Orlando AG Church Holds Prayer Vigil for Grieving City

More than 600 people gathered Sunday night for a prayer vigil at Iglesia el Calvario (AG) in Orlando, Florida, following the tragic loss of life that occurred when more than 100 people were shot and at least 50 killed in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning.

In what is being called “the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history,” the alleged terrorist Omar Mateen, 29, evidently systematically shot patrons of the nightclub, which caters to the LGBT community. In response to the shooting, Calvario Pastor Saturnino “Nino” González called his church together to pray for the survivors and families affected by the tragedy.

“On a typical Sunday evening, about 300 of our congregants attend,” says Calvario Executive Pastor Luis Ramos. “On Sunday night, we had about 600 people come for the prayer vigil.”

Ramos says the vigil also had unexpected guests. He learned shortly before the vigil was to begin that Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and other officials would be attending.

“Gov. Scott spoke during the vigil, as did Pastor Nino and Pastor Gabriel Salguro, our senior associate pastor,” Ramos says. “The pastoral staff then gathered around the governor and lieutenant governor at the altar and prayed for them as well.”

Ramos says all week long, prayer vigils are being held in the Orlando area with staff from Iglesia el Calvario participating in many of them. “Monday night, we participated in a prayer vigil downtown called for by the mayor,” Ramos says, “and Tuesday night, we were at the First Baptist church prayer vigil.”

Unfortunately, some have been offended that the church is participating in the vigils, mistaking compassion and love for people as approval of the LGBT lifestyle.

“The victims and their families are 90 percent Latinos and about 15 of the murdered victims were Puerto Ricans,” Pastor Nino González says. “The call to prayer for all people is biblical. Life is sacred, and when 49 lives are lost, the least the church can do is demonstrate, by its presence, God’s love.”

Photo from prayer vigil at First Baptist Church, Orlando, June 14, 2016.
Source: AG News

Securing the Connection

It’s well known that the role of women within the family, workplace, politics, and countless other institutions and circumstances has changed drastically in recent decades. It’s no surprise that how women relate to church is changing, too.

The phenomenon is highlighted by a Barna Group research report that shares the findings of multiple studies conducted between 1993 and 2015. The report states that last year, four in 10 American women had not attended church in the past six months. In addition, 46 percent of unchurched adults in the United States are women, up from 40 percent in 2003. 

What are the reasons behind women’s decline in church attendance? Stephanie L. Nance, 40, adult spiritual formation pastor at Chapel Springs Church in Bristow, Virginia, attributes it, in part, to a cultural divide between the modern woman and the modern church.

“We’ve seen a huge cultural change with women — they’re in a totally different place than just 15 years ago,” Nance says. “But in many cases [the American Church] is still ministering to women as if we’re in the 1960s.”

The Barna report cites other cultural, as well as personal factors as contributors, including lack of emotional engagement between women and their congregations, competing priorities, and changing family structures. According to Kerry Clarensau, 54, director of Assemblies of God National Women’s Ministries, the need for emotional engagement specifically is fundamental for women, and therefore essential to a fulfilling church relationship.

“Women are relational by design and tend to process emotion verbally and through connections with other women,” Clarensau says. “The Church is losing its ability to build those personal connections.”

Clarensau believes part of that loss is attributable to America’s megachurch trend. She says the megachurch model’s diminished capacity for facilitating close personal relationships requires larger congregations to be intentional about creating opportunities for women to form individual relationships.

“Small groups are beneficial, but one to one is critical,” Clarensau says. “Jesus pulled a few people close to disciple them well. Corporate worship isn’t able to do that.”

Without the appeal of personal connections, church attendance easily slips for women balancing families, careers, and myriad other responsibilities. The Barna research shows that only 11 percent of women rank church or religious activities as a priority, whereas 68 percent view family relationships as highly important.

“Time is precious and people fit church in where they can,” Nance says. “To change that, we have to ask ‘How do we get people involved in the lives of others again?’ ” 

Nance’s proposed solution starts with ministry. As a pastor herself, she challenges colleagues to find time to hang out with people, listen to them, and teach them to do the same for others.

“We have to find more time to sit with people in our churches and ask good questions,” Nance says. “Jesus asked good questions.”

