An Update

Due to the guidelines being given us by the CDC we will be suspending our in person gatherings for a few weeks. Until then we will be live streaming our Sunday Worship Gathering at 10:30am via Facebook live (it will be on our be available on the CCAG Facebook page click on the icon below).

Coronavirus: Four Ways to Pray

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been dominating headlines in recent weeks. Some reports are sensationalistic; others offer measured concern. Doubtless, this virus is affecting tens of thousands of people around the globe.

I ask our Assemblies of God family to join me in prayer in these specific areas this weekend:

1. Pray we will be driven by faith and not fear.

The U.S. Assemblies of God is part of a global Assemblies of God family. In recent days, we’ve seen how Italy has been particularly impacted by the coronavirus. I was encouraged to see how the Assemblies of God in Italy chose to encourage their members to rely on the strength and the power of God’s Word, asking them to pray in accordance to Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

2. Pray for the people who have been greatly impacted.

We believe that God has the power to heal every sickness and every disease. Pray that His healing power would be manifested across the nations of the earth that are facing this crisis in their own neighborhoods, communities, and families.

Pray for scientists and researchers to be led by the Holy Spirit as they seek to provide treatments and vaccines.

3. Pray for our missionary family and global partners.

Members of our Assemblies of God family frequently travel throughout the world in response to the gospel. Pray God’s protection on them, that they would stay strong, healthy, and effective where God has called them to be. Pray that God will be glorified in the response of AG churches and partners throughout the world.

4. Pray for hope, the Blessed Hope, of Christ.

We believe in Jesus as Savior, Healer, Baptizer in the Spirit, and Soon-Coming King. As we pray for healing, may we not lose sight that our hope is not in a medical breakthrough or in the effective systems of the world. Our hope is in Christ and the Blessed Hope of His soon return. Disasters such as these should remind us of our eternal hope in Christ and awaken us to the need to share His hope with those around us.

 

 

Source: AG News

SAGU Offers New Master of Theological Studies Degree

Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) in Waxahachie, Texas, is offering a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree program, which begins this fall.

The 51-credit-hour program offers an alternative, streamlined route for those desiring to pursue a Ph.D. in Bible or Theology as opposed to the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree, which ranges from 72 to 90 credit hours.

“The M. Div. is a degree purposely broad in its coverage and it contains a substantial practical theology component,” stated Dr. Bruce Rosdahl, SAGU’s department chair for Bible and Theology. “The MTS, on the other hand, is focused in the field of one’s doctoral pursuit.”

The MTS has the academic rigor and language requirements needed for most Ph.D. programs in Bible or Theology. It requires two years of biblical language study and the development and successful defense of a thesis. Students can choose a specialization in either biblical studies or theology.

Dr. Rosdahl went on to say that this degree is widely considered as an ideal option for individuals particularly interested in serving as teaching or resource pastors, part of a preaching team, or university professors.

Through SAGU’s MTS, students will learn how to:

• Interpret and apply Scripture employing responsible hermeneutical principles.

• Explain orthodox Christian theology, including Pentecostal distinctives.

• Translate biblical Hebrew or Greek commensurate with two years of language.

• Demonstrate advanced research and writing methodologies with an awareness of important bibliographic sources

“This degree will further SAGU efforts in preparing individuals to faithful teachers and expositors of God Word; whether that be in the classroom, the pulpit, or the mission-field around the world,” said Dr. Rosdahl.

To learn more about SAGU’s Master of Theological Studies, click here.
Source: AG News

Meeting Special Needs Repeatedly

Married couple Randy and Linda Kramer retired about the same time and then visited some places they always wanted to go. But not having to work anymore and traveling didn’t provide the fulfillment the Turner, Oregon, couple expected.

“I kept thinking there must be something more for us in the fourth quarter of our lives,” says Linda, 64. “We didn’t know what God wanted for us.”

The answer soon came when the Kramers accompanied daughter Angie Johnson and her husband, Andy, to China to adopt a girl with severe heart problems. Randy and Linda went along to care for Angie’s biological sons, Darren, then 8, and Justin, then 6.

“We saw the great needs there for special needs kids,” Linda says. “God got ahold of us and we decided to adopt, even though we thought we were too old.”

