendent in California, Miranda felt prompted to switch gears into a different form of ministry. On a return flight to Los Angeles in 1992, Miranda saw the city aflame in the wake of the acquittal of police officers charged with using excessive force in beating Rodney King. Miranda sensed the Holy Spirit’s asking, What is the Church doing for the city?

“That question continues to be a motivation for us,” says Jack, 61. “We want to train up urban and ethnic minority leaders to minister to the city, to be a voice and a presence in the community.”

Initially, in response, Jesse Miranda accepted an invitation from Azusa Pacific University to form a Hispanic department. In 2000, Miranda moved to Vanguard University, to establish the Center for Urban Studies and Ethnic Leadership. The school later renamed the think tank as the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership. Miranda prophetically saw the need to increase educational opportunities for the growing Hispanic minority. Two decades ago, Vanguard’s Hispanic enrollment accounted for 9 percent of students; this school year, Hispanics comprise 44 percent of the first-year students at the school in Costa Mesa.

“We want to not just enroll our brown students, but to graduate them,” says Jack, a third-generation ordained AG minister. “The browning of the Church will continue, especially in the border states. We want ethnic minorities to be educated and theologically grounded.” Discipleship is an integral part of church life in order to pre-empt an increasing decline in faith in a generation increasing made up of “religious nones,” Miranda says.

Church leadership is more than theoretical for Miranda, who 20 years ago planted Living Faith in his hometown of La Mirada.

“If the local church is the beacon of hope, we need to impact the community where those people worship,” says Miranda, who stepped down as pastor two years ago.

Currently, after being located at Latin American Bible Institute the past four years, the Jesse Miranda Center is seeking a new home as an independent nonprofit with an expanded focus. The center is now involved in an initiative to help pastors integrate faith and work for their congregants.

“We’re training up pastors to recognize the 500-year-old message of Martin Luther: the priesthood of all believers,” Miranda says. “Pastors need to recognize the gold mine in their congregation and release all of God’s people for ministry, not just pastors and missionaries. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, you are in ministry. Typically, Christians spend 165 hours a week outside of church.”

The Jesse Miranda Center also has partnered with Made to Flourish, a pastoral network based in Overland Park, Kansas.

Starting in 2000, ordained AG minister Fernando C. Tamara spent 19 years at the Jesse Miranda Center, carrying out the founder’s vision as program director, researcher, and executive director. Tamara, 48, is now a city network leader with Made to Flourish. Tamara is confident that Jesse Miranda’s legacy for first-generation Hispanics will continue through his eponymous center.

“The center became a leader in mentoring Spanish-speaking students and immigrants who needed to acculturate sociologically from their localities to a macro experience in areas such as liturgy, stewardship, spiritual discipleship, and even financial education,” says Tamara, who also is pastor of Hispanic Ministries at Orange County First Assembly of God in Santa Ana. “The culture shock can be profound that first year, and they need to be shown pathways to interact and understand new ways of navigating the institution.”

Tamara, who also serves as translation coordinator for the Assemblies of God national office, says Miranda continued to concentrate on Christian reconciliation until the end of his life. Tamara says only two days before Miranda succumbed to an aggressive form of lymphoma, he discussed the need for them to build more bridges with Anglos.

“He was still talking about his main purpose in life: unity,” Tamara says.

Photo:  Jack Miranda speaks at his father’s funeral. 

Source: AG News

Connecting Through Music

When Katie Kadan took the stage in The Voice finale on Dec. 16, 2019, much of Chicagoland watched, including adherents of Impact Church in Maywood, Illinois. Kadan, whose powerful vocals and audience appeal propelled her to the finals, is worship leader at Impact as well as a favorite on the local blues scene.

Kadan, 38, has not always had the confidence evident on The Voice, where she finished third. Struggling with body image and self-esteem as a child and young adult, she experienced hurt feelings by people who claimed to follow Christ, but did not show kindness in their remarks.

“It seemed like if you were battling sin or brokenness, you had to hide it,” she says.

Her family eventually found a more grace-filled church environment, but when the pastor retired, legalism surfaced again. Many young people, including Kadan, drifted away. She had experienced enough positive Christian community, however, to miss it.

Living in New York for a while, she connected with a church her brother, Mark, recommended. When she returned to Chicago, her mother had started attending Hope Church in La Grange and Kadan often joined her.

