BGMC – I Can Do That

Emily Hardy was just 10 years old when Eric Hoffman, the Illinois District Youth director, came to her church, Industry (Illinois) Assembly of God.  That day Eric shared the story of his daughter, Emma, who in an effort to raise $1,000 for BGMC (Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge), took pledges to smash eggs on her dad’s (Eric’s) head.  

Although Emily would pass on “egging” anyone, she suddenly felt the urge to make a difference, believing she could raise $1,000 as well. She devoted herself to reaching that goal by doing odd jobs, selling items, and letting people know about her desire to raise $1,000 for missions. By June, she had already met her goal!

“I thought, why stop there? So, I kept going,” Emily says. By the end of December, she had raised over $4,500 for BGMC!

For most kids, that would have been enough, but God had placed a burden for kids in difficult circumstances who also needed to hear about Jesus. This year, Emily revised her goal . . . adding a zero. That’s right. $10,000.

“I’ve sold T-shirts, necklaces, key chains, bracelets, and a (fundraiser) stuffed lion,” Emily says. “I also held a yard sale, bake sales, created and sold some canvas art, did some dog sitting, and I still help my grandfather (a contractor) with projects.” So far this year, Emily has raised more than $7,500.

Brian, Emily’s father, says Emily is well-known in the district as her efforts have been shared by Hoffman over and over again as he visits and ministers at churches.

Emily’s efforts have also influenced a lot of other kids in the church and district to follow her lead. “At our summer kids camp,” Emily recalls, “it seemed every night 20 kids would come up to me and says things like, ‘That’s so cool what you’re doing for BGMC . . . I’m going to do that too.”

To keep friends, family, and those interested in what she’s doing next for BGMC, Emily has created a Facebook page and a website to keep people posted.

Other kids at the church are also getting on board with BGMC — creating and selling all kinds of things, from crafts to baked goods, to sell and give the money to missions.

Although it’s clear that God has placed a burden for BGMC on Emily’s heart, Emily’s parents (Brian and April) and her pastor, Jon Keck, agree that the church’s culture of emphasizing missions played a part in preparing her for this calling.

Keck, who came to Industry — a town of about 450 — in 2004, says the church has always been missions minded. When he first began ministering at the church, it only had about 16 people, but they had given $13,000 to missions the year before.

Throughout Keck’s tenure at Industry AG, God has repeatedly shown himself as Faithful Provider. As the church continued to make missions a priority, it grew; as the church grew, the more money the church gave to missions.

Keck shares how God even miraculously intervened when his faith in God’s ability to provide waivered. The church was preparing to hold its annual missions convention, which would be followed shortly by the launching of a new building program.

That year he went to the church board and recommended that the church not increase its giving to missions — keep the “status quo,” he said — in order for the building program to have a healthy financial start.

“A few days later, a friend of mine called me (Missionary Jay Covert),” Keck says. “He didn’t know anything about what we were doing. But he told me he had a word from God for me. He said, ‘God wants you to know, if you take care of His missionaries, He’ll take care of whatever you have in mind to do.’ I broke down and wept. I went before the church and confessed my lack of faith and we went on to have the best mission’s convention ever we had ever had to that date.”

And the building program? The church embraced God’s message. Although the $1.5 million building took seven years to complete, it only cost $700,000 and it was finished in 2015 completely debt-free!

“Throughout the process, there were many starts and stops, but when we came to a stop, we would try to find something in missions to give to and we found that God would bless us our building program,” Keck says, still marveling. “The only way to explain it is, God blesses churches who put missions first!”

The church, which now has around 120 attending on Sundays, supports 78 missionaries with a total of around $5,500 in monthly support. Already this year, they have raised over $25,000 for BGMC plus around $5,000 for Speed the Light.

As a direct result of putting missions first, Keck believes, they’ve seen many young adults flocking to their Monday Night Young Adult program as well as seeing their Wednesday evening children’s ministry explode, with now around 150 kids attending (300 on the roll). “We are always in need of another bus so we can bring more kids!” Keck laughs.

This environment of making missions a priority, and the miracles that followed, is the environment Emily has grown up in and witnessed her entire life. Through her efforts to raise funds for BGMC, she says has made new friends, shared more about Jesus with her friends, and even invited some non-Christian friends to church — who ended up really liking it.

“Every penny counts,” she says. “No matter what you give, it’s all blessed and used by God — great things happen when that happens!”

Source: AG News

Sacrifice Leads to Healing

Single mom Malinda Mayne, 42, of Bolivar, Missouri, knew she needed to find a way to get her two teenage children to the Fine Arts Festival during General Council 2017 in Anaheim, California. For over a year, she saved each week, but as the calendar rolled closer to August, she only had enough for either 16-year-old Seth Batten or 13-year-old Sidney Batten to attend. Then she came up with an idea.

Mayne posted news about a cookie fundraiser on her Facebook page.

