Community Game Changer

A faith-based nonprofit organization in New Orleans launched by an ordained Assemblies of God pastor is being praised as a game changer for its efforts focused on violence reduction, youth education and training, drug abuse counseling, decreasing blight, and Christian community development initiatives.

In 2008, Robert E. Burnside Sr. started Compassion Outreach of America (COA) from Journey Ninth Ward Assembly of God in an effort to provide a holistic approach after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

The neighborhood was thrust into the nation’s spotlight in the aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, as much of the area experienced catastrophic flooding.

Jonathan L. Burton, a Southeastern University graduate and church planter in the Ninth Ward, says COA has been a tremendous blessing by providing valuable connections in the predominantly African-American community.

“COA has allowed us to utilize their facility to meet twice a week for events that are geared toward reaching our community and building our launch team,” explains the 39-year-old Burton, a U.S. Missions missionary associate serving with Missionary Church Planters & Developers. “Partnering with COA has been a game changer. Because of their help, we are in a position to launch Regeneration Church this fall.”

Burnside, 47, pastored Journey Ninth Ward AG until 2017. As the new southern region director for the AG’s National Black Fellowship, Burnside sees COA as one of the leading urban church planting trainers and curriculum builders in the country.

COA also has made an impact in violence-prone New Orleans. Through the organization, nearly 300 have participated in the Project Reach NOLA summer employment program.

Additionally, more than 100 homes in the St. Claude community have been painted by volunteers, with nearly $650,000 in labor and materials donated. Also, more than 50 churches and faith-based organizations have sent 6,000 volunteers to provide 100,000-plus hours of community service.

“We have seen positive educational and life outcomes for children and families as we provided them with the tools needed to take ownership of their learning, become advocates for peaceful coexistence, and manifest their divine purpose,” says Burnside.

Tom Brink, director of global engagement for InterVarsity in New England, has brought mission teams to work with COA for four years. In September 2017, he attended a faith-based antiracism training, which COA coordinated in partnership with Trinity Episcopal Church and The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.

“Our curriculum for the past number of years has focused on racial reconciliation and the gospel,” says Brink, 64. “The Undoing Racism training helped me to understand more what the root issues are and thus where to focus our work. It helped me to ask for more help from our staff of color to create our program for the future in how we will send students cross culturally.”

COA collaborated with Debra Copeland of Loyola University New Orleans to assist with her research for the Fathers Matter and Social Support Study. The collaborative initiative aims to help men become more engaged fathers through Fathers Matters gatherings.

“God has used Fathers Matter to help me in so many ways,” says Joshua Leavell, 30. “Last year I lost my job, my home was foreclosed, and I was engulfed in a custody battle, which caused me to miss out on some of my son’s first milestones. Being able to have the Fathers Matter guys alongside me kept me in the race.”

Burnside, who has been married to his wife, Sherdren, for 22 years and has four adult children, never met his biological father.

“I never received any financial, social, or emotional support from him,” Burnside says. “Given this disconnect from my father, I had to learn how to father my children through other sources. Fathers Matter was created for men like me who needed support in learning how to be the father God has called us to be.”
Source: AG News

Women Empowering Women

Maurisia Rodriguez Cruz is set to host the seventh annual Like Never Before (LNB) Conference Feb. 21-22 in Seminole, Texas.

The LNB Conference is a place for daughters, their moms, and their grandmas to gather and worship together and to bridge generational gaps. Cruz founded the event to help girls and women discover their purpose and to embrace their God-given gifts. Her husband, Tony, is assistant pastor at Templo Nazeret Spanish Assembly of God in Seminole.

“When our oldest daughter became a teenager, I envisioned having an event where my daughter and I would both be able to attend and not only be blessed by the content of the event, but strike a bond that would erase any generational gaps,” says Cruz, 43. She and Tony have three children, Abigail, 17; Aaron, 14; and Analise, 6.

Cruz says she designed the event — both with the selected speakers and worship leaders — to be directed by Spirit-filled women. The conference has grown exponentially each year since 2014. What started as a conference for Cruz’s local small-town church with about 45 attendees has now grown to the point where Cruz and her team are expecting 500 attendees this year from Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. The meeting now is held in a civic center.

The LNB conference is bilingual, in Spanish and English.

“Our goal has also been to not only cross generational lines, but also leap through language barriers,” Cruz says.