“God has always had his hand on my life, gently guiding me to the right places,” she says.

Kadan developed her vocal talent early, singing gospel with her mother and two older sisters, Hollie and Sarah. She also plays keyboard. Although she only heard gospel at church, she gravitated toward blues and other popular music. She began attending local open mic nights, which led to gigs. It also gave opportunities to connect with people who might never show up at church.

“Any time you’re singing, using talent God gave you, you connect people with Him,” she says. “So many people are lonely, and I try to show love to people who need it. It may take time, but God softens their hearts.”

As pastors Anthony and Tracy Pelegrino prayerfully built a team to plant Impact Ministries, launched in 2017 from Hope Church, Anthony heard Kadan sing at a special event and invited her to get involved. Initially she declined. Still struggling with old wounds, she couldn’t imagine herself in a worship leader role.

Although not ready to participate, Kadan started attending Impact. A few months later, she told Pelegrino she would accept the worship position.

The church’s emphasis on helping the surrounding neighborhood also appealed to Kadan.

“Our church is an outreach church,” says Pelegrino, 44. “We have a lot of creative, artsy people, but also some who are very broken. We try to be a welcoming community.”

As Kadan grew spiritually, she asked God to open doors in her music career as He saw fit. In the meantime, a friend recommended her to The Voice team. When the call came, she initially hesitated about participating until Pelegrino pointed out she had been praying for such an opportunity. She accepted the audition, and the exciting-but-stressful journey to the finals began. The season started with 100 singers in blind auditions, where coaches pick teams. The field is narrowed to 48, then viewers vote on who returns. The final four compete in the last two shows.

Kadan believes God is using Christian artists in secular music contexts.

“Music connects people to their Creator,” she says. “Even nonbelievers acknowledge that creativity to write and interpret music has to come from somewhere.” Most of the several Christians among The Voice contestants and team grew up singing in church. From various backgrounds, they found commonality as they prayed for each other during anxious moments and supported a fellow contestant who received sad personal news during one of the show’s most intense weeks. Even some who didn’t profess Christianity noticed the sense of community and asked for prayer.

Pelegrino believes God has been preparing Kadan for something special.

“Katie is warm, loving, kind,” he says. “The personality you saw on the show, that’s really Katie. People relate to her.” Kadan says learning to accept herself and being authentic has been key.

Reaching the finals already has opened doors, including a possible performance tour.

“I would love to meet more of the people who became familiar with me through the show,” says Kadan, whose plans are now on her website.

Although her level of involvement at Impact Ministries may need to change, Kadan no longer struggles with the idea of church.

“You learn from people who have lived things,” Kadan says. “In a great church community, there’s a place for everyone. Music can be a big part of that.”

Kadan isn’t the first finalist on the NBC singing show with AG ties. In 2015, teenager Koryn Hawthorne, who attended Crossroads Church in Lafayette, Louisiana, placed fourth in The Voice competition.
Source: AG News

Ghanaian Pastor on Mission in New York

Even before God called Mark A. Manu to full-time ministry, the former businessman felt passionate about missions.

“As a church member in Ghana, that’s what I loved doing,” says the 54-year-old pastor of Upper Room Assembly of God in the Bronx. “We went into villages, slept there, and planted churches. I became a pastor out of that.”

A buyer and seller of such commodities as sugar and tea in Africa, Manu mixed business with an avocation as a gospel singer.

He later realized he had more interest in the work of God than anything else. Manu’s life changed for good in 1991 when the Lord spoke to him during a flight change en route to New York. He had planned to join his uncle and cousins in the land of opportunity. However, prior to boarding a connecting flight, he sensed God telling him to return to Ghana for ministry there.

Once back home, Manu spent two weeks in prayer before enrolling in Southern Ghana Bible College. After graduation, he served as a minister of music for five years until finally emigrating to the U.S.

In New York, he became associate pastor of Upper Room, launched in 1998 with 10 charter members. Manu became senior pastor in 2005.

Struggling to get established, the church met in rented space and had only 20 members when he took office. However, two years after purchasing its own building in 2009, Upper Room launched its first mission. Center of Hope Assembly of God started with adherents from Upper Room who had been making a 35-minute drive from Yonkers for services.

