Browsing articles in "Announcements"

CTS Leads the Charge for European Missions

Sep 22, 2017   //   by ccadmin   //   Announcements  //  No Comments

The nation of Belgium is small, barely half the size of West Virginia, but its influence belies its size. As the seat of the European Union as well as NATO, Belgium remains quietly but firmly on the international stage.

Some 11 million Belgians comprise one of the world’s most diverse and secular populations. Prostitution is legal, as is euthanasia (including for children) and abortion. The traditional definition of marriage has been thoroughly and legally overthrown. Witchcraft maintains a heavy presence.

“Subjects, like euthanasia, that are still being hotly debated in America have been accepted by some European cultures and are no longer even a discussion,” says Dr. Joseph Dimitrov, president of the Assemblies of God’s Continental Theological Seminary (CTS) in Sint-Pieters Leeuw just outside the capital, Brussels.

With Dimitrov at the helm, Continental Theological Seminary pursues its mission to train students for ministry in Belgium and beyond. Located in a beautiful chateau with a rich history dating back to the 1100s, the seminary trains graduate and undergraduate students from around the world. The goal: to prepare men and women to impact with the gospel diverse societies that have no connection with evangelical Christians, and are even less receptive to Pentecostal Christians.

The students preparing for ministry at CTS are passionate about reconnecting millions of Europeans with the hope of the gospel, and God is honoring that passion. On a continent filled with seminaries and theological programs that study theology solely for academic reasons, CTS is one of the very few seminaries where Bible-believing faculty and students have accepted Christ, are filled with the Holy Spirit, and live biblically based lives.

That distinction has brought them both disdain and honor on Europe’s academic scene. But it was the prayers of a young African student that brought the most dramatic honor of all. Sitting on a train one day, the young man bowed his head in prayer. He was startled when a dignified woman next to him asked him what he was doing.

“I am praying,” he replied.

“Why?”

“I am a Christian, and a pastoral student at Continental Theological Seminary.”

The woman had never heard of CTS, but was intrigued. She told the young man she too was a Christian, and wished to learn more. He was shocked to learn that she was a high-ranking official within the educational area of the Belgian government. Because of that “chance” connection, CTS’ Master of Theology program was able to become fully accredited by the Belgian Board of Education — a recognition they had long sought.

Currently, around 150 students from 30 nations are enrolled at CTS. Approximately one half of them are pursuing doctoral degrees. Regardless of a student’s program, Dimitrov and the faculty work diligently to ensure that the vital link between study and ministry experience remains intact. Each week, students fan out to share ministry responsibilities at 25 churches around Belgium. Upon completion of their studies, many students expect to return to their home countries. In most cases, they will be lonely voices for Christ in very secular places.

Dimitrov concludes, “Our students know that by coming here, they are being prepared to go against the stream on a very secular continent. We believe we are on the frontline of missions — one of God’s voices for our continent. As such, we need protection. Please pray for the security of our campus, for wisdom for our professors as they equip students for Europe’s rapidly changing value system, and for provision for our students. We have nothing but the Holy Spirit.”

 

For more on this topic, please pick up a copy of the August 2017 WorldView magazine, Lights Among Shadows, or click here. To learn more about Continental Theological Seminary, visit ctsem.edu.
Source: AG News

Planting in a Secular Bastion

Sep 22, 2017   //   by ccadmin   //   Announcements  //  No Comments

In the shadow of one of the nation’s top party schools and in a city where two-thirds of the population claim no religious affiliation, a new church plant has entered its second year seeking to increase its influence.

For the past 12 months, CityChurch has held services in downtown Iowa City, which has nearly 75,000 residents. The church sets up each Sunday in a senior citizen’s center a block away from the campus of the University of Iowa, a Big 10 school with an enrollment of more than 33,000 students.

Lead pastor Heather W. Weber originally didn’t see herself as a church planter. Weber, a published author who holds a master’s degree in creative writing, felt the tug in 2014 while serving on the pastoral staff at LIFEChurch, a rapidly growing Assemblies of God congregation in the nearby community of Coralville.