Following the annual gathering, attendees send testimonies to Cruz that inspire her to keep the event going.

“After receiving messages and testimonies of what God had done in the lives of women and young girls that have attended, I feel the Lord encourage my soul,” Cruz says.

Ordained minister Alexa M. Pineda spoke at the 2016 LNB conference and has returned every year since as a breakout session speaker and a mentor for Cruz. She strongly believes in the mission of the conference, especially in an era when young girls seek cultural cues for behavioral norms rather than God’s Word. She says the conference is an opportunity for women such as the biblical Naomi and Ruth to interact.

“Here you have a room of young ladies and older women together in worship,” says Pineda, 42. “Both can relate to the messages given, both are engaged and impacted by the power of the Holy Spirit. “

Pineda believes the conference will continue to grow because of Cruz’s passion for ministering to women.

“This conference feeds the multitude, it injects faith, it breaks strongholds,” Pineda says. “Truly those who leave the conference see life like never before.”

The theme for this year’s conference is Provoke the Movement — “to encourage women to search God like never before and provoke a move of the Holy Spirit in their everyday lives.” After the conference, Cruz and her team reach out to the daughters, moms, and grandmas with prayer and biblical resources.

“Many of our current team leaders started volunteering when they were in their teens,” Cruz says. “Bonds have formed while working together and have enriched churches with friendships long after the event is done.”

Source: AG News

Of Love and Duty

Valentine’s Day is probably the most romantic day on the calendar. The celebration helps keep card shops and florists solvent between Christmas and Easter. After all, love is big business. And for some couples, it brings out romantic sentiments seldom otherwise expressed.

Many will celebrate with fancy dinners, candlelight, and flowers. In spite of all the reminders, however, a few spouses will forget. Woe to them!

We tend to have this romantic notion about love, and love does have — and need — romance. But far more is involved than candlelight, flowers, candy, soft music, and saying the loving words we should be saying all year.

“Of course she knows I love her,” one husband said when he and his wife celebrated their silver wedding anniversary. “I told her that when I married her.”

Attitudes like that don’t do much to keep love alive. But neither does the expectation that marriage is going to be all romance. As longtime Assemblies of God pastor Dan Betzer has stated, “A genuine valentine is one who is still at your side and in your heart when the rent is due, the baby is crying, and the sink is leaking.”

Someone observed that one of the most difficult parts about life is its dailiness. One day follows another, which follows another which follows another, often with a numbing sameness. Couples tend to take each other for granted, or get so engrossed in raising kids or paying bills that there is little time or energy for anything else.

Because of unrealistic expectations, many marriages — including Christian marriages — are failing. And that affects more than the couple. Each year, millions of children are impacted by their parents’ divorces.

What factors bring about divorce? Selfishness. Self-centeredness. The desire to do everything “my way.” Failure to forgive hurts, treasuring them to be used against the partner. Pride. Lack of commitment to stay with the marriage. Boredom. Finances. Lack of spiritual growth. Failing to fulfill the vow, “For better or worse.”

When two people wed, they take on a responsibility: a commitment to each other. Abandoning spouse or children is a dereliction of that duty — and duty isn’t a word we hear a lot about when we speak of marriage. But it must be there, along with love. Love takes the chains of duty. So, bring the hearts and flowers, but show your real love in the duties of the dailiness of life.

This article originally appeared in the Pentecostal Evangel.

Source: AG News

Reaping a Samoan Harvest

Harvest Samoan Assembly of God in Patterson, California, started in 2009 with 25 people and a vision to serve the community. A decade later, appreciative city leaders are supportive as the church prepares to build a new facility and expand ministry.

New companies locating in Patterson, combined with reasonable housing costs, have attracted Samoans moving inland from coastal areas. The city of 22,000 also has a large Hispanic population, many working on plantations that give the area its “apricot capital” nickname. Other islanders, some U.S.-born, as well as various intermarriages between people groups, make Harvest Assembly truly multiethnic. Most are U.S. citizens or in the citizenship process, and over one-third of the 125 regulars are youth and children.

Pastor Hercules Lasi Lofa preaches the Sunday service first in English, the primary language of younger congregants. He then follows with a second sermon in Samoan. Lofa, 55, answered the call to ministry in his native Western Samoa before serving a Samoan AG church in Hawaii as youth pastor for three years and Carson Samoan Assembly in California as assistant pastor for 12 years. He and his wife, Iole, have pastored in Patterson since 2012. The church is part of the AG Samoan District.