The youth pastor, Prince P. Agyemang Boateng, became Center of Hope’s pastor, with Upper Room paying the church’s rent for its first two years and $150 a week for Boateng’s travel and other expenses. Manu also helped Boateng, 43, obtain his ministerial credentials from the New York Ministry Network.

Center of Hope launched another mission in 2013, when Upper Room started Shekinah Glory Assembly of God in South River, New Jersey. Samuel Yeboah, who had been driving more than an hour to lead praise and worship at Upper Room, became the pastor. With average Sunday attendance of 130, Shekinah Glory is almost as big as its mother church.

If everything goes according to plan, Upper Room AG/Brooklyn will start holding services in June. Seven members from the Bronx will go to Brooklyn to help establish the new congregation.

This activity has grown out of Manu training immigrants to pastor churches in the New York area instead of bringing people from Africa.

“We Africans had a program where we brought pastors here to help churches, but they found it difficult to adjust and understand congregations,” Manu says. “Instead of planting churches with pastors brought from Africa, I decided to train pastors who understand the system and know the congregations here. It is a smoother transition.”

This missions-oriented DNA has been transferred to Center of Hope, which is supporting two missionaries and making plans to soon start its first mission.

Duane P. Durst, superintendent of the New York Ministry Network, calls Manu an exemplary leader who, in addition to his pastoral duties, serves as treasurer of the Ghanaian AG Fellowship.

Durst says over the years the pastor’s stable pastoral leadership has developed a small, struggling church into a healthy one.

“Mark has also developed leadership in the church,” Durst says. “He gives a lot of thought to what he does before he does it. There’s not a lot he has to go back and fix. That yields a healthy congregation.”

Another sign of Upper Room’s health is its $25,000 investment in a church currently under construction in the northern part of Ghana. That is in addition to its annual missions support of $12,000.
Source: AG News

A Missionary Legacy

Longtime Assemblies of God pastor Randy L. Valimont remained a champion of global missions to the end.

Valimont, 59, died Oct. 31 from complications from surgery. Since 1993, he had been senior pastor of Griffin First Assembly in Georgia.

When Valimont became senior pastor more than a quarter century ago, the church had an average attendance of 400. Today, the megachurch, with a weekly attendance of almost 6,200 across seven campuses, is consistently in the top three annual contributors to Assemblies of God World Missions among the U.S. Fellowship’s 13,000-plus congregations.

Valimont devoted his final month on earth to missions emphasis at Griffin First Assembly. He entitled his last sermon to the church “Do We Have Enough Lifeboats?”

To help facilitate his vision for providing for missions, Valimont’s family asked that donations be given to the missions fund at Griffin First Assembly in lieu of flowers, “so that we can fulfill pastor’s dream of building a bigger lifeboat.”

Georgia AG Superintendent Mark L. Merrill says Valimont, who also served as assistant superintendent of the Georgia AG,
is greatly missed.

“Because of his worldwide ministry, the shock waves of grief are being felt all over the world,” Merrill says. “Since his passing, I have been in five foreign countries on two continents. In every country that I have visited, there has been someone who has asked about him, his family, and Griffin First Assembly.”

Jelly Valimont, married to Randy for 39 years, says it has been difficult for both the church and the city of 23,000.

“Randy was not just a pastor of Griffin First Assembly, but of the entire community,” she explains. “To some, Randy was the only pastor they had ever known and was truly their spiritual father, mentor, and friend. Many have stated that they felt they lost a family member.”

During Valimont’s pastorate, Griffin First Assembly raised more than $28 million for missions. Under his leadership, the church became a district and national leader in missions and church growth.

“We acknowledge that we were not ready for him to go into eternity,” Jelly says. She notes that interim pastor Ron Crum has encouraged adherents to grieve the loss of the longtime pastor. Nevertheless, Jelly, whose official title for the past 15 years has been administrative consultant, says winning converts to Christ remains a priority for the congregation.

“Although we miss Randy as our pastor, the mission of the church has not changed,” she says. “It is about the kingdom of God going forward and not about Randy Valimont being gone.”

Merrill believes Valimont uniquely distinguished himself as a missionary statesman.