“I started with just sugar and chocolate chip,” Mayne says. “I had so many orders I couldn’t keep up! So, I added a few more flavors.”

Through the years, Mayne has baked specialty sugar cookies for many local events, and as special orders for friends and family. Business from her Facebook announcement proved so brisk she wound up buying airplane tickets, hotel rooms, food, spending money, and a one-day admission to Disneyland for herself, her children, her fiancé Matt Goforth, and his 14-year-old son, Luke.

“The fundraiser started in April and by the second week of May I had orders for over 300 dozen cookies,” says Mayne, who started out with four cookie sheets to keep her one oven busy. “Near the end, though, I did buy another cookie sheet!”

While she kept busy with the fundraiser, baking and delivering cookies around the vicinity, Mayne worked full-time at a candy store she had managed for two years, following two years in billing and invoicing for the firm. Mayne is thankful she learned the ins and outs of small business management, but the repetitive lifting movements necessary in the job caused severe tendonitis that made the simplest movements painful. Visits to her doctor resulted in steroid shots and steroid patches, as well as eight weeks of physical rehabilitation, but nothing helped significantly.

“I kept praying that the Lord would heal my arms, because it hurt to even lift a cup or push a button on the remote control,” Mayne says. By the time she traveled to Anaheim in August, Mayne could barely pull her suitcase along a sidewalk.

In a prayer time during one of the youth services at GC 17, National Youth Ministry Senior Director Heath Adamson asked everyone who needed healing to stand. Mayne resisted, because of it being a youth service, but her daughter insisted. Sidney prayed for Malinda three times, stopping to ask if her arms felt better. Each time, Malinda told her daughter nothing had changed.

However, when she returned home to Missouri from California, Mayne realized the pain had fled.

“It wasn’t an immediate healing, but one that happened over time,” Mayne says. “The pain no longer wakes me from sleep, and I can lift without pain now. It has been a faith-builder to all of us to see the faithfulness of the Lord.”  

Because of the success of the fundraiser, Mayne quit her job and opened her own cookie business, Malinda’s Sugar and Spice. Customers are no longer limited to sugar and chocolate chip, and Mayne still delivers.

IMAGE – Fine Arts advocates are (from left) Seth Batten, Luke Goforth, Sidney Batten, Matt Goforth, and Malinda Mayne.

Source: AG News

Looking for a Few Good Men — and Women

HOT SPRINGS, Arkansas — Tony and Kerri Ballard gather with other houseparents at the COMPACT Family Services pavilion at 3:30 on a warm late October afternoon. As they wait for the busload of students to arrive after school, Tony lifts up specific prayers on behalf of staff and the young residents of Hillcrest Children’s Home in Hot Springs, a city of 37,000 in the Ouachita Mountains.

Tony, 43, and Kerri, 40, are among the 49 employees providing care to abused and neglected children in age- and gender-based housing on a 65-acre campus. They are full-time parents around the clock, 10 days in a row, until getting four consecutive days off.

The couple greet half a dozen girls ages 6 to 10 as they file off the bus. For the next 4½ hours, the Ballards will be dealing with a cauldron of emotions at Garrison Cottage. The girls might be affectionate, mouthy, isolated, cheerful, and energetic. At some level, all are needy and demanding attention.

Diana, a wiry girl of 10, hugs Kerri, whom she calls “mom,” before she skips back to the cottage. The chattering Diana is proud that she just learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels, and that she helps keep the cottage clean. She says she isn’t so grateful that her younger sister — also a resident of the cottage — bosses her around.

After-school activities include chores, dinner, homework, showering, playtime, a snack, taking prescribed medicine, and a bedtime story. Rules posted on the wall include respecting houseparents, respecting peers, using an indoor voice, and maintaining a good attitude.

Still, the Ballards don’t primarily view their role as rule discipliners. They realize it’s paramount to provide structure and a sense of security for displaced children who may be struggling with attachment and abandonment issues.

“If we are too stern in their eyes, they see us as just like the abuser who put them here,” Tony says. “I don’t want to mess up the entire night because a child didn’t eat the beans on her plate.”

Many of the placements at Hillcrest stem from a child being removed from a situation because of physical or substance abuse or neglect. In addition to the bodily or emotional pain a boy or girl suffers, there also is the trauma of being removed from the family of origin. Some kids are in survival mode when they arrive.

“This is a mission field to an unreached people group,” Tony says. “Even if it’s a tough day, you still know you are walking in obedience.”

The Ballards have been at Hillcrest only since May, but they seem more seasoned. It helps that they earlier served as youth pastors at Open Arms Assembly in Beebe, Arkansas, and Kerri spent 9 months working for Amazima Ministries in Uganda, while Tony worked for organizations that provided orphan care in the African nation. Even so, COMPACT isn’t exactly what the Ballards envisioned.

“It’s very rewarding, but emotionally challenging,” says the patient and nurturing Kerri.

The evening meal, white bean chicken chili and cornbread, is scrumptious and filling. Everyone around the table has opportunity to share something good and bad that happened during the day.