When personal connections are made, and women feel valued and part of the church, additional benefits may result, including better health. A report published in The Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that frequent attendance at religious services is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular and cancer-related deaths among women. While this may be a byproduct of church attendance, personal connections must first be made.

Nance and Clarensau agree that churches must also make an effort to connect with women who fall into every demographic: divorced, widowed, and especially those who have never married. The Barna study suggests that spending early adult years in a church that focuses teaching and ministries on the nuclear family may contribute to single women disconnecting.

The potential fallout from women backing away from church affects far more than Sunday attendance numbers. As the teachers and nurturers of society, the worldview women possess has great influence over culture.

“There is so much dysfunction and lack of morality shaping the ideas of today’s individual,” Clarensau says. “It’s tragic, and the only hope is the Church and the truth it shares.”

Despite the harrowing nature of the Barna findings, Nance sees these current challenges as a part of God’s plan to involve women even more in His kingdom.

“We see women being raised up and empowered with influence like never before,” Nance says.

Source: AG News

Church Provides Bushels of Blessings

For five years, Bushels of Blessings, a ministry of First Assembly of God in Carneys Point, New Jersey, has run a 21st century gleaning ministry where they have gathered produce from local farmers and distributed it to food pantries and organizations in the Delaware Valley at no charge.

In the 2015-2016 harvest season, Bushels of Blessings collected 215,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for distribution. Volunteers go out to local farms and sort through second produce, store it in vegetable baskets, and bring the food back to the distribution center. Here the food is sorted and prepared for pick up by organizations for their food pantries.

“Two hundred and fifteen thousand pounds of produce will provide approximately 1,100,00 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Executive Director Michele Montemurno.

Six years ago, Montemurno was unemployed and looking to God for guidance. “I was praying about what God wanted me to do next, during three months of fasting and praying, God began to lay out a step-by-step vision of gleaning for those in need,” she explains.

Montemurno approached Senior Pastor Keith Holt about the church starting up the Bushels of Blessings Ministry. “I believe it was what God had called her to do and I sent her out to do a little more research,” Holt says. “We have embarked on a remarkable way to meet the physical and spiritual needs of our communities through this ministry.”

At first, Montemurno was concerned that local farmers would be unwilling to donate their produce that didn’t make it to market.

“To my surprise, the response and support from our local farmers has been tremendous,” she says. “The first year, we started with four farms.” This year, 9 to 12 Salem and Gloucester County farms will participate in the program.

Dante Spina Jr. of Spina Farms is a strong supporter of the effort. “Finally, a group of dedicated people are willing to filter through our perfectly edible sort outs and turn that into many wonderful meals for those who are less fortunate,” he says.

Last year, 39 organizations were provided with fresh produce and fruit from the Bushels of Blessings Ministry. They come from all over the Delaware Valley to fill their food pantries.

“(Bushels of Blessings) has been a blessing to many communities by supplying nourishment needed so that people can obtain the proper food for a healthy diet,” says Bishop John Gaines from Faith Chapel Outreach Ministry.

Paula Corkum, director of Hands of Love Food Pantry, says, “Because of Bushels of Blessings, we are able to help so many people, especially our seniors, who may not have enough money to purchase fresh vegetables for themselves.”

Once a month, Harvest Time Worship Center makes a pickup from the ministry to supply their food bank, which provides food for approximately 150 individuals and families. They routinely pick up 30 to 40 bushels of farm produce.

“Bushels of Blessings has given our congregation the opportunity to both receive and be a conduit in sharing the harvest that has been shared with us,” says Associate Pastor Linda Garrison. “The ministry of Bushels of Blessings has been a delight for our people.”

Starting the third week of May and ending the third week of September, Bushels of Blessings volunteers go to the farms five days a week and gather the produce throughout the harvest season. The days of distribution are Tuesday and Friday.

However, Montemurno says the ministry still has room for growth and continues to seek additional volunteers. “Last year, due to lack of volunteer resources, we had to stop gleaning in August, which left about 150,000 pounds of food uncollected in the fields,” she says.

One solution for the volunteer needs, Montemurno believes, is for other churches looking for a short-term summer mission trip to consider “sharing the harvest” through assisting Bushels of Blessings in gathering and preparing produce for distribution. “We would love to have you come be part of changing communities and lives for Jesus,” she says.