“He was a pastor’s pastor who mentored scores of emerging leaders in America and around the world,” Merrill says. “My prayer is that the seeds that he has planted in the lives of so many ministers, missionaries, and ministries result in a spiritual awakening that he lived his life pursuing.”
Source: AG News

The Blessing of Giving

In case you haven’t noticed, the Bible has a lot to say about money. There are 2,350 verses related to money, and Jesus spoke on the topic often, incorporating this subject in half of the 32 parables.

The topic of money in Scripture is important because how we view money is an indicator of what we value or treasure in our lives. Our view of money demonstrates where we ultimately put our trust: in God, or in ourselves.

How do you view your relationship between money and God? Is it with an open hand, or a closed fist? If you view it as a closed fist, then it is probably hard for you to be generous in giving to others, to the Church, and to God. If you find it hard to be generous with tithes and offerings, we can bring clarity to the topic by looking at what Scripture says about giving through three lenses: our relationship, our obedience, and our promised blessing.

OUR MONEY RELATIONSHIP
Many have a hard time with the topic of giving because our financial life is filled with anxiety. How will we make ends meet if we regularly give a portion of our income away? This worry comes from a misunderstanding of our relationship to money. We may be thinking, Is it God’s money or my money? Another way of asking the question is, “How much is God’s and how much is mine?”

In reality, we have to come to the conclusion that we aren’t the owner, but God is. As the apostle Peter admonishes, our job is to be faithful stewards of what the Master has entrusted to us.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

God is the giver of our gifts and resources; we are merely His managers.

In Matthew 6:26, Jesus says: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Jesus is reminding us to place our trust in God for our daily needs. When we do, we can cast aside worry and fear because God our Provider has a heavenly storehouse to meet our every need.

OBEDIENCE IN GIVING

Scripture is clear that Christians should tithe on their income as an act of obedience and a recognition that all of our resources are given to us by God.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10.)

While a tithe is understood as 10 percent, I see this as a minimum amount. In fact, trying to nail down a percentage doesn’t recognize that 100 percent of all that we make and own belongs to God.

After we are obedient in giving tithes, we must continue to steward the remaining 90 percent. It is important to budget and manage the rest of your resources that God has entrusted to you. And when God directs you to give more and be generous with your remaining resources, trust Him! He is your Heavenly Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). He will take care of you!

BLESSING THROUGH GIVING
Being generous is a common theme woven throughout Scripture. You cannot read very long without seeing God’s generosity to the world and Christ’s generous gift of salvation to humanity. Clearly, Christ’s followers are to respond in generosity toward others.

Proverbs 3:9-10 admonishes us to be generous with our finances, and in return, God promises to bless us.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”

Galatians 6:7 is a well-known passage known as the Law of the Harvest. One of the principles is that you reap what you sow. If you sow corn, you will reap corn. If you sow kindness, you will reap kindness. And when you are generous with your money and sow into God’s kingdom, you can expect to reap financial blessings from God so that you can continue to sow generosity. This may not mean you will receive unexpected money in the mail, but it does mean that God will continue to bless your generosity and take care of your needs. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

As we are generous with the resources God has entrusted to us, we can trust Him to return His blessing to us “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over” (Luke 6:38).

Source: AG News

President Taylor Announces Planned Retirement from Evangel

Evangel University President Carol A. Taylor, Ph.D., today announced her planned retirement after seven years leading the institution.

Speaking to students, faculty, and staff in chapel, Taylor said she plans to retire in August but agreed to stay on until the next president is in place.

“It has been my joy and privilege to serve my alma mater,” said Taylor, an alumna of both Evangel and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. “With the extraordinary work that faculty and staff have done over the past several years and with God’s provision and gracious hand on Evangel, I believe that now is the right time to transition. I’m confident that the university is poised for continued growth with the next leader.”

Before coming to her decision, Taylor spent considerable time in prayer and reflection and processed her thoughts with the Leadership Committee of the Board of Trustees.

“Just as when I trusted God when I felt called to Springfield to lead Evangel, I am trusting God in this decision,” said Taylor, an ordained Assemblies of God minister. “I believe God’s hand is resting on the university, and He will bring a new leader to continue to move Evangel forward in incredible ways to fulfill His purposes.

“I firmly believe He will continue to raise up new generations of men and women at Evangel who will continue to be Spirit-empowered servants of God who will impact the Church and the world until Jesus returns.”

After graduating from Evangel and AGTS, Taylor felt called to vocational service in higher education, earning a Ph.D. from Florida State University and becoming an expert in academic assessment and leadership.

