Miles for a Bible

Light for the Lost, the Assemblies of God ministry that focuses on resourcing ministries and missionaries with evangelism tools, has been a part of seeing countless souls brought into the kingdom of God.


In portions of Africa, Assemblies of God missionaries use dirt bikes to traverse rugged trails that lead to remote villages in the mountains. But they’re not joy riding; the missionaries travel those trails with one purpose in mind — to share the gospel with the people they encounter.


In this particular region of Africa, the village people are often very receptive to the gospel message, and it is not uncommon for villagers to choose to pray with the missionaries and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. These new converts are encouraged to start Bible studies and attend the Assemblies of God church in the valley.


After one particularly arduous journey into the mountains, the missionaries returned to the valley and were thrilled to see a group of teenagers from one of the villages they had recently visited. These new converts had walked for miles to get to the valley from their mountain village.


They explained to the missionary, “You encouraged us to have Bible studies, but no one owns a Bible in our village.” Thanks to Light for the Lost, the missionaries were able to provide each of the teens with their very own Bible to read, study, and grow in Christ.


“True stories like this just reinforce the importance of resourcing our missionaries,” says Rick Allen, national Light for the Lost director. “Those teenagers’ hearts and lives are now going to be filled with the Word of God. In fact, an entire village will now have access to God’s Word because missionaries went and Light for the Lost — through the generosity of our donors — was able to resource them.”

Source: AG News

"Generations" Welcomed to Triennial World AG Congress

Registration for the eighth triennial World Assemblies of God Congress (WAGC), to be held in Singapore from March 29 to 31, 2017, has officially opened on the Singapore Assemblies of God website.

The three-day event offers Assemblies of God ministers, lay leaders, and members of all generations and from throughout the world the opportunity to come hear and learn from some of the key leaders who serve the more than 67 million AG adherents worldwide.

The conference, described as “three power-packed days and nights” with more than 30 speakers from around the world offers something for everyone.

Several plenary speakers will address the conference including Dr. Barnabas Mtokambali, Tanzania AG general superintendent; Edwin Alvarez, a leading AG minister in Panama; Dr. George O. Wood, U.S. AG general superintendent; and Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesús, lead pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in America.

In addition, Jason Frenn, Nathan Morris, and Dr. Samuel Rodriguez will lead the WAGC Power Rally while the Heart to Heart Conversations event will feature six leading ministers from Singapore.

Although WAGC is designed in part to help shape the future path and objectives of the World AG Fellowship, the focus of worshiping and honoring God in a venue filled with Assemblies of God adherents from around the world provides the ideal setting for spiritual renewal and inspiration.

“You will not be disappointed,” Dr. Wood states. “There are few things that compare to worshiping God in a multicultural and multiethnic environment with a global focus on winning the world for Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit!”

During the WAGC, 17 workshops for attendees will also be offered, including: Be a Legacy Builder, The Prophetic Church, Church Planting Today, The Middle Eastern Kingdom of God, Making Disciples, Vision Casting, #The Church, Reaching the iGeneration, and many others.

AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis says, “As God continues to guide our worldwide network of church fellowships, He is creating effective partnerships that are sending and supporting missionaries into ever-widening harvest fields.” Dr. Mundis reports that today more than 5,500 missionaries from our sister AG fellowships are taking the gospel across the globe.

“For our English-speaking AG members throughout the world, it’s important to note that in Singapore the working language is English,” Wood explains. “Most if not all of the events held will be in English, with translation provided in various other languages. I would imagine, for those unfamiliar with Singapore, this is welcomed news, especially for those contemplating extending their stay.”

For more information about the eighth triennial World Assemblies of God Congress, including housing, fees, and other conference details, see

Source: AG News

Growing Through Servant Leadership

For the past five years, Bethel Church in Temple, Texas, has added more than 100 adherents annually and has quadrupled the number of kids participating in its children’s ministries. Simultaneously, Bethel has increased its volunteer core and added two campuses —one on the south side of Temple and another in nearby Belton — for a total average weekly attendance of 900.

