Staying Hitched Is Smart

Recently Ron and Debbie Jansen traveled to a local Amish tourist spot outside their hometown of Canton, Ohio, to explore, dine, and unwind. It had been a rough three years for the couple as they dealt with an onslaught of family and health issues, and they needed to get away to strengthen each other as a couple.

The Jansens regularly take such jaunts in order to strategize their goals, work through disagreements, or just relish in their relationship. Ron served as caregiver for his mother who died at the beginning of the year. Debbie’s father died in July, and she now is concentrating on full-time caregiving for her mother.

“We’ve always gotten along and enjoy being with each other,” says Debbie, who is a family counselor. “I love Ron as much today as I did when we first got married. He sees me for who I am, accepts me, and encourages me to be better.”

That sounds romantic — even more so when it comes after 42 years of marriage.

The couple believe the secret to their relationship has to do with their faith, perseverance, and college education.

While Christians always have known that faith plays a vital role in a couple’s commitment to maintain a long-term marriage (one continuing more than 20 years), studies indicate that a couple’s education level is a factor as well. Pew Research Center recently released findings suggesting a strong link between higher education and marriages that endure.

Researchers discovered that 78 percent of college-educated married women will remain married more than 20 years, as opposed to just 40 percent of high school-educated women. And 65 percent of more-educated men can expect to stay married, compared to 50 percent of men with lesser formal learning. The study also affirmed that couples who cohabitate before marriage are less likely to stay together for the long haul.

The Jansens, who have three grown children, Ken, Amie, and Jamie, believe that this has been the case in their relationship. Both hold bachelor’s degrees from Evangel University, where they met during their senior year. One trait that drew them to each other was that they could talk openly about their differences with a goal toward understanding each other.

“I appreciated that Debbie had an opinion and could articulate it,” says Ron, a retired logistics manager for Roadway Express. “Neither of us felt threatened by the other’s opinions. We could talk sensibly and logically. We still use the skills we learned at college to connect with each other.”

Gary R. Allen, corporate chaplain for the Assemblies of God National Leadership Resource Center, believes those communication skills are nurtured and better developed when couples have individually pursued higher learning. These marriages tend to be stronger because the couples have learned how to gain information as well as the ability to process that information into “life values and family systems,” explains Allen, who has been married 51 years to his wife, Arlene.

Throughout the course of his pastoral experience, Allen says he found that those with higher education tended to do better in their marriages because “they appreciated a process of working through their struggles. They valued knowledge over simply how they felt about something.”

The study’s findings also don’t surprise Marilyn Abplanalp, president of the Alliance for Assemblies of God Higher Education.

“With education, an individual’s sphere of life has been enlarged,” says Abplanalp, who has been married 45 years to her husband, Robert. “Their interests in other areas take them outside of themselves and give them a broader worldview.” That’s important to bring into a marriage to keep it from getting stale, she says.

Learning how to communicate and to respect another’s perspective encourages couples to remain married, as does the actual process of completing their education and earning their diplomas.

“When you attend college, no one else does your work for you,” Ron says. “You have to commit to putting in the time and effort in order to reach your goal.” He believes that same perseverance also gives people the strength to stay committed in married life, helping them hang in there when the going gets tough.

Another reason for the school-marriage link is that, because these couples generally marry later in life, they tend to be more settled, mature, and financially stable. They know more of who they are and what they want.

“They realize that happiness is not found in another person, but rather in mutual achievement, so they tend to choose more wisely,” Allen says. And because they have more financial resources available, they can “direct those toward mutual activities and meaningful acquisitions” that build into a marriage rather than just for an individual, he says.

Does this connection mean that couples who haven’t gone to college are doomed to live in potentially weak and hopeless marriages? Abplanalp is quick to suggest otherwise, insisting that education isn’t a panacea or guarantee that a person’s marriage will stay strong and healthy.

“Ultimately, anybody who is interested in listening, truly communicating, and loving someone for who they are, rather than trying to change them will go far in their marriage,” she says.

Pictured: Debbie and Ron Jansen

Source: AG News

Vibrant Youth Pastor was Prepared to Die

Geno Roncone, the 23-year-old son of Highpoint Church (AG) Pastor Gene and Rhonda Roncone, passed away on July 15, 2016, as cancer claimed his young life. But Geno, despite his youth, was prepared to die, if that’s what God asked of him.

Geno was Highpoint’s youth pastor. When he was just 15 years old, he started taking classes through Global University (AG). In August 2011, just a few months following his high school graduation, he was licensed as an AG minister by the Rocky Mountain District. He would go on to attend Northpoint Bible College (AG) in New Haverhill, Massachusetts, for two years before returning to Aurora, Colorado, as Highpoint’s youth pastor while finishing his last two years of college at Colorado Christian University.

Geno, the grandson of former AG Assistant General Superintendent Charles Crabtree and his wife Ramona, said in a posted message that several months before being rushed to the hospital on Dec. 17, 2015, with intense abdominal pains, God told him change was coming in his life.

“Geno, get ready, I’ve got some major changes in your life,” were the words God spoke to Geno during prayer those months before. Geno said in his last sermon at Highpoint that for the next several months he had sought God for clarification — what were these changes all about? Then four or five days before Dec. 17, God revealed to him that he would battle cancer.

“He spoke to me so clearly and so distinctly that I couldn’t argue with what He just told me,” Geno said, “and I said okay, when that time comes, I don’t know if that’s soon or later on in life, but I’ll be ready.”

When doctors told Geno that he had a mass in his abdomen the size of a grapefruit that was cancerous, he wasn’t surprised, shocked, or fearful as God had prepared him for the moment.

Doctors would diagnose Geno with Stage IV Burkitts Lymphoma — a rare, but very aggressive, and fast-growing cancer. He would survive chemotherapy, and for a time, it seemed that perhaps God would bring him through the disease and restore his body. But Geno was ready for whatever God’s plan was.

Geno was an incredibly gifted artist and sculptor and wonderful character,” says Charles Crabtree. “We’re only finding out now the many things he did for others that he never talked about.”