In 2013, she felt the leading of God to return to Springfield to become the university’s fourth president. She became the first Evangel graduate to hold the position and the first woman. Taylor was called to consolidate the Assemblies of God’s three schools – Central Bible College, Evangel University, and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

She had come back to Springfield from Costa Mesa, California, where she served as the ninth president of Vanguard University. When she stepped in as president of Vanguard, the university was in crisis and under her leadership experienced an incredible turnaround.

The complexity of bringing together the three Springfield schools’ diverse faculties, staffs, programs, alumni, and systems was recognized as a daunting challenge. However, in the process, Taylor, who has spent more than 40 years in higher education, led a series of innovations, including creating new business systems and processes, reshaping and starting new academic programs, adding new professional accreditations, and launching online degrees.

Under her leadership, alumni engagement more than doubled and giving under her tenure has exceeded $35 million in donations and grants. Bucking a nationwide trend of enrollment declines, the university saw enrollment growth of 8.95% this year.

“The clocktower at Evangel has the inscription of 1 Samuel 7:12, which says, ‘Thus far, the LORD has helped us,’” Taylor said. “He truly has helped us, and I firmly believe His gracious hand will continue to rest on Evangel. To God goes the glory.”

Doug Clay, the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, expressed his thanks for Taylor’s work.

“I’m grateful for the leadership of Taylor, not only through the consolidation but also in positioning Evangel University for a bright future,” Clay said. “Evangel University, with the embedded seminary, is uniquely positioned in the Assemblies of God fellowship to give students the education and training they need to fulfill their God-given callings.”

Randy Teuber, Chair of the Evangel Board of Trustees, praised Taylor’s work over the past seven years and the way in which she has accomplished it.

“Dr. Taylor has done an incredible job of navigating this complicated and difficult process of consolidation,” Teuber said. “Her passion for students and the Evangel community is clear to all, and her dedicated leadership has put Evangel on a strong path for the future. She has been an incredible asset for the university.

“We look forward to a bright future because of the foundation that has been built by Dr. Taylor, and we look forward to the next president God has in store who will lead Evangel University into the future.”

Teuber said the Board of Trustees has a full search planned and has engaged a national executive search firm with extensive experience in Christian higher education to conduct the search for Evangel’s next president. More details, including the presidential profile and nomination process, will be made available on Evangel’s website in the coming weeks. Teuber said the goal is to have a new president in place before the fall semester starts in August 2020 but noted that Taylor had agreed to delay her retirement if needed for a longer search.

He said that the Board of Trustees would release plans to celebrate Taylor later in the semester.

Taylor has a long list of accomplishments and honors, including being named as a top leader in both the Orange County Business Journal in California and the Springfield Business Journal. She has held a series of leadership positions in higher education groups, including working with accrediting bodies and sitting on the board of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

In retirement, Taylor said she will continue to be a champion for Evangel.

“I love Evangel and the people here,” she said. “Evangel is an extraordinary community that continues to produce graduates who have an incredible impact as they live out their vocational callings around the world. They are recognized for their excellence in service to the Church and the communities where they live.

“Evangel will remain my highest personal philanthropic priority, and I believe the best is yet to be.”
Source: AG News

Prevailing in Alaska

Danger always lurks traveling to and ministering in Alaska’s bush communities. Sitting easy beside the pilot in a single-engine plane at 1,500 feet, Assemblies of God U.S. missionary David S. Wilson stirs, realizing a calamity is about to strike. He had just finished conducting revival meetings in Chalkyitsik, a Native American village.

The plane shakes violently. Oil and manifold pressure gauges register zero. The propeller slows, swishing like a lazy windmill.

“We were going down and falling like a rock,” he recalls.

Wilson calls out “Jesus, help!” Almost immediately, the plane levels off and miraculously remains airborne for 45 minutes to the Fort Yukon Airport.

“We landed safely without the engine working,” says Wilson, a missionary with Intercultural Ministries. “God moved in the supernatural that day and He still does.”

Wilson, 72, and his wife Debbie, 70, have been U.S. missionaries in Alaska for 44 years. They currently serve in Anchorage. He is the multilingual pastor at Muldoon Community Assembly, a congregation of 600 regular attendees. Both Ron and Debbie volunteer as chaplains for the Alaska Native Medical Center, a 173-bed hospital caring for Alaska Native and American Indian people.