For more information about Bushels of Blessings, email: Bushelsofblessings1@gmail.com.

Source: AG News

Treating the Whole Family

Stacey McGough felt as though she had reached the end of the line in an effort to turn the life of her drug-addicted teenage son around. Hunter Lamoureux had gone to short-term treatment centers, a group home, chemical dependency counseling, and a psychologist.

Being arrested, placed on probation, taking depression medication, and forced to wear an ankle bracelet to trace his moves made no impact on improving Hunter’s behavior. Neither did dropping out of high school, nor losing privileges such as playing soccer or snowboarding, activities in which he had excelled earlier.

Stacey made inquiries with dozens of treatment facilities, but none seemed a right fit to provide a breakthrough to restore the apathetic and angry Hunter.

But a phone conversation Stacey had with Ozarks Teen Challenge Boys Academy Admissions Coordinator Adam Holderread provided hope.

“I knew Hunter was supposed to be there,” says Stacey, a single mother in Whitefish, Montana. The athletic emphasis at Ozarks Teen Challenge especially appealed to Stacey.

However, the beginning of the 15-month residential stay proved to be anything but smooth for Hunter.

During the first month he ran away from the facility, located on 190 acres of woods among rolling hills at the edge of Branson West, Missouri. By the fourth month, when Stacey first visited Hunter in the Show Me State, she encountered a son much different from the one who cursed at her and punched holes in the wall at home.

“His whole demeanor and spirit had changed,” Stacey recalls. “I had my child back for the first time in three years.”

Six months into the program, Hunter made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

When he graduated from Ozarks Teen Challenge Boys Academy in February 2016, Hunter had earned 23 online credits for courses taken during his stay, finishing with a 4.0 grade point average. In the fall, Hunter will be a student at Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe. He received the highest academic grant from the school, as well as a sports scholarship to become part of the top college snowboarding team in the nation.

Stacey mortgaged the family home to send Hunter to Ozarks Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge is a ministry of Assemblies of God U.S. Missions.

“It was worth every penny,” she says. “The staff poured into Hunter in so many ways. They are such a gifted team. What they did was a miracle.”

Indeed, the dozen disparate team members at Ozarks Teen Challenge blend well in seeing that lives of boys ages 12 to 17 get back on track after substance abuse and other life-controlling issues. The therapy features a highly structured schedule that includes year-round on-site schooling in a classroom setting, group discipleship classes, and individual mentoring.

Residents at the 28-bed facility aren’t just from southwest Missouri, but from around the nation. Relatives usually decide to place boys in the faith-based center, although some are there because of court orders.

“Families need to buy in and be an active part of the process,” says the upbeat and personable Development Director Wendy Buttacy, noting the value of bimonthly parental visit weekends, weekly phone calls, and detailed monthly progress reports. “Family involvement is one of the biggest factors for continued success after the boys leave the program.”

Wendy, 32, and her husband, Michael Buttacy, the center’s 33-year-old executive director since July 2015, met at Evangel University. They lead a highly educated staff. Michael earned a master’s in business administration while Wendy holds a master’s in counseling from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

Although neither Michael nor Wendy traveled down an addictive road as youths, others on staff did.

Program Director Steven Borchert, the youngest of eight children, says when he was 6 years old his grandfather began giving him scotch and whiskey to drink at family reunions. He tried to overdose on painkillers at 15. After a stint in the Army that ended with an excruciating ankle injury, Borchert cultivated a prescription drug addiction that led him to the brink of suicide.

“I was just empty,” recalls Borchert, 35. “I was trying to find fulfillment in the things of the world.”

Borchert has been at the center since it opened nine years ago. While he sensed God calling him to ministry during college, he went down his own path, earning a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology, before surrendering to the call.

Youths sometimes feel freer to be real with Borchert because of his tattooed-covered arms and rough-around-the-edges exterior.

“When our students first get here they hate it,” says Borchert, whose mother died when he was 13 months old. “I’ve been bit, kicked, spat on, and had stuff thrown at me. Guys we’re dealing with have been kicked out of youth group or school.”

But students eventually come to see Ozarks Teen Challenge as a place of refuge, Borchert says, and before leaving they already are ministering to fellow students.