“My grandpa was driving me home from the hospital . . .,” Geno recounts in his message. “I remember looking out to the mountains and telling God and praying to Him by myself, saying, ‘Lord, I’m 23. I got dreams. I got goals. I got things I want to accomplish in life, but if this is my time to die, and this thing takes my life, I’ll be ready for it.’”

Geno would battle the disease valiantly and in great faith, and even though he knew his grip on life was tenuous, he explained that the peace of God was evident in his life and that it wasn’t so much about what God was bringing him through, but where God was bringing him to.

“I’ve never seen anyone go through seven months of suffering like he did — he was without complaint,” says Crabtree. “The testimony that he left . . . , the nurses at the hospital, when he was in ICU, would come down from the cancer ward to see how he was doing, and when he died, they all cried . . . his main oncologist fell on (Geno’s mother) Rhonda’s neck, and just sobbed. He died as he lived — a wonderful Christian, a victorious saint, and what a testimony to all of us that the last chapter hasn’t been written.”

Geno’s memorial service has not yet been scheduled as the Roncone’s daughter’s (Geno’s sister) wedding was this past weekend. Arrangements will be posted to Geno’s Facebook page once finalized. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the Roncone family is requesting that donations in Geno Roncone’s memory be made to Highpoint Church’s Geno Strong Memorial Fund. The fund will be used to give scholarships to teens wanting to attend the Rocky Mountain District Youth Camp.

Source: AG News

Pastor's Cars Stolen, Hearts Touched, Life Lost

July 10 was a typical Sunday morning for Pastor Dwight Moore and his wife of 32 years, Rachel — it was a 20-minute drive to church and they had people to pick up on the way, so it meant an early start. After a quick breakfast, they headed out the door of their Schenectady, New York, home and suddenly it was no longer a typical Sunday morning. Both of their cars had been stolen!

The Moores, who pioneered Clifton Park (New York) Assembly of God 28 years ago, were stunned. Stealing their 8-year-old Honda CR-V seemed plausible, but who would want to steal a 2004 Ford Freestar, a minivan, with more than 200,000 miles on it?

The loss, at initial impact, left the couple in shock. Vehicles were key to their ministry and jobs. Dwight, a bivocational pastor, also drives a school bus and Rachel cleans homes to help make ends meet. Not to mention, others depended on them for a ride to church.

“I wasn’t angry, I was just stunned,” Rachel says, reflecting. “I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it — I was shocked.”

“Schenectady is a fairly rough town and there’s lots of vandalism, poverty, drugs, and a lot of a lot going on,” Dwight says, “but our specific neighborhood has been wonderful to live in — though a few weeks ago, someone slashed two of the van’s tires.”

With about 15 to 20 attending on Sunday mornings, Clifton Park AG is not a large church. In fact, the church meets at the city’s adult community center, with hopes of one day having the finances to build a facility of its own on the property it already owns. Dwight admits it has not always been an easy road, but every time they feel like perhaps it’s time to move on, God does something to confirm His calling.

Oddly enough, God used the theft of their cars to encourage the Moores!

“It almost started right away,” Dwight says. “People in the church sprung into action, volunteering to pick people up for service — the church really pulled together through this. And within 24 hours, we had 15 calls from people offering to lend us their cars to use.”

“The whole support we’ve gotten is just incredible,” Rachel agrees. “People calling to check if we’re okay, offering us vehicles, bringing us meals . . . .”

Rachel says that through the loss of their vehicles, God has revealed the extent of their footprint in the community. “I’m glad we live our daily lives like Christ would want, like Christians,” she says, “because you never know who’s watching you — who we might be affecting without realizing it.”

The Moores have also been overwhelmed by the response to a Go Fund Me account that was set up by a friend of the family, Kathleen Mancuso, to help replace the their vehicles. Nearly 100 people have donated to the cause, with funds still being donated.

“The Moore’s church, Clifton Park Assembly of God, is small but their ministry is huge!” Mancuso states in her appeal. “They have touched the lives of countless people in the Capital Region and beyond. The Moores have a reputation for hospitality, giving, ministering, and an incredible work ethic.”

“I am stunned at the Go Fund Me page,” Dwight admits. “It’s almost inappropriate, but certainly affirming.” He says those who have donated include people they’ve known for years along with a lot people they don’t even know, who possibly learned about the loss through friends or the coverage by local media.

“It’s crazy,” Dwight laughs. “I’ve been a pastor for 28 years, we have a good ministry with our local Christian school, I’m a chaplain at the local nursing home, I’m involved in prison ministry . . . and it turns out that to catch the media’s attention, we have to have our cars stolen.”

Rachel says that through the loss, they’ve had multiple opportunities to share their faith, and pray that perhaps even some of the reporters interviewing them for local news have been given cause to consider Christ.

Yet the story has taken an unexpected and deeply painful twist. Nearly a week to the hour that the Moores’ vehicles were stolen, a 17-year-old was killed while driving the Moores’ stolen minivan. Reports state that the driver crashed through a utility pole before the van flipped several times. Two other minors in the car were also seriously injured.

This tragic turn of events has left the Moores with powerfully conflicting emotions — a deep gratitude for the outpouring of support for their family when they were in need, but also heart-wrenching grief for a family who lost a son and for the potential other families (if the other riders were not related) whose children are now hospitalized.

“We don’t know if this young man was the person who originally took the van or if he came by the van in some other way,” Dwight says, “but when I learned of the accident Sunday (July 17) morning, I was just devastated — we went to church and we all just sang for awhile then prayed for awhile, sang some more and prayed some more.”

“This has been very difficult,” Rachel says. “But it has also given us a sense of urgency to get the gospel out there as there are kids who are lost and people who are not living the lives that they should.”

The Moores are hoping that somehow God will make a way for the church to be able to minister to the families of those in the accident.

“I was sort of sick at losing a car,” Dwight says, “but I can’t imagine losing a child like that . . . . I saw pictures of the van, and frankly, I don’t know how the other two riders even survived the accident. We’re hoping and praying that they will be okay . . . and that one day we’ll have great opportunities to testify to the Lord’s goodness to them.”

Source: AG News

Dallas Diversity Discussion

RED OAK, Texas — Ostensibly, the leadership roundtable forum at Wednesday’s Assemblies of God National Black Fellowship Reach Conference was to discuss implementation of a resolution approved by the General Council last year to add a designated African-American representative to the Executive Presbytery.

