Prayers Answered 18 Years into Marriage

Tabitha Shirley received a medical diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome at the age of 19. She underwent an operation to remove a cyst, which also resulted in removal of her right ovary. A doctor told her she would have difficulty bearing children.

The following year, 1993, Tabitha married Curtis Wilson, whom she had met on a blind date during her high school senior year near in Monroe, Louisiana. Years of infertility followed.

A decade into their marriage, Curtis says the Lord spoke to them that he and his wife would have a child. He thought God’s vow would result in an immediate pregnancy, but in the following eight years, the Wilsons endured many Abram and Sarai moments of questioning the Lord. Well-meaning people suggested they undergo fertility treatments or adopt a child. Many friends and relatives uttered heartfelt prayers over them.

“We went through seasons when I would be upset,” Tabitha remembers. “I kept waiting for the promise to happen.”

The day before their 18th wedding anniversary, Tabitha hurt tremendously in her abdomen. She asked Curtis, who is three years older, to pray for her. As he put his hand on her belly, Curtis says he heard the Lord speaking again: “This is My creative process.”

“I got sideways with him,” Tabitha recalls. “What do you mean God’s creative process? I’m in terrible pain.”

In fact, on their anniversary the next day, she went to her doctor to schedule a hysterectomy. She had tired of nearly 20 years of dealing with uncomfortable ovarian cysts. In the ensuing medical checkup, her physician found something else growing inside her: a baby.

Seven months later, in November 2011, Tabitha, at the age of 39, gave birth to a daughter, Rayna. In January 2013, at age 40, she gave birth to a son, Jacob.

Afterwards, during a medical checkup, a doctor discovered that Tabitha had two perfectly functioning ovaries. Curtis figures that intense pain resulted from God’s reforming her right ovary.

“Who knows the Lord’s timeline?” Curtis asks.

Today, 6-year-old Rayna and 5-year-old Jacob are healthy — and energetic — kids. And Tabitha has no more cysts or agony.

A CHILD TO MENTOR

The Wilsons for 18 years have been godparents to Racheal Rhoades, who, with her single mother, lived with them through first grade.

“My godmother began babysitting me at six weeks,” recalls Rhoades, now a high school senior in Farmerville, Louisiana. “It ended up being long term — 18 years.”

Rhoades considers the Wilsons like a mom, dad, sister, and brother to her. She never met her biological father.

“They’re very special to me,” Rhoades says. “My life would be so different without them. Curtis is my father figure.”

In fact, as a preschooler, Rhoades accepted Jesus as her Savior while Curtis read a book to her. Even during high school, Rhoades says Curtis and Tabitha have continued to guide her on everything from how to study to how to deal with boys.

“They gave me the attention I needed as a child,” Rhoades says. “They helped raise me in a Christ-centered childhood.”

Rhoades living with the Wilsons for years also helped Tabitha overcome thoughts that God didn’t want her to have children.

“I saw Racheal as a provision from the Lord, and loved and cared for her as if she was ours,” Tabitha says. “This part of the process brought a lot of healing.”

HELPING RURAL AREAS

For the past five years, Curtis has worked with Rural Compassion. Wilson oversees a 10,000-square-foot Convoy of Hope warehouse in Delhi, Louisiana, which serves impoverished rural areas of the Mississippi Delta. In small communities of western Mississippi, northeast Louisiana, and southeast Arkansas, Wilson works with Convoy short-term mission teams, disaster response services, agricultural community gardens, and one-day outreaches.

As part of a three- to five-year plan, Wilson, who is a U.S. Missions missionary associate with Missionary Church Planters & Developers, seeks to gather a coalition of pastors in a town to strategize how to reach the non-Christians there.

“We do not network apart from the Church,” says Wilson, a credentialed Assemblies of God minister. “We want to empower local churches to be able to reach out to the community by putting their resources together. We work with the local churches to make partnerships with businesses and government officials.”

Wilson’s nonprofit, Common Denominator Ministries, supplies much of the funding. Farmerville First Assembly, which the Wilsons attend, also provide substantial contributions for the effort.

Source: AG News

Brazil Assemblies of God Elects New General Superintendent

Rev. José Wellington Costa Jr. was elected general superintendent of the General Convention of the Assemblies of God in Brazil in April 2017, and ratified in August 2017.

Wellington, 64, is the oldest child of former general superintendent Rev. José Wellington Bezerra da Costa and Wanda Freire Costa. He worked in the technological field for 16 years before dedicating himself to full-time ministry. He and his wife, Lídia Dantas Costa, have three grown children.