Six pastors oversee the three campuses, led by Senior Pastor Elwyn Johnston.

“When churches get to a certain size, senior pastors sometimes lose touch, but Pastor Johnston hasn’t,” says Brian Hendrickson, Bethel’s children’s pastor. “He knows everybody.”

Hendrickson, who joined Bethel’s staff in 2011, credits the growth of the church, and specifically the children’s programs, to the leadership modeled by Johnston and practiced by staff members.

“Empowerment, autonomy, and encouragement are the keys,” Hendrickson says. Upon his arrival in Temple, Hendrickson inherited children’s programs for nursery through fifth grade children with about 85 regular attenders on Sunday, 25 on Wednesday evenings, and 17 leaders. 

“Families were attending, but kids weren’t involved,” Hendrickson says.

Hendrickson quickly changed that by giving leaders more independence and plenty of support. Today, Bethel welcomes an average of 220 boys and girls across its three campuses every Sunday, and around 160 on Wednesdays. The children’s leadership team also has grown from 17 leaders to more than 100, made up of 20 teams of five leaders each.

“This provides a lot of load sharing,” Hendrickson says. “There’s no guilt when someone needs to take time off.”

Mark Entzminger, senior director of AG Children’s Ministries, agrees with Hendrickson’s children’s ministry philosophy of placing an emphasis on trained and empowered volunteers.

Hendrickson believes the strength of a kid’s ministry program is a reflection of the strength of the volunteers,” Entzminger says.

For Sunday children’s church, Radiant Life curriculum is used alongside a kid-friendly lesson based on Johnston’s message. This is designed to allow families to discuss what they heard at church, Hendrickson says. On Wednesday evenings, Royal Rangers and Mpact Girls curriculum are used for boys and girls.

Hendrickson and the team are also developing a Connecting Point (CP) for kids that coincides with the same class for adults who are new to Bethel. CP will teach first through fifth graders what Bethel is about and how they can get involved.

While the children’s ministries have flourished, so has the rest of Bethel.

“We ran out of space on Sundays and knew we needed to add on or branch out,” Hendrickson says.

In 2013, Bethel’s first multisite location opened in Belton, a community about nine miles south of Temple. 

Back in Temple, Bethel was operating an outreach on the south side of the city near a government-subsidized community. When leaders looked closely, they realized those attending the outreach’s services already referred to it as church.

“It just took us a few years to start doing the same,” Hendrickson says. Thus, in April 2016, Bethel officially launched a second multisite, Canyon Creek, in Temple.

Bethel’s campuses in Temple and Belton continue to expand, and adherents don’t just attend, they get involved. Hendrickson again gives credit to inclusive leadership and staff empowerment.

We’re a service-oriented church and we’re focused on developing our leaders more,” Hendrickson says.

Source: AG News

Not Your Average Rodeo

A rodeo in Nashville may not seem like a strange occurrence. But put that rodeo in the middle of a church sanctuary, and it’s likely to turn some heads.

From June 29 to July 3, Cornerstone Nashville Assembly of God in Madison, Tennessee, will hold a five-night professional rodeo within the confines of the church’s 3,100-seat auditorium. Along with a full slate of bull-riding action, each night also will feature music from Grammy and Dove award-winning country artists, an indoor fireworks display, a state-of-the-art laser light show, and a presentation of the gospel.

All entertainment will take place in a full-scale bull-riding arena set up on the auditorium floor. Admission is free.

This will be the second such event at the church, which held its first indoor rodeo in 2010 and filled to capacity every night. Pastor Maury Davis says at its core, the event is meant to change the way people think about coming into a church building.

“We use that as a drive to get non-church people to come to church,” says Davis, who accepted Jesus as Savior while imprisoned. “The big-picture goal is to turn people who are outside the church positively toward the church.”

Cornerstone Nashville AG has held large-scale community events before. The church, which has an average Sunday morning attendance of 3,260, is known for illustrated sermons that include wild animals, ballet dancing, and trapeze artists.