“I had this experience when I was alone at home,” she says. “I felt like the Holy Spirit came down in this tangible way and said, ‘Iowa City: church plant.’”

With the support of LIFEChurch, Weber began the process. CityChurch launched on Sept. 11, 2016, with a core group of 15 — five being Weber, her husband, Mark, and their three children.

In its first year, the congregation doubled to 30. Due to its downtown location, Weber says a variety of people walk by — and through — the doors. In addition to college students, attendees have ranged from physicians to lodgers at a nearby homeless shelter.

Weber says many in Iowa City are turned off by their perceptions of previous encounters with Christianity. Most locals lack an active involvement in a community of any faith, she says.

“People have been hurt or offended because of the judgmentalism that they’ve experienced,” she says. “I have a heart for those people.”

The result has been a church that welcomes those of all walks of life. It’s an atmosphere Siya Mali, who moved with Weber from LIFEchurch to CityChurch when it began, says combines relevance with a refreshingly down-to-earth approach.

“Any student who walks in and stays for coffee and bagels and chats with any of the members for five minutes will stay,” he says. 

While some may find it out of the ordinary to see a woman pastor planting a church, Weber says she’s been well-received. She has been looking for ways to minister in the community that her male counterparts cannot, such as seeking to assist female sexual assault victims at the university.

“In this context, being female is a bonus,” she says. “Iowa Citians appreciate diversity.”

Weber’s goal is for CityChurch to be outwardly focused, building bridges with local organizations and reaching out to those in need. The church has partnered with the nearby organization United Action for Youth to support teen parents and their families through food drives and donations. 

That focus will continue to grow in year two, she says, building on the progress the church has experienced so far.

“Whether they are artists or bartenders or students or educators or some other kind of professional, I see God is working through the networks of people coming to CityChurch,” Weber says. “Their friends are coming and there are conversations, and that’s really encouraging.”

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — September 23, 1962<br />

Sep 21, 2017   //   by ccadmin   //   Announcements  //  No Comments

“A new age is upon us! It is an age of jet travel, space consciousness, pleasure madness, and moral indifference. Our boys are growing up in this overpowering environment. They will be the victims of it unless our church men do something to guide the energies and thoughts of the boys into right spiritual channels. Action must be taken quickly.”

Johnnie Barnes wrote these words in 1962, introducing readers of the Pentecostal Evangel to the new Royal Rangers discipleship program for boys.

Assemblies of God leaders in the 1950s and 1960s realized that shifting cultural currents posed significant challenges to the development of Christian manhood. They chose Johnnie Barnes (1927-1989), an energetic young preacher from Texas, to craft a new program to respond to this emerging discipleship crisis.

Barnes’ boyhood experience as a Boy Scout helped to prepare him for this new challenge. As a teenager, he was an Eagle Scout recipient, and his heart was set on being a park ranger. But God called him into the ministry, and by his early 20s he became a Methodist circuit-riding preacher. Barnes soon received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which flooded his heart with a sense of God’s grace and power, accompanied by greater personal humility and power in his ministry. Barnes transferred his ministry credentials to the Assemblies of God, where he quickly became noted for his passion for ministry to men and boys.

When developing Royal Rangers, Barnes drew upon aspects of Boy Scouts, the Royal Ambassadors program of the Southern Baptist Convention, and similar programs. What resulted was a unique Pentecostal mentoring program that melded outdoor adventure, Christian service, and biblical training. Royal Rangers became a familiar rite of passage for boys in Assemblies of God churches across America and around the world.

As head of Royal Rangers, Barnes had a broad vision and built bridges across denominational lines. In 1975, Royal Rangers began allowing other denominations to charter groups. The Congregational Holiness Church was the first, followed by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and others. Today, churches of numerous denominations use the Royal Rangers program.

Since the founding of Royal Rangers in 1962, the spiritual and cultural decline of America has quickened, and the need for godly mentors for boys is greater. The legacy of Royal Rangers is demonstrated in the lives of over 2.5 million boys around the world who have participated in this program designed to mold boys into godly, responsible men. 