Wellington was ordained on May 7, 1984, and began pastoring churches in the Bethlehem Section of São Paulo. In 1991, he became lead pastor of the Bethlehem Section in the neighboring city of Guarulhos and has held that position for 26 years. He served on the Commission for Religious Education and Culture of the Brazilian Assemblies of God from 1990-1993, and as chairman of the Board of Administration for the Gospel Publishing House of the Brazilian AG for 14 years.

As the new general superintendent, Wellington’s vision for the General Convention and the future of the church in Brazil is for evangelization, material and spiritual assistance to the needy, and more churches built throughout the country with an emphasis on the preaching of the Word and social involvement.

The Brazilian AG is a storehouse of missionaries, and has sent them to a number of countries around the world, says Terry Johnson, a U.S. AG missionary to Brazil. Missions runs in the blood of Brazilian believers and one of the future goals is to expand the training of missionaries throughout the country. Wellington is working to schedule national seminars for the teaching of God’s Word.

In his acceptance speech, Wellington expressed his commitment to maintain the principles he believes have made the Assemblies of God Brazil’s largest evangelical denomination. He emphasized the need to maintain a Pentecostal identity and to preserve Assemblies of God doctrine and practice.

Image: Sao Paulo, Brazil by Francisco Anzola (Flickr: Sao Paulo Skyline) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

Source: AG News

A Quilting Legacy

Amie Williams’ earliest memories with her grandmother Helen Jansen are of sewing. They would make outfits or knit hats and gloves to send to missionaries around the world. As Williams grew older, Jansen introduced her to quilting, with each quilt going to an Assemblies of God U.S. or world missionary.

Each year Jansen, who attended First Assembly in Knoxville, Iowa, made between 15 and 30 quilts. Even when diagnosed with cancer, she continued her work, sending a dozen quilts for Christmas four months before she died in March 2016 at the age of 84.

“She was amazing,” says Williams, who lives in North Canton, Ohio. “Sewing and quilting were her ministry. She committed her whole life to missions and providing what she could.”

In 2013, when Jansen was diagnosed with cancer, Williams began asking more detailed questions about her grandmother’s quilting. The more Williams learned about her grandmother’s heart for that ministry, the more it sparked in Williams the desire to pick up her grandmother’s mantle.

“I wanted to do something to carry on what Grandma did,” says Williams, 41.

With the family’s blessing, Williams collected her grandmother’s quilting loom and transported it to Ohio. Standing 15 feet long and 4½ feet wide — and all in one component — it took a great deal of care to move to its new home 700 miles east. But Williams felt it essential for her to work on that machine.

She knew she couldn’t keep up with her grandmother’s workload, especially with two young children at home and with the expense. Initially she decided to focus on providing for one missionary’s ministry. She chose the one dearest to Jansen’s heart: the Menominee Indian reservation in Keshena, Wisconsin.

In 2016 Williams’ mother, Debbie Jansen, contacted Mike Eldridge, the AG U.S. missionary at the reservation, and asked how many quilts he needed.

“To continue to help them is not only an honor to Helen, but important to missionaries as a whole,” says Helen’s daughter-in-law Debbie Jansen, who figures Helen’s qulits, clothes, and other items are in virtually every nation in the world. “When missionaries lose someone like Helen to heaven, they’ve not only lost a friend, they’ve lost support for their work.”

Mike Eldridge, an Intercultural Ministries missionary, was glad to receive that call.

“For years Helen sent quilts for Christmas,” he says. “When she died, everyone here was sad and asked, ‘Who’s going to do this for us this year?’ But I didn’t know.” He says those quilts mean a great deal to Native people because of the bitter cold weather and limited resources. “Our people were thrilled when a box arrived last Christmas filled with five quilts.”

This year, with help from her mother and from her Facebook donations page, Williams plans to ship seven more in time for Christmas. That’s no easy task, considering each quilt, depending on the complexity and detail, takes Williams anywhere between 16 to 120 hours.

“Grandma was much faster,” Williams says. “She could whip one out pretty quick. I’m not that good yet.”

Source: AG News

Building a City to Share the Savior

Next to Beach Assembly of God in Ocean Isle, North Carolina, sits a grassy, relatively non-descript 12-acre empty lot. But once a year, for two to three months, the lot is laboriously transformed by the church into a 15,000-square-foot interactive and immersive Christmas production that leaves visitors feeling like they have been transported back to the time of Christ!

Since 2007, the Bethlehem Live production has been filling people’s hearts with awe and wonder while many also find tears filling their eyes and flowing down their cheeks. Carmen Chase, 43, is the church’s creative arts pastor. She has been directing the event since 2014.