Renting facilities from another church, the congregation began outreach through serving. The church held regular Saturday prayer walks, and the youth assisted neighborhood elderly with cutting grass and other home maintenance. At the suggestion of a youth group member, a Thanksgiving outreach began six years ago. Neighborhood families join in fun activities, hear worship music and a message, and receive a free turkey. In 2019, the event was restructured to include a hot meal.

The church is also in its fifth year hosting a prayer breakfast for community leaders and first responders. Local pastors take turns giving the message, with Harvest Assembly providing and serving the meal.

Other churches and community leaders have taken notice, according to Lofa. Needing more room for ministry, the congregation started a building fund, and last year purchased nearly two acres debt-free after the property owner, believing in the church’s ministry, significantly lowered the price.

Fresh Start Builders of Lodi, California, led by Rick Souza, will be the contractor for the new building. Souza served several years as an appointed Assemblies of God world missionary leading Missions Abroad Placement Service teams around the globe. He worked with various island populations in their native countries, and back in the U.S., served the AG Northern California-Nevada District as director of church construction and field consultant for the missions board.

Souza, 67, is currently executive director for Adult & Teen Challenge Faith Home Network in California. He established Fresh Start Builders as a self-supporting business to provide quality building services while giving Teen Challenge staff and students the opportunity to learn a trade and contribute financially to the ministry. Souza’s overseas missions experience is especially valuable to ethnic congregations, which are often unfamiliar with complex U.S. building permit processes.

Harvest Samoan Assembly’s commitment to serving has led to positive response and rapid turnaround time in obtaining the city’s approval, including conditional use permits, for the new facility.

“The planning commission was definitely favorable, due to the church’s investing in the community,” says Souza. Construction begins soon, with the goal of the facility being ready by the end of the year.
Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — Feb.12, 1938

Carrie Judd Montgomery (1858-1946) experienced a physical healing in 1879 that led her on a journey to ever-deepening fullness of life in the Holy Spirit. A prolific author and sought-after speaker, she also established healing homes and was involved in humanitarian work. Montgomery became an important voice for spreading the message of faith in God’s power in both the Holiness and Pentecostal movements.

In the Feb. 12, 1938, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Montgomery wrote an article on the steps of faith taken by the Jewish patriarch, Abraham. The following quote from that article encapsulates much of her teaching on the life of faith: “When you really hear God speak through His Word it is as easy to believe as it is to take your next breath. If you have ever had an experience of this kind, the memory of it will always encourage you to trust Him yet again.”

As a youth, Montgomery attended an Episcopal church in New York. She was encouraged by her bishop to “swiftly obey the voice of the Spirit.” As a teenager, she started a Sunday School for neighborhood children and sought to be used of God. However, the idea of surrendering herself to God’s will frightened her. She knew she must abandon sin, but she was afraid that surrendering herself to God would require her to abandon her gifts and talents, as well. She feared that in doing so God would not allow her to fulfill her life dream — to be a writer.

In 1876, when she was 17 years old, she fell in an awkward position on the icy ground. She was confined to bed with “hyperesthesia of the spine, hips, knees, and ankles.” For almost three years her outlook was grim, as her weight dwindled down to 85 pounds. In 1879, her father read about an African-American woman, Sarah Ann Freeman Mix, who had experienced a healing of tuberculosis and had a ministry of praying for the sick. Montgomery asked her sister to send a letter to Mix requesting prayer.

The family received a quick reply asking them to trust wholly to the care of Almighty God and to believe the promise of James 5:15, “and the prayer of faith shall save the sick.” Mix asked them to pray at a certain time on Feb. 26, 1879, and she and her prayer group would also prayer and believe God for healing.

On that day, the Judd family prayed in faith. Carrie struggled to overcome the doubts in her mind but, finally, turned over in her bed and raised herself up alone for the first time in over two years. By April, she was able to walk outside and in July she returned to lead her Sunday School class.

Montgomery received so many inquiries about her experience that she published her story, The Prayer of Faith, in 1880. This book became one of the first theological writings on divine healing as provided in the atonement of Jesus Christ. In 1881, she began the publication of a periodical, Triumphs of Faith, which she continued to publish for the next 65 years. God fulfilled her desire to be a writer.