Read the article by Johnnie Barnes, “A Bird’s-Eye View of our New Boys Program,” on pages 9 and 19 of the Sept. 23, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

To learn more about Royal Rangers and its flexible and adaptable programs, visit the Royal Rangers website.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Rescue the Prayer Meeting,” by Lloyd Christiansen

* “Always be Joyful,” by F. Helen Jarvis

* “The Pentecostal Dimension in Education,” by G. Raymond Carlson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Source: AG News

Making Inroads in the Last Frontier

Sep 21, 2017   //   by ccadmin   //   Announcements  //  No Comments

For Jeremiah and Sharnay Niemuth, “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” is not a catchy title for a reality television show. But their adventure as Assemblies of God U.S. missionaries in the 49th state does entail long subzero winters and brief, sweltering summers.

The Niemuths are Intercultural Ministries missionaries who pastor a small but growing congregation comprised mostly of native Gwich’in people of Fort Yukon. The northwestern Alaskan village is indeed “frontier” remote, a place accessible only by riverboat or small plane, and where 35-below zero seems like a balmy winter’s day. The Niemuths have two children, 6-year-old Lucas and Araya, 2.

Indeed, Fort Yukon, 8 miles above the Arctic Circle near the confluence of the Porcupine and Yukon rivers, is no place for the faint of heart. Still, while Fort Yukon may represent a raw, tough and icy existence, the hearts of many of its 583 souls are warm toward the Niemuths and their one-room church of 30 adults, plus dozens of children.

Jeremiah and Sharnay, having just graduated from the Masters Commission program in North Pole, Alaska, first came to Fort Yukon in 2008. The local church — having endured decades of a near-revolving door history with pastors, many of whom stayed less than a year — had almost closed.

“The Yukon Flats Mission District basically needed somebody to hold down the fort,” Jeremiah recalls with a chuckle. “This was our ‘problem church’ in the district, and I was too young and ignorant to know what a problem church it was.”

He and Sharnay began with just two parishioners in a ramshackle, 70-year-old building without plumbing, and barely heated by a single wood-burning stove. A year later, seven adults and a small youth group huddled inside.

After a year of this stewardship, Jeremiah asked district officials how the search for a permanent pastor was going, fully expecting he and Sharnay would be sent to another assignment. District officials told Jeremiah they had found a new pastor: him.

Eight years later — joined by his younger brother Joshua Niemuth and Cheyenne Norberg, both missionary associates — Jeremiah, Sharnay, and their extended congregational family are working to erect a new church. The building, at 4,800 square feet, will be more than four times the size of the current structure; have two staff apartments, a furnace to warm it through the coldest months; and indoor plumbing and restrooms.

Along with the Niemuths and their parishioners lending muscle, carpentry and other on-site construction, the Alaska Ministry Network has pledged district-level support to the $350,000 project.

When completed, Fort Yukon Assembly of God will have room for 100 worshippers, ending the need for two Sunday services in the old, tiny sanctuary. The Niemuths hope to see the congregation’s steady growth continue; they also will expand outreach efforts to eight, even smaller neighboring native villages — if you consider Arctic Village, population 150, neighboring, being 100 miles north of Fort Yukon and accessible only by boat or plane.

Niemuth has been able to reverse the near extinction of the AG church by moving outside the four walls. That meant patience, building trust with the village elders, and seeking their counsel.

“We call it ‘going through the front gate,’ acknowledging their authority and positions in the village,” Jeremiah says. “You learn to sit and listen to elders and not interrupt, letting them share their stories, respecting them and the ways of their people.”

The village tribal and town councils contribute to youth camps, anti-drug and alcohol programs, and other events in which Fort Yukon Assembly joins with other churches to make a difference.

Though small, Fort Yukon faces many challenges typical to inner cities: substance abuse, poverty, joblessness, and single-parent homes. Subsequently, Jeremiah and Sharnay have become parental figures to some kids.

John E. Maracle, chief of the AG’s Native American Fellowship and an AG executive presbyter, says the Niemuths have done a tremendous job in the Alaskan bush, a mission field with over 100 isolated and disconnected communities.

“I’m grateful to God for using them out there, where nobody else wants to go,” Maracle says. “They pastor not just a church, but the whole village. This is what we really need in native ministry, pastors willing to go to the hard places, out in the wilderness, the last frontier.”