When a child is argumentative or disobedient, the even-tempered Tony rationally explains the consequences — typically loss of certain privileges — of continued bad behavior. The girls refer to him as Daddy, Poppa, or Mr. Tony.

“I welcome them to call me whatever they choose, as long as it’s not vulgar,” says the quietly passionate Tony. “Even in the least traumatized situation, these kids still have been completely rejected.”

This night, story time in the living room before bed features the account of Queen Esther. Kids sit on couches, an ottoman, and a bean bag as Tony leans on a table and reads. The girls like to interrupt, and Tony makes sure insults hurled at others aren’t over the top.

The Ballards’ 9-year-old son, Kohl, lives in a bedroom separate from the hallway housing the girls. Tony and Kerri make sure to give Kohl, who rides the school bus with the Hillcrest kids, some quality time after the girls go to bed at 8.

Because they have self-contained living quarters in the cottage, the Ballards can come and go undisturbed while not on duty, and they tend to go somewhere with Kohl on weekends. “Relief parents” move into a spare separate bedroom for four consecutive days to give the Ballards a breather.  

SEEKING RECRUITS

Hillcrest needs 10 houseparents to be fully staffed; one of the cottages is closed because COMPACT is short three couples to serve as houseparents. Both regular and relief houseparents are needed.

“One of our primary needs is for the Lord to send good quality, God-fearing people to take on this mission,” says Brian J. Page, COMPACT administrator. “It’s a tough job.”

Houseparents don’t need to be ordained pastors or missionaries. A college degree isn’t required. They must believe in Jesus as Lord and adhere to Assemblies of God doctrinal beliefs.

“Ideally, we are looking for a husband and wife who can model what parents look like for the kids,” says Page, 46. “But we also need single men and women willing to serve in a relief houseparenting capacity.”

Page sees a large part of his role as supporting houseparents. A majority of Hillcrest’s 52 youngsters have been placed by state agencies after removal from abusive and/or neglectful home environments. Increasingly, COMPACT houses kids in therapeutic care, those who have suffered trauma beyond traditional foster care needs. Children in therapeutic care typically stay 12-18 months before returning to relatives, going into private foster care, or being adopted.

“Houseparenting can be draining,” Page says. “However, what we can accomplish for a child’s eternity is immeasurable.”

TRANSITIONAL LIVING

Baron and Regena Way, both 42, have been houseparents at Hillcrest for 5 years, working most recently with the five residents of the Transitional Living Center (TLC), an independent apartment building. Residents who age out of Hillcrest at 18 can stay an additional 4 years if they are enrolled in college or in a career development plan.

The Ways provide transportation to jobs, school, and appointments, as most of the transitional residents don’t own a vehicle.

“We’re just there to help them be prepared for living in the real world,” Baron says. These young adults may have missed out on basic life skills. The Ways teach them how to drive a car, budget, shop for groceries, do laundry, cook meals, prepare a résumé, and balance a checkbook. The young adults pay modest rent, but the money is deposited into an account that is returned when they leave.

The Ways also try to provide a sense of community, offering a regular dinner night, game night, and movie night for residents.

Baron found COMPACT ministry appealing after being laid off as a building materials distributor office manager, a job he held for 15 years. Regena had child care experience. The Ways have been longtime volunteers at Hot Springs First Assembly of God, and he actually taught some of the boys now in TLC years ago in Royal Rangers. Hillcrest kids attend Wednesday and Sunday services at the church.

The Ways have two sons, Logan, 17, and Hudson, 10. For 3½ years, the Ways oversaw high school boys at Hillcrest.

“Our kids had to learn how to share us,” Regena says. “A lot of the time, residents’ needs came first.”

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Jason and Abbey Lundy, both 33, became Hillcrest houseparents in June, and currently watch six boys, ages 12 to 16. They have their own 12-year-old son, Zach, officially adopted at age 9 after living with them for 3 years. Zach had half a dozen placements in the previous 2 years.

“Zach is adjusting to sharing us,” Jason says. Having a child with foster care experience living with his adoptive parents has benefits and drawbacks at Hillcrest, according to Jason.

“He has flashbacks, being in the system in a similar environment,” says Jason, a former police officer and a children’s residential worker. “But at times he can assure the other boys that things can turn out all right.”

The Lundys have been married a decade. Nine years ago, Abbey says God assured her in a church service that she would be mother to many children, even though she is unable to conceive.

“I’m not their mom, but I’m being mother while they’re here,” says Abbey, an Evangel University graduate and former elementary as well as middle school special education schoolteacher. “The biggest piece is learning to stay calm no matter what they’re doing. A calm face and a calm voice helps them to calm down.”

When either Abbey or Jason becomes frustrated to the point of exasperation, the other takes over.

“We can only break down their defenses by building relationships,” says Jason, who is obtaining a Master of Theological Studies from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary  at Evangel. “Even if we’re just giving these kids a vacation from the hell they’ve gone through, we’ve accomplished something.”