The auditorium is also home to an annual Independence Day fireworks show. In addition, the church holds an annual Memorial Day celebration and large productions at Easter and Christmas.

“I believe that every church ought to find a unique way to reach people,” Davis says. “We’ve used big events and illustrated sermons, as well as small groups and television outreach. This is just one event at one point in time to continue to reach people that we’ve not reached at the other events.”

Davis says as a church in the country music capital of America, reaching out to those who enjoy country music and bull riding is an essential aspect of ministry.

“In this city, not to reach the country crowd would leave out a large segment of our population,” the Texas native says. “What would reach a country crowd? There’s nothing that’s more attractive than a rodeo.”

The International Professional Rodeo Association has sanctioned Cornerstone’s extravaganza. Musical acts during the five nights will include the Isaacs, the Gatlin Brothers, an Elvis impersonator, and other professional musicians.

Davis says in 2010, the church auditorium filled to capacity each of the four nights of that outreach. In all, Davis says, 71 people made salvation commitments to Jesus during the earlier event.

“The first night when I gave the altar call, two of the cowboys came and knelt down in the arena,” he says. “It was just very moving to see those tough young guys do that.”

The third night, Davis says, the president of the International Pro Rodeo Association, who had felt compelled to attend because of the uniqueness of the event, knelt at the altar.

While the planning and setup is a tremendous amount of work for all departments of the church, Davis says the church’s staff and volunteers have been working hard to make it happen.   

This year, the church will be adding another night to accommodate the crowds. Davis is expecting about 15,000 people to attend, enough to pack the auditorium every night.

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — June 26, 1966

Wernher von Braun (1912-1977), one of Nazi Germany’s leading rocket scientists, became a pioneer in America’s space program following World War II. But it was von Braun’s conversion to Christ that captured the attention of Assemblies of God radio preacher C. M. Ward. Ward interviewed the scientist in 1966, during which von Braun described the relationship between his newfound faith and his lifework in science.

Von Braun’s interest in rocket science had been sparked by a desire to explore space, but he came to regret that his work was being used to cause tremendous destruction of human life. He had developed the V-1 and V-2 rockets, which allowed Germany to pummel Allied targets up to 500 miles away during World War II. The rockets, manufactured by slave labor, indiscriminately killed thousands of people.

Sensing disloyalty, the Gestapo arrested von Braun in 1944 and charged him with espionage. Von Braun’s work was deemed essential to the success of the war effort, so Nazi leader Albert Speer intervened and ordered the release of the scientist. When American soldiers marched into central Germany in May 1945, they found that von Braun had organized the surrender of 500 of his top scientists, along with plans and test vehicles.

Von Braun and his German scientists were relocated to the United States, where they became indispensable to the development of American military and space programs. Von Braun’s life had changed drastically within the course of a year. But it was in a little church in El Paso, Texas, that von Braun experienced a spiritual transformation that would change him from the inside out.

In Germany, von Braun had been nominally Lutheran but functionally atheist. He had no interest in religion or God. In Texas, while living at Fort Bliss, a neighbor invited him to church. He went, expecting to find the religious equivalent of a country club. Instead, he found a small white frame building with a vibrant congregation of people who loved the Lord. He realized that he had been morally adrift and that he needed to surrender himself to God. He converted to Christ and, over the coming years, became quite outspoken in his evangelical faith and frequently addressed the complementarity of faith and science.

C. M. Ward’s 1966 interview of von Braun took place in Huntsville, Alabama, at the George Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA), where he served as director. Von Braun contrasted the large empty cathedrals of Europe to the large numbers of churches he found in Texas, many meeting in temporary buildings, pastored by “humble preachers driving second-hand buses,” who led “thriving congregations.” The German scientist was impressed and noted: “Here is a growing, aggressive church and not a dignified, half-dead institution. Here is spiritual life.”