Source: AG News

Hundreds Killed in Second Mexico Quake

Sep 20, 2017   //   by ccadmin   //   Announcements  //  No Comments

On Tuesday, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Mexico near the town of Raboso in Puebla, about 76 miles southeast of Mexico City. More than 225 people have lost their lives, and many more are missing. Rescuers continue to search through the rubble of schools, offices, and apartments.

Among the most tragic scenes reported by multiple news sources is that of a collapsed school building, where all through the night rescuers clawed rubble with their bare hands, looking for children trapped underneath. They worked in silence as often as possible so that they would be able to hear tiny voices crying out for help.

This second disaster in a month struck on the 32nd anniversary of a 1985 earthquake that killed 10,000 people and left tens of thousands more injured and/or homeless. Just two weeks ago, a magnitude 8.1 tremor in southern Mexico caused buildings in Mexico City to rock for more than 60 seconds and killed 90 people. Experts have stated that much of Mexico City is built on a former lakebed, which can amplify earthquakes even hundreds of miles away.

In light of these conditions, and in honor of the 1985 quake anniversary, the region conducted earthquake drills just hours before Tuesday’s earthquake occurred.

All AGWM missionaries in Mexico have been safely accounted for, but details about the quake’s effects on AG churches and other ministries around the country are pending.

Missionary Sandy Kazim reports from her apartment in Portales (an area of Mexico City). “I spent most of the afternoon outside consoling the elderly in our building who were quite shaken up,” she says. “Nothing like a crisis to bring people together. The movement here during the quake was up and down so much so that I couldn’t stand up and walk. It was the strongest jolting I have experienced in that fashion.”

According to Kazim, AGWM missionary Peter Breit was downtown with a team when it happened, and they witnessed parts of a cathedral falling. Kazim checked in with a local Teen Challenge center to make sure the pastors and men there were safe.

“One of the kids working there, Luis, is an only child with a mom and dad in Jojutla,” Kazim says. “He is very shaken up. He heard from a friend that his mom had to be hospitalized. He has no idea if his dad is alive. He cannot get there, as the bridge into that part of Morelos has collapsed. An apartment building two blocks from our house collapsed on itself. They are not letting people on that street.”

David Ellis, AGWM regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, is asking for special prayer. “Following the devastation caused by hurricanes in the Caribbean and the USA, and the two earthquakes that have rattled Mexico, I am calling us to prayer for the people suffering and grieving from these natural disasters,” Ellis says. “All missionaries are accounted for, but our hearts go out to our Mexican brothers and sisters, and to those who don’t know the Lord. Join us in prayer for our colleagues who live and serve in the countries affected, for the national churches, and for the churches and donors in the United States who reach out to those who need help with relief and rebuilding.”

For more information about specific relief and rebuilding efforts in the Caribbean and Mexico, visit agwm.com and click on the “Give” button on the top menu bar. A pull-down list includes the specific relief and rebuilding accounts for Hurricane Irma and the Mexico quakes. A downloadable video concerning Cuba with AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis is available at crisisresponse.ag.org/pastors.

Source: AG News

Royal Rangers Edge Girls Ministries in National Giving Challenge

Sep 20, 2017   //   by ccadmin   //   Announcements  //  No Comments

What began as a national giving challenge in August at General Council with Karl Fleig, the Royal Rangers national director, being covered in cans of Silly String spray, came to a slimy, goopy, gummy conclusion on Friday when buckets of a creative mixture of slime, glitter, beads, gummy bears, rubber mice and snakes — even live nightcrawlers — were poured over the heads of Mandy Groot, national Girls Ministries director, and her staff.

The national challenge? Who could give more to their missions project during the month of August — Royal Rangers (Master’s Toolbox) or Girls Ministries (Coins for Kids)?

At General Council in Anaheim, the two groups paired off for a weeklong mini-challenge held Aug. 7-11. Girls Ministries dominated the week, raising more than $10,400. The Royal Rangers raised nearly $3,600, a respectable amount, but seemed to be hopelessly behind.