“We spend up to two months building a city that takes people on an immersive experience through Jesus’ life, from His birth to His death and resurrection,” Chase explains. “We have a cast and crew of 160 people participating each night, with 120 of them in costume.” The program, which regularly has all 6,000 available tickets claimed well in advance, begins with an indoor 30-minute comedic, audience-participation gameshow followed by the outdoor Bethlehem Live production.

What makes the free, 45-minute, walk-through experience unique is that the audience is ushered into the sites of significant happenings in Christ’s life — in a setting designed to make them feel as if they were really there.

Two widowed innkeepers and a niece, who requires the use of a crutch, appear on a platform in every scene, maintaining a conversation with each other about what they’re observing and what it all might mean. Their conversations help set the two-millennia-old scenes, with the realism aided by live animals and costumed cast members interacting with each other and people in the crowd.

The audience experiences scenes such as the magi entourage in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem marketplace, King Herod’s court, the Nativity stable, Jesus’ crucifixion, and His resurrection.

“But one of the most impactful experiences is when Jesus appears and walks into the audience, greeting people, touching them on the shoulders, and starts healing people (cast members) in the crowd.”

This interaction with Jesus, was so impacting and garnered so much positive response the first week of the production (Nov. 24-26), that the following weekend, Chase extended the time Jesus was able to interact with the audience.

“Over and over again, people told me that even though they knew it was an actor playing the part of Jesus, it was as if He was really there,” Chase says. “I believe the immersive staging and the actor helped bring the reality of Christ home to people.”

Karen Nickel, who visited the production for the first time this year, agrees. “I was so spiritually moved. I felt as if I was there in that time,” she said in a post on the production’s Facebook page. “I cried when I seen (sic) Jesus coming through the crowd healing the people . . .”

Chase also has a deeply personal reason for people to witness what it was (and is) like to witness Jesus healing people. Her father, an AG minister for 37 years, passed away in January due to cancer. “In one of our final moments together, he said, ‘Make sure people know that God is a healer, even if God doesn’t heal me.’”

Although the production is open to all ages, prior to the crucifixion scene, where the actor is in a lacerated body suit and lifted up on a cross, children are offered an alternative activity time — a time with Jesus.

As adults continue with the program, the Jesus actor hosts children in a side area where they have a Q&A time with Jesus and can have pictures taken with him. As the actor departs to rejoin the program, children hear a story, are given a craft to do, and each one is presented an age-appropriate gift.

“One little boy raised his hand and asked Jesus, ‘How is my sister doing in heaven?’” Chase recalls. “The actor handled that question so well. He told him, ‘She is great. Heaven is a beautiful place.’ That moment meant the world to that little boy.”

The program scenes continue on through Christ’s resurrection, but it doesn’t end there. Instead, Senior Pastor John Chase concludes the time by sharing Scripture and personal stories about how Jesus has impacted his life. He then prays over the audience before dismissing them to either ask a cast member to pray with them or just to meet and talk with them.

What some may find surprising is that Beach AG is not a mega-church — it’s attendance averages a healthy 280. However, a production of this magnitude with church members being the cast means a strong percentage of the church is directly involved in seeing the production come to life.

Chase says that Beach AG is also blessed that the Brunswick Christian Recovery Center for men call the church its home, as the men are hugely instrumental in making the program a success — from helping to set things up to playing the parts of townspeople and Roman soldiers.

“We want the men going through the recovery program to understand that they are still a valuable piece of the family of God, regardless of their background,” Chase says. “In fact, both of the actors now playing the role of Jesus came through the recovery program.”

The cast and crew do three 45-minute performances back-to-back on consecutive three-day weekends. Chase, who also performs a song in the program, says Bethlehem Live has had a significant impact upon people’s lives as well as the church itself. Today, many of the church’s core leaders and members originally started attending Beach AG because of the production.

The accolades for Bethlehem Live are countless, but perhaps it was a portion of the post left by guest Jeannie Bailey that best communicates the purpose and impact of Bethlehem Live. She wrote: “. . . I felt completely filled with the spirit of God throughout the entire event . . .”

Source: AG News

The Onetime Foster Baby Who Gives Back

HOT SPRINGS, Arkansas — Tamara Joy Nelson started life in the care of COMPACT Family Services. Thirty-seven years later, she’s still there, caring for others. 

Tammy had an ignominious beginning. Her biological father raped her birth mother, nearly killing the woman in the process. Tammy’s birth mother later wandered into an Assemblies of God church, seeking money for an abortion. She didn’t obtain the funds, or the abortion. Instead, in the ninth month of pregnancy, she wound up at Highlands Maternity Home, then in Kansas City, Missouri. She wanted nothing to do with the baby.