Source: AG News

Laying it Down — a Tribute to Veterans

As a kid I remember when the Traveling Memorial Wall for the Vietnam War came through Eugene, Oregon. I understood that the memorial was a tribute to the fallen and those who were still missing in action from an era my parents had lived through. I studied as much as I could about the Vietnam War and those turbulent times in our nation and noted that it took more than 20 years after the Vietnam War for the memorial wall to be built in Washington, D.C. But the war that it stood for seemed to be a world away and so many years ago, before I was born. I just couldn’t fully grasp its significance. I didn’t think I would ever be the one visiting a war memorial with the names of my brothers and sisters on it.

But later, war became my reality. I served as a Marine in Iraq from 2007-2008 and in Afghanistan in 2009 as a field radio operator in 2nd Battalion 8th Marines, an infantry unit. I spent a lot of time training with men from around the nation. We were forged together in a deep bond of brotherhood and camaraderie. Most of us were young and thought we were invincible.

During combat, I saw young boys become men overnight. They became responsible to carry the burden of making life and death decisions. We banded together, becoming very close through our experiences and the miserable conditions that we endured. We surrendered every part of ourselves for others. I didn’t fight for myself, but for them. Their names became very important to me because in a short amount of time it was as if I knew nearly everything there was to know about them. It was important to know them and do all I could to help them out so that we could make it home. In uniform we called each other by rank and last name.

Almost daily we stood in formation for roll call. When our rank and name was called, we responded by saying, “Here,” or “Present.” When we lost someone we would conduct a ceremony called the “Final Roll Call” at their memorial service. Several names would be called out one at a time, usually the names of those who were closest to the fallen. Those friends would respond to the calling of their name. But when the name of the fallen service member was called out there would be only silence. The rank and name would be called out again, still with no response. Then on the third and final call of the fallen’s rank and full name, it would be called out loudly with a salute. Nearly every time we did this I would feel the Spirit of God surge through me with hallowed goosebumps as the names seemingly floated away into the air. I thought I would leave behind those names at the Final Roll Call.

I didn’t know how important it is to honor my fallen brothers by having their names preserved until recently. At times the difficulties I dealt with after my time at war made me so jaded and disenfranchised that I would try to forget those names. But no matter how many therapy sessions I did or tried not to do, my brothers’ names would come up; they were part of me. In all honesty, I didn’t know what to do with their names.

Then my wife told me about the Middle East Conflicts Memorial Wall in Marseilles, Illinois, nestled alongside the Illinois River. Etched into its granite walls are the names of every U.S. service member who has died in the Middle Eastern conflicts since 1979. It is the first war memorial that gives honor to the fallen while we are still at war. Every year after Memorial Day more names are added.

My wife planned for our family to stop at Marseilles this summer on a trip to Iowa. She knew I had carried burdens with me since my time in war, experiencing its curses because I had brought the war home with me. I didn’t know what to expect when visiting this memorial because there my wars were on record. But I became quiet as I did in the long moments when my platoon was heading into dangerous combat zones. A deep sense of introspection engulfed me.

Once on the grounds of the Memorial Wall, you can enter a fallen hero’s name into a computer log and record your visit to them. The log directs you to the wall panel where their name is carved. My wife and kids went on a walk to give me some time to process – or perhaps it was to heal. I looked up some of the names from my unit, some I knew personally and others that I didn’t: Hall, Chrobot, Lasher, Xiarhos, Christensen, and Sharp, among others.

I was prayerful and mindful the whole time, thinking how peaceful the location was. Although a Midwest storm was beginning to brew and light rain fell in the distance, the river remained calm. I searched the panels looking for my brothers’ names while honoring the names of the ones I didn’t know. We were all connected through brotherhood.

Standing alongside the wall, I sensed that I was on a brief pilgrimage. I touched the names, quietly praying to God. Latent emotion rose within me – the pain, the anger, the frustration, the struggles, and the darkness I had been wrestling with from my time in Afghanistan. I thought about the families who no longer had a mom or dad or brother or sister. I thought about the young men I served with who didn’t return home to a celebration, but gave the ultimate sacrifice. I didn’t cry for myself, but for them.

I told God that I wanted the burdens I had been carrying from war to be left at the wall next to the calm waters. I’d lost track of time, but then my kids started running towards me and a great hope stirred within my heart as I hugged them tightly and somberly walked back to our van. I was different. Something changed within me. A burden was gone and I felt a peace I hadn’t felt in the years since my Middle East conflicts.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

 

 

 

Source: AG News

Rebounding from Tragedy

A taxi driver slowed down on a busy street in Staten Island, a borough of New York City, recognizing Ronald L. Squibb, lead pastor of the International Christian Center (ICC). He waved and stopped to talk with Squibb, then en route home after a morning session at the gym.

Strangers like the taxi driver recognize Squibb, aware of his family tragedy via social media. These encounters have opened doors for sharing his faith.