Five years ago, the Kramers adopted 6-year-old Josie Ann, who had cerebral palsy. The couple’s son Steve, the firstborn of their four biological children, also has the movement disorder. Nevertheless, Steve is now an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary serving with Intercultural Ministries. He is director of the Vulnerable Initiative at Canyon Hills Assembly in Bakersfield, California.

Steve, who graduated from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, says his parents constantly encouraged him.

“I would never trade a bad set of legs for a bad set of parents,” says Steve, who earlier served as an Assemblies of God world missionary in the Netherlands and planted the Chi Alpha Campus Ministries chapter at the University of Oregon. “God has always blessed me with incredible favor, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.”

“I always saw great potential in Steve,” Linda says. “We never wanted him to think he couldn’t do anything, mentally or physically, that he set his heart to do. Other people see that he’s disabled. We don’t see that.”

ROOM FOR ANOTHER
A year after adopting Josie, Linda and Randy thought she needed a sister. They returned to China and adopted 10-year-old Jennie, who had paralysis on her left side from a traumatic brain injury. But they learned Jennie had a close friend in the same orphanage, 13-year-old Grace, still dealing with developmental delays. The Kramers agreed to adopt her, too.

Despite having their hands full, the Kramers decided three years ago to adopt a fourth special needs Chinese girl, 5-year-old Annabelle. She had the most acute disability of the four, suffering from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a rare type of epilepsy. When she came into the home, the underweight Annabelle endured up to 40 seizures a day. She received a nasogastric intubation and later a gastrostomy tube to help her eat and drink.

Two years ago, Annabelle became severely ill and spent two weeks in intensive care.

“God healed her in the hospital,” Linda says. “She hasn’t had any seizures since.” While still a nonverbal paraplegic, at 8 years old Annabelle’s cognitive abilities have improved, she is learning to walk, and she can “speak” through a communication device.

None of the girls had attended school in China or even knew how to read or write. Now they are all doing well in school, Linda says. All four have accepted Jesus as Savior.

The Kramers no longer wonder how to occupy their days.

“Our sole concentration is our girls,” Linda says. The Kramers both have retirement incomes. She is a retired county sheriff’s correctional sergeant, he worked as a railroad conductor then graduated from Northwest University before pastoring a trio of AG churches: Riverside Assembly of God in Orofino, Idaho; Abundant Life Center in Toledo, Oregon; and Skyline Assembly of God in Scio, Oregon.

However, the Kramers depleted their retirement savings on the adoptions and ensuing medical expenses.

“We live simply and don’t have a lot of extras,” Linda says. “But God definitely meets our needs. We don’t lack for anything.”

EARLIER MEDICAL CRISIS
Randy, 67, concedes that it took more convincing for him to embark on the adoption journey than Linda.

“I resisted at first when my wife showed me pictures from adoption agencies, although she never pushed it,” Randy says. “But the moment I saw Josie with cerebral palsy, I was convinced we were supposed to adopt.”

The Kramers dealt with overwhelming medical challenges early in their marriage. When Steve entered the world 46 years ago, doctors gave his young parents little hope for the survival of the baby, born 11 weeks premature. Randy, then 21, served in the Air Force; Linda was just 18.

It was an era before medical technology could do much to save small-weight infants. Steve’s weight dipped below three pounds and repeatedly he suffered breathing apnea because of underdeveloped lungs. Those touch-and-go early days also put a strain on Randy and Linda. The parents grew concerned when their 9-month-old baby couldn’t sit up and had difficulty grasping toys.

The mounting pressures of marrying young — Linda had been 16, Randy 19 — the growing medical concerns over Steve, and the rigorous military life took a toll on the Kramers. The couple separated for six months and contemplated divorce.

But a trip to a U.S. military hospital in West Germany unified them. Upon hearing physicians diagnose his son with cerebral palsy, Randy, who had been raised in a strong Christian home, recommitted his life to Christ and thus preserved the marriage. From that point on, the Kramers stuck together. Randy and Linda later had biological children Angie, Coral, and Dennis. All four of their children are married with families of their own.

“I never could have imagined adopting four children, but it seems so right,” says Randy, who has 13 grandchildren. “The sisters love each other so.”

PREPARING THE WAY
The Kramers’ oldest daughter, Angie Johnson, sparked the radical lifestyle change in her parents. She says growing up with Steve, who is five years older, prepared her to care for disabled kids.

“Steve was normal, he just walked with a limp,” says Johnson, who lives only a mile away from her parents in Turner, a town of 2,100. “Adopting special needs kids really isn’t scary.”