AG pastors Richard and Janet Roe served as volunteer foster parents for Highland babies. Caseworkers knew they could call the couple, who would keep an infant for a few months before adoptive parents legally took custody of the baby. In February 1980, Tammy became the 18th baby the Roes brought home in 5 years. At the time, they also had two biological children, Ricky, 11, and Taryn, 9.

“We looked at our foster babies as ones that Jesus would take in,” says Richard, now 71. “Once we had Tammy for 6 months, we couldn’t think of her leaving. Her blue eyes melted my heart.”

“We believe we see the face of God when we look into a child’s face,” Janet says.

Although Tammy’s biological father went to prison for the rape that resulted in her birth, he refused to relinquish parental rights. Legal proceedings dragged out for months, and then years, before courts terminated his custody chances. Then the Roes adopted Tammy.

“I literally belonged to the Assemblies of God until age 4,” Tammy says.

After her adoption, Tammy went on to have 68 temporary brothers and sisters in the Roe home. As with many adopted kids, Tammy struggled with emotional outbursts and tantrums into her teenage years.

“Nobody wants to be given up,” she says.

Even so, Tammy from a young age sensed a ministry calling. She enrolled in Southwestern Assemblies of God University. But at 18 she got pregnant. She and her boyfriend, Lance, (whom she would later marry) left after violating the school’s standards of conduct.

Lance later re-enrolled, graduated, and secured AG ministerial ordination. They spent 14 years pastoring churches in Oklahoma. Tammy worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery, as well as in a psychiatric hospital.

In 2015, COMPACT, now located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, hired the Nelsons. Lance is a foster care specialist for Hillcrest Children’s Home and Tammy, a registered nurse, is health services manager.

The Nelsons believe they are better able to give attention to their sons now compared to their pastoring days. Logan, 17, had been suspended from school at 14 for smoking marijuana. He turned his life around after staying in a Teen Challenge center for 6 months. Chance is 15 and active on the COMPACT campus, where he has befriended many.

Lance’s history with Hillcrest goes back nearly as long as his wife’s. At age 6, some children from the home sang at the AG church his parents attended in Woodward, Oklahoma.

“My mom told me these kids don’t have moms and dads,” recalls Lance, 38. “I wept.”

That day, Lance’s pastor bought him a plastic mug emblazoned with a Hillcrest insignia. He has the container in his office today.

The animated Tammy is the only one of the 49 COMPACT employees who interacts with every residential child on campus. She does a full medical assessment upon their arrival, and manages prescription drug care and medical emergencies thereafter.

“We want to get them medically stable,” Tammy says. “A child in physical pain can’t move forward with spiritual healing.”

Her office is the first stop when children suddenly ripped from a home environment wander in with a trash bag of their most treasured belongings. Eventually, kids who interact with Tammy learn about her past.

“Nothing I can say will make it better immediately,” Tammy says. “I listen to their story, and they open up about the scars on their body. Every scar tells a story.”

Tammy shares with the foster child how she came under control of COMPACT Family Services as a baby. She explains how she found a forever family at this place.

“I try to calm the kids’ fears,” says Tammy, now married for 18 years. “They don’t know grace when they arrive.”

Although they no longer care for babies, Richard and Janet Roe for the past quarter century have been full-time caregivers for Booth, whom they started raising at 2 months old. Booth suffered profound brain damage while shaken as a baby, and the Roes adopted him because they didn’t want him to be institutionalized. After pastoring for 8 years, Richard became a high school special education teacher.

The Roes moved to Hot Springs in 2016 to be near their daughters Taryn and Tammy. Taryn Cicero works as a secretary at COMPACT Family Services.

“We are so proud of Tammy,” Richard says. “She has accomplished so much in her life.”

Source: AG News

An Epic Opportunity

When EPIC Church in Independence, Missouri, began looking for more space for services and a way to boost its community impact, leaders didn’t have to look far. The opportunity proved to be right next door.

Last summer, the church began negotiations to purchase and operate EPIC Sports Lodge, a 70,000-square-foot indoor sports facility located beside its campus. It’s a move that provides a unique outreach opportunity for the church, as well as a future home for its growing Sunday morning services.

“People look at it and say, Wow, I’m not used to a church that’s doing that‚’’ says Lead Pastor Bobby Hawk, 37, who planted the church in 2009. The church also runs a coffee shop and daycare out of its main facilities.

Hawk says the idea started with the need for more space. EPIC Church holds three services each week, with a total attendance of around 400. As the congregation increased, Hawk says church staff didn’t want to build a new auditorium that would only be utilized for a few hours each week.