But the free-ranging conversations by a dozen panelists and various audience members at The Oaks Fellowship in Red Oak, Texas, morphed into an often profound and poignant examination of the historical lack of diversity in the nation’s largest predominantly white Pentecostal denomination.

AG General Secretary James T. Bradford moderated the 90-minute session that featured black and white Assemblies of God ministry leaders.

Several participants expressed frustration that while 43 percent of the U.S. Assemblies of God constituency is ethnic minority, there are relatively few African-American ministry leaders at the national, district, or local levels.

The white proportion of AG adherents has decreased every year this century. While Anglos comprised two-thirds of AG churchgoers a decade ago, whites are expected to become a minority in the Fellowship by 2022, according to research by Shannon Polk, a doctoral student at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.  

In a spellbinding session earlier Wednesday, Executive Presbyter J. Don George, drew repeated applause as he recalled how Calvary Church where he pastors in Irving, Texas, plateaued with a 98 percent white attendance starting in the 1980s. But since being intentional about ethnic diversity, Calvary Church has become a megachurch, with roughly 30 percent of attendees white, 30 percent black, and 30 percent Hispanic.

The racial divide won’t be eradicated by white people “tolerating” nonwhites, cautioned George, who is white. Racism and bigotry must be confronted, with whites enthusiastically working alongside people of color as genuine trustworthy companions, said George, who recounted Calvary’s transformation in his book, Against the Wind: Creating a Church of Diversity Through Authentic Love.

“We will miss God’s plan for the Assemblies of God if we are willing to passively settle for racial tolerance,” the 79-year-old he said. “We must have a celebration of diversity.”

At the forum, Sam Huddleston, 62-year-old assistant superintendent of the AG Northern California and Nevada District, lauded passage of the resolution last year. He urged white pastors to emulate George and take risks in hiring people of color to serve as staff members.

“We cannot in the Assemblies of God rise to positions of leadership without standing on the shoulders of white people,” Huddleston said.

AG U.S. Missions Executive Director Zollie L. Smith Jr., tried to tamper the enthusiasm about racial progress voiced by some of the younger participants at the forum. He noted that similar aspirations have been expressed at AG conferences dating to the 1980s. Smith, the first minority elected to a General Council executive position, said he remains puzzled why diversity in the body of Christ — let alone racism — remains an issue in the 21st century.

“If there is any place that should be a representation of oneness it should be the Church,” said Smith, 67. “I feel a heaviness. When are we going to grow up and be the Church and stand arm in arm? We have to put action to these meetings.”

Still, there has been visible progress in recent years. A distributed report authored by Office of Ethnic Relations Director Scott Temple shows that six of the 21 executive presbyters will be ethnic minorities when an African-American representative is elected next year. That compares to none in 1994.

Rick DuBose, the white district superintendent of the AG North Texas District, said the passage of the resolution by unanimous voice vote last year sent a message to local churches to rethink their hiring practices so that the AG doesn’t appear to be an “all white people’s movement.” DuBose suggested that white ministry leaders shouldn’t merely open the door to allow minorities to enter, but rather entrust them with the key to the door.

George Westlake III, the white pastor of the primarily African-American Sheffield Family Life Center in Kansas City, Missouri, agreed.

“We have to get to a place as a denomination where we actually tackle this thing and stop playing touch,” Westlake said. He said the AG must go beyond just allowing nonwhites in the door to the point of seeing no difference when races walk in together.

“I thank my congregation for allowing me to be a part of their world,” said a visibly emotional Westlake. “It’s a privilege for me. I’m the minority.”

Carol A. Taylor, president of Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, lamented the low minority student enrollment rate at AG schools. Higher education needs to reflect the composition of the kingdom of God, she said.

“We must shift from having courageous conversations to having courageous action,” Taylor said. “We can’t miss this window of opportunity. We’ve got to get it right this time.”

The new African-American executive presbyter will be elected at the General Council’s biennial convention next August in Anaheim, California. Bradford expressed enthusiasm Wednesday about the new seat.

“This is going to enrich our Fellowship,” Bradford said. “What an in-season decision this was!”

Pictured: Panelists included (from left) U.S. Missions Executive Director Zollie Smith, Cincinnati Peoples Church Pastor Chris Beard, AGTS student Shannon Polk, and U.S. Missions Intercultural Ministries National Director Malcolm Burleigh

Source: AG News

Evoking Sorrowful Remembrances

RED OAK, Texas — While not naively believing the three-day Reach Conference would transform society, the 345 predominantly black attendees of the event that ended Thursday did allow African-American Assemblies of God leaders to reflect on mistreatment and oppression experienced during much of the nation’s history.

The biennial convention of the National Black Fellowship, one of 22 ethnic and language fellowships in the AG, was hosted by The Oaks Fellowship, a primarily white AG megachurch in the Dallas suburb of Red Oak, a venue selected a year ago —long before the July 7 murders of five white police officers in Dallas by Micah Xavier Johnson. Those officers patrolled the streets during a peaceful protest staged in the wake of the shooting fatalities of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota.

For NBF Vice President Walter Harvey, the racial conflict this month represents another missed opportunity for Christians to blaze a trail of reconciliation. He said Christians in the U.S. have avoided such openings since the antebellum days of slavery, the Jim Crow laws established in the wake of Reconstruction, and the legal segregation patterns in place until the civil rights era.

“God’s heart is breaking and Jesus is weeping over our nation like He wept over Jerusalem because our nation has missed opportunities to walk in reconciliation,” said Harvey, senior pastor since 1993 of Parklawn Assembly of God in the heart of Milwaukee. “In the inner cities of America it’s a cry that has turned to a shout of rage and anger on behalf of people of color, who have been disproportionately victimized by poverty and injustice.”

Harvey, 56, condemned the shootings by Johnson, as well as the executions of three officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 17 by Gavin Long, another black man. Long served as a U.S. Marine in Iraq; Johnson was an Army veteran who went to Afghanistan.