When Johnson came across a photo of a child on a waiting list with a congenital heart defect, she says she felt God’s prodding. The China trip in 2011 in which her parents accompanied her changed the lives of everyone in the family. The Johnsons adopted 2-year-old Raimey, who had gastro-intestinal malformation in addition to her congenital heart defect.

“Whether we have her for a few years or 50 years, she needs a family as much as anybody else, maybe more,” Johnson says. Raimey, now 10, has had eight surgeries in eight years in the U.S., including a pair of heart operations.

“She exudes joy and has great energy,” Johnson says. “You would never know there is anything major medically wrong with her.”

Angie and Andy wanted Raimey to have a sister, so she returned to China to adopt 2-year-old Bryley in 2014. Bryley’s medical concerns included a brain tumor, epilepsy, and malformed fingers and toes.

Undergoing brain surgery in the U.S., Bryley suffered a catastrophic stroke. Afterward, she couldn’t stand or feed herself. Physical therapy has helped her ongoing recover efforts. Both girls are doing well in public school, their mother says.

Vocationally, the Johnsons, who have been married 22 years, are well-equipped to raise disabled children. Angie is a public school special education teacher while Andy works for the state managing investigations of abuse of the developmentally disabled.

Lead Photo: Linda and Steve Kramer’s children now include (from left) Josie Ann, Grace, Annabelle, and Jennie.
Bottom Photo: Angie and Andy Johnson’s children are (from left) Justin, 16; Bryley, 7; Raimey, 10; and Darren, 18.

 

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — Feb. 25, 1928

Paul Bettex (1864-1916) possessed one of the most impressive academic and social pedigrees of any early Pentecostal. Yet when Bettex accepted Christ and felt a definite call to be a missionary, he gave up all his advantages and set sail for lands afar, where he suffered war, famine, and persecution.

The Swiss-born Bettex was the son of a distinguished Christian educator and theologian, Jean Frederick Bettex. The elder Bettex, an evangelical Huguenot, contributed a chapter to the noted series of books, The Fundamentals (1910-1915), which affirmed orthodox Protestant beliefs against the emergence of theological liberalism. Despite his evangelical heritage, Paul Bettex did not make a personal commitment to Christ in his youth. Bettex studied at the University of Geneva, various Italian schools, and the Sarbonne. He studied ancient languages and political science, purposing to enter the French diplomatic corps.

While at the Sorbonne, Bettex was struck by the courage displayed by young women associated with the Salvation Army in Paris. He began attending Salvation Army meetings and yielded his heart to God. Following in his father’s footsteps, Bettex felt drawn to ministry. He moved to America, where he attended Princeton Theological Seminary and pastored several churches. He also served as a missionary in Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil in the 1890s. While Bettex originally planned to be a French ambassador, he ultimately served a much higher king and became an ambassador for Christ.

Bettex’s linguistic training served him well on the mission field; he was proficient in 13 languages. He put his scholarly and theological abilities into practice by living amongst the people to whom he ministered. Stories of the hardships he faced in South America circulated among American Christians, and he returned in 1903 as a missionary hero.

Upon his return to America, Bettex taught at Central Holiness University (Oskaloosa, Iowa). He attended meetings at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, joined the ranks of the Pentecostals, and in 1910 headed for China as a missionary. Bettex published a periodical, Canton Pentecost, of which there are no known surviving copies. His wife, Nellie, died in China in 1912. In 1916, Bettex disappeared and was never again seen alive. Chinese Christians expended great energies in searching for Bettex and finally found his body, buried six feet under the ground with three bullet holes in his chest.

During his missionary work in South America, Bettex wrote, “And the more truly a Christian is a Christian the hotter rages the battle about him. All heaven and hell take part in his fate. Here there is no place for amateur Christians. It is a fight for life and death … Few are the martyrs on whose heads crowns have been lighted while they were asleep. Their preparatory school has ever been sorrow, suffering, poverty, year-long fulfillment of duty.” For Bettex, these were not mere words. He lived and died in absolute surrender to Jesus Christ.

Stanley Frodsham, long-time editor of the Pentecostal Evangel, took it upon himself to document the life story of Bettex, the fallen Pentecostal missionary hero. Frodsham wrote a tribute to Bettex in the Feb. 25, 1928, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel and later wrote a book, Wholly for God: A Call to Complete Consecration, Illustrated by the Story of Paul Bettex, a Truly Consecrated Soul (Gospel Publishing House, 1934).