Ward published von Braun’s story and his thoughts on faith and science in an article in the June 2, 1966, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, as well as in a 15-page booklet, The Farther We Probe into Space, the Greater My Faith (Gospel Publishing House, 1966), of which almost 500,000 copies were published.

Read the article by Lee Shultz, “Revivaltime Speaker C. M. Ward Interviews Dr. Wernher von Braun,” on page 26-27 of the June 26, 1966, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Circuit-riding Chaplain,” by Richard D. Wood

• “I Discovered God in the Manned Spacecraft Center,” by David L. Johnson

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Pictured: C.M. Ward interviews Dr. Wernher von Braun (center) in his office at the Space Center headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, May 9, 1966. Lee Shultz (right) looks on.

Source: AG News

The Old is New

William “Bill” Bjoraker, Assemblies of God U.S. missionary to Jewish people since 1993, is launching a new initiative equipping everyday Christians for Jewish missions. The initiative, which he calls Encountering the Jewish World, uses an informal practical training model, in contrast to a formal degree-granting program.

“Storytelling has a strong tradition in Jewish history,” says Bjoraker, an Intercultural Ministries missionary. “Training believers in the lost art of using Bible stories as an evangelism tool can be a very effective way to share the gospel.”

Based in Pasadena, California, Bjoraker and his wife, Diana, in their early 60s, are enthusiastic about the next phase of their ministry.

“If God gives us health and strength we are not going to retire but use our experiences and gifting to finish what God has called us to accomplish,” Bjoraker says.

The couple’s love for Jewish people was birthed in Tel Aviv, Israel, in the early 1980s when they met volunteering for a Christian hostel. They married and went on to serve in several ministries including Beit Immanuel in Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, a Messianic Jewish congregation. In 1990 they relocated to Los Angeles, seeking to bring the hope of Jesus the Messiah to the more than 500,000 Jewish people living in Los Angeles County. They began evangelizing on weekends with a simple tabletop exhibit providing messianic evangelistic literature on the boardwalk at Venice Beach in Santa Monica.  

In 1998, Bill Bjoraker founded Operation Ezekiel Inc., which conducted outreaches to Israeli émigrés and Hebrew language Bible studies, plus helped plant an Israeli congregation. It now focuses on Jewish people in Greater Los Angeles.

He earned a Master of Arts in Messianic Jewish studies and Leadership Development from the School of Intercultural Studies of Fuller Theological Seminary, plus a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He also has served as a part-time faculty member of William Carey International University in Pasadena and The King’s University, a school founded by Jack Hayford in Dallas.  

Bjoraker notes that 70 percent of the Bible is in story form, and Jesus used parables as His primary teaching model.

“Storytelling is Jewish-friendly,” he says. “Even biblically illiterate Jews know intuitively that the stories of the Hebrew Bible are the stories of their people.”

The veteran missionary hopes to mobilize and inspire Christians who know Jewish people to join a Bible storytelling movement. He wants Messianic Jews to adopt it as a means of replicable ministry as well.

Conversational storytelling can be done on the go, he believes, in coffee shops, and even in airport security lines or waiting for luggage at baggage carousels. Bjoraker’s vision is simple.

He offers 10-hour, two-day, and five-day workshops on the storytelling process. Each includes 30-minute model storytelling sessions. Beginning with prayer, these sessions cover five essential steps: telling the story; retelling it by a volunteer; a lead-through of the story, when all retell it together, responding to the leader’s direction; spiritual observations; and applying the story to everyday life.  

Bjoraker sees the oral word enlivening Scripture.

“Stories do the work of speaking to hearts, rather than trying to convince the defensive rationalist mind,” he says. “They also acknowledge the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit through the power of the word of God and theology is embedded within every biblical story.”

Source: AG News

Assemblies of God in India Celebrates Centennial

In early June, thousands of Indian believers gathered in Chennai to celebrate 100 years of Assemblies of God ministry in their country.

As the Fellowship marked their centennial, they noted the ministry of individuals like Pastor A.C. Samuel, Mark and Hulda Buntain, Pastor Solomon Wasker and David and Beth Grant, and the roles they played in establishing, growing and serving the Assemblies of God in India.