Holderread, the 32-year-old admissions coordinator, has a master’s degree in criminal justice, served as a Special Weapons and Tactics police officer, and is a chaplain candidate at AGTS. Especially now that he and his wife, Rachel, have two preschool children of their own, Holderread believes he should be a role model to boys at the center.

“These young men need to have a father figure,” Holderread says. “But we also strive to restore the family unit — parents, guardians, siblings, grandparents — because they also are in need of ministry.”

Uniformly, staff members credit Buttacy — who tries to ensure that employees don’t put in more than 40 hours per week — with ensuring that they don’t burn out. Buttacy says he wouldn’t be surprised if most of the current team wind up leading Teen Challenge centers themselves someday.

“We can’t pay the people in these positions what they deserve, but they want to be here,” Buttacy says. “Their drive and passion is bigger than any paycheck, but nowhere in the Bible does it say people need to work 90 hours of ministry a week.”

Leigh Roberts, whose son Sam graduated from the program in October 2014, felt so impressed by Ozarks Teen Challenge that she heads up a support group in which parents of alumni counsel parents of current students over the phone.

“It’s a family disease and if you want your child to have the best chance at success, the family has to be involved,” says Roberts, who lives in Oklahoma City. “I hope to get every parent to talk about drug addiction to try to get rid of the stigma.”

Roberts, whose son is preparing to start his second year of college, lauds the Teen Challenge personnel for their care and involvement.

“More than anything, people who struggle with addiction need to be shown love, and the staff pours so much love into those kids,” Roberts says. “They act out God’s Word in the way they live.”

Pictured: Stacey McGough (left) participated in a five kilometer run with her son, Hunter (center), and daughter, Andrea, near the end of Hunter’s Teen Challenge stay last year.

Source: AG News

Preaching to the Back Row

When he stands in a pulpit on a Sunday morning to kick off a prayer seminar at a church where he’s been invited, Assemblies of God ordained evangelist Kevin Senapatiratne sometimes wears a “superhero” T-shirt under his sports coat, displaying the logo to the congregation.

“Prayer is not just for ‘Super Christians,’ ” says Senapatiratne, who runs a ministry called Christ Connection. “It’s for those in the back row who think prayer is not for them.”

Whether it’s inertia, fear, or some other factor, it’s not unusual for as many as 90 percent of a given congregation to be uninvolved in corporate prayer. Most pastors need, and want, prayer support, but sometimes the band of prayer warriors upholding a leader in prayer is small.

Changing those numbers is one reason why Senapatiratne, based in Blaine, Minnesota, 18 miles north of Minneapolis, starts his “Enjoying Prayer” workshops on Sunday mornings. That’s when the greatest number of people is at church. He also uses social media, particularly Twitter, to share encouragement about praying with over 100,000 followers in 140 countries.

“Those who think prayer is intimidating aren’t going to show up on a Saturday,” he says.

Senapatiratne’s motivation to involve more people in prayer stems from his own experience serving as a pastor of an AG church plant in 2005.

“Sometimes people think prayer is kind of overwhelming to them, and so we try and engage them so they can discover prayer is something they get to do, rather than something they have to do,” Senapatiratne says.

It’s not a matter of addressing God in letter-perfect King James English, he says.

“People think prayer is overwhelming because maybe they’ve gone to a prayer service and they’ve heard someone pray an eloquent prayer,” Senapatiratne says. “They think, I can’t pray like that, so then why even bother, rather than viewing it as a conversation with a Father who loves them.”

AG Minnesota District Superintendent Clarence St. John says a spiritual awakening is happening across the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“I’m really thankful for every church and every person that highlights prayer,” St. John says. “Kevin has raised the level of prayer and expectancy just by the work he’s done.”

St. John, who also is on the Christ Connection advisory council, says he has noticed an impact in the areas Senapatiratne has visited.

“He’s not self-serving at all, and he gets a great response,” St. John says. He notes that Senapatiratne often receives commitments from 20 to 30 percent of local congregants to pray for their pastor.

“Any time you get that percentage of your church praying, you’re going to have a spiritual awakening happen,” St. John says.

Senapatiratne believes when the percentage of congregants praying for their pastor exceeds 10 percent, a church begins to see God move. He maintains that conveying prayer as an enjoyable experience can flip a switch for many members.