In many regards, little has changed since the 1960s, according to Zollie L. Smith Jr., executive director of AG U.S. Missions. Smith, who earlier served as NBF president for a decade, had reservations that the small denominational conference would impact the national stage.

Smith and Harvey believe many U.S. cities have long been a cauldron of ills for blacks, including high unemployment figures, outsized male incarceration rates, broken homes, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, and violence.  

Oppression against black men isn’t anything new, noted Smith, who worked as a policeman after returning from U.S. Army duty in the Vietnam War.

Still, African-American leaders expressed cautious optimism that the conference can begin to change individual minds. Harvey noted that Christ and His followers could offer the solution to racial-based violence.

“Revolution says I’ll kill you to get my way,” Harvey said. “The people of God have been given the ministry of reconciliation. The National Black Fellowship has been divinely placed in urban communities for such a time as this to bring a sense of peace, direction, and vision.”

The gathering in Dallas proved providential, Harvey believed.

“It’s an indication of God’s hand upon our Fellowship that He wants us to no longer miss opportunities,” Harvey said. “Once again God is giving us a Kairos moment, a window of opportunity, to carry this torch of unity.”

NBF Executive Treasurer Darnell Williams, 49, said Christians should see each other first as brothers and sisters united by faith rather than through any ethnic lens.

“The breakdown is because we don’t understand each other,” said Williams, pastor of the multiethnic New Life Church International in Lima, Ohio. “If we can begin to understand one another’s perspective and hear each other’s voice, then mutual respect and mutual admiration arise.”

“It’s difficult for the Church to transform spiritually when there is old baggage,” says Smith, 67, the highest-ranking black executive in the Pentecostal denomination and one of six top elected leaders based at the national office in Springfield, Missouri. “As a Fellowship we need to find solutions to the social ills of society through honest and truthful dialogue vetted through Scripture. Love is the bond of completion and the Church has to be the leader to the world in demonstrating brotherhood through genuine agape love.”

“Racial divisions are deep-seated in America, and racial issues are a delicate topic at all levels of society — political, theological, and socioeconomic,” says NBF President Michael Brown, 54, pastor of The House of Peace in Jacksonville, Florida. “The Church is uniquely fitted and singularly gifted to engage society in a dialogue about these divisions. However the dialogue must be done with a biblical foundation, coupled with honesty about history and a readiness to respond to the Holy Spirit’s leadership.”

AG North Texas District Superintendent Rick DuBose, who is white, said he felt honored that such a unifying meeting was held in Dallas at such a strategic time.

“You don’t know about somebody until you immerse yourself in their culture,” DuBose, 59, said. “We have to help people stop making a judgment on color that is different.”

Pictured (from left): Assemblies of God African-American leaders Walter Harvey, Michael Brown, and Zollie Smith talk during a break at the National Black Fellowship Reach Conference.

Source: AG News

The Foundry: Connecting a Community to Christ

While serving as associate pastors at an Assemblies of God church just outside Baltimore, Maryland, Justin and Kara Myers prayerfully felt transition was about to happen, but every possible opportunity seemed to fizzle.

Justin says, “During that time we felt God saying, ‘What I have for you doesn’t exist yet.'” That’s when God began birthing a vision for church planting in Justin and Kara’s heart, which resulted in their moving to the college town of Morgantown, West Virginia.

The population of Morgantown is approximately 30,000, but when West Virginia University is in session, that figure doubles.

The Myerses arrived in Morgantown in June 2014 with only a little support and no venue readily available to hold services.

But soon after their arrival, they began to connect with friends, some of whom Justin had gone to college with several years earlier, who considered Morgantown their home and had a desire to be a part of helping plant the church.

“In September 2014, Kara and I met with some of these leaders and began to dream,” Justin says. “I put on paper what God had placed in my heart and that included the church name, The Foundry.

“A foundry is where things take shape, where formation happens. It’s where metal is poured into a mold for gear casting so that it can become functional and useable to help build other things. We chose a gear as The Foundry’s website logo because each gear must be interconnected with other gears. At The Foundry our goal is to connect our lives, molded in His image, with others to move forward.”

During that meeting, Justin and Kara set March 2015 as a pre-launch date for the church. Justin shared with the group how God had put in their hearts a vision to start a church where people would love God and each other and create community.

In order to get people in the community interested and informed about The Foundry, the group decided to start weekly Connect Groups. A local Methodist church provided a large room where they could meet. Soon the Connect Groups grew to about 20 people — couples in their mid-20s and college graduates.

But as the church’s March 2015 pre-launch date grew closer and the group grew larger, Justin and Kara were wondering, Where are we going to meet?

They approached a local business that had the lower level of their office building available. They shared with the owners their vision for a church in the community, and the owners agreed to a lease and allowed them to make major improvements to the building’s lower level to accommodate their needs.

By August 2015, the church’s community grand opening launch, The Foundry had a 150-seat sanctuary with new carpet, chairs, full media, a kids space, a nursery, and a preschool area — with the help of many people who donated time, money and heart. About 250 people attended the launch and 14 were baptized in water that day.

“We see people come to Christ in almost every service,” Justin says. “This summer, while the student population is gone, we are focused on rebuilding our discipleship ministry through our Connect Groups and will be ready to welcome back our students. Our goal at The Foundry is to build a generational church.

“When you look across our congregation, you see persons with no hair to gray hair; you see old to very young. What’s amazing is that the people have such a strong serving ethic. We make sure everyone has a place to serve.”

The Foundry is not only reaching out to the community of Morgantown and giving back to church planting so that another church can be planted, they are supporting missionaries, helping to impact Africa, India, the Middle East, and Nicaragua with the gospel.

“The Matching Funds provided by AGTrust donors, in partnership with Church Multiplication Network,” Justin says, “have helped The Foundry continue to grow, connect with more people, do more outreach in the community, and add to the kingdom of God.”

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — July 22, 1962

William W. Hays (1927-2010) came from a family known for drunkenness and crime, and he lived up to his family’s poor reputation. Addictions and debauchery almost led William to an early grave, but God delivered him and called him into ministry. The ex-convict and former addict became a noted Assemblies of God prison chaplain and evangelist, devoting his life to helping others escape the living hell that he knew well. He shared his story in the July 22, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

William was raised during the Great Depression in an impoverished community along the Arkansas River near Fort Smith, Arkansas. Moonshine, violence, and prostitutes were a way of life in the community. William started drinking moonshine at age 5. He got into daily fistfights with other children and dropped out of school in the seventh grade. He and his brother, Benny, devoted much of their time to helping their father make whiskey.