That prompted discussions with Jeff Wilke, owner of the next-door facility. Wilke attends a nearby Assemblies of God church, Crown Pointe Church in Lee’s Summit. The church is now in the process of purchasing the $5 million building, being managed under the name EPIC Sports Lodge. The church hopes to have full ownership within four years.

“It wouldn’t be everybody’s niche, but God knew that sports was a big part of our hearts, and He opened up the door,’’ Hawk says.

The lodge has two full indoor soccer fields, two basketball courts, a fitness center, and a practice field. It attracts local youth for open play hours every day, and serves as a home for soccer and basketball leagues on weeknights, as well as sporting tournaments and other events on weekends. The lodge charges $5 for general admission.

“It’s a ministry opportunity,’’ says Executive Pastor Matt A. Rutledge, 34. “We think the church should not only look like the community it’s in, but it should be involved in it.’’

Each Thursday, the church dedicates all proceeds to suicide prevention programs in the local school district. The church also runs a coffee shop at the venue, and donates that revenue to local charities. EPIC Church’s pastoral staff and local youth groups frequent the lodge, building relationships with those who come through the doors.

Feedback has been generally positive, Hawk says. Plans are afoot to incorporate sports ministries and outdoor activities. 

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — December 16, 1973<br />

British Pentecostal leader and theologian Percy Brewster, in a 1973 Pentecostal Evangel article, identified nine trends facing Pentecostals. While some of these trends were the natural result of the movement’s growth and maturation, others he ascertained as “extremely dangerous” or even Satanic in origin.

When Brewster wrote the article, there were only about 20 to 30 million Pentecostals worldwide. Over the past 44 years, that number has burgeoned to between 350 million and 700 million, depending upon how one defines Pentecostal. Today, Pentecostals would do well to heed Brewster’s advice to carefully reflect about the nine trends, which continue in many Pentecostal circles.

The first trend identified by Brewster is that Pentecostals have become “too sensitive to public opinion.” He encouraged believers to be more like early 20th century Pentecostals, who seemed “immune to criticism.” Rather than adapting to the world’s values, he asserted that Pentecostals should make the Bible their “blueprint for living,” seeking to please God in all they do.

The second trend is that some “accept the heritage of the past without a corresponding personal dedication.” This includes people who were reared in Pentecostal churches and who identify with the Pentecostal tradition, but whose spiritual life is far from where it should be. They have a form of godliness, but not the substance.

The third trend is a weakening in the area of evangelism. Brewster warned that a church which places a low priority on evangelism is committing “spiritual suicide.”

The fourth trend is to spend large amounts of money to build extravagant churches, rather than investing the money in evangelism and missions.

The fifth trend is the tendency to get caught up in the busyness of church work and committees, while neglecting the needs of spiritually hungry souls. Brewster encouraged readers to prioritize evangelism and discipleship.

The sixth trend, according to Brewster, “is an unhealthy move to segregate the young and the old.” In many churches, he witnessed that “the young people are taking over, and sometimes 90 percent of the church energy is expended on the young.” He refuted this as unbiblical, noting that “the older people need the zeal and energy of the young, and the young need the balance of the older people’s wisdom and maturity.”

The seventh trend is an overemphasis on demon power. Brewster cautioned against attributing every problem to demons, which gives undue recognition to the devil, who is “already a defeated foe.”

The eighth trend, and one of the most serious in Brewster’s estimation, is the tendency to tolerate and excuse sin. Pentecostals must clearly and resolutely proclaim truth, rather than shifting their opinions to accommodate human weakness.

The ninth trend, which Brewster also identified as very dangerous, is to think that education can be a substitute for the call of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

How should Pentecostals react to these trends? According to Brewster, theology trumps sociology — Pentecostals should continue to proclaim biblical truth regardless of trends. However, he encouraged them to “contend for the faith without being contentious.” 

When Brewster wrote the article in 1973, the charismatic movement was gaining strength in mainline Protestant and Catholic churches. This context helped shape many of the trends that Brewster identified. Many of the new charismatics either stayed in their old denominations or challenged traditional holiness standards if they joined Pentecostal churches. Instead of retreating or compromising in the face of these challenging trends, Brewster encouraged Pentecostals to continue to evangelize at home and abroad, and to fellowship with all who “recognized the Lordship of Jesus Christ” and who sought the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Read Percy Brewster’s article, “A Look at the Worldwide Pentecostal Movement,” on pages 9 to 11 of the Dec.16, 1973, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Anointed to Preach,” by Thomas F. Zimmerman

* “The Birth of a Church,” by David Leatherberry

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 Lifetime of Building Up

Stan and Julie Wagner spent most of their ministry career pastoring small, struggling Assemblies of God churches, receiving little or even no pay. They toiled in Northern California towns such as Lewiston, Berry Creek, Weaverville, Hayfork, Loomis, and Stirling City, each with under 7,000 inhabitants. In some locales, no other church existed.