Believing that the life of faith was essential for the spiritual life that God intended for His people, she began teaching on the subject in conferences. She was soon known for her national ministry on the faith-filled life of holiness. In 1890, she moved with her new husband, George Montgomery, to Oakland, California. There, she opened Home of Peace, a healing home where she taught guests how to pray for and receive healing.

When a revival began in Los Angeles at the Azusa Street Mission, Montgomery began to publish reports of its services in her paper. Pentecostal services began to be held in Oakland, and Carrie attended a meeting. She later wrote, “I had myself received marvelous anointings of the Holy Spirit in the past, but I felt if there were more for me I surely wanted it.” She received her own personal Pentecostal experience in 1908.

In 1914, Montgomery became a charter member of the Assemblies of God. She was able to remain a part of the Assemblies of God without cutting her ties to her broader network of evangelical and Holiness believers. Upon her death, her ministry was carried on by her daughter, appropriately named Faith.

The list of early Pentecostal ministers influenced by Montgomery’s ministry read like a “Who’s Who” of the Holiness/Pentecostal movement — A.B. Simpson, William Booth, Pandita Ramabai, Maria Woodworth-Etter, William Seymour, John. G. Lake, A.J. Tomlinson, Alexander Boddy, Smith Wigglesworth, Elizabeth Sisson, Aimee Semple McPherson, A.H. Argue, Juan Lugo, Chonita Morgan Howard, and many others.

Montgomery’s hunger for the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the life of faith was an earmark of her ministry. While she traveled in international missionary work and established camp meetings, orphanages, training schools, and a home for elderly minorities, she never strayed from the core message of her ministry — God calls his people to holiness and to healing.

Read Carrie Judd Montgomery’s article, “The Faith of Abraham,” on page 2 of the Feb. 12, 1938, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Challenge of the Opening and Closing Doors” by Noel Perkin

• “Depravity” by E.S. Williams

• “Ye Shall Be Witnesses Unto Me”

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

ChildHope Schools Transforming Paraguay Family by Family

David and Rosemarie DiTrolio know the power and trustworthiness of the Lord. As they lead Paraguay’s four ChildHope (formerly Latin America ChildCare) schools, the DiTrolios often face complex situations. In such times, they state, they trust fully in wisdom from God’s Word and Spirit.

“We have been with ChildHope schools since 1994,” the DiTrolios say. “In the presence of God, time has no meaning. Paraguay is not an easy field, but it is a wide open one! We see a lot of opposition coming from and caused by the enemy, yet Paraguayans are very open to the gospel. We just depend on the Holy Spirit.”

“It is all the Lord,” Rosemarie says. “We start our days on our knees, worshipping the Lord and declaring our inability to do anything apart from Him. We want to glorify Jesus, and that is all.”

They believe clear teaching illuminated by the Holy Spirit is necessary to Paraguay’s ongoing redemption.

“ChildHope is an evangelistic tool,” says David. “We are upfront about our teachings of Jesus. Yet many parents of different religious persuasions are willing to bring their kids due to the superior education they know their children will receive. We use the platform we have to reach whole families.”

Rosemarie connects the ministry of the Holy Spirit with the necessary personal diligence of study. “Education from a Christian viewpoint allows Jesus and the Holy Spirit to transform our thinking,” she insists.

ChildHope schools use Global University materials in Christian education classes from Pre-K through 12th grade.

“Our desire is to reach our students (and their families) for Jesus from the youngest age possible,” the DiTrolios say. They hire Christian teachers who teach academic subjects from a Christian viewpoint as well as AG Bible school graduates who serve as chaplains and teach and minister in ChildHope Christian education classes, chapels, and retreats.

The DiTrolios have seen evidence of that transformation in neighborhoods surrounding the ChildHope schools. The longer the gospel witness has been present through the local AG church and ChildHope school, the more a community has dramatically changed for the better.

“We take such joy in those kinds of transformations,” the DiTrolios say. “It is not uncommon for kids to be filled with the Holy Spirit in class. One third-grade girl, full of the Holy Spirit, went home and laid hands on and prayed for her sick mother. Her mother was healed! Students graduate, marry other students, and bring their children to the schools. Students become our spiritual children and grandchildren. And we rejoice when students go on to become leaders and ministers of all kinds.”

In the face of opposition, whether religious, political, or financial, the Lord has continually shielded ChildHope in Paraguay, and provided miraculously.