William’s mother had died, and his father never took his children to church. The boys had few positive influences, and they lived to satisfy their destructive desires. By age 17, William was an alcoholic. “I lied, cheated, and committed crimes,” he recalled, in order “to get the money for another drink of alcohol.”

At age 17, William fell in love with a lovely young girl, Edith Mae, who had been raised in a Christian home. He was attracted to her “clean way of living.” After a whirlwind courtship, they married a few weeks later, on the condition that he would stop drinking. But he could only fight the urge to drink for a few days, and he again succumbed to what he later described as the “demon forces” of alcohol. 

William had difficulty holding down a job and could not provide for his growing family. “I would leave my wife and children with nothing to eat,” he wrote, “and would awake from an intoxicated stupor to find myself hundreds of miles from home in some cheap joint or on Skid Row with the lowest characters.”

William’s wife, Edith Mae, spent much of the first 14 years of their marriage in tears and in prayer. She had six children in eight years. William was unstable. When he returned home from wandering, he would show tenderness to her and their children. But the next moment he might be wild and rash.

His life got even worse. William became addicted to morphine, and, at age 25, his body began to waste away. One more tragedy made life unbearable. His brother, Benny, who had been living in squalor with a prostitute, was murdered with a shotgun at close range. Seething with anger, he tried to find Benny’s killer, but was unsuccessful.

By age 31, William’s body was giving out. His nerves were shattered, his body was emaciated and addicted to alcohol and heroin, and his spirit was deadened to the world. He ended up in a state mental institution, where doctors gave him a few days to live.

William’s oldest daughter, Phyllis, called a Pentecostal Holiness Church preacher, Walter Brown, who came to his bedside. William, sensing this was his last chance, responded to Brown’s fervent prayers. “I began to cry to God for salvation,” he recounted. “Soon the tremendous load on my heart was lifted. I knew the power of the omnipotent God was working to set me free.”

Almost immediately, William’s condition began to improve. Brown helped to disciple William, teaching him how to follow Christ and to be a faithful husband and father. Brown warned him that he must take certain definite actions, or he would not experience lasting change. “You must study the Bible consistently and earnestly, and regularly attend a church,” he insisted. As William did this, he was able to overcome the temptations to return to his former addictions and lifestyle.

The new Christian felt compelled to share his testimony. He went to his former buddies on Skid Row, and they initially laughed at him. The road back to health was a struggle, but as William made progress, people took notice. When his former associates saw a lasting change in William’s life, they wanted to know more.

William read the Bible voraciously, hungry to know God. He sensed God’s call into the ministry and, in 1962, was ordained by the Assemblies of God. He pastored several churches, started rescue missions in Fort Smith and Oklahoma City, and then became director of the Teen Challenge center in Fort Worth, Texas. William felt a tug to prison chaplaincy, in part because his brother spent two stints in the Arkansas State Penitentiary, which was known as the “hell hole of the penal system.” He helped to lead a successful prison reform movement, which made prisons safer in Arkansas. He also engaged in chaplaincy work in dangerous prisons in Mexico. In his later years, he served as coordinator of prison and jail ministries for the Oklahoma District Council of the Assemblies of God.

William W. Hays was an unlikely candidate to become a minister, much less a prison chaplain. But when God changed his life, his early years behind bars and on the wrong side of the law became an asset for his new calling.

Read William W. Hays’ testimony, “Delivered from Dope and Death,” on pages 8-9 of the July 22, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “All May Prophesy,” by Donald Gee

• “New Church for Navajos in California,” by L. E. Halvorson

• “No Birth Certificate,” by L. Nelson Bell

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Source: AG News

The Battle for Religious Liberty

I feel impelled to write you this most unusual pastoral letter. I do it out of deep concern and I ask you to hear my heart.

We are on the precipice of losing critical religious liberty protections in our country. Over the past 25 years, the Supreme Court has severely limited the traditional understanding of the First Amendment to the Constitution. While matters like selection of ministers and internal doctrinal issues are probably not under near-term threat, the Constitution is no longer interpreted by courts to give people of faith, as well as the schools and service ministries we form, the protection we need in order to fully live out the implications of our most cherished beliefs. Meanwhile state courts, legislatures and city councils around the country have moved to further narrow the protections granted for religious liberty, as their citizens must choose between adherence to religious faith and full participation in the public square.

The threats to religious freedom that are now upon us can be likened to the frog put into a pan of water placed on the stove. The water warms gradually and the frog does not realize its peril until it is too late to jump out of the pan.

Many evangelical and Pentecostal believers and leaders have not been previously alarmed at how the “pan” has been gradually heated in the assault against religious liberty. For example, in our own Fellowship I and district offices contacted nearly two thousand credentialed ministers to support a religious freedom bill just a month ago that was before a committee in the Missouri House of Representatives. Less than 15 percent of them even bothered to respond. The bill failed in committee and significant religious liberty protections were lost. We are like the situation described by Jesus in the parable of the weeds and the wheat: “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat” (Matt. 13:25). We have largely been sleeping. Have we awakened too late?

I trust not.

Certainly the pending act (as of this writing) in the California legislature should wake us up. The California Senate passed Senate Bill 1146 which would either force schools like our own Vanguard University to radically change their mission or close down. The bill seeks both to shame faith-based colleges and universities and to declare their students unworthy of benefits that are made available by the state to every other similar institution in California. Vanguard’s president, Dr. Mike Beals, stated: “This means that mission-based aspects of religious colleges and universities, which include prayer in classes, chapel services, spiritual formation activities and faith-infused curriculum, as well as requiring a statement of faith for admission and requiring ministry-based service experiences would be at risk if Senate Bill 1146 is passed as is.” The bill is an intentional and all-out assault on our religious distinctives.