The second largest nation in the world, 80 percent of India’s people claim Hinduism as their religion. But the Assemblies of God has experienced consistent growth and increased acceptance. To honor the centennial celebration, the Indian Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp recognizing the legacy of the India AG.

Looking to the next century, the Assemblies of God India continues to dedicate itself to raising up the next generation as followers of Christ, reported David Mohan, general superintendent of Assemblies of God India. Since their beginning in 1916, AG India has planted over 5,200 recognized churches and 6,000 house churches. They have sent out over 600 missionaries and trained more than 8,000 leaders, including more than 2,500 trained ministers today.

“All over India, the power of God is really moving,” Mohan said. “God is doing a great work, and we are seeing a move of God and revival in this nation. Let us all join together, work together, to train more workers. We must put our hearts together to reach this nation for the glory of God.”

The India AG has established a goal of planting 25,000 new churches by the year 2020.

“Today we continue to see that the Assemblies of God of India is a strong and vibrant part of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship,” said George Wood, general superintendent of the U.S. General Council of the Assemblies of God. “It is with great joy that I express our heartfelt congratulations at your reaching this milestone of 100 years. We look forward to what God has in store for the Assemblies of God in India in the coming years.” 

Assemblies of God World Missions leaders offered their congratulations and encouragement.

“Pastor David Mohan and the India AG have established one of the most effective church planting initiatives in the world,” says Omar Beiler, AGWM Eurasia regional director.

“In this nation of more than a billion people,” adds AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis, “our fellow believers share our commitment to reach, plant, train and serve so all can hear the saving message of Jesus.”

Source: AG News

Marathon Effort Helps Kids Attend Camp

Assemblies of God U.S. Missionary Isaac Olivarez, 37, is the director and founder of Urban Outreach Denver. However, he harbored a hatred — to this day, he vividly remembers his intense, passionate distaste for running. But God took something Olivarez “never ever” desired for himself (running), and made it an answer to prayer.

“I hated running, absolutely hated running,” Olivarez states emphatically, who serves as a Missionary Church Planter and Developer in Denver with his wife, Jaime, and their three children. “But one of our team members at Urban Outreach Denver was a runner and kept inviting me.”

Finally, about four years ago, Olivarez gave in and took a test run. “I couldn’t even run a quarter mile . . . it was awful,” he says. “But I had the sudden realization of how out of shape I was, so even though I hated it, I started running simply to become active again.”

What began as an effort to regain some form of fitness resulted in Olivarez shedding 55 pounds and taking part in area 5K races and “Tough Mudder” obstacle-race events. But even though his hatred for running dissolved, running a marathon wasn’t something on his bucket list.

That is, until God revealed a way to use running to raise awareness about Urban Outreach Denver (UOD) and help kids at the same time . . . perhaps something He had in mind all along!

“Urban Outreach Denver is an inner-city church that is full of drug addicts, the homeless, prostitutes, and hurting and broken people,” Olivarez says. “We run a Thursday night dinner church — community dinners — to feed and minister to a neighborhood called Five Points.”  

Darlene Robison, senior director of Missionary Church Planters and Developers, says the dinners not only bring the neighborhood together as a community, forging relationships as they share a meal together, there’s also a spiritual aspect. “It is clear that this is a spiritual community as well,” she says. “They eagerly worship, pray, and engage Scripture in a way that encourages each person to take the next step in obedience to Christ.”

Olivarez says that he was praying about ways to raise awareness about UOD as well as raise funds to help inner-city and poverty-stricken kids be able to attend the church’s annual summer camp.

The summer camp, Olivarez explains, is far more extensive than a typical VBS program. It runs four weeks and provides kids with breakfast and lunch. “About 95 percent of the kids who attend are African-American kids from the neighborhood,” Olivarez says. “The meals we serve are healthy and replace the meals they may now be missing because they’re out of school for the summer.”