While hoping to expand his speaking and seminar ministry beyond the Midwest, Senapatiratne is already achieving global reach for the Christ Connection ministry via Twitter.

“We try to do daily stuff with social media,” he says. “Multiple times a week we’ll do either a video training or a written training of some fashion or form, and monthly, there’s some type of email-type training we send out to people who are signed up for that.”

He says 250 pastors around the world have signed up for email training focused on their needs.

“It’s amazing to see someone in some closed country reply and say, ‘thank you for your tweets, your encouragement,’ ” Senapatiratne says. “We’ll post a Scripture verse or a classic quote on prayer, and see a pastor in a remote village who doesn’t have a lot of resources give that kind of response.”

Photo credit: Maija Photography

Source: AG News

Sharing Jesus in The Ugly Mug

Church planters Brenton and Rachel Fessler discovered that packaging Sunday morning services inside a local coffee shop attracts a less-than-typical demographic.

RefugeOC meets every Sunday in The Ugly Mug Coffee Shop in Old Towne Orange, California. This location is not just a magnet for the coffee drinkers at the local colleges — many people who have had negative experiences with churches in the past are finding their niche here. The church consists mostly of young singles and young families; they are educated, have professional careers, and are community-driven.

“With seating for up to 90 people, we have found this coffee shop to be a perfect place to establish our mission within the city,” Brenton Fessler says. “It is ‘different’ and often less threatening to people.”

Understanding what an effective church model looks like wasn’t a hurdle for Fessler, who graduated with a degree in pastoral leadership from Vanguard University (AG) in Costa Mesa, California, and completed a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Vanguard.

“From the beginning, my context for ministry was founded on the principles of church planting and missional engagement within the community,” Fessler says. Prior to coming to Orange, he served on staff for 12 years at North Hills Church in Brea, California, which had also started as a church plant. His experience there gave him a foundational vision for RefugeOC.

About five years ago, the Fesslers began to dream about a new church plant. “Despite our reservations, my wife and I felt it was exactly what God had called us to, which gave us the courage to pursue it,” Fessler says. Once the couple set their sights on center-city Orange, their church plant was adopted by Hope Church in San Diego, pastored by Frank Wooden. The Fesslers then moved to Orange and began to learn the city’s heartbeat by engaging with the community.

The seedling of what is now RefugeOC grew out of a series of Sunday night Bible studies, which gave core group members the opportunity to invite friends and family who didn’t go to church and provided a base of people for the RefugeOC launch and leadership team.

The weeks leading up to the church launch were filled with non-stop activity, getting the word out and hosting multiple preview services. In addition to receiving the Matching Funds provided by AGTrust and the Church Multiplication Network, RefugeOC received support from the AG Southern California Network and North Hills Church.

RefugeOC held its kickoff service on Easter Sunday 2015 at the Ugly Mug with 93 adults and 14 children attending. Located between the classic Old Towne Orange on one side, with antique shops and Mom and Pop restaurants, and the premier Chapman University on the other side, Fessler says, “We are uniquely positioned to bridge the divide and capture the imagination, hearts and souls of our community. We exist to introduce and re-introduce people to a clearer vision of God.”

“When we first opened RefugeOC, the owner of the Ugly Mug didn’t have a positive impression of churches or God. However, he has now let us pray for him and help him with his business in small ways. I am confident his story is just beginning.

“We hired a sound man; he didn’t have much to do with God at first. The church was paying him a weekly stipend, but after a few months he came to us and said he wanted to volunteer his time because he loves what the church is doing. He is subtly opening his life to God.”

The church recently launched a new season of Refuge Groups to help take the Sunday morning experience into the workweek for the people in the community. “RefugeOC is experiencing consistent growth,” Fessler says, “which presents its own set of challenges as church attendance maxes out the capacity of the coffee shop. We are considering offering multiple services, while keeping our eyes and ears open for what may potentially be our next location.”

Source: AG News

California Bill Threatens Christian Higher Education

Religious liberty in our country is in dire peril. The latest example of this is a legislative act currently before the California legislature. Please read the following letter from the president of Vanguard University, Dr. Mike Beals. I appeal to the Assemblies of God family to lift up this matter in prayer.  I also appeal to all of our California ministers and constituents to call the state legislators in your district of residence and express your deep concern over this piece of legislation, along with a request that they oppose this legislation.