On Nov. 11, 2016, Squibb and his wife, Emma, received a phone call from their son-in-law Steven that their daughter Cheryl had died unexpectedly at home from a pulmonary embolism. Cheryl was 31, with three daughters, ages 12, 8, and 8 months.

The untimely death devastated the family and impacted the church and the Staten Island community. Squibb continues relying on Psalm 27 for comfort and strength.

“We may be shaken by life, but we don’t have to be moved from Jesus Christ,” he says. “He is our foundation.”

After returning to the pulpit following a time of private mourning with his family, Squibb’s preaching reflected a fresh transparency. His sermons and social media comments have opened new bridges that have resulted in an influx of people to ICC.   

Annette Martinez, a grieving widow whose husband died in October 2016, walked into ICC in January 2017, searching for comfort. Squibb preached on the Beatitudes, citing Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“I had passed by the church many times, but God wanted me to be there on that Sunday,” Martinez says.

She continued attending, and joined a 15-week grief class sitting next to the Emma, Squibb’s wife of 36 years. They bonded in their shared grief. 

“Jesus fills the gap and didn’t give up on me,” Martinez says.

Among the fastest-growing congregations in the U.S., ICC averages about 1,800 attendees at its five campuses, which include English, Korean, and Spanish services. New campuses are planned for Brooklyn and New Jersey.

In ministry for 30 years, Squibb joined ICC in 2011 after pastoring South Attleboro Assembly of God in Massachusetts for 12 years.

ICC has renewed an emphasis on outreaches. Six months ago, Emma Squibb began leading a women’s prayer service on Sunday evenings, during which participants diligently pray over photos of their children and grandchildren.

In October, ICC members traveled to Banessa, Romania, near the Black Sea, to establish a church. They distributed hundreds of Bibles, financed by ICC Sunday School children. A team of health-care professionals provided medical and dental services to 500 villagers.   

The church sponsors weekly prayer stations near major malls and busy intersections. Banners invite pedestrians to stop by with prayer requests.

A community center is the next outreach project, and is expected to include a campus church, soup kitchen, and coffeehouse.

While the pain of losing a child always will linger, Squibb, inspired by Psalm 16:8, trusts God wholeheartedly.

“On the one year anniversary of Cheryl’s death, I have learned to realize that I know the Lord is always with me,” he says. “I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me!”

Source: AG News

Called to Serve

The first time James H. Reed read the Bible through, he was on a ship en route to Japan in 1945.

His mother had slipped the Scriptures into Reed’s briefcase, where it remained relatively untouched throughout boot camp.

“After boot camp, it took us 31 days to get to Japan, and the sea was rough — that’s an understatement,” Reed, now 90, recalls. “I thought, this would be a good time to read the Bible.”

In his youth, Reed had only marginal interest in God. His family attended church occasionally, but he never pursued more spiritual activities. Then, at 18, Reed was drafted into the Army Signal Corps and deployed to a sea plane base near Yokohama near the end of World War II.

When he opened the Bible on the boat trip, he discovered his mother had written a message on the flyleaf: “Son, in this book you will find the way to eternal life.”

While Reed says he didn’t understand much of his initial reading of the Bible, he developed a deep respect for the Scriptures. And his mother’s words stuck with him.

It would be nearly another decade before Reed became a Christian and began a long career in the ministry, one where God led him to plant two churches and pastor for more than five decades. In the many Bibles he’s given to people over the years, he’s written that same inscription.

“Those words have changed my life,” Reed says.

Following 1½ years in military service, Reed returned to the U.S. and rejoined the Army for another 3 years, serving at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

During that time, Reed met and married his wife, Imogene McMain, already a Christian. Reed felt strange not sharing his wife’s faith, and one night asked her to read Psalm 23 to him. After she finished, he asked her to read it again. Then again.

“I had her read it four times,” he says. “When she finished, I was totally ready to surrender my heart to the Lord.” Reed walked outside and knelt in a pasture.

The Reeds began attending a local Assemblies of God church, and he soon sensed a call to the ministry. But he avoided it, unsure of the preparation needed.

A few years later, their 2½-year-old daughter, Rita, suffered severe asthma. One night, during an especially violent attack, Reed knelt beside her bed and began to pray for his daughter’s healing.

“The next morning you never would know that she had asthma,” Reed recalls. “She never to this day has had another attack.”

Reed then decided he would follow the call and eventually became ordained. In 1955, the family moved to Rushville, Indiana, to plant First Christian Assembly of God. They remained there for 7 years before moving to pastor churches in Sullivan, Indiana, and then Newark, Ohio.

In Newark, Reed worked with the Ohio Ministry Network to plant Family Life Center, where he remained as lead pastor for more than 35 years. He retired in 2000.

Nancy L. Broyles, who worked in the office with Reed for 15 years at the church, now known as Water’s Edge Assembly of God, says his longevity led to deep connections with congregants there.

