Covering the Missionaries

Growing up under the influence of grandparents Charity and Ruth Harris, who were pioneer missionaries in Tanzania, Jonathan Watson, lead pastor of Bella Vista Assembly of God in Arkansas, dreamed of emulating the life they led on the mission field.

While attending Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, however, he says he received a clear call from God to be a “sender” rather than a “goer.”

Watson and the Bella Vista congregation of around 375 are fulfilling that calling by recently committing to support an additional 13 AG World Missions and 13 AG U.S. Missions missionaries, bringing their total sponsorship to 86 full-time missionaries.

This is in addition to the $5,000 a month already donated by the church to support missionaries and missions organizations.

Although Bella Vista AG previously had been sponsoring 55 of the fully appointed missionaries from the AG Arkansas District, Watson says he sensed the Holy Spirit prompting the congregation to sign on to back the remaining 26. The church’s missions committee endorsed the proposal. 

“I tell my congregation that the natural consequence of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is being a missions resource for the neighbor across the street and all the way around the world,” Watson says. “Whatever you emphasize as a pastor, that’s what people are going to get excited about.”

Watson, who is an Arkansas sectional presbyter, hopes many of the other 400 congregations in the district follow suit.

If 100 pastors committed to supporting missionaries as soon as they became fully appointed at $10 a month, Watson says it could potentially fulfill between a quarter and a third of their missionary budgets. The immediate funding would reduce some of the stress of raising income and speed their work in the field at the start of the itineration process, he says.

Watson says itineration serves as a great recruiting tool. He regularly invites missionaries to visit Sunday School classes and children’s church to talk about their work in the field.

Though his childhood dream remains unfulfilled, Watson says he is content to achieve his pastoral hope of ministering to unreached people groups.

“Giving and missions are a part of the heartbeat of God,” Watson says. “There will be unreached people groups in our world that will have access to the gospel and Jesus Christ because this little congregation has a missional mindset.”

Source: AG News

Missions Construction Team Powered by Women

Maybe it’s the sparkle of her rings, the glimmering of her polished nails, or perhaps the bangles on her wrist, but whatever it is, some people can’t help but express a bit of surprise when 64-year-old Linda Webb, the Potomac Ministry Network Women’s director, is introduced as the lead for a missions construction team!

What’s more, the construction teams Webb leads to multiple sites around the world to build churches and other projects, are made up of all women!

Webb, who pastors with her husband, Don, at Hedgesville (West Virginia) Church (AG), explains that at first, she just joined in the church’s missions teams and helped as she could. Not content to be regulated to “food service” or painting walls, Webb observed, learned, and developed construction skills through her trips, as did other women.

“I’ve learned a lot through the missions trips, from the simple stuff like digging and using a wheelbarrow to how to lay and wire rebar, roof buildings, and construct cinderblock walls,” says Webb, who admits to being a bit on the “foo-foo” (frilly) side and very much a “girly girl” in everyday life.

However, she is quick to credit the construction guys who taught her the craft. “They put things in terms I understood,” she says. “For example, they would tell me to use my trowel like I was icing a cake — that was something I could relate to and it worked!”

Having now led all-women construction teams for the past eight or nine years, Webb and her women have experienced all kinds of receptions. Laughing, she recalls that in the Dominican Republic, people literally lined up to watch them build a security wall around a church.

“They had this stereotype image that American women don’t do any kind of manual labor — that we’re all pampered, movie-star types,” Webb laughs. “We later learned that they were also amazed that we worked together and never fought, instead we seemed to be happy all the time.”

The novelty — and testimony — of working American women who treated each other so well impacted the community to such a point that the townspeople came together and unexpectedly threw the group a party to thank them for their work!

AG Missionary Brad Foltz, who’s on special assignment with Builder’s International, says Webb and her teams of women workers have not only completed a number of projects, but have built a strong reputation in the process.

“They do good work,” Foltz says. “What I’ve noticed in working with them is that although they may have to break some loads up into lighter amounts, they never stop working.”