Read the tribute by Stanley Frodsham, “A Remarkable Pentecostal Missionary,” on pages 4 to 5 of the Feb. 25, 1928, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “How the Dog Trainer Was Won,” by Mrs. Walter Searle

• “Starlight: A True Story of a Chinese Girl,” by A. O. Stott

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
Source: AG News

School of Bourbon (Street) Missions

NEW ORLEANS — School of Urban Missions Bible College & Theological Seminary (SUM) students disperse two by two on Bourbon Street between Canal and Iberville in pursuit of revelers to evangelize. The partner combinations chosen by school leaders prepare students for ministry in the real world in the long term — and in New Orleans immediately.

Joshua Leggett, a white student from Philadelphia, is teamed with Helen Johnson, an African-American student from Fort Worth, Texas. Both are 19-year-old first-year enrollees at SUM, having known each other before only via online cohorts. The annual Mardi Gras outreach has been a cornerstone curriculum requirement of the school, now based in El Dorado Hills, California, since its founding in 1992.

Leggett says he senses from the Lord the need to stop a tall young black man and to tell him not to trust in religion, but rather relationships. Leggett explains to the man, Thaddeus, that God will remove the bitterness he harbors in his heart toward his mother. Thaddeus begins to weep; he reveals to Helen that he had a dream the night before that he would encounter her this evening.

Leggett says he also is impressed by the Holy Spirit to divulge that Thaddeus shouldn’t be angry with his sister, who is engaged in witchcraft.

That the naturally reserved, soft-spoken, and slightly built Leggett is out boldly proclaiming God’s message is a wonder, given that 2½ months ago two strangers assaulted him in the City of Brotherly Love. They knocked the 5-foot, 5-inch Leggett off his bicycle, fractured his nose, and stole his mode of transportation. Leggett, despite requiring hospitalization, takes it in stride.

“God spared my life,” proclaims Leggett, who attends Philly Dream Center Church. “Everywhere we go we are to be Christ’s witnesses.”

In all, 350 SUM students — about half of them in their first year — are among the mass of humanity that descends on the Big Easy during the festival. The first night out, Feb. 21, the students approach the passers-by on the street and sidewalks of the cordoned-off area.

While some students are adept and experienced at witnessing, pre-event classroom instruction as well as training during this weeklong SUM conference are designed to make the outreach fruitful for all to share the gospel. Various students report they receive words of knowledge from the Lord during their specific discussions on the street.

Some traversing the area in pursuit of sensual pleasures find a common background with a Bible student, which lead to further spiritual questions.

A buzzed man from Dallas confides in Dina Cafiso, a pleasant and poised first-year student from Long Island, that his veins hurt because he shoots up heroin and methamphetamines so much. The petite Cafiso declares that the Lord can deliver the Texan from drug dependency. She knows firsthand.

Cafiso spent 7 years as a heroin addict. Her mom, Marie, found her gasping for air a day after she overdosed. Paramedics twice injected Cafiso with naloxone hydrochloride, but to no avail. Her heart stopped beating for 10 minutes.

Doctors placed Cafiso, then 24, in a medically induced coma. Medical scans showed irreversible brain damage and paralysis in her left hand. But Cafiso, whose mother kept praying, awoke a week later as a medical miracle. She went on to graduate from Brooklyn Teen Challenge. At 30 she is enrolled in SUM while assisting in ministry at Home Church in Mastic Beach, New York. Life experiences have shaped her Mardi Gras message.

“Jesus has the power not only to heal us, but to raise us from the dead,” she tells the drug addicted stranger.

ANOTHER WORLD
Entrance to the six blocks of the French Quarter lets the students know how much the milieu has shifted. Rows of psychic reading and tarot card tables line Jackson Square. Rainbow flags hang from balcony apartments, where the scantily attired quaff beer and hard liquor.

There are other religious orators in the area, but not all are interested in saving souls. A middle-aged man yells though a megaphone to all who pass by that they are going to hell; his intention is antagonism and condemnation.

An inordinate number of wrinkled elderly merrymakers trying to defy their age are among the swarm. Surprisingly, so are some beaded and skimpily dressed parents toting young children. A handful of elementary-school-aged African-American boys pound drumsticks on pickle buckets in an effort to garner change.