-George O. Wood, General Superintendent, Assemblies of God (USA)


Dear Vanguard Community,

I am reaching out to inform you of a bill currently before the California State Legislature. This is a call to action. California Senate Bill 1146 would significantly challenge Vanguard University’s right to continue in our Christ-centered mission of 96 years.

Vanguard and other faith-based colleges and universities across the State continue to work in good faith with California lawmakers to find an agreeable compromise on the language of this legislation. If passed without amendment however, SB 1146 would have the devastating impact of eliminating faith-based higher education in California.

As the president of Vanguard University, I am asking for your partnership on this critical issue. If you are a California resident, I am asking that you contact your California State Assembly Member to voice your concern regarding SB 1146, and urge your Member to preserve Vanguard’s founding and guiding mission based upon our religious beliefs and convictions.

In its current form, SB 1146, authored by State Senator Ricardo Lara (D – Bell Gardens), seeks to restrict the state religious exemption that allows Vanguard and other faith-based institutions the right to operate according to our religious mission and identity. SB 1146 erodes the religious liberty of all California faith-based universities that integrate faith and learning throughout the entire campus educational experience. This means that mission-based aspects of religious colleges and universities, which include prayer in classes, chapel services, spiritual formation activities and faith-infused curriculum, as well as requiring a statement of faith for admission and requiring ministry-based service experiences  would be at risk if SB 1146 is passed as is.

SB 1146 represents a fundamental shift away from the State’s historic commitment to provide “educational access for all.” The choice of, and access to, a faith-based education for tens of thousands of California students would disappear.

Since 1920, our faith-based mission has driven Vanguard to prepare students for effective service in our communities, country, and the world. Faith-based institutions of higher education across our state and the nation make a profound contribution to the intellectual quality and common good of our society. These contributions are possible because of our deeply held religious convictions. Our presence in society enriches it. We provide economic vitality to our communities. A Vanguard education cultivates seeds of greatness in the lives of students who graduate to pursue their vocations with excellence, strong character, and global perspective.


SB 1146 seeks to divest us of our religious distinctives. Right now the bill is waiting to be heard by the California Assembly Higher Education Committee. It has already passed the California Senate. Action on the bill is expected as early as the week of June 20. If approved, the bill will then move to two other Assembly committees – perhaps by June 27. If passed through these committees, it will then go to a full vote before the California State Assembly, most likely in August. The best chance to stop or amend it is now, before it reaches the Assembly floor for final debate and vote.


Step #1 — Spread the Word.

Forward this e-mail. Send it to parents, students or alumni of faith-based colleges and universities, churches or others who value religious freedom for faith-based institutions. Anyone who has an affinity for faith-based higher education should know about this threatening bill.

Post on social media. Express your concerns about the bill on social media using the hashtag #SB1146.

Step #2 — Contact Your State Legislators.

Many legislators do not understand the impacts SB 1146 would have on faith-based Higher Education in California. Click here to find your Assembly Member.

Make a phone call to your legislator. This is the most impactful point of contact with any legislative office. When you call, simply state your name and that you reside in the Assembly Members district (you can share your city), and that you have strong concerns about SB 1146. Feel free to offer your reason (please stick to the points above) or no reason at all. The important message is to express your concerns about the restriction of religious freedom that SB 1146 would impose on Vanguard and all of California’s faith-based colleges and universities.

Step #3 — Pray.

Pray for this moment in California history when religious liberty is being threatened. Pray for clarity and favor for those legislators who are standing for faith-based higher education. Pray for faith-based colleges and universities in California. Pray for Vanguard.  Our mission will remain unchanged: to pursue knowledge, cultivate character, deepen faith, and equip each student for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service.

In closing I assure you that, although this law is intended to alter the mission of institutions like Vanguard University, we will be relentless in our advocacy for religious liberty and Christ-centered higher education. If this bill is passed and signed into law by the governor, we will join other California religious institutions in exercising our constitutional rights including legal action. We would prefer, however, that this bill be stopped or amended now rather than resorting to litigation later. So please help us and the tens of thousands of students at faith-based colleges and universities across California by contacting your State Assembly Member now to express your concern.

We will provide regular updates on the status of SB 1146 on the Vanguard University website at www.vanguard.edu/update.