However, in a Facebook live event, the final totals for August giving were revealed, and the Royal Rangers came from behind to outgive Girls Ministries for the month of August, $21,964.73 to $17,050.15, resulting in Groot and her team experiencing a slime shower.

“The girls really blew us away at General Council,” Fleig admits, “but the guys really came through in a big way — I was glad to have the Silly String then, rather than the slime now!”

The competition was held in good faith and fun. The Royal Rangers are working on their Catapult 700 Boys and Girls Ministries Challenge (BGMC) project that will result in 700 outposts being planted in Africa and Royal Rangers materials translated into Swahili over the next two years. Girls Ministries 2017 project is Caring for Baneasa (Romania), where a children’s center with a playground will be completed under the direction of AG missionaries.

What’s remarkable for both ministries is that they are on pace to break last year’s giving totals.

“We’re above our giving at this point last year [a total of $88,900 so far], if the trend continues, we hope to have a record-breaking year,” Groot says. “Our goal is to break the $300,000 mark and this will really help.”

Fleig is also excited about the Royal Rangers giving. “Last year our total giving was a record $101,000,” he says. “We’re currently just $11,000 below what we did all of last year and traditionally a bulk of our giving comes in the last months of the year.”

According to Mark Entzminger, senior director of AG Children’s Ministries, BGMC as a whole is up and looking to break another giving record by reaching $8 million this year.

“I love when I see the ministries working together for missions,” Entzminger says. “I love when kids can give to missions together, even though it may be for different projects. When national leaders go first — demonstrating their commitment to missions — they show that they’re as invested in missions as the local leaders are. I believe this kind of fun, positive leadership is easy to follow.”

Source: AG News

Long-Term Rebuilding Key to Caribbean Hurricane Recovery<br />

Sep 20, 2017   //   by ccadmin   //   Announcements  //  No Comments

By the time Hurricane Irma – a Category 5 storm – made landfall in Florida on Sunday, Sept. 10, it had already laid waste to many Caribbean islands.

The storm created a trail of destruction from the small island of Barbuda, 325 miles southeast of Puerto Rico, all the way to Florida. A total of 70 people are reported dead in the Caribbean and the southeastern United States. In the Caribbean, power outages create ongoing problems and residents are running out of food and water. Lawlessness is on the rise, as looters and thieves take advantage of the chaos, even attempting to plunder boats bringing relief supplies to devastated communities.

Maria is the latest hurricane to batter the Caribbean. As of Tuesday, Sept. 19, it has already struck the island of Dominica and is barreling towards the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

In the face of unparalleled crisis and devastation in Caribbean communities, AGWM personnel are standing shoulder-to-shoulder alongside national church leaders and pastors working to restore their communities. Convoy of Hope is also a key partner. For more information about how to support this initiative, visit giving.ag.org. A downloadable video with AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis is available at crisisresponse.ag.org/pastors.

Dale Coad, who serves as AGWM Caribbean area director, provides the following report on efforts across the Caribbean and offers vital insight into the recovery process.

Stirred by images flooding the airwaves following Irma’s path of devastation, our immediate response is to help. In some nations, there is an immediate and desperate need for water. In many of the other nations, the greatest need is short-term and long-term repair of their facilities.

My passionate appeal is to let our national church partners most impacted by the disaster be the ones to define for us what their actual needs are.

As missionaries, we can’t assume we know specifically what the needs are. Rather, we join with our national church partners to assess the needs and then formulate long-term strategies to meet those needs. Our approach to disaster relief and response must keep a long-term view.

Across the Caribbean, key missionaries and church leaders are already forming such alliances and gathering necessary information. Below are three examples.

THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS

In the Turks and Caicos Islands, the main church’s roof was partially destroyed, and rain is already destroying the church with mildew. Members of the congregation whose homes were damaged are out in the elements. The church also lost their Haitian sister church – both that church building and its members’ homes were destroyed.

Missionaries Mike Peterson, David Swafford, Steve Puffpaff, Terry Castleberry, and Dale Eytzen are recruiting teams to come to the islands once a thorough assessment is made for long-term effectiveness.