As I write, the bill is under consideration by a House committee. The fact that it passed the state Senate and is under consideration by the state House should ring a ten-alarm bell. If the attempt to gut religious liberty for colleges and universities is successful in California, you can be sure other dominoes will fall in California and across the country.

The secularists in our society seek to redefine the First Amendment protection of the “free exercise” of religion, to a mere right of worship. In other words, their view is: “If you are going to be bigoted in your pro-life views or your view that marriage is between a man and a woman and that fornication (both heterosexual and homosexual) is morally wrong—then you must confine your views within the four walls of your sanctuary. But don’t bring your bigotry into the public square.” A society that adopts such a view may be setting the stage for a future day when even a defense of biblical teaching on human sexuality from the pulpit will bring with it the risk of punishment by the government such as in the loss of our long-held tax-exempt status without which many ministries would not survive.

At a recent meeting I attended in Washington, D.C. that dealt with the protection of religious liberty, the keynote speaker stated: “We are in mortal combat in this country over religious liberty.” Don’t believe me? Consider what Harvard Law School professor Mark Tushnet has written:

No conservatives demonstrated any interest in trading off recognition of LGBT rights for “religious liberty” protections. Only now that they’ve lost the battle over LGBT rights, have they made those protections central—seeing them, I suppose, as a new front in the culture wars … [T]aking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers … Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown [v. Board of Education]. (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.) … [T]he war’s over, and we won … [T]taking a hard line means opposing on both policy and constitutional grounds free-standing so-called “religious liberty” laws … It also means being pretty leery about … agreement by Christian conservatives to support extending general nondiscrimination laws to cover the LGBT community in exchange for including ‘religious liberty’ exemptions.

On this analogy, people are faith are as bad as the Confederates and Jim Crow segregationists, as bad as World War II-era German Nazis and Japanese militarists. And notice that Tushnet is not just opposing religious freedom protections in nondiscrimination laws, he’s also opposing “free-standing so-called ‘religious liberty’ laws.” This kind of derision, by a prominent professor at an elite law school, is troubling.

How did we reach the place where we are? Let me suggest the following four steps are taking place, which have brought us to this point.

Caricature

Let me illustrate what I mean by caricature. Picture a first-grade class. The teacher is a wonderful young woman in her late twenties with two small children at home. She leaves the room momentarily and the class clown goes to the blackboard or white board and draws a frowning stick figure and labels it “teacher.” The stick figure drawn bears no relation to reality except in the mind of the first grader who drew it.

So, what is the caricature being given to Bible-believing Christians by the secular left? “Hateful, mean, bigoted, narrow-minded” and a host of other terms. This caricature doesn’t bear any resemblance to the overwhelming majority of Christians who bring great value to society through how they live, work and contribute to the public good.

Someone has said, “If I can define you, I can confine you.” Once the caricature above attaches to believing Christians, we become identified through that false lens. Thus, for example, when we attempt to support religious freedom bills in legislatures, we are immediately defined as “haters.” Big businesses and the media target legislative members and engender public support for the idea that core religious rights that were long the subject of broad societal consensus, are in fact unjustifiable shields for “bigoted” religious people and institutions that must not be tolerated.

Marginalization

Once the caricature is drawn, then it becomes easy to move to the next step—marginalization.

Think of this, for example: why is it that there is no evangelical on the Supreme Court? Evangelicals are one of the largest minorities in the United States. But, our pro-life position and views on marriage are regarded as not acceptable and militate against an appointment to the Supreme Court—and beyond that, to appellate courts and district courts. Our views are simply unacceptable to the political powers that be and we are sidelined from the public square— marginalized.

Ask yourself when you vote in the 2016 election: Would this candidate for president or the senate be more likely to appoint or vote to confirm a person with a pro-life and pro-marriage position as between a man and a woman? Would the presidential candidate be more likely to appoint people who will uphold the protection of the free exercise of religion, or erode it further?

Since the Supreme Court has now become a super-legislature in our country, my vote for president and Congressional candidates will depend entirely on the answers to the above questions in view of the fact that the next president will shape the Supreme Court, lower courts, and the culture of America for the next several decades.

It would be a step forward for truer diversity with evangelicals on the Supreme Court as well as other federal and state courts and in the executive branch of government. But even more important is the appointment of men and women of whatever faith, who understand and respect the value of religious freedom. Otherwise, we will continually be forced out of the public square and marginalized into smaller and smaller spaces that Christians can live in.

Discrimination

Once you can make a caricature of a group and marginalize them, you can discriminate against them.

The biggest examples of that, from a legal point of view, are the recent cases before the Supreme Court of Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor. In both cases, the present administration forcefully sought to discriminate against persons who, because of religious belief, did not want to facilitate abortions. Those decisions hung by a slim thread in the Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby won by a 5-4 vote, and the Little Sisters of the Poor case was sent back down to the lower courts, in all likelihood, because a majority of opinion could not be reached on a divided 4-4 Court. The appointment of one more pro-abortion judge to the Supreme Court will result in a far different result. Are you concerned about that? Do you want Hobby Lobby owners (who are Assemblies of God members) to be forced to go out of business because of their commitment to Jesus or the Little Sisters of the Poor to disband and stop serving the poor because of their convictions on life?

Another example that is impacting Assemblies of God colleges and universities as well as all schools who are members of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) is a recent change in the Department of Education (DOE). President Obama’s DOE leadership was bothered that schools like our own are exempt from Title IX provisions that permit religious educational institutions to decline admittance to or retention of students on the basis of same-sex behavior or gender identity. The DOE headlined their policy change with the caption: “Hidden Discrimination.” Every school that applies for the exception (even though a valid legal argument exists that an exemption to Title IX is provided to religious schools without their having to apply for the exemption) is then publicly listed. The intent is to shame these schools for being “discriminatory.” In other words, Christian institutions are discriminated against because they hold to biblical teaching on sexual morality.

The discrimination plays out in different ways. For example, a Christian college president in the northeast co-signed a letter organized by a centrist group of religious leaders asking that a then-pending executive order by President Obama on LGBT rights leave schools like his in the same legal position as before. It was polite and gracious. The community in which the college was located became enraged that the college had that position. The local school board made a decision that it would no longer accept student teachers from that college, and various public facilities were denied for usage by the college.