For more information, contact Vanguard’s Office of Strategic Partnerships at (714) 966-5467.

Thank you for your prayer, support and action on this critical issue.


The Lord is Faithful!

Dr. Mike Beals

President, Vanguard University


Image Source: Steven Pavlov / http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Senapa / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Source: AG News

30 for Freedom

Turning 30 is a pivotal event for many people. For Brent Silkey, May 28 proved to be an especially memorable milestone. Donning running shoes and enlisting other Christians, Silky logged long miles along Minnesota roads to raise funds to fight against sex trafficking.

The U.S. Missions Chi Alpha Campus Ministries director at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, earlier met with a former student for breakfast. Silkey shared his 30th birthday dream with the former student, now U.S. Marine Yoel Oliva, and it resulted in an on-the-spot $100 donation. That served as a catalytic moment for Silkey and the birthing of 30 for Freedom.

Silkey sought sponsorships to run a mile for every year of his life — and donate the funds to anti-sex trafficking campaigns launched by the AG’s Speed the Light, AG World Missions’ Project Rescue and F.R.E.E. International, another U.S. Missions outreach.   

He invited friends, youth pastors, other Chi Alpha pastors, and students to do the same. Together they have raised over $65,000.

Silkey first learned about sex-trafficking victims a decade ago while a student at the AG’s North Central University.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening in this day and age, and it horrified me,” recalls Silkey, a former Assemblies of God youth pastor.

The United Nations International Labor Organization estimates there are at least 4.5 million people, mostly young women and children, who are victims of forced sexual exploitation worldwide. A U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report adds that in this country alone, an estimated 100,000 children are forced into prostitution every year.

As the father of two daughters, Silkey says he is more committed than ever to fighting the illicit trade.

“The majority of these victims are little girls, average ages 12 to 14,” Silkey says. “As a dad, with the heart of protector, I have to be a part of halting sex-trafficking.”

As the result of that first birthday run, the ongoing “30 for Freedom campaign has spread beyond Minnesota to other states.

The run Silkey organized in the Twin Cities — with more than 100 people participating at distances from five kilometers to 30 miles — raised $62,000. Runners in multiple others states are participating in similar events.

The growing grassroots movement also excites Heath Adamson, AG’s senior director of National Youth Ministries.

“In Acts 2, God exclaims that young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams,” Adamson says. “The 30 for Freedom concept is the tangible result of men dreaming dreams, coupled with the Holy Spirit, to bring justice and light to the dark world of sex-trafficking.”

Silkey already has made plans to participate with like-minded anti-sex trafficking athletes in upcoming events through the remainder of the year, including a triathlon and a marathon.

Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — June 11, 1921

What did early Pentecostals teach about the theology of work? Some observers have claimed that early Pentecostals were so focused on the spiritual life that they neglected careful reflection about other aspects of daily life. However, early issues of the Pentecostal Evangel tell a different story. In a 1921 article, D. W. Kerr, an executive presbyter of the Assemblies of God, wrote an insightful article titled, “A Pentecostal Businessman.”  

Kerr explained at length why Pentecostals should be well-equipped to serve in all areas of life, including in business. Kerr wrote that “the Lord will pour His Spirit in such fullness” in order to equip believers “for life and for service in all the varied spheres and the diversified forms of human toil and labour under the sun.” According to Kerr, spirituality should not be divorced from work. Pentecostal spirituality should be so all-encompassing that it makes a positive impact upon the labors of the faithful.

Kerr was an influential theologian and church leader. Five years earlier, Kerr served as the primary drafter of the Assemblies of God’s “Statement of Fundamental Truths.” In this article, Kerr disagreed with the notion that religion should be separate from “social, domestic, or business affairs.”    

Drawing heavily from Scripture, Kerr identified character qualities that should describe all Pentecostals: “prompt and punctual, courteous and obliging, tender and affectionate, affable and sober, devoted and self-sacrificing.” A Pentecostal engaged in business, according to Kerr, should also be full of “vision, action, and determination,” and also demonstrate humility and dependence upon God.

Pentecostal businesspeople should exhibit these qualities, Kerr wrote, wherever they go.  He wrote, “whether in the home, or society; or on the busy thoroughfares, and commercial centers; whether at the accountant’s desk, or on the board of exchange; or in the places of barter, buying and selling and getting gain; that in all these places of business activities, a Pentecostal business man can adorn himself and his calling.”