BARBUDA

One of the first islands hit with Hurricane Irma’s full fury, Barbuda (of the island nation Antigua and Barbuda) suffered damage or loss to an estimated 95 percent of all buildings. 

Barbuda has a population of fewer than 2,000 people. As Hurricane Irma approached, the people were trapped. One observer said the frantic exit of those who could leave the island reminded him of the World War II exodus of Dunkirk, when every small boat that could possibly float was used to evacuate the British from France.

In 2005, AGWM helped the Barbuda Pentecostal Assembly of God add a Christian education and storm-shelter wing on their building. Barbuda was extremely vulnerable to storms and, thankfully, through the construction of the shelter wing, AGWM had already helped this church prepare for the fury of Irma. Very little damage was sustained to the building, rendering the church better able to serve its devastated community.

CUBA

Irma, the worst hurricane to strike Cuba since 1932, spent 24 hours grinding away over northern parts of the island. More than 4,000 homes were damaged. Downtown Havana was inundated with knee-high floods (some areas sustained water up to 3 feet deep), and thousands of acres of cane sugar were destroyed. Ninety percent of the city lost electricity.

More than 3.1 million people — a quarter of the island’s population — lost water service. Small beach towns were destroyed on the northern coast, causing millions of dollars in losses and leaving thousands homeless. At least 10 people were killed.

Eventually, one pastor braved the treacherous journey from a northern province to Havana to bring a report to Cuba Assemblies of God General Superintendent Eliseo Villar. More than 100 buildings (churches, house-churches and pastors’ homes) were severely damaged by Irma. Of those, 15 churches were completely destroyed.

Villar has submitted the paperwork requesting permission to import galvanized roofing and steel purling, like we did with Hurricane Matthew last year. He underscored how important those supplies were to help them rebuild. While we are thinking of relief, he is thinking of rebuilding.

Missionaries David Speer, Paul Duda, Daniel Irizarry, and Joe Crews are helping Villar assess the greatest needs. Joe Crews is in Havana with the Executive Committee of the Cuba AG traveling to the affected areas.

One of AGWM’s core values is long-term relationship with our national church partners. We endeavor to empower the national church’s leadership with the resources they ask for and to give them encouragement in their time of need.

It has been seven years and seven months since Haiti was shattered by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost. While that catastrophe has long since vanished from the news, AGWM personnel in Haiti and the Haitian church are just now winding down their work to restore and rebuild. Following Hurricane Irma, long after the flurry of media attention and short-term relief efforts have dried up, residents will be struggling to rebuild their lives. Together with our national church partners, we will be with them.

Source: AG News

Mission 66 on Route 66

Sep 20, 2017   //   by ccadmin   //   Announcements  //  No Comments

It may be one of the most fascinating and diverse group of cyclists anyone traveling the “Mother Road” of Route 66 could ever hope to encounter — a Canadian evangelist, a 79-year-old Olympic qualifier from the former Yugoslavia, a Ph.D. student from the Congo, some members of the Pentecostal Church of Canada, and a mixture of men and women of various ages from the Family Life church of Penns Valley, Pennsylvania, all led by an AG pastor who once biked across the United States for missions with his longest outdoor training ride only being 26 miles!

However, the “Mission 66 . . . If My People” ride from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, taking place Sept 6 – Oct. 7, isn’t about raising funds or to see how fast it can be accomplished. According to K. R. Mele, pastor of Family Life — who learned some valuable lessons on his cross-country bike ride several years ago —  this ride is about praying for America and calling people back to God.

“We chose Route 66 because it was the old road and symbolic of our desire to see America to return to the old way of thinking — a return to biblical values,” Mele says. The Scripture that inspires the ride is 2 Chronicles 7:14, which states: “If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land.”

It might be hard to imagine how riding a bicycle could impact lives for Christ, but God has been answering the group’s prayers for “divine encounters” all along the way.

“We’ve given out hundreds of Mission 66 tracts and prayed with so many people,” Mele says.