The Wagners arrived, typically encountering a literal handful of congregants remaining from a divisive situation. Habitually, they built the congregation up to health again and moved on.

“We just went where we felt God wanted us to go,” Julie says. “We didn’t realize until we looked back that every church we took was a troubled church.”

However, this isn’t a story about how a now-retired pastor couple, married for 58 years, are coping with poverty. Stan and Julie Wagner are both 80, but they aren’t retired. They still travel four times a year to foreign lands overseeing Northern California-Nevada District short-term missions teams on building projects connected with Assemblies of God World Missions.

Their journey is one of God’s miraculous provision in the midst of obedience.

Stan came from a dysfunctional home, and accepted Jesus as Savior at 17 at Bethel Church in Modesto. Stan met Julie at Bethany College in Scotts Valley, and they wed before their junior year. Straight out of school, Stan began pastoring the AG church in Lewiston, which had 15 attendees.

The assignments didn’t get any easier. For instance, in Hayfork, Stan stepped in after a pastor had been killed in a logging accident. And the church had burned down.

The couple stayed the longest, 17 years, in Loyalton, a mountainous logging community of 1,000 residents at the time. They arrived at the church when only five senior citizens and a teenager attended.

“That first year we couldn’t see results no matter what we tried,” Stan remembers. “We couldn’t find anyone open to the Lord.”

Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Stan at every service thanked God for hunger that He would put in the hearts of local residents. Gradually, people who never had shown an interest in spirituality began attending church services and home Bible studies. Within three years, 100 people came every week to services.

“People around town kept talking about what the Lord was doing in their lives,” Stan recalls. “Everybody just wanted to stay at church and talk and pray and share testimonies.”

ROOM FOR MORE

After they had three biological children of their own, the Wagners in a 14-month stretch added four additional kids. First came a brother and sister toddlers who needed a temporary residence because of a rough home life. Then Julie gave birth to twin girls. Although never legally adopted, those “temporary” youngsters stayed until adulthood. The Wagners later took in another young teenage sibling pair, bringing the number of children in the home to nine.

Although the four temporary children all ended up staying for years, the Wagners never received any remuneration because the state social services didn’t get involved.

“Even when we pastored churches with little income, we believed God would provide for us if I worked for Him full time,” Stan says. “God is a fair boss if you put in enough hours.” Consequently, Stan never sought a second job to supplement his income.

Oldest daughter Laurel R. Harvey, now 57, says the family experienced multiple miracles of provision during her formative years.

“I never knew how little we had until I grew up,” says Harvey, who now works for the Springfield, Missouri-based Convoy of Hope initiative Rural Compassion. Harvey, who is one of 14 immediate family members involved in ministry, says her parents gave out of their poverty, and instilled a missions mindset in their children. She remembers making a $1 monthly faith promise pledge as a child.

“When we needed food, somehow groceries would just show up,” Harvey says. “We had lived in the valley and when we first arrived in Loyalton we needed winter clothing. A lady gave us nice new coats, hats, and mittens. The Lord always provided for us as a family.”

Deanna Green Harbison, 46, went to live with the Wagners with her brother, Davy, before she started 9th grade. She had to adjust moving to a tiny California mountain community from a midsize city in Nevada, as well as to a full household from an environment where her single mom rarely saw them because she worked two jobs.

“At first it was a culture shock, but then I realized it was better than before,” says Harbison, now a funeral director in Springfield, Oregon. “I felt love in a cohesive, connected family. We were extremely blessed that they chose us.”

Harbison says the nurturing she received from her surrogate parents and siblings proved transformational.

“If not for the love of Mom and Dad Wagner, and the family in general, I wonder if I would have had the strength to persevere,” Harbison says.

THE MIRACLES CONTINUE

During their last pastoring assignment in Berry Creek, the Wagners began taking summer mission trips to assist their son David on AGWM building projects. In their 60s, the Wagners decided they wanted to do such outreaches full time. They retired from pastoring in 2000. But they had no place to live, nor any savings to buy a home.

Even so, just two hours after receiving a letter from the Northern California-Nevada District that they had been appointed district coordinators for AGWM teams, Stan received a phone call from a retired minister who attended Capital Christian Center in Sacramento. He offered to give them a triple-wide manufactured home in a gated community as their home base.

“We didn’t know where we were going to live,” Stan says. “He wouldn’t let us pay a penny.”

Overall, the Wagners have been in foreign lands more than 190 times after recruiting teams from around the U.S. The missions trips usually last 10 days to two weeks. Often they have been to assist son David, including 18 journeys to Fiji to construct a Bible school.