Webb laughs in agreement. She explains that her groups take full advantage of sunlight (as electricity isn’t always guaranteed), starting at sun-up and concluding at sundown.

 “We typically break for lunch on the worksite — pb&j, chips, water, and Gatorade,” Webb says. “On some of our trips, we’ll also conduct VBS (Vacation Bible School) with the children, do health classes with the women, or teach the women a craft that they can make and sell at the market to help support their families.”

As to the quality of work her teams do, a recent disaster shed some light. Webb says that when a powerful magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Ecuador in April, the epicenter of the quake was very near Bahía de Caráquez, the coastal city her team had constructed a cistern for in 2011. “One of the missionaries called us and said the cistern we had built was one of the very few that made it through the earthquake and still held water.”

Foltz, who is helping to conclude the Honduras 100 Project, where Builders International and U.S. construction teams partner with 100 new Honduran congregations to build a tabernacle, says that Builder’s International has been trying to do away with the stigma of construction teams being “men’s only” groups and show that women can build.

“Linda’s teams have repeatedly shown that construction is not a men’s-only ministry,” Foltz says. “In fact, Linda and her all-woman team have been selected to come build the capstone 100th church for the Honduras 100 Project at the end of this month in the city of Omoa.”

Yet, to add just a twist to the story, Foltz explains that Webb’s husband, Don, had led a team from their church last year to build church 96. And this year, Linda was coming in and staying for two weeks. The first week to build the 100th church in Omoa along the coast; the second week, another women’s team is coming to join Webb in helping build the 101st church in the small, mountain village of Pena Blanca.

Webb admits that some of the women on her team have a long history of missions-trip involvement, with some joining her on every construction trip she’s done over the past decade. But there are “newbies” too, who learn as they go.

“On this trip, there will be women ages 18 to 79 joining us,” Webb says. “College students, teachers, nurses, a pharmacist — women from all walks of life will be joining us. And the 79-year-old, she grew up on a farm . . .  the younger women are ready to stop and she’s saying, ‘Come on, we can finish this tonight!’”

According to Ryan Moore, director of Builders International, there is a certain type of person he believes makes the perfect Builders International team member: “You’re looking for people that have a willingness to serve; it’s that simple. They are people who are interested in serving somewhere around the world, regardless of their skillset — from highly skilled labor to totally unskilled labor — who are willing to work alongside others and serve as needed.”

For Linda Webb and her teams of all-women labor, that definition fits. 

Source: AG News

Appalachian Awakening Endures

A spiritual awakening that has led to an estimated 3,000 conversions and appears poised to last through the summer is creating continuing enthusiasm among Assemblies of God churches in southern West Virginia.

“The past six weeks our Sunday morning services have been more spiritual,” says Terry Blankenship, pastor of Victory Christian Center Church in Lenore. “The move of the Spirit has gone up two or three notches.”

It’s not church as normal, according to Blankenship, who in recent weeks baptized 13 converts, or about 10 percent of Victory Christian’s average Sunday morning attendance.

“Our kids want to be involved in Bible study,” Blankenship says. “It’s been a real change for our whole valley. It’s put me on my toes and brought more unity among churches.”

“Some of our pastors and youth groups have traveled a few hours to get there,” says Adam Pelfrey, director of the AG Appalachian Youth and Christian Education for the AG Appalachian Ministry Network. “This has had some pretty far-reaching results, especially for youth ministries.”

Pentecostal evangelist Matt Hartley of Cleveland, Tennessee, held mid-April services in Mingo County. Since then, the ongoing series of revival meetings has attracted visitors from other states such as Texas, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Florida.

After meetings in Williamson and additional areas of Mingo County, on May 14 the Appalachian Awakening shifted to Logan High School’s football stadium. Casey Doss, lead pastor of The Ramp Church in Hamilton, Alabama, spoke in place of Hartley, who had been preaching at a revival in central Kentucky.