“People looked at him as part of their family because he was there for so long,” Broyles says. “He’s a very giving, loving person.”

Reed retired to care full-time for Imogene, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Yet he stays active by speaking at churches and overseeing a prayer ministry for pastors. He and Imogene have four children, six grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. In January, Reed was healed of a recurrence of bladder cancer.

“Folks will call me and have me pray with them,” he says. “I’ve had wonderful ministry after I’ve retired.”

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — November 12, 1967<br />

BGMC is a vibrant Assemblies of God missions program for kids that has a rich history. Originally called Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade, but now known as Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge, BGMC was first introduced at the National Sunday School Convention in Springfield, Missouri, in March 1949. Before that time there was a missions program in place for adults, and a missions program for youth called “Speed the Light,” but nothing for the kids. The concept was developed by Hart Armstrong (1912-2001), a former missionary and editor of Gospel Publishing House Sunday School materials.

BGMC is a program used to promote missions among kids and also raise funds for various missionary projects. It especially focuses on sending out Sunday School and training literature for missionaries to distribute. The first BGMC offering was received in October 1949, and BGMC giving that first year reached $1,290.39.

Barrel banks were chosen as the collection containers because at that time anything sent to a foreign field was packed in sturdy wooden barrels. This evolved into Buddy Barrel becoming the mascot or symbol for BGMC.

The program started with small wooden barrel banks that kids took to their homes in order to collect coins for missions. After collecting coins throughout the month, on a designated Sunday, each Sunday School child would return his or her barrel to give that money in an offering for BGMC. The method has changed from small wooden barrels to larger plastic barrels. The current Buddy Barrel bank is made of transparent plastic. The concept of Buddy Barrel has also evolved into a life-like puppet mascot (a large barrel with a face) that helps to encourage kids to give to BGMC.

The money for BGMC comes from kids giving in Buddy Barrels and adults receiving special offerings. The money is used to support various Assemblies of God missionary projects and ministries. Since 2001, BGMC has been the official children’s missions education program for the Assemblies of God.

In 1950, Frances Foster was appointed to oversee the BGMC program. She remained in this position for 21 years. In 1952, BGMC began to emphasize a specific mission field every year. Throughout the year, emphasis is placed on one field and its missionaries, with a special offering taken up on BGMC Day, which includes the adults in the church.

Fifty years ago, Foster, the BGMC coordinator, wrote an article, “BGMC Comes of Age” in the Nov. 12, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. She mentioned that it had been 18 years since the start of BGMC. She said, “Two considerations prompted this missionary program for Assemblies of God children 12 years and under.” One was the “urgent need of a children’s missionary program.” The other consideration was a great need for gospel literature overseas.

According to Foster, “Missionaries needed literature to strengthen their teaching ministry,” as well as for evangelizing. Overseas Bible schools had meager libraries or none at all. Foster asserted, “One of the biggest areas of need was for translating and printing Sunday School literature in foreign languages and dialects.” This is important. Literature sometimes goes where a missionary cannot go and it can remain even after a missionary must leave. Now missionaries can use BGMC funds for anything they need to help them spread the gospel. Only the lack of funds can curtail the impact and effectiveness of BGMC.

At the time of Foster’s article, BGMC giving had reached almost $2 million in 18 years. Since it was started 68 years ago, BGMC has raised more than $145 million for missions.  

Read “BGMC Comes of Age,” on pages 26 and 27 of the Nov. 12, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Keep Thyself Pure,” by Wilson A. Katter

• “Evangelistic Center Dedicated in Pretoria, South Africa” by Vernon Pettenger

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

 Portions of this article adapted from the BGMC website.

Source: AG News

Remembering the Persecuted

Religiously motivated persecution is on the rise around the world. According to a recent report, 75 percent of all victims of religiously motivated violence and oppression are Christians1. By some estimates, more Christians died for their faith in the last century than in the previous 19 centuries combined2, and Christians continue to flee their homes, cities and countries in record numbers. Now more than ever, followers of Christ have a responsibility to pray and advocate for our fellow believers worldwide.

In response to the urgency of this need, Sunday, Nov. 12, has been declared the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

As a participating Fellowship, the Assemblies of God encourages its churches and members to use this date for a special time of prayer. Pastors can highlight the subject of the suffering church during regularly scheduled prayer meetings, call for special prayer meetings, or use time in Sunday services to focus on the plight of persecuted Christians.

Along with this annual nationwide emphasis, AG World Missions spotlights key prayer needs of suffering believers around the world every week of the year on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds.

“Many believers in the Western/Northern worlds have no idea about suffering. I believe the Lord is calling us (in our relatively suffering-free existence) to be informed, pray and advocate for those who suffer daily,” states AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis. “Consider this: When believers handle suffering joyfully and with stability, it becomes a marvelous testimony to the power and life of Christ that we claim and name. Suffering provides key opportunities to manifest and magnify the power of God through His servants to verify and confirm the messenger and his message.”