“We continue taking trips until a project is done,” Julie says.

David felt called to missions at 16. After being inspired by a Missions Abroad Placement Service trip, he spent a decade building churches and schools in Latin America. Starting in 2001, as founder and director of Builders International, David and his wife, Lali, led missionary builder teams around the world.

Five years ago, Stan and David formed a district-affiliated nonprofit, SeedOne Foundation, that has raised over $3 million for projects. David died on Oct. 3 at the age of 55, but the ministry will continue under his sacrificial parents and SeedOne team members.

“The Heavenly Father broke the mold when they were made,” Harbison says. “They are the equivalent of saints on earth.”

Source: AG News

A Marathon Miracle and More

When Pastor Josh Clark crossed the finish line at the New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 5, and shot his arms into the air, it marked not only a personal victory for the 34-year-old minister, but a victory for his church, for his community, and for God.

. . . for Pastor Josh Clark shouldn’t have been running the marathon — instead, doctors say he should be dead or, at best, incapable of any kind of sustained movement.

Two years earlier, Nov. 14, 2015, Generation Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, was hosting a Saturday night community worship service. As host pastor, Clark was preparing to conclude the service with an altar call.

He asked the congregation to bow their heads. At that moment, those who were slow to bow saw Clark collapse and tumble down a five-foot flight of cement stairs and strike the cement floor below.

At first, some of the Pentecostals in the audience considered the possibility of a supernatural encounter, but that was far from the truth. Unknown to anyone but God at the time, Clark had suffered a brain aneurysm as a vein had ruptured in his head and blood began hemorrhaging, one strong heart beat at a time, into his brain.

When Clark came to, he was being lifted onto a stretcher. Having no memory of what took place or how long he was out, he was upset by the sudden presence of the EMTs. Then he had frightening realization — he was paralyzed from the neck down.

Amber, Josh’s wife, had been preparing their 18-month-old baby to head home from the church service when someone hurriedly came to tell her Josh had collapsed.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Amber says. “At first, I felt fear — what in the world had just happened, because he was healthy. It was scary.”

During and following the more than one-half dozen 9-1-1 calls emanating from the building, prayer began. Then the supernatural started to become evident.

As a medical doctor, who was a part of the worship team, knelt beside Josh, he told Amber that he thought Josh was trying to say something, but he couldn’t make it out.

“He was completely paralyzed and unconscious,” Amber says, “but when I leaned down to listen, I suddenly realized that he was praying in the Holy Spirit [tongues] — the Spirit was praying on his behalf!”

Josh reflects on that divine moment in time with an even greater appreciation for tongues and the power of the Holy Spirit.

“When my brain was shut down, the Holy Spirit was still interceding through me when I couldn’t pray for myself — it’s one of the things that really amazes me!” Josh says.

For Amber, the moment she heard Josh speaking in tongues, a peace flooded her soul. She knew Josh was going to be okay.

However, while prayer continued at the church, with people reaching out to others across the country to pray, the doctors who first examined Josh at the local hospital weren’t so sure what was going on. Initially, they offered the opinion that perhaps Josh had the flu. But when Amber told them about the fall down the stairs, a CT scan was ordered, where the rupture was identified. Soon afterward, Josh was sent by helicopter to UNC Chapel Hill medical center.

A pair of miracles that could be overlooked in this early part of Josh’s journey is that he did not break any bones, lacerate any internal organs, or suffer additional head trauma from the fall down the cement stairs to the cement floor. The second miracle was, had Josh not fallen down the stairs, a CT scan may have never been ordered and the rupture never identified.

A more obvious miracle also occurred sometime during Josh’s transportation to the hospital. The rupture, on its own, had stopped bleeding. As the pressure of the additional blood in the brain began to ease, the paralysis disappeared.

Josh would be in ICU for 10 days. His doctors put a platinum metal coil in where the stroke had occurred to help insure that it wouldn’t rupture again. Then they let him know just how blessed he was.

“They told me that 50 percent of people who suffer this kind of stroke don’t make it to the hospital,” Josh says. “Of those who do make it to the hospital, 50 percent die within two weeks. Then only 5 percent of those who do survive leave the hospital without any lifelong disabilities. Obviously, my chances were extremely low, but we know the real story — it’s God!”

Josh was also extremely thankful for the unexpected visit of (now retired) District Superintendent Charles Kelly and his wife, Eloise, his first morning at UNC Chapel Hill. “I’m not even sure how they found out I was even there,” he says. “But it meant so much to me for them to visit and pray with me.”

It was three months before Josh returned to the pulpit, but the church didn’t miss a beat as Amber, who normally serves as the children’s pastor, stepped in.