At 16, Wilson recognized God’s prompting to preach in Alaska during a service at Saginaw Assembly of God, now The Oasis Church International in Haslet, Texas. After earning ministerial credentials in 1964, he waited a dozen years before answering the call. In the interim, he co-pastored churches in the AG’s North Texas District.

His initial Alaska assignments included ministering to Athabascan Indians in Nenana and Minto, and to the Inupiat, a northern Eskimo group in Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow) on the Arctic Ocean. He learned the Inupiat gift of sharing while helping whaling crews 20 miles out on the ice pack. Other pastorates followed in Fairbanks, Ketchikan, and St. Michael.

Seeing the need for a basic Bible teaching curriculum in remote areas, the Wilsons revived the Village Bible Training Circuit, conducting 504 schools in 52 villages, all without a severe weather cancellation.

At Muldoon Community Assembly, Wilson pastors an international congregation from Thailand, China, Vietnam, and Laos. During Sunday worship and Saturday Bible studies, he builds close relationships, which are crucial to evangelism and discipleship in America’s Last Frontier. Adopting Thai culture, a potluck meal is served each Sunday. When hearing about Jesus a congregant admits, “I got rid of Buddha in my house.”

The Wilsons spend much time at the medical center meeting critical needs of patients flown in from remote villages without medical facilities. Debbie prays for women facing at-risk pregnancies.

“Knowing families from our ministering in the bush opens doors,” she says. “I weep with them and plant gospel seeds.”

David has prayed a salvation prayer over hundreds of people on life support. He meets a patient in an intensive care unit who had just survived 90 days in a coma. “I know your voice,” the man tells him. “You have been in here praying for me.”

Bill Welch, superintendent of the Alaska Ministry Network, has known the Wilsons since 1986.

“The Native people love them,” Welch says. “They are genuine Arctic missionaries who have traveled Alaska in blizzards and ice fogs. Their village and hospital ministries have enjoyed divine favor.”

Source: AG News

Earthquakes Rock Puerto Rico, AG Churches Damaged, People Fearful of Future

A series of hundreds of earthquakes in Puerto Rico, following the 4.7-magnitude earthquake on Dec. 28, seems to have culminated with a 6.4-magnitude earthquake at 6:24 a.m. local time Tuesday. The quake left at least two people dead, hundreds — if not thousands — of homes and businesses damaged, and hundreds of thousands without power.

According to the U.S. Geological Services (USGS), the 6.4-magnitude quake followed on the heels of a 5.8-magnitude quake on Monday. The epicenter of the third significant quake was located off the southwest coast of the island, near Indios.

Ivan De La Torre, the district superintendent of Puerto Rico, says so far he’s aware of four churches that have experienced damage, including two that have extensive damage and are no longer safe.

“We have one pastor that we know of who lost his home — pastor Felix Vega,” De La Torre says. “He pastors in Guanica and his church is one of those that has extensive damage as well.”

De La Torre says that the whole island is without power except the northeast metropolitan portion of the island. Many also do not have access to clean water. He and a presbyter are preparing to personally survey the damage, which is only now possible as many roads had been blocked by debris.

“Darisabel Martinez, the Puerto Rico Convoy of Hope coordinator, has been in touch with Convoy of Hope (headquarters) and they are working on helping us,” De La Torre says. “Help is going to be arriving this weekend. They are sending water, food, solar lamps, water filters, tarps, and hygiene kits.”

The USGS warns that aftershocks will continue, noting that when there are more earthquakes, the chance of a large earthquake is greater. “This earthquake could be part of a sequence. An earthquake sequence may have larger and potentially damaging earthquakes in the future,” the USGS site states.

“There is a lot of talk on the radio and on the news that there is going to be another earthquake that is even stronger,” De Le Torre confirms. “A lot of people — probably 90% — in the most affected areas are living outside of their homes, camping, because there is a lot of damage to homes and people are afraid.”

Along with the Convoy of Hope response, chaplains and 461 Response services are already on site, providing help and comforting victims.

“I sent a message to all my pastors and members of the churches, that one of the best ways to respond to the people in the affected areas is simply to be there for them, be a companion, listen to them,” De La Torre says. “There’s a lot of fear because the earthquakes started the 28th of December and have not stopped.