In one such case, at the Cristo es Rey (Christ is King) campus, land for expansion became available after Jesus appeared in a vision to the owner of the property next door. Though she wished to sell her property, the woman had refused to negotiate with ChildHope as she had recently been the victim of a bad business deal. One night, Jesus came to her in a dream, quieting her fears and urging her to trust the general director of Cristo es Rey. Following the dream, the lady asked for a meeting with David and made arrangements to sell her property to the school. She also became a firm follower of Jesus.

To learn more about ChildHope, visit

Watch for more about missions in Paraguay in the March 2020 WorldView magazine titled “Paraguay: Trustworthy Jesus, Transforming Spirit.”
Source: AG News

Muddy Boots Ministry

When associate pastor John K. Uhler organized a military-themed men’s retreat in 2012 at Faith Community Assembly of God in Easton, Pennsylvania, he had no idea it would launch a ministry that keeps him on the road up to 30 weekends a year.

Uhler’s work as a “living history” U.S. Missions chaplain brings him in contact with thousands of people annually, including fellow World War II re-enactors. Among the largest events he attends is D-Day Ohio. Staged every August in northeastern Ohio, the event attracts 1,500 re-enactors and crowds of up to 50,000.

Uhler, 57, also speaks at federal and state parks, airports, museums, and military bases, relating the key role chaplains played in WWII. He serves as a representative of Christ to modern-day audiences.

“Chaplaincy gives me the opportunity to minister in the ‘highways and byways’ of life,” says Uhler, whose Muddy Boots Ministry has grown to the point that he resigned as Faith Community’s associate pastor in January. “I can minister to people where they are, in their natural environment, and encourage them to meet Christ.”

Uhler’s only military ties are his father’s post-WW II service in the U.S. Navy plus an uncle who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. But after leading Faith’s “On Target” retreat, he attended the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s World War II Weekend in Reading, Pennsylvania, to research ministry opportunities. When one chaplain remarked it could provide an opportunity to minister to people who never attend church, it convinced Uhler to pursue re-enactment outreach.

Uhler obtained credentials from AG Chaplaincy Ministries in 2016 as a specialized chaplain. The following year, he adopted the Muddy Boots name. The U.S. Air Force invited him to set up a display at its national museum in Dayton, Ohio, in 2018.

Over the years, Uhler has acquired a range of equipment to add authenticity to his re-enactment displays. Among the pieces are four pump organs, including World War I, early World War II, and later Army and Navy-issued organs; original WW II Communion kits; hymn chests; a record player used by a chaplain’s assistant during the Korean War; and a WW II-era jeep.

The past seven years, Uhler has been instrumental in the decisions of several people to follow Jesus. He has encouraged others in their Christian walk or discipled them.

At most re-enactment weekends, he preaches twice: once for re-enactors and another time for the public. The second year of one event Uhler attends annually, only eight people showed up for a service. That prompted him to wonder if the ministry efforts were worth it.

Then a man portraying a German prisoner of war came to tell Uhler the message the chaplain delivered a year earlier had saved his marriage.

“The Lord told me to not grow weary in well-doing,” Uhler says. “I always remember the real reason I’m there: I’m a chaplain for those people.”

Matthew J. Danko, 57, who ministers at several re-enactments annually, thinks Uhler is effective in overseeing D-Day Ohio’s eight-member chaplain corps because of his authentic artifacts and passion.

“He’s representing history that’s slowly being forgotten,” says Danko, a member of The Assembly Jackson in Jackson, Michigan. “He brings it back to life. That’s a vital ministry.”

Among those Uhler ministers to are active duty and retired military soldiers and the wounds — physical or psychological — they carry. While acknowledging he isn’t a veteran, Uhler reminds crowds of the sacrifices soldiers and their families make, while including a recruiting pitch for the military chaplaincy.

“I may be too old to serve as an army chaplain, but I’m not too old to find someone else to go,” Uhler says.


Source: AG News

Stopping Suicide

In a heartbreaking suicide note, Lori, a 14-year-old church attendee, wrote before ending her life: “I’m sorry, Mom. I got too many problems. I’m taking the easy way out.”

Suicide is an epidemic that knows no boundaries. It’s invaded our churches and communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34 and fourth leading cause for ages 35-54. We as the Church are responsible to do what we can to reduce the risk of someone taking his or her life.