Lloyd Vandenberg, a Pentecostal evangelist for the past 32 years from Paris, Ontario, says the ride is a sabbatical for him, but also an opportunity for God to use him in unexpected ways. He says he began talking with a young woman during a stop at a convenience store. She had fallen away from God. “I asked her if she would like to rededicate her life to the Lord,” Vandenberg recalls. “She asked me, ‘How do I do that?’” Shortly after, he led her to the Lord in prayer.

The ride team is currently made up of six riders and a four-person support team who provides food, water, and carries supply for the trip. Most of the riders sleep in a tent or hammock along the way, though if indoor accommodations are offered by a local church, they gladly accept. Austin Findley, is the group’s videographer, documenting the journey and posting videos and pictures on the Mission 66 Facebook page.

Mele, who makes daily posts to the Facebook page about their experiences on the ride, shares in those posts about multiple encounters with people who they have been able to present a tract to, pray with, and even lead some in prayer to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.

But the impact the team is making isn’t limited to those calling the central and southwestern portions of the United States home. “Many people travel this road and stop at all the points of interest,” Mele explains in one post. “I was able to meet and give a ‘Mission 66’ tract to people from England today . . . and Italy yesterday. What a blessing to meet people from all over the world.”

The team varies in size as the ride progresses as not everyone has the time or stamina to ride the full distance. Riding six days a week, the group averages about 88 miles a day, not including Sundays. On Sundays, they don’t ride, but instead have ministry engagements at AG churches along the Route 66 path.

One rider that can’t help but catch a person’s attention — or ear — is Zeljko Pocupec.  A 79-year-old who immigrated to Canada from the former Yugoslavia (now Croatia), Pocupec has a heavy and interesting Croatian/Canadian accent. But despite his age and rocking walk, he is a powerful rider. Mele says that Pocupec frequently leads the team in topping hills. But he does have an advantage over all the other riders — his father was an Olympian in 1936 and he himself qualified for the Canadian Olympic Cycling team in his younger years.

For most of the ride, the team has been blessed with good riding weather, although recently the temperatures have started to heat up. But the team is committed to completing the ride and sharing Christ and their mission with those they encounter. It doesn’t matter if they meet someone in a store, at a rest stop, or along the roadside, that person is destined to hear about Mission 66, Christ, and offered prayer.

“It’s been exciting to see lives changed,” Mele says.

Follow the Mission 66 team’s experiences all the way to Santa Monica via its Facebook posts by clicking here.

Source: AG News

Learning to Love Herself

Sep 20, 2017   //   by ccadmin   //   Announcements  //  No Comments

For 15 years, Candace R. Woodroof, 34, struggled with her relationship to food. The ordained minister, pastor’s wife, middle school counselor, and mother used food as both comfort and punishment.

In her adult life, Candace has embarked on four diets, losing more than 50 pounds each time — only to gain it all back. Shame and fear accompanied her eating patterns. Candace’s husband of 13 years, Matt Daniel Woodroof, 38, says she wouldn’t allow certain foods in the house.

“I saw Candace go through so much if she wanted to have dessert,” says Matt. “She was hurting emotionally when it came to food.”

But today Candace and food are at peace. And the Woodroofs are working to show others battling similar disorders that it’s OK to seek help.  

Candace struggled with binge eating disorder, a diagnosable illness characterized by eating large quantities of food — to the point of pain and sickness — on a recurring basis. She tried healthy eating programs and support groups without lasting success. Then in June, Candace entered a three-week binge eating treatment program at the Center for Change in Orem, Utah. She finally had a breakthrough.

“It was amazing, but humbling,” says Candace, who met with a therapist and dietician twice a week. She also went through relationship, art, and music therapy.

Candace began writing about herself, and sought to understand her disorder and how it works. She learned about intuitive eating, the cornerstone practice of the treatment program.

“Intuitive eating is about listening to your body, learning hunger and fullness cues, and gaining awareness of them,” Candace says.

Candace also discovered how to let go of what others think and to accept her body. Since graduating from the program, she has focused on self-care, turning to scriptural affirmations such as John 1:12.

As a believer, it wasn’t OK to have such a negative opinion of myself,” she says. “I resolved to have more compassion for my body the way it is, not when I get down to a certain weight.”