For mutual protection, SUM students pair off in mixed-gender teams. The male presence keeps debauched partiers from making lewd approaches to the female. SUM women students in turn help keep their male counterparts in check with an exhortation of “Eyes down!” if a female reveler exposes too much flesh.

The weather is unseasonably cool this Friday night in the city dotted with palm trees. The outdoor temperature keeps exposed body parts to a minimum. But with no threat of rain, throngs of masked and face-painted pleasure seekers mill about, many with drink in hand.

After 28 years, SUM has honed the routine well. Team leaders organize the students with detailed instructions, including: pray with people of the same gender; keep prayers short; and obtain contact information for follow-up from those who make a salvation commitment.

Periodically throughout the three-hour evening stay, students assemble up and down the block for enthusiastic bouncing and waving “power up” chants that extol the name of Jesus. The vociferous message amid the cacophony stops many pedestrians in their tracks to listen; quite a few record the unusual presentation on their cellphones. A few walk fast through the zone, uttering invectives as they escape.

HANDS-ON MINISTRY
For SUM founder and chancellor George A. Neau, there is no better place to engage in practical ministry, which is one of the four pillars of the school. Where else can students encounter witchcraft, false religions, drug addiction, and blatant immorality, all in one block?

While skeptics may question the efficacy of such an outreach, meticulous records compiled by SUM are impressive: the first night yields 63 salvation decisions, 30 people rededicating their lives to Christ, and — as a sign this is Pentecostal street ministry — two dozen healings.

Neau, 60, says the event not only changes the lives of those receiving ministry, but also on those conducting it.

“Once they are hooked on evangelism, they will never stop being evangelists,” Neau says.

Students devise their own approach methods to break the ice, such as What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? Some have a more spiritual introduction: What would you like God to do in your life if you could ask Him for anything?

 

While adjunct faculty members are monitoring the students’ safety, they also do their share of evangelizing. Paul E. Fishell of Belton, Missouri, has relished involvement in the hands-on ministry for a decade.

“The first time I ever street preached was at Mardi Gras — 20 years after I’d been involved in ministry,” says Fishell, 55. “If we’re going to share the gospel, we need to consciously engage people and share the love of Christ. We need to have conversations about Jesus.”

Tonight, as a conversation starter, Fishell wears a jersey and cap of the Kansas City Chiefs, the newly crowned Super Bowl champions.

Soon, a young man decked out in a Chiefs T-shirt and a gold lamé jacket approaches him like a long-lost relative, tendering an immediate embrace. The fan, uttering expletives about the radical exploits of his team, appears to be inebriated, even though it’s barely past sundown. After football chitchat, the man accepts Fishell’s offer for prayer. The faculty member, who also is involved in a Reach Kansas City church plant, briefly asks the Lord to protect the carouser. Fishell knows the man will be approached by prayer-minded SUM students as he meanders down the street.

Students descend on the same block four times as the pre-Lenten carnival season culminates: Friday, Saturday, and Monday nights, ending with a daylong session on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 25, the final day carousers seek to satisfy their flesh before Ash Wednesday.

SUM students are emboldened as the event progresses. Each night, they sing “Amazing Grace” before trekking back to buses to return them to their hotel. People stop to listen. Some, caressing booze, join in, perhaps reflecting on why they are partying in the streets.

By the end of Fat Tuesday, the SUM Louisiana evangelism campaign had yielded 479 salvation decisions, 279 rededications to the Lord, and 114 healings.

The 2021 Mardi Gras mission event will take place Feb. 11-17. Participants must be at least 16 years old.

 

Bottom Photo: Joshua Leggett (left) and Helen Johnson (middle) minister on Bourbon Street.  


Source: AG News

Alternative Assignment

With the click of a camera, Angela Colleen Forker captures the memory of a newborn baby. Now, with her photography series After the Abortion, Forker is helping post-abortive women process past trauma and find new life in Jesus.

Forker, 51, her husband Rick, and their three daughters, Candace, Charity, and Christina, ministered as Assemblies of God world missionaries at Verona International Church in Italy. In 2012, the Forkers unexpectedly returned to the United States to help 19-year-old Charity give birth to Ricky, their first grandson, and to help their daughter recover after an unplanned pregnancy.

“During that time, our ministry was to teach Charity to become a mother,” Forker says. “I had so much time on my hands, I started taking pictures of that little grandson. It’s amazing because that little unplanned baby changed the entire course of my life.”