“The most important thing people can do for Puerto Rico is pray,” De La Torre adds. “Pray for peace and hope because the people are living in fear — we need prayer.”
Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — Jan. 8, 1949

Robert Wade Edwards (1895–1961) became an Assemblies of God missionary when he was 51 years old and a newlywed of only one month. He served in southern India for 14 years and left behind a legacy of 14 churches, an industrial school, and hundreds of young people who were trained to carry on his ministry while being able to support themselves through trade.

Born in Salma, North Carolina, Edwards graduated with the highest honors. After spending nine years in the Army Medical Corps, he married and began ministry soon after. When his young wife died, Edwards moved to Cape Hatteras National Seashore to begin a new season of ministry. In 1946, a tidal wave severely damaged Edwards’ church. Devastated at the losses he incurred, Edwards asked God for direction. He distinctly felt God say to him, “Establish My people here in My Word and then go to the people to whom I have called you.” Thirteen years before, Edwards had a vision of himself preaching to dark-skinned people groping about in darkness. He knew that God was changing his course of direction.

For the next several months, Edwards worked on rebuilding in addition to his normal duties as pastor. During this time, he scheduled a missionary speaker for his church. Mrs. Doris Maloney was a widowed missionary to South India in her early thirties, traveling with her young son. When Pastor Edwards shared his burden with the missionary speaker they both felt that God was opening new doors for a new family. Edwards said later, “We put our calls together in marriage on Nov. 29, 1946, and on Dec. 12, we sailed for India.”

They began their ministry in Madras State, now Tamil Nadu, in South India where there were no churches. There were six villages within walking distance and most of them had never had a gospel witness. Edwards also found that his medical experience in the army served well to minister to those who had no doctors or medical care.

In the Jan. 8, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Edwards described a typical day. “We were up at 5 a.m. to prepare the messages … at 7:30 people began coming to have their wounds dressed … there were 12 patients and two homes to go where the people had wounds which prevented them from walking. Meanwhile, Mrs. Edwards conducted Sunday School in the next village … from 9 to 12 we had a meeting in our home for a few believers … in the afternoon there were callers. From 4 to 7 p.m. there were street meetings in two villages and we paraded the streets shouting Scripture verses and giving out tracts. It was a great thrill to work like this for the Lord though we came back almost too tired to walk.”

Edwards also found his experience in building to be an asset. He continued in the 1949 article, “It will not be long until we shall have to build little churches as there is no place to have a service except under the trees.” Edwards’ practice was to buy materials and build when there was money. When the money was exhausted, they would stop building until the money came in. In this manner, he built 14 churches without debt.

One day an old man came to Edwards and asked him to take his son. The old man felt it was too late for him to become a Christian but he wanted his son to know God. With their travel schedule, Edwards did not feel they could take on a young boy. He encouraged the man to send the boy to Sunday School and they would do all they could to help. After returning from a month-long ministry trip, Edwards was met with tragic news. The boy had hung himself in a tree near the missionaries’ home.

Grieved, the Edwards family asked God to show them how they could help other young boys to have more hope for the future. Edwards believed if these young boys could learn God’s Word and develop a trade they would find more promise and meaning in life. Edwards sought permission to begin an industrial school to train young men in a craft.

Hiring an Indian teacher to assist him, Edwards took on nine boys and began their training by teaching them to build their own school. The boys did the carpentry work and lived in the unfinished building with their poultry and goats during its construction. Within a short time, they had built several building to house training classes in printing, carpentry, blacksmithing, and other areas of learning.

After 14 years without a furlough, the Edwardses returned to the States to report on their ministry. During this furlough, it was discovered that Edwards had cancer. While suffering with the effects of cancer, he dictated much of what God had done in their time in India. His last recorded words concerning the hard work they had done were, “Looking back over my career, I would that I could do it all over again. If I had another life to live, I would give it to India.”

Edwards’ influence carried on in the lives of the young men he trained. They provided stability, leadership, and direction for the continuation of the Assemblies of God in South India.

Read Robert Edwards’ report, “Working in Travancore,” on page 11 of the Jan. 8, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Elisha, the Double Portion Man” by Evangelist Oral Roberts

* “Following the Cloud” by Harold Horton

* “The Congo Dancer” by E.H. Richardson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now
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Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
Source: AG News