Katie Endicott, the Prayer Club sponsor at Mingo Central Comprehensive High School, says nearly 2,000 people turned out for the event, despite being buffeted by wind, rain, and 40-degree temperatures.

Hundreds of people responded to the Alabama preacher’s invitation to surrender everything to God. Ten people were baptized at the end of the evening in a portable tank.

“It was an ‘all-for-one’ altar call,” says Endicott, who has been a youth pastor in the area for the past decade. He says six people made salvation commitments that night.

Endicott indicates several stadium events are planned for the summer, the first tentatively set for June 18.

“We’re working on discipling kids and getting them plugged in to churches,” Endicott says. “We don’t think this is going to fade at all.”

The awakening resumed the evening of May 15 with Hartley preaching at West Logan Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). Then it moved to the Coalfield Jamboree Theater in Logan for three more nights of meetings.

Endicott says most scheduling of meetings has been on a short-term basis.

“We’re trying to be patient and go with the flow of the Spirit,” Endicott says.

No matter how long the rallies last, Billy Carrico says the gatherings already have made an impact at Bethel Temple Assembly in Nolan, where he is youth pastor.

“I’ve never seen the youth group get so excited,” says Carrico, who recently baptized the latest of six converts at Bethel AG. “They had a relationship with God, but this is making it more real for them. It’s excited the whole church.”

While numerous congregations in the region hold annual revival services, Blankenship says this one is different — and it has moved beyond West Virginia. The night of the rally in Logan, Victory Christian’s youth group had a FaceTime session with a church in Pennsylvania.

“It lit a fire for this church,” Blankenship says. “They wanted us to pray for them. It’s ignited Victory Christian Center. It’s been powerful. It’s like putting gasoline on a fire that’s already burning.”


Photo credit: Charlee Lifestyle Photography

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — May 19, 1945

Minnie Abrams (1859-1912), in many ways, was a typical woman in the American Midwest in the late nineteenth century. However, everything changed when she heeded God’s call to the mission field. Abrams was reared on a farm in rural Minnesota and, in her early twenties, became a schoolteacher. After a few years in the classroom, however, she sensed that God was leading her in a new direction. She attended a Methodist missionary training school in Chicago and, in 1887, set sail for Bombay, India.

In Bombay, Abrams helped to establish a boarding school for the children of church members. Not content to stay within the walls of missionary compound, she learned the Marathi language so that she could engage in personal evangelism. Ultimately, she became a fulltime evangelist and began working with Pandita Ramabai, a leading Christian female social reformer and educator. Abrams worked with Ramabai at her Mukti Mission, a school and home for famine victims and widows.

After hearing news of revival in Australia (1903) and Wales (1904-1905), Abrams, Ramabai, and others began seeking a restoration of the spiritual power they read about in the New Testament. They formed a prayer group, and about 70 girls volunteered to meet daily, study the Bible, and pray for revival. Beginning in 1905, several waves of revival hit the Mukti Mission. The prayer group grew to 500, and many of the girls reported spiritual experiences that seemed to repeat what they found in the Book of Acts. Some prophesied, others received visions, and yet others spoke in tongues. Abrams wrote about the revival, which became the foundation for the Pentecostal movement in India, in the July 1909 issue of the Latter Rain Evangel. Her account was republished in the May 19, 1945, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

According to Abrams, the revival came to India because of deep prayer, consecration, and repentance. During the daily prayer meetings, the girls memorized Scripture, became deeply aware of their own sinfulness, and hungered for righteousness and an outpouring of God’s Spirit.

Abrams recalled, “I cannot tell you how I felt in those days of repentance at Mukti when the Holy Spirit was revealing sin, and God was causing the people to cry out and weep before Him.” The girls who had been touched by revival did not stay put; they fanned out into surrounding villages and brought the gospel to anyone who would listen.

Abrams recounted that revival at the Mukti Mission included not just remorse over sin, but also incredible joy that followed repentance. She wrote that “ripples of laughter flowed” in prayer meetings, that some of the girls began dancing in the back of the room, and that they were filled with a “deeper joy.”