A NEW MISSION
When the Forkers returned to the States for furlough after finishing their term in Italy, Angela says she felt a deep desire to learn newborn photography.

“I felt like God was saying He would use my photography to touch more lives than I could imagine,” Forker says. “I felt like He was going to use it to open huge doors of ministry for us to do missions work again.”

Forker called her photography business Precious Baby Photography. She began crafting intricate fabric scenes of babies fighting dragons or floating through space called Baby ImaginArt. The creative scenes quickly gathered attention far and wide.

Forker says God led her to pray a blessing over every baby she photographed. Currently she’s prayed over 300 babies and their families, many of them unchurched.

In 2018, Forker says she prayed that her photography would save lives — that pregnant abortion-minded women would change their minds. A month later, Forker began the Precious Baby Project, a Baby ImaginArt series of babies with special needs doing impossibly beautiful things.

Scenes are designed for special-needs babies who can’t sit up or roll over.

“All they have to do is lie down, and I go up on the ladder and shoot from above,” Forker says.

Forkers puts in about 20 hours of set up, shooting, and editing work for each client. She charges nothing for the images of babies with serious conditions, as parents often are deluged with medical bills.

The Precious Baby project has been covered by a variety of major news outlets, including a segment on NBC Nightly News. The photos also are featured in perinatal clinics and hospitals.

A SPIRITUAL BATTLE
Forker says she kept busy with her photography business, leading worship, and assisting her husband in his work as pastor of Joy Fellowship Church in New Haven, Indiana, where they transitioned in 2015 after 15 years as AG world missionaries.

A little over a year ago, Forker prayed that more people would come to know God through her photography. She says she sensed God leading her to photograph a series of post-abortive women and tell their stories through photos. Subsequently, as a result of media attention about her photography, post-abortive women from around the world have contacted her to be a part of the project.

Marcie Hamaker worked with Forker on a session for After the Abortion. A victim of forced abortion at age 16, Hamaker experienced deep grief, shame, and suicidal attempts afterward.

Hamaker, 42, says she prayed about a list of thought-provoking questions Forker sent to her and came up with photo ideas. The day of the session, she experienced major anxiety about the raw emotions that resurfaced, but God gave her strength.

“From the get-go, Angela bathed the session in prayer,” says Hamaker, who lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “She has a calming effect, but there were times we were both crying. When it was done, we were both exhausted.”

Replaying the suicide attempt brought back Hamaker’s memories of self-harm.

“Seeing the before and after photos helped me to realize those before pictures didn’t tell the end of my story,” Hamaker says. “To see the visual of what the Lord can do brought quite a bit of healing and removed some of the shame.”

Since then, Hamaker says she has been bolder about sharing her testimony at various churches and Celebrate Recovery groups.

Forker says the often-shocking After the Abortion photos show the haunted experience many women say they have experienced. The After the Abortion series is designed to reach post-abortive women, prolife Christians, and persons who favor abortion.

“Post-abortive women need to know there is healing and there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ,” Forker says. “We as Christians have pushed many of these hurting women away.

Forker has learned that the abortive woman who seek her out have been devastated by their decision. Circumstances vary: some were coerced, others tricked into having an abortion; some are depressed and suicidal afterward; many go on to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Forker has experienced attacks on her social media pages, including threats to her personal safety. Yet she continues in an effort to help women find healing. She relishes a comment from a woman who had mulled a third-trimester abortion, but decided to keep the baby after seeing the website’s pictures.

“Post-abortive women from around the world write to me and ask for help finding their way back to God,” Forker says. “Others ask me how they can find forgiveness. It all started with an unplanned baby.”

Source: AG News

Critical Decision

Endorsed Assemblies of God chaplain Joshua M. Czyz stood in the Auburn, New York, police on-site command unit and observed as Special Weapons and Tactics and local officers worked to bring an end to a standoff with a man who barred himself in his house after a domestic situation turned turbulent.

Though Czyz, 44, ministered to the man’s family during the standoff, he didn’t get involved primarily for them. He was there to minister to the police.

Czyz, a 1997 graduate of the University of Valley Forge (UVF), always dreamed of ministering to those who worked in emergency services and the military. But when he felt called to pastoral ministry, he assumed he couldn’t do both. So he placed his chaplaincy dreams on the back burner to focus on working in the local church.