The camp is filled with activities for the kids, including excursions out of the city for horseback riding and other activities. Olivarez says some of the kids have never been outside of the greater city limits. The camp also builds kids’ character and provides a regular and clear presentation of the gospel message. At the end of the camp, which runs June 27-July 22, each child is presented with a backpack filled with school supplies and a kids Bible.

Of course, all of this takes money.

“When it was suggested that I run a marathon to raise awareness and help fund the camp . . . ,” Olivarez says, pausing. “Well, let’s just say that’s what it took for me to even consider running a marathon. So, in January, I started training.”

“One of the things I love about this missionary team is that they invest their lives in children in such a generous way,” Robison says. “They work hard and love deeply, and I believe God is using them to change the future for many families.”

The Colfax Marathon, which is an event that includes numerous race distances, is held annually in Denver, Colorado — this year on May 15. Urban Denver Outreach became a charity partner with the marathon and as a partner, other people could join Olivarez and Urban Denver Outreach and run one of the event races to raise funds for the kids camp.

“I had people who I didn’t even know who signed up to run and raise funds for us,” Olivarez says. “We had a lot of exposure — we had people running the 5K, the 10-mile, the half-marathon, and even a marathon relay team for the camp!” 

Olivarez, however, was the only one on the team who signed up for the marathon.

“In my training, I had followed the program and run up to 20 miles,” Olivarez says. “And on that 20-mile run, I felt great, so I was sure I could do the marathon.”

For many experienced marathon runners, 20 miles is simply known as the first “half” of the 26.2-mile race. The last 6.2 miles (or 10 kilometers) is often just as physically demanding and much more mentally demanding than the first 20 miles. It was a reality first-time-marathoner Olivarez would experience first hand.

“I didn’t hit the wall at 20 miles, but about mile 22 or 23, my legs began hurting really bad — I was hurting really bad,” Olivarez admits. “But then I began thinking of the people I was doing this for, about those who had told me that they couldn’t believe I was running for them . . . I wanted to be able to tell them that I finished for them, that God loves them — they are the ones I thought about those last grueling miles!”

Through his efforts (he finished in 4:07) and the efforts of others, Olivarez says they have raised a little over $5,000 so far, which is about half of the amount needed to fund the camp. “We could still make it to $10,000,” he says with optimism. “Additional churches and supporters are giving to my missionary account for the race, so I’m still hopeful that we’ll reach our goal.”

Following the marathon, Olivarez put together a short PowerPoint presentation, featuring all those who ran for the church and the camp. When he concluded, the church erupted in cheering.

Some may question how anyone can impact someone else for Christ simply by doing something like running. Aside from the money raised for the camp, Olivarez offers this insight: “After the presentation and service that night, one guy, Chuck, was getting ready to leave, when he stopped and became all emotional. He said, ‘Thank you for loving us like you do; it means more than you’ll ever know!’

“But you know,” Olivarez observes, “it’s not what I’m doing for them, it’s what Jesus is doing in them!”

Source: AG News

Transformed Through Trials

When a church grows from a dozen regular attendees to over 200 in just six years, the change is monumental. But when that church is in a town with a population of only 600, it can be transformational for the town itself.

Throw a devastating fire into the mix, and a picture of God’s grace working through a fellowship of believers who are committed to sharing His love with their neighbors is evident.

In 2010, Pastor Amos R. Self and his wife, Melodee, responded to a call to help get what was then called Verndale Assembly of God in Minnesota back on its feet after a time of hardship. A name change to Family Life Church came a year later. The new leadership and new focus helped a healthier congregation begin to emerge, according to Tahna Rurup, who serves as FLC’s communications director.

“Our new name says it all,” Rurup says. “The church really is a family. When someone comes for the first time, they’re greeted like a long-lost relative.”

However, just when it looked as though the church’s ministry had stabilized, faulty wiring installed during an upgrade to the sound system started a fire that burned the 80-year-old building to the ground. Two weeks earlier, the church held a communion service outside and leaders pondered how the building might be expanded because all 90 available seats had been maxed out.