Such was the case of an Assemblies of God pastor in a restricted access country who served three prison terms for preaching the gospel. During his third imprisonment, he led 42 prisoners and two prison guards to Christ. One of the 42 prisoners became an evangelist who led more than 700 people to Christ during the first month after his release from prison.

“Until deliverance comes — or even if it does not come in this life — hardship and suffering can be endured in the power of God,” says missionary Randy Hurst, who serves on the WAGF Commission on Religious Liberty. “God never promised we would never suffer; instead, He promised that His grace and power are sufficient for us. Some suffering brothers and sisters say, ‘Don’t pray for our release from persecution. Pray that God will give us strength and an open door to witness for Christ.’ They want to accomplish God’s purpose in their lives, not escape their problems. Like the Early Church believers, they are rejoicing that they are worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name. However, those who are suffering persecution almost always plead with us to ask their fellow believers to remember them and to intercede for them regularly in prayer. The knowledge that we are aware of their sufferings and are praying for them is an essential comfort to them in their very trying circumstances.

Pray:

  • That the many Christians forced to keep their faith a secret will experience fellowship and encouragement and will grow in faith and doctrine.
  • For protection and steadfastness for Christians converts who are faced with major difficulties within their families.
  • For comfort for imprisoned and maltreated Christians, healing of their physical and emotional wounds, and willingness to forgive.
  • For God to work in the hearts of those who persecute Christians, and Jesus to reveal himself to politicians and other government leaders.
  • For compassionate societies that do not automatically view Christians as enemies.

1 Aid to the Church in Need 2015-2017 Report, “Persecuted and Forgotten”
2 Center for the Study of Global Christianity

Source: AG News

Museum of the Bible Opening Mid-November<br />

When visitors to Washington, D.C., tour the capital’s historic museums and monuments in the future, they’ll have more than just American history to learn. They’ll also have the opportunity to explore the history of the best-selling book of all time – the Bible.

The $500 million, 430,000-square-foot Museum of the Bible is scheduled to open Nov. 17 in the heart of the nation’s capital, within walking distance for visitors and just two blocks from the National Mall and National Air and Space Museum and three blocks from the Capitol building.  

With cutting-edge technology spread out across eight floors, it will be the largest museum in the world dedicated to the history, narrative, and impact of Scripture.

It will open seven years after a Museum of the Bible 501(c)(3) nonprofit was established and five years after the site was purchased. It formerly was the Washington Design Center. Construction began in December 2014.

The museum’s founder is Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, who said public opinion surveys were conducted to determine if people would visit the museum.

“The question was: If we built it, would they come? The answer was overwhelmingly yes — if it was done well and done right,” Green said. “[The survey] also showed that it would be best attended in Washington, D.C. … That is where museum-goers go. To be right there with all the museums would be the best place for us to be.”

Each visitor to the museum will receive a hand-held tablet known as a “Digital Guide,” which will take advantage of 500 wireless access points to give guests a one-of-a kind personalized guide. It can adjust the tour when a guest deviates from the pre-planned tour and even can re-route a tour when certain rooms are packed with visitors. The Digital Guide has three age levels: adults and teens; 9-12, and 8-and-under.

The museum will be a “celebration of the Bible” to be enjoyed by all people – Christians and non-Christians alike, Green said.

Forming the core of the museum’s eight floors will be three permanent exhibits:

  • “History of the Bible”: Visitors will follow the humble origins of the Bible and learn how it became the most widely read text in history.
  • “Narratives of the Bible”: Visitors will discover the stories of Scripture, from Genesis to the New Testament.
  • “Impact of the Bible”: Visitors will learn how the Bible has impacted history and modern-day life, including science, government, and the arts.

“The average person has no clue the degree that this book has impacted their life,” Green said. “We want to show that, whether it be in science or art or literature or government or compassion ministries.”

A restaurant serving foods of the Bible will reside on the top floor. The museum also will house a 500-seat performance arts theater.

Green said his passion for the Bible came from his father, Hobby Lobby founder David Green.

“God has blessed us tremendously, and we do strive to operate our business according to biblical principles,” Steve Green said. “[My love for Scripture] goes back to the love that our family has passed down to us – my parents and my parents’ parents, and it goes even further back than that. It’s a love for God’s Word. … We want to celebrate and highlight this Book, and encourage all people to engage with it. That is the bottom-line goal for the Bible museum.

“… The way I look at it, we have the best material of any museum in the country. We have a book that has changed our world like nothing else has.”

Source: AG News

Sam Huddleston’s Roundabout Journey

Samuel M. Huddleston attends his first meeting next week as a member of the 21-member Assemblies of God Executive Presbytery, the top policy-making body of the U.S. Fellowship with over 3.2 million adherents.

His election is a natural culmination for a 64-year-old ministry leader, who has an earned doctorate from Regent University and who has been assistant superintendent of the AG Northern California & Nevada District since 2004.