Almost a decade later, in 2008, he accepted the lead pastor role at Lakes Church, then a struggling central New York congregation of 15 people. He took a part-time job as a patient advocate at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse to supplement his family’s income. Though he loved the challenge of revitalizing the church, first responder chaplaincy never strayed far from his mind. So it delighted him later that year when his job at the hospital turned into a chaplaincy position.

And when an opportunity arose to volunteer his services with the Auburn Fire Department, he felt God clearly opening the path. From there, more doors opened with other emergency services — including the Auburn Police Department, Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, Civil Air Patrol, Armoured One (which responds to active shooter events), the New York State Corrections Department, and, most recently, the U.S. Secret Service. Czyz is a U.S. Missions chaplain endorsed for corrections, critical incident ministries, and Civil Air Patrol.

But in the midst of juggling those roles, he and his wife, Rachel, also a UVF graduate and deeply involved in children’s and church ministry, became foster parents. Already the biological parents of two sons, Jeremiah, now 18, and Joshua, 16, they felt God leading them to care for children whose parents couldn’t. When their foster parenting opportunities turned into adoption ones, however, they readily accepted. Over the next decade, their family of four grew into a family of eight, with the adoption of Jerry, now 15, Josiah, 10, and biological brothers Joseph, 10, and James, 8. Four boys — dealing with their own post-traumatic stress disorder, abuse issues, and grief — meant Czyz needed to turn his chaplaincy attention toward his family.

Czyz found he and his family needed even more of his chaplaincy training and skills in 2016. In a seven-month span, he lost his cousin, a close friend, to a heart attack; Rachel received a diagnosis of an aggressive form of breast cancer; and he and his wife finalized adopting the younger two boys.

“There were moments when I didn’t think I could handle everything,” Czyz says. He credits Rachel, now cancer-free, and God for giving him his strength.

“I’d never experienced that kind of grief before,” Czyz says. “That time made me realize what so many families go through. It helped me become a stronger chaplain.”

As that crisis passed and with the church thriving, Czyz again turned his attention to chaplaincy work. In 2018, he founded the nonprofit Critical Support Services, which provides training, consultation, and support services in chaplaincy, disaster response, and crisis intervention. But as much as Czyz loved working and connecting with these important men and women, he felt torn between his work at the church and this new ministry, which had taken over much of his schedule. Something had to give.

“Chaplaincy is his passion and his personality draws people to him,” Rachel says. “We need people to minister to those who carry the brunt of tragedy and have to take it home to their families. He has the heart to do it and he does it well.”

So in November 2019, Czyz stepped down from his lead pastor role to devote more time to his chaplain work through his sponsor-funded organization. The work, though long and hard, is rewarding, as he receives opportunities to share God’s love and healing strength with those who put their lives on the line every day. He acknowledges that God has given him a gift of empathy to communicate with first responders.

“I’ve learned to read what they need,” he says. “And they trust when I speak to them. I show that I care about them, that I want to listen and help, and they ultimately will open up.”

[PhotoGallery path = “/sitecore/Media Library/PENews/Photo Galleries/Joshua Czyz”]

Source: AG News

Fostering Benevolence

One Church, a congregation of 2,500 in Gahanna, Ohio, recently collected enough $25 gift cards to give three to every teen in foster care in Franklin County (population 1.3 million). Churchgoers donated nearly $60,000 and wrote cards for each teen.

“As the church has grown, we wanted to activate to a different level of giving,” says Greg A. Ford, 39, lead pastor of One Church. “You can always throw out a financial goal, but sometimes they can be impersonal. We wanted to know what the unmet needs in our community are.”

Before Christmas, the church reached out to Franklin County Children Services (FCCS), which provides for abused, neglected, and dependent children. The church asked the agency about its greatest need and what congregants could do to help.

Without hesitation, Elizabeth Crabtree, director of volunteer services and child enrichment at FCCS, asked One Church if it could provide gift cards for its foster teens, a group often overlooked at the holiday. Ford invited Crabtree one Sunday to share the need with the congregation. After she spoke, Ford challenged each person in the congregation to donate one $25 gift card.

Churchgoers pushed news of the event out through their social media channels, and gift cards began coming in from across the country. When a local TV news reporter got wind of the event from the congregation’s Instagram account, she showed up at the church the following day for an interview. Once the story ran on an evening news segment, gift cards from Target, Amazon, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, and other stores began pouring in from individuals and businesses in the community.