The Woodroofs are both credentialed Assemblies of God ministers and pastor Calvary Assembly of God in Buhl, Idaho — part of the Southern Idaho District  . At an August service, Candace shared her story with the congregation. She emphasized the importance of finding help, not just for eating disorders, but for any mental or emotional health need. 

“There’s a stigma,” Candace says. “People will talk about physical sickness, but not depression. The brain is an organ, and when it has problems, it’s OK to ask for help.”

The Woodroofs hope to share their experiences on a broader platform.

“We hope to bring awareness to ministers in general — ministry can be very emotionally draining,” says Matt. “If ministers try to cope by eating or overeating, we want to help them understand they may need professional help.”

Matt notes that Christians shouldn’t settle for being grossly obese.

“God wants us to take care of ourselves,” he says.” Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Candace is also working toward a professional counselor license and soon will speak at 6-year-old son Andrew’s school about self-acceptance. The couple also have a 2-year-old daughter, Joy.

“Our bodies were made by God,” Candace says. “I want to teach kids that they can love themselves.”

Source: AG News

Seeking Out the Hopeless

Sep 19, 2017   //   by ccadmin   //   Announcements  //  No Comments

Struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, homeless Mike Patrick Lang found hope last year thanks to the helping hand of an Assemblies of God multiethnic church in the Orlando, Florida, area that ministers to the down and out.

Adherents of New Birth Church in Kissimmee approached Lang on a Sunday morning in February 2016 as he hung out with other homeless people. Team members gave Lang a hot meal and invited him to a church service.

From that moment forward my life was transformed, recalls Lang, 47. “That day at service I had never felt as much love and God’s presence. I cried and surrendered my life to Christ.”

Since then, Lang says he no longer finds comfort in alcohol and drugs. Lang also is back living with relatives. He is one of many former indigents who have found “A Place of Hope” — the church’s slogan — at New Birth.

Since New Birth launched in October 2015, over 40 homeless people have accepted Jesus as their Savior through church outreach efforts, according to Pastor Gabby Mejia. Many attendees still struggle with poverty, he says. But God called the church to be a “hope to the hopeless,” according to Mejia, 46. 

Along those lines, the Hope Center — a ministry that assists the poor and the hurting through food distribution and housing assistance — opened less than a month after New Birth began. The Hope Center features areas for a food pantry, an apartment for families that find themselves with no place to live, and classrooms for New Birth’s youth group. New Birth has partnered with the Florida Access Program, which opens the Hope Center’s pantry to the community.

“We target the homeless, the poor, and the marginalized because we believe this is what Jesus would do,” Mejia explains. “Matthew 25:35 says; ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in.’ The homeless are anyone who doesn’t live in a home.”

The church’s homeless ministry regularly hits the streets of Kissimmee — located in the shadows of Disney World. 

“We provide food and clothing, but, most importantly, we fellowship with our homeless community,” he says. “We do life with them, and our goal is to laugh and converse before we present the gospel of Jesus. People are receptive to Christ and the church when there’s a place of hope.”

Lang notes that such a ministry approach appealed to him.

“I was moved so much by God’s mercy, love, and passion that I decided to be a part of New Birth,” he says. He completed membership classes required to serve in ministry and became active in the food pantry outreach, plus serving food to the homeless.

Mejia, who along with his wife, Petry, leads New Birth, says God has bestowed favor on the Hope Center.

“We have seen God open doors for us in our community,” Mejia says. Mayor-Commissioner Jose A. Alvarez asked him to sit on the Osceola County Commission on Homelessness.

Doug E. Clay, who takes over as AG general superintendent on Oct. 10, lauds Mejia for his efforts at engaging the unsaved.

“It is obvious that the ministries that he leads will have a strong emphasis on reaching the lost,” he adds. “Hope Center is a soul-saving center.”

Mejia says the greatest challenge facing the Hope Center/New Birth is a lack of resources and facilities. New Birth, which started with 38 people meeting in the Mejias’ living room in September 2015, now draws an average of 650 people each Sunday. The church’s youth ministry has an average attendance of 240 students on Friday nights. Additionally, New Birth Dallas began in January in Texas, and is attracting around 80 people for services. 

Source: AG News

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