Even though the stroke did not cause any loss of physical abilities and Josh’s memory and verbal skills were still in tack, he did experience an emotional change that proved to be challenging.

From a very even-keeled, emotionally steady personality, Josh suddenly found his emotions pushing the extremes — from tears to anger over things that prior to the stroke, wouldn’t have phased him.

“Amber,” says Josh with a long pause, “I wouldn’t be able to do it without her — she’s a saint. She is with me when I’m at my worst, but she’s been a constant supporter and encourager, a prayer warrior, and God has given her a gift of putting me in my place when I truly need it.”

In order to help him level his emotions, his doctor recommended that Josh start walking, as exercise is known to be an anxiety and stress reducer.

The walking was okay, but over time, Josh realized he needed a significant goal to keep himself motivated to exercise. Josh went big — real big! So, with permission from his doctor, in February, Josh signed up for the New York City Marathon, despite not being a runner.

After nine months of dedicated training, that began with a half-mile jog (as that was as far as he could run), Josh crossed the finish line as a living miracle.

“My first thought was, Thank you, Jesus!” Josh says, then adds with a laugh, “My second thought was, Where is the closest pizza place?

Although crossing the finish line was a huge accomplishment, Josh’s favorite part of the race came at Mile 8, where a Baptist church had its choir and band singing and playing praise and worship music.

“It was such an encouragement to me. It was my fastest mile,” Josh says. “It also caused me to reflect — my job as a pastor should be the same; give people the atmosphere to encounter God so that He can give them the energy to run their race.”

With multiple churches from the community at the worship service when Josh first suffered the aneurysm, both Josh and Amber agree that God has used this experience to take their and others’ faith to a new level. They’ve also witnessed a new excitement for miracles in the church, open doors to share Christ with others, and people brought to faith in Christ through this entire journey.

As for the future, Josh and Amber are set on allowing God to direct it, including what seems to be a confirmation to continue running. When Josh did a search for nearby half-marathon races, the one he found (and has now signed up for) begins about 100 yards from his home’s front door.

“This has been a victory for all of us — for our church and the churches in the community,” Josh says. “I’m here because they prayed — I’m the result of their interceding.”

Source: AG News

Adopt a Campus

Joe Barrale wonders how Christians can ignore the campus in their own backyard.

“Jesus asked us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers,” says Barrale, 55. “I am asking churches to honor Jesus’ request! We need more laborers on the mission field of the modern college campus!”

Joe and Heidi Barrale followed a winding road to campus ministry. They lived in Germany as Assemblies of God world missionaries and later moved to Austria to reach students at the University of Vienna. Before their missions experience, Barrale pastored in Pennsylvania and the couple worked in everything from prison ministry to children’s church and summer camps.

By 2007, the Barrales had returned to the United States for a two-year teaching assignment as missionaries-in-residence at the University of Valley Forge. While there, the AG’s Penn-Del Ministry Network asked the couple to consider working in campus ministry. They transferred to U.S. Missions and serve as U.S. missionaries assigned to Chi Alpha.

Heidi also is now on staff at Parkview Assembly of God in Newark, Delaware, and has worked in campus ministry at the University of Delaware since 2015. Her master’s thesis research helped them better understand what college students thought about church. Those insights, along with their previous experience, helped to form the foundation for what is now Adopt-A-Campus.

Joe’s book, Adopt-A-Campus: The Book, encourages congregations to initiate prayer and outreach to local colleges and universities. The book focuses on seeing the enormous potential of this generation of students — including over one million international students in the United States to study.

Barrale notes rising incidents of drug and alcohol abuse, attempted suicide, and sexual assault on college campuses. The Barrales believe the crucial vehicle for change is involvement of the local church.

 “The significance of having our Assemblies of God churches commit to deliberately intercede for university students cannot be underestimated,” says E. Scott Martin, senior director of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries U. S. A. “The impact of local churches assuming spiritual responsibility for universities in their local areas will open the door to the calling of Chi Alpha missionaries to those campuses to pioneer a Chi Alpha ministry.”

The Barrales’ work is bearing fruit. At this point, Barrale says 67 churches have adopted 89 schools in four states. York First Assembly of God in Pennsylvania is one of those churches. York First adopted the campus at central Pennsylvania’s Harrisburg Area Community College a year ago. Professor Pat Wolff, co-adviser for HACC’s LIGHT Christian Fellowship Club, says that the interaction with the church has been a tremendous help in the ministry.

“I strongly believe in the importance of the Adopt-a-Campus connections with the colleges,” says Wolff. “The intercessory prayer is necessary for the students and for the protection of the college community.”

Source: AG News