Ford recalls a particularly meaningful interaction as a result of the gift card drive. A woman identifying herself as an atheist came by the church office with a stack of $25 gift cards. Although she did not share the church’s beliefs, she said she could get behind its kindhearted efforts.

Dionna A. Carter, 31, director of One Big Vision, the church’s outreach program, spearheaded the effort to host a card-writing party that included activities for the entire family. While parents wrote handwritten notes to gift card recipients, children decorated cookies, ate popcorn, and watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas in the church auditorium.

In all, One Church collected $60,000 in gift cards, three for each of the 775 foster-care teens in the county as well as provided handwritten notes for each of the young people receiving cards.

One Church is already brainstorming how to extend its outreach next Christmas. Ford is aware that there are more than 6,000 foster teens in the Buckeye State.

“Next time, we’re going to try to help every foster teen in the state,” he says. Ford hopes to organize a matching fund drive. One Church would donate $25 gift cards for foster teens and then ask other congregations in the state to match that donation.

“It’s so attainable if everyone would get involved,” Ford says.

Source: AG News

A Godly Life in Today's Culture

I’m a person who loves information. I’ve always been curious, annoyingly so at times, I’m sure. Few things delight my soul like learning an interesting fact about something, whether trivial or global in impact. I love to read books, magazines, and newspapers. I love a good documentary or historical series. I have little interest in local news shows, but I hate to miss the nightly world news.

Lately, however, I find the news troubling. The stories of political strife, crime, and depravity can steal my joy and threaten to deflate me. As a woman striving to live a godly life, I find today’s culture anything but encouraging. As a wife, mom, and Mimi, the bird’s-eye view of our culture offered by the world news threatens to unravel my hopes and dreams for my loved ones, causing me to question whether they can thrive and succeed in a day marked by unholy, troubling times.

Is there hope for those who set their hearts on the holy, higher ways of God? Is there more than victory over smaller battles, but actual triumph over the assaults and temptations encountered by those who dare to want a godly life and find themselves fighting the mindset of the day?

Praise God, He gives great hope, powerful help, and incredible examples of those who have fought these battles against the messages and seduction of pagan cultures and won. We have examples of those who triumphed over the enemy and lived lives worthy of study, worthy of honor, and worthy of emulation. Not only can we always glean from the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, we have life-giving examples in the Word of God of men and women who triumphed. The prophet Daniel is one such example.

Daniel, as a Hebrew captive, lived in the pagan culture of Babylon where, at times, even his life was threatened because of his godly lifestyle. Daniel exhibited a life and character that honored God and provided leadership for other exiles in Babylon. Daniel’s life shows us the way to thrive, regardless of a culture that shouts insults at us while simultaneously inviting us to drink in every concoction of temptation the enemy can muster.

Did Daniel cave in to despair at the hands of an ungodly culture? No way! Was he tripped up by seductive messages of indulgence and pride? Nope. Daniel lived a steadfast life, fulfilling what God ordained for him right in the middle of the enemy’s territory.

You and I can glean from Daniel’s example, for do we not live in a similar society today? Are we not surrounded by ungodly circumstances? We have nothing to fear for ourselves, for our children and grandchildren, and for all who walk alongside us. God is greater than our enemy, greater than what the messages of the day shout, greater than the temptations and threats the world may send our way.

Friend, let me encourage you — you and your loved ones were made to overcome, to thrive in this day. The timing of your birth and of those you love was planned by a loving and holy God who is undaunted by the evil and sin of the world.

Pause for a moment to take in this next truth: His call is for more than just escaping the traps of our culture. That’s right, His invitation is for so much more. He is calling you and me into a deeper place with Him so we can be faithful, courageous, and trustworthy, exhibiting a freedom and peace the world can’t explain or replicate without Jesus. Other believers also need to see and be encouraged by a life like Daniel’s, lived out right here in our messy, broken world.

Excerpted from Trustworthy: A Study of the Life and Character of Daniel, by Kay Burnett. Copyright ©2019 Gospel Publishing House, pp 7-8. All rights reserved. Feb. 23 is National Women’s Day in the Assemblies of God.

<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"Cambria Math"; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:swiss; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-469750017 -1073732485 9 0 511 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Calibri",sans-serif; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:"Calibri",sans-serif; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;}size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;}

Source: AG News