While Family Life Church held services in a school, church leaders began looking for a new building in which to worship. A 28,000-square-foot rafter factory had been empty for five years and looked promising.

“We did a prayer walk around the building for seven days and asked for God’s will,” Self says. “People told us it wouldn’t work, but we voted unanimously to buy it for $220,000!”

With 80 percent of the remodeling work done by volunteers, Self says Family Life Church managed to stretch the insurance settlement so that virtually the entire building was paid for in cash.

“People in the church gave up a lot of evenings and weekends,” Self says.

Family Life Church started to grow numerically while meeting in the school. The increase in attendance has coincided with FLC reaching out to the community in ways such as building a playground in a town park, purchasing flashlights for each firefighter, and donating a stun gun to the police department.

By the time of the July 2013 relaunch, a little over 100 people showed up on an average Sunday.

“Since then, our church has doubled again in regular involvement and attendance,” Self says. He explains that a major factor in the church’s growth has been a shift in focus.

“We intentionally target a younger audience, from ages 18 to 28, and we have more than 50 kids in our children’s ministry,” Self says. He notes that nearly every week someone in a Sunday morning service makes a salvation commitment to Christ.

In March, Family Life Church began operating and staffing the Verndale community food shelf out of its new facility, serving more than 60 families and giving out around 3,650 pounds of food every month.

“The last almost four years has been a crazy amount of work and crazy transformation in the church,” Self says. “People have responded positively. We learned the value of hard teamwork.”

Rurup concurs.

“We have a volunteer base that is absolutely amazing,” Rurup says. “These people are here for the long haul.”

Source: AG News

Senior Fulfillment

An Illinois church’s food pantry ministry is meeting needs outside and inside the congregation, both feeding the hungry and providing a new assignment to a group of retired seniors.

Twice a week, City Temple Assembly of God, pastored by Al and Cindi Langston, opens its doors to distribute food and clothing to Madison County. According to church secretary Lisa Henry, the pantry in Granite City serves between 500 and 600 families a month.

Each family leaves with three or four boxes of food. On the fourth Thursday of each month, families are encouraged to return and participate in the mobile market. Anyone in need may come to the mobile market and leave with another couple of boxes of food.

Historically, Granite City had a thriving steel industry. However, an economic downturn in the 1980s resulted in layoffs and the closure of some industrial plants and commercial businesses. Those tough times continue to impact the community today.

“Even though Granite City is trying to recover and rise above, there are still many financially hurting families,” Henry says.

This reality motivated those at City Temple to take action. Former City Temple Pastor Richard Cope envisioned a food pantry run by the seniors of the church. Vicki Baxter brought the vision to reality in 2009. In 2011, Joe and Valerie Pearman stepped in to lead the pantry’s volunteer efforts.

The pantry is quickly outgrowing its space at the church. Henry, a food ministry volunteer herself, says church leaders hope to eventually have a separate building designed especially for the pantry.           

As many as 40 volunteers, primarily seniors, help throughout the week with various tasks, including collecting food, stocking shelves, greeting visitors, doing paperwork, distributing food, praying for families, and cleaning up.

Some volunteers come in wheelchairs or walkers. Others have various ailments or don’t always feel well. But all share the same passion to show the compassion of Christ to the needy.

Sharon Woodson volunteers with her husband, James, in the kitchen, where they organize produce for distribution. Although James has a heart condition and is on oxygen, he doesn’t let that stop him from serving.

“He can sit down and sort and divide the food up,” Sharon says. “He’d be lost without it.”

Being able to help those who are struggling and see the impact makes the work rewarding, according to volunteer Voyle Rushing.

“If I can do anything to make them smile or maybe forget about their problems for just a little while, I feel like I’ve done my job,” Rushing says.

The Langstons can tell just by looking at the faces of those at the distributions that they are hungry for more than just physical food.

“It is our goal as we reach out into the community to meet spiritual needs with as much love and passion as the physical needs,” Henry says.

Source: AG News