According to Abrams, the early Indian revival provided valuable lessons for Christians everywhere. She also gave a warning to readers that is just as applicable today as it was in 1909: “the people of God are growing cold and there is a worldliness and an unwillingness to hear the truth and to obey it.”

How can we have revival today? Abrams offered the following admonition: “If you want revival you have to pour your life out. That is the only way. That is the way Jesus did. He emptied Himself; He poured out His life; and He Poured out His life’s blood.” Minnie Abrams wrote convincingly and convictingly from experience. She and countless other Pentecostal pioneers followed Christ’s example and poured their lives into serving others and building God’s kingdom.

Read the entire article by Minnie Abrams, “How Pentecost Came to India,” on pages 1 and 5-7 of the May 19, 1945, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Speaking in Tongues,” by Howard Carter

* “The Tarrying Meeting,” by Stanley H. Frodsham

* “An Anniversary Testimony,” by A. H. Argue

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Source: AG News

A Response to the Department of Justice Letter to Schools

On May 13, 2016, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice issued a letter advising schools receiving federal financial assistance of their obligations under a federal law regarding transgender students. The letter addresses restrooms and locker rooms as follows: “A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity. A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-use facilities when other students are not required to do so. A school may, however, make individual-use options available to all students who voluntarily seek additional privacy.”

The directive from the Department of Justice (DOJ), however, does not specify how gender identity is determined. The Bible does. “In the beginning God made male and female.” An individual is either male or female. Even surgical procedure does not alter the gender identity one is born with, although it may alter certain sexual characteristics.

The attitude of Christians toward persons with confused sexual identity issues should be one of compassion, as well as giving the Good News that repentance and forgiveness of sins, and a new life, is available through Jesus Christ, who gives us power to overcome confusion and power to live joyfully with a clear conscience before God.

My encouragement to the Church is that it continue to proclaim by word and deed the Good News that through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus delivers individuals from destructive lifestyles. God loves the self-identified transgender person so much that Jesus died on the Cross for his or her salvation and deliverance.

As both an attorney and a leader in the Assemblies of God, my profound objections to the actions of the DOJ in this matter are both legal and moral. While the DOJ letter does not apply to churches, it has raised various concerns among church leaders. For example, is a church legally required to:

  • Allow persons to use restrooms according to their sexual identity even if different from their gender at birth?
  • Allow transsexuals who have received surgical or hormonal treatments to alter certain sexual characteristics to use restrooms according to their gender identity?
  • Allow persons to stay in hotel rooms on church-organized trips according to their gender identity rather than their gender at birth?
  • Refrain from making employment decisions on the basis of gender identity?

The directive from the federal government regarding restroom and locker room use, as well as the decision by some major retailers to open restrooms to persons who self-identify as transgender, does not protect children, youth, and adults from invasion of their privacy by persons of the opposite sex (as defined by gender at birth). The government and certain retailers, at the behest of radical activists, have attempted to impose a social agenda upon others that is not consistent with concern for children, youth or adults who do not want to share a restroom, showers, or locker facilities with a male who self-identifies as a woman, or a woman who self-identifies as a man, or an individual who may conveniently claim so to gain such access.

This over-reach by the federal government communicates the critical importance of electing individuals to office who will not seek to impose the radical LGBT agenda upon the American people. 

Above all, America needs a great spiritual awakening — and that will require a revived church. In the words once prayed daily in our public schools, may our hearts cry: Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.

Image Source: Department of Justice

Source: AG News

It’s more than a story!

Jesus employed the use of parables in much of His teaching. Stories can be great teaching tools, and Christ’s parables are no exception. But it would be shame if that’s all we consider them to be! They were an continue to be so much more. During the remaining weeks of August and through the end of September we’ll be examining several of Jesus’ parables as what they are, windows into His Kingdom and wisdom for our lives today!


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