Fifty-three years ago, the community of Lorain, Ohio, was in the midst of a significant demographic shift. Thousands of immigrants from Cuba and Puerto Rico relocated to Lorain to work in the steel mills, and the African-American community was growing. Racial tensions existed in the historically white town of 60,000, as residents grappled with these social changes.
How should the church respond to racial tensions and community strife? Keith Smith, an Assemblies of God pastor in Lorain, saw the changes in his community as an opportunity to share the gospel and bring reconciliation. He led his church, Broadway Assembly of God, to seek out the newcomers and minister to their needs.
Members of Broadway Assembly canvassed the community, befriended the immigrants, and began a bus ministry so that those without transportation could come to church. The church began a Spanish-speaking ministry under the leadership of S. Reyes Nodal, an Assemblies of God pastor born in Mexico. Nodal’s ministry grew and became Templo Betel (Bethel Temple), the first Spanish-speaking Assemblies of God church in Ohio.
Broadway Assembly asked a Church of God in Christ pastor, Robert E. Burel, to lead an outreach to African-Americans. Under Burel’s leadership, a new congregation, called Beulah Assembly, formed and met in Broadway Assembly’s building. After about a year and a half, Burel led his congregation to affiliate with the Church of God in Christ.
Broadway Assembly grew significantly even as it was planting new churches in its own community. Sunday school attendance grew from 200 to over 600 in a few years. The church built a new building to accommodate its growing crowds and gave its old building to Templo Betel.
How should today’s church respond to demographic changes and social strife? When confronted by a similar situation 50 years ago, Keith Smith did not retreat into the comfort of his church building. He led his congregation to engage the community and reach out to Spanish-speaking immigrants and African-Americans.
Read the article about Broadway Assembly, “Mother Church Triples,” on page 15 of the Aug. 8, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “Witness for Christ,” by Fred Smolchuck
• “Man Overboard!” by Charles T. Crabtree
• “Be Not Silent,” by Bob Hoskins
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
Source: AG News