Importantly, Kerr suggested that the Pentecostal businessperson can effectively witness his or her faith by living out these character qualities in the marketplace. A person’s inner spiritual life, he suggested, is revealed by outward actions, habits, and character. Kerr’s admonitions continue to encourage Pentecostals to cultivate biblical values in all spheres of life.

 Read the entire article by D. W. Kerr, “A Pentecostal Businessman,” on pages 8 and 11 of the June 11, 1921, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Pruning of the Vine,” by Alice E. Luce

• “A Plea for our Missionaries,” by Frank Lindblad

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now

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

Pictured: D. W. Kerr (back row, center) with a group of executive presbyters, 1919

Source: AG News

A Long, Slow Recovery

Sarah Lawton’s life took an irreversible turn as she drove down a back road in Cobleskill, New York, on Dec. 29, 2010.

While en route to visit friends, she lost control of her car and crashed into a building on the side of the road. An obstruction in front of the building swung the car sideways, preventing a head-on collision.

Daughter Kaylee, then 3, sustained only a bruised lip. Younger daughter Kiera, 10 months, miraculously escaped unscathed.

However, the impact of the wreck caused major head trauma to Sarah. 

After being transported to a small local hospital, Sarah then went by ambulance to Albany Medical Center, where she underwent emergency surgery. 

Doctors told her husband, Sean, then family life pastor at Calvary Assembly of God in Cobleskill, New York, that his wife might not survive the operation. 

Overwhelmed, Sean clung to 1 Peter 1:7, which speaks of faith through life’s trials. He resolved to give God glory no matter the outcome.

“We live in a fallen world and bad things happen in a fallen world,” he says. “It’s up to us whether we will bring God glory through the situation.”

Following the surgery, Sarah spent 10 days in a medically induced coma at the medical center’s intensive care unit.

Once transferred to Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in nearby Schenectady, Sarah spent five weeks beginning to learn how to walk, talk, and live again. Sean spent almost every night at his wife’s bedside during her recovery period.

Returning home, Sarah continued outpatient rehabilitation at a nearby facility. Meanwhile, the family adjusted to the new reality of a wife and mother who had been much different than the one last in the house 10 weeks earlier.

The family moved in with Lawton’s parents, who took care of the children throughout the week, as Sarah continued her recovery.

“Who my wife was died in that accident,” Sean says. “Everything is different.”

Sarah had good and bad days, and often forgot how to perform simple functions she had learned the day before.

She struggled with making decisions and controlling her emotions.

A year after the crash, Sean joined the staff of Bethel Full Gospel AG in Schenectady. He spent about three years there, preparing to plant a church in Scotia, New York.

“You can’t wait for a perfect situation to do what God calls you to do,” he says. “When God says go, you’ve got to go.”

During this time Sean says God remained faithful through the many trials the family faced.

Sarah gave birth to the couple’s third daughter, Katherine. A friend paid the mortgage on their home for a year when the Lawtons couldn’t make ends meet.

“This is a story of faith ­­­– not faith in us, but faith in God,” says Sean, now lead pastor of Converge Community Church in Scotia, New York. “God is good, and He’s not going to stop just because we face a tough time.”

Last year, Sarah gained acceptance into a day program for people with traumatic brain injuries as well as a secondary program called Neuropsychologic Rehabilitation Services, which is a therapeutic intervention designed to assist retraining thinking skills.

Sarah has made much progress because of the programs, Sean says, and her verbal skills are quite good. Yet Sarah still struggles to recollect her identity. Memories from before the accident are limited, and she doesn’t recognize many past events.

Sean’s parents continue to assist in caring for the three Lawton children during the week. Sean says communication with Sarah is difficult at times due to her disability. At times she is laden with a flood of emotions, and she doesn’t always respond properly to situations.

Nevertheless, Sean has renewed hope. He clings to a promise that he says God made to him early on that his wife would be fully healed one day.

“I’m waiting for the moment when God revives her and she starts living her life again,” Sean says. “To look at it five years later, it’s not where I want to be, but God hasn’t left me through it. I wanted to give up several times, but God is too good to give up on me. I can’t let go of Him.”

Source: AG News