Next on the horizon is the possibility that accrediting associations will determine that a school which has behavioral standards for students regarding same-sex or gender identity relationships is a school not worthy of accreditation, and/or that companies, school boards, and graduate schools will not admit or employ graduates of schools who “discriminate” on the basis of sexual orientation and identity. Schools will either be forced to accept standards imposed on them or go out of business.

Persecution

Step one: make a caricature of persons committed to scriptural teaching on morality. Step two: marginalize them. Step three: discriminate against them. Finally, the last stage: persecute them.

This is what is pending in the California legislature as I write—the outright persecution of Christian institutions by a state that says, “We will attempt to humiliate and marginalize you if you don’t give in.”

What’s next? Unless present trends are reversed, I can envision a day not too far off in which faith-based parachurch educational and compassion institutions are forced to close if they retain biblical standards of sexual conduct for employment, or even requirements that employees, faculty, or students profess a Christian commitment.

The local church itself will be the last domino to fall in terms of persecution. Tax-exempt status may be lost. Ministers could lose the ministerial housing allowance. Donors may not be able to deduct charitable contributions. Churches which utilize their facilities for public events and compassion ministry, in addition to their times of worship, will be declared public places of accommodation and forced to provide marriage services to same-sex couples.

If you say, “Oh, that can never happen in America,” then let me remind you that we never thought a day would come when the White House would be lit up with the rainbow flag to celebrate a decision by the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage.

I have never written anything like I am writing to you now. I realize that what I am writing paints a very dark picture. You are now asking yourself, but what can we do? Here are some suggestions.

Pray

There may be some who are cynical about a call to pray. But, we know the Lord hears the prayers of His people. Let’s take to heart 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” We must pray for a third Great Awakening to come to America. Prayers of gratitude for the religious liberty we have enjoyed, and prayers of petition for its future protection should be an ongoing and regular part of our personal and corporate prayer life.

Engage

Use whatever means possible to exert your influence on our culture and political system. Be informed as a voter. Run as a candidate for office if you sense the Spirit asking that of you. Let your elected representatives hear from you on issues such as religious liberty protection.

It’s also vital that we understand that we advocate religious liberty for others, not just ourselves. It is against our religion to impose our religion. When we find persons, organizations, or religious bodies who stand with us on the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion, then we welcome their advocacy alongside our own.

Of course, being engaged requires being informed; helping those who worship in our churches every week to understand the nature of the challenges we face, honestly but without overstating, is a critical first step. Had Christians across Missouri truly understood what was at stake in the religious liberty bill that failed in that state legislature earlier this year, the outcome may have been different. We must educate in order to inspire action.

Watch Your Spirit

There’s a fascinating verse in Jude 9 that says, Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil in a dispute about the body of Moses, did not dare to pronounce upon him a railing judgment. But he said, “The Lord rebuke you!'” In other words, Michael did not behave like the devil in fighting the devil. We must take to heart the admonition of the apostle Paul, “The servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but must be gentle toward all people …” Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will “grant them repentance to a know the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24–25). Let’s be gracious as we take our stand on issues that concern us.

Do Good

The world may not agree with our beliefs, but they cannot deny when we do good. As individual believers and as a church together we must continue to serve others. We must be known as people of compassion and mercy. We are for the just treatment of others and we help the poor, the needy, the addicted, the wounded, the lonely and the downtrodden.

Keep Doing the Main Things

Our first and foremost call is to preach and live the gospel. Let’s keep the main things the plain things, and the plain things the main things. We must fulfill both the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20) and the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37–39). That’s our priority! Let’s never substitute evangelism and discipleship with political action. Let’s keep eternal matters and temporal matters in perspective.

Our Battle Is Spiritual

God loved the world and so must we. We cannot give others any reason to identify us a “haters” or “bigots.” The world will not be won by Christians who are shaking their fists at sinners. Something is a truism when it is true. This truism is true: “We must hate the sin and love the sinner.” “For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:12–13).

Rejoice

Nothing happening has caught the Lord by surprise. He told us we would be persecuted because of our loyalty to Him. But we are not to be angry about that or downcast. Instead, Jesus said: “

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.12 Rejoice and be very glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in this manner they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10–12).

Thank you for letting me share my heart with you on this vital matter of religious liberty. In every dark time, believers have learned to say anew, “The Lord reigns!”

 

This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Called to Serve, the Assemblies of God credentialed ministers newsletter.

Source: AG News

Lavishing Ladies With Love

Nicole Phillips of Panama City, Florida, was 17 when she says she felt the call of God to minister to women working in the sex industry.

Phillips had come across a television interview with Hookers for Jesus founder Annie Lobert, who shared her story of redemption after years of prostitution.

“I just knew from the moment I heard Annie speak, that’s what I wanted to do,” Phillips says.

Phillips went on to obtain a degree in Biblical Studies from SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary in Panama City, and then traveled to Edison, New Jersey, for training on strip club outreach through Strip Church, a ministry of the Las Vegas-based XXXChurch.

In November 2014, Phillips, who now is a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God and a missionary associate with U.S. Missions Intercultural Ministries, launched Lavished Ministries, which is based on 1 John 3:1 (“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”).

Every month, Phillips and her team visit four strip clubs in Panama City and hand out gifts to the dancers, such as jewelry, makeup, gift cards, and baked goods. Handwritten notes with Scripture and a link to the ministry website are included.

Phillips says the initial reaction of the women is usually disbelief.

“It never gets old to see the look on their faces when they realize that we don’t want anything from them,” she says. “We are just there to bless them.”

Phillips keeps the visits brief so as not to interfere with business. However, she says a lot of ministry occurs during those few minutes in the clubs.

Women have received salvation, been filled with the Holy Spirit, and experienced healing in their dressing rooms.

“You feel the power of the Holy Spirit just as much in the dressing rooms as you do at church on a Sunday morning,” says team member Angel Mueller. “God is in everything and everywhere – even in the darkest places.”

Mueller and Phillips attend First Assembly of God in Panama City, which serves as the host church for the ministry. Mueller says she felt a heavy burden a few years ago for women who are victims of sex trafficking, but she didn’t know what to do about it.