However, it seems an improbable journey for a man who spent nearly five years in California prisons after being convicted of second-degree murder. At the age of 17, Huddleston faced a potential life sentence behind bars.

Huddleston’s God-fearing, churchgoing father, Eddie, tried to implant values in his young son. Of the six children in the family, Sam was mama’s boy; he found it inconceivable that she would leave the family when he was 8. After his parents divorced, Huddleston blamed both his Heavenly Father and earthly father. He internalized feelings of rejection, which led to rebellion.

Sam turned to alcohol, marijuana, stealing, and brawling. At 15, Sam’s first night in juvenile hall, a cellmate raped him. Shortly afterwards, Sam miraculously survived a suicide attempt when he washed down a bottle of pills with lighter fluid. He became a father at 16, after his girlfriend, Ann Ward, gave birth to their son, Andre.

Sam’s grandfather Bryce Huddleston, a resident deputy sheriff, warned him, “Grandson, I’ve worked hard to make the Huddleston name one to be proud of. So, either change your name, or change your character.” Sam failed to heed the advice.

AN INDEFINITE SENTENCE

In June 1971, Huddleston had been drinking, popping pills, and carousing almost nonstop for six days. In a drunken stupor, he accompanied his older cousin Shep to a liquor store. Shep borrowed Huddleston’s knife and stabbed the shop owner to death.

Most of his fellow inmates never received visits — from anyone. Yet Eddie Huddleston, a Sunday School superintendent, didn’t abandon his wayward son. In fact, Sam kept remembering the first words Eddie spoke to him after the arrest: “Son, we’re in trouble.”

Eddie always hugged Sam when he arrived and departed for regular prison visits. Many of the other prisoners didn’t even know their father’s identity. His father, grandfather, and three uncles all dropped by, imparting wisdom about how to be a man. Eddie modeled forgiveness, never blaming his ex-wife for the marital breakup.

After 18 months in the penitentiary, Sam accepted Jesus as Savior, and took responsibility for his own failures. He read the Bible, prayed, and memorized Scripture.

“My dad instilled principles in me,” Huddleston says. “He taught me how to pray, that real men cry, that real men take care of their families.”

Huddleston had no exposure to the Assemblies of God until hearing Revivaltime evangelist C.M. Ward preach on a radio in his cell. G. Lee Thomas, then an AG pastor in Sonora, visited the prison occasionally, and told Huddleston about the Holy Spirit. Thomas arranged for Huddleston to preach at the church he pastored, even before Huddleston’s release for good behavior (he could have remained incarcerated for life).

Upon being freed in 1976, Sam asked forgiveness of those he hurt. He visited Ann — then raising Andre, nearly 6 — but she had no interest in a continued relationship.

Linda Gail Amey, a single mother with two children, Royce, 6, and Ericka, 4, met Sam the evening he gained his liberty when he spoke at the church pastored by her brother Dwight. Soon, Linda accompanied Sam to different venues where he sang and she played piano. Linda found herself attracted to Sam’s immersion in God’s Word. They wed only four months after being introduced.

However, after five years of being told when to wake up, go to sleep, and everything in between, Huddleston found it difficult to make decisions. Although he only had earned a General Equivalency Development diploma, Linda challenged him to obtain as much education as possible in order to realize his full potential. Huddleston enrolled in Bethany University, unaware that C.M. Ward served as the school’s president.

“Education is important because, initially, it replaced the insecurities that developed while in prison,” Huddleston says. “I realized education would open doors, even though I was an ex-felon.”

DEALING WITH THE PAST

Because of poor study tendencies, Sam wanted to quit attending Bethany. Linda convinced him to stay. While enrolled in an Azusa Pacific University master’s marriage and family class, Huddleston again thought about quitting, this time because therapy techniques brought emotions he never dealt with to the surface. Linda actually left him for a couple of weeks as he ranted and raved. Learning to deal with those emotions proved to be a turning point. 

Linda bore the brunt of that misdirected harbored anger in the early years of their marriage. Only when his mother, Mattie, read the manuscript for Huddleston’s book 5 Years to Life did he come to understand that she always loved him. Now Huddleston talks to his 82-year-old mom two or three times a week on the phone.

Andre eventually came to live with Sam and Linda permanently, and Sam legally adopted Royce and Ericka. The Huddlestons, married for 41 years, have 13 grandchildren.

Huddleston has become a much beloved figure around the district. He’s an affable, irenic leader, who nevertheless is unafraid to challenge others with sometimes unpleasant truths.

Char Blair, his executive administrator in the district office the past 13 years, says Huddleston has a Christ-like quality of putting people ahead of anything else.

“He is a kind leader, mixing grace with sincerity,” says Blair, a credentialed AG minister and evangelist. “He is a great mentor for so many people.”

Huddleston these days certainly is more of a peacemaker than a rabble-rouser.

“He’s a lot more confident in who he is than when we married,” Linda says. “Sam is at his best when he is dropped off in chaos, because he brings order to it.”

Source: AG News