Her answer came when Phillips invited her to join the ministry team. Mueller uses her outgoing personality to help get the team past the front doors of the clubs and into the dressing rooms where relationships are being built.

The team helps women leave the industry, enter halfway houses and drug rehab centers, and connects them to organizations that can meet their needs.

In August, the ministry will expand to Atlanta. Georgia is home to 135 strip clubs.

Shameika Snipes, a close friend Phillips met while interning at Griffin First Assembly, will oversee the Atlanta ministry, which is expected to reach approximately 200 women in six clubs.

Phillips is also in the process of establishing the ministry as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Her short-term goal is to develop outreach times in more cities across the country as well as to educate churches about the exploitation that often occurs in the commercial sex industry.

In the meantime, Phillips and her team will continue to lavish attention on the women they encounter.

“If we’re able to pray for a girl, that’s a win. If we’re able to give a girl a cupcake, that’s a win. If we’re able to have a 30-second conversation with a girl and she begins to let you slowly enter her life, that’s a win,” she says. “We always want these girls to know that they’re beautiful, that they’re valued, and that they’re loved.”

Source: AG News

New Day AG Claims National Teen Bible Quiz Title

After upsetting top-seeded and three-time defending Bible Quiz national champion James River Church of Ozark, Missouri, in the semifinals, New Day Assembly of God of Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, downed Maple Lane AG of Deposit, New York, 150-85, to win the 2016 National Teen Bible Quiz championship held July 2-9 at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.

New Day AG, which placed fifth last year and has made it to nationals the past three years, was seeded fourth in the championship semifinals, even though all four teams had identical 16-3 records. Bernie Elliot, director of Bible Quiz, explains that the seedings were based on head-to-head competition that took place throughout the week.

In the semifinals, New Day defeated James River’s “Driving You Insane” team, 155-120, and Maple Lane downed the “Savage Northwest SIRS” team from Cedar Park Church of Bothell, Washington, 100-80. James River then defeated Cedar Park 175-75 to take third.

The quizzers on New Day’s championship team were Jonathan Brown, Joseph Lemley, and Josh Fuller. The team was coached by David Lemley, assisted by Rich Brown.

The National Finals began with 40 teams divided into five groups. The top four teams in each group advanced to the Championship Division to contend for the national title, while the rest were placed in the Challenger Division. Both divisions then quizzed in 19 rounds over 2 ½ days to determine the finalists in both divisions. More than 150 quizzers, grades 6-12, took part in the national tournament as this year they were quizzed over their knowledge of the Book of Acts — more than 1,000 verses!

In the Challenger Division, Bethany Church of Wyckoff, New Jersey, edged Cedar Park’s “That’s Debatable” team 105-100 in a one-game playoff for the Challenger title.

New Day Coach David Lemley says his team really focused after losing to Maple Lane earlier this year in regional competition. “At regionals, we were tied with Maple Lane and then they crushed us, 170-110,” Lemley says. “The team was really upset at the loss, but realized they hadn’t worked hard enough.”

Winning a national title is exhilarating, Lemley says, but Bible Quiz has also deeply impacted the students on his team. “There has been a major change in their understanding of the Bible — what it means to their life and how they relate to things going on now in the world,” Lemley says. “Bible Quiz has also taught them a strong lesson as far as work ethic and discipline are concerned, which is reflected in other areas of their lives as well.”

Although Elliot greatly admires the accomplishments of those competing at nationals, what really greatly encourages him are the increasing number of students earning Discipleship Awards, National Memorization Awards, and those who have earned a Master Memorization award.

The National Memorization award was presented to 119 students this year who memorized the entire Book of Acts and quoted each chapter with four mistakes or less. The Master Memorization was granted to just 14 students as it requires being able to recite the entire Book of Acts, in one sitting, in 90 minutes or less and with a total of 10 mistakes or less. “It’s hard to even read the Book of Acts in 90 minutes without messing up words,” Elliot says in admiration.

However, two new components of Bible Quiz really has Elliot energized. “We had 68 students receive the Discipleship Award this year. This requires students, in addition to participating in Bible Quiz, to read selected books, be active in their church, be tithers, do a service project, and other requirements all of which help students learn to be doers of God’s Word. Also, this was our second year for the Bible Quiz Experience Division, designed for beginners. We had an incredible 188 teams participating across the nation learning God’s Word representing hundred of additional students who are now actively memorizing the Bible!

“We are dripping with young people in the Assemblies of God who know the Word of God and are powerful Christ followers,” Elliot says.

According to Elliot, the 2016-17 Bible Quiz season will cover the books of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon — about half the number of verses of Acts.

During nationals week, numerous Bible Quiz college scholarships were also awarded: The top three finishing teams received team scholarships of $2,500, $1,500 and $500, respectively.

Jonathan Brown, who led New Day AG, was name Male Quizzer of the Year ($1,000 scholarship) and Halle Reisinger of Newport (Pennsylvania) AG was named Female Quizzer of the Year ($1,000 scholarship).

“The quizzer of the year awards are based on a 11-category point system,” Elliot says. “This year’s selections were incredibly tight as only a few points separated the top qualifiers.”

Reisinger received an additional $1,000 scholarship, Brown a $750 scholarship, and Julie Rodriquez, Community Church, Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania, received a $500 scholarship for their respective 1-2-3 scoring performance during the tournament week.

Abigail Peterson, Tacoma (Washington) Life Center won a $1,000 AG Scholarship and the $1,000 Mark Gilmer Scholarship; Shannon Wolfe, Victorious Life Church, Wesley, Chapel, Florida, won the $2,000 Hollis Kelley Scholarship and a $1,000 AG Scholarship; and Spencer Wilhelm, Bethel Assembly, Rapid City, South Dakota, won a $1,000 AG Scholarship.

Zak Kellock, of North Valley Assembly, Phoenix, Arizona, won the Quizzing Bee (similar to a spelling bee, only participants need to quote verses from the Book of Acts) and a $500 scholarship. Sheldon Powell of Calvary Church, Naperville, Illinois, was second ($250 scholarship) and Leisl Jansen of James River Church third ($100 scholarship).

Source: AG News