Because suicide is highest among youth, parents must become sensitive to what is happening to their children and their peers. Youth suffer from bullying more cruel than previous generations, largely due to social media. It’s a very real and serious problem leading some to commit bully-cide: dying from suicide because of constant torment, fear, and humiliation associated with bullying. Bullying can be stopped when addressed by a parent or authority figure.

What can a parent do to help protect their kids? Study your kids. Learn to read them like a book. Get to know their friends. Invite their friends to your home and make them feel welcomed. Do all you can to develop good communication with your children.

“Bad company corrupts good character. You become like those you hang around” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Parents need to monitor what assaults their children’s easily influenced minds through peers and all electronic technology. A parent’s sacrificial love, caring, concern, and undivided attention is far better than a funeral and final goodbyes at a grave site.

The most common warning sign of suicide among all age groups is depression. Ongoing torment from anxiety, hopelessness, and relentless life pressures that someone feels is beyond his or her ability to control leads to depression. Among our friends, co-workers, family members, and even our fellow churchgoers, people put on a happy face when things are not well. Christians hesitate to admit depression for fear of being criticized they lack faith in Christ, are spiritual weaklings, don’t have a true conversion experience, or told Christians are not supposed to be depressed.

Given the right circumstances, everyone can experience depression on some level. Great men and women in the Bible suffered depression. Jesus understands the human heart and mind. Jesus in His tenderness challenges His followers to quit putting on a happy face and stop pretending nothing is wrong when things are not happy. We as Christians and leaders can either play a significant role in helping someone heal or add fuel to the fire of their downward spiral into depression and despair.

Even if you have not learned all the warning signs, you can still discern if someone is in crisis and may be contemplating suicide. You can quickly assess the risk level by asking four questions:

1. Have you had thoughts of killing yourself?
2. Have those thoughts turned into a plan to kill yourself?
3. Do you have everything you need to carry out your plan?
4. Do you intend to follow through with this plan?

This approach calls for a yes or no answer. When these four questions are answered yes, don’t delay. Immediately get that person to help or call 911.

Suicide survivors are those friends and family members left behind by another’s suicide. They experience a high level of self-perceived psychological, physical, and/or social distress for a considerable time after the suicide. Recovery can be complicated and lengthy. What can we do? The number one way to help is simply come alongside them. Be the presence of Christ to them. Show love and be supportive in a nonjudgmental way with your caring presence, love, compassion and support. Be the calming, reassuring presence of Jesus to them.

Suicide often leaves people agonizing over the numerous “why” questions. Sadly, some questions have no answers. Then we must point people to the who: God. God grieves over suicide and the suffering it brings. Men and women can choose life and peace following God in a personal, forever love relationship or they can live apart from God following their own way. God is not the author of suffering. He is the author of redemption, new life, healing, deliverance, peace and restoration.

God is the God of all comfort. “He lifts those bent beneath their loads” (Psalm 145:14).

“He heals the broken hearted binding up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

God says, “Call on me in your day of trouble and I shall rescue you” (Psalm 50:15).

We live in a broken, hurting, doomed world that is growing darker. We sit in pews next to broken, hurting children of God in desperate need of the healing power of Christ. God is a God of hope. We must be instruments of healing in God’s hands, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Suicide is never God’s plan for any of His precious creations. It can be prevented. We must step up our efforts to bring the love, hope, and healing found in a personal relationship with Christ.

Nick Costello is an Assemblies of God evangelist. For more about his Stop Suicide seminar visit

Source: AG News

Double Blessing

Bradley T. Trask has been pastoring Brighton Assembly of God in Michigan since 1992, a year prior to marrying his wife, Rhonda. The college graduates met at Brightmoor Tabernacle (now Brightmoor Christian Church) in Southland. Trask’s father, Thomas E. Trask, pastored Brightmoor before serving as general superintendent of the U.S. Assemblies of God from 1993 to 2007.

Brad started pastoring Brighton AG with a core group of people, but no building, property, or funds. Rhonda helped support her husband and herself in the early years as a middle school teacher. The couple made an intentional decision to wait to have children for five years during the church’s revitalization.

But the Trasks encountered challenges in their efforts to conceive. That led to six years of meetings with fertility specialists and an eventual pronouncement they could physically not have children.

A year later, they decided to pursue adoption, but experienced three failed adoption efforts in a six-year period.

“So we decided to love each other, to love our nieces and nephews, and to love the kids at church,” Brad says.

In 2011, Rhonda received an email from a family in the church who had a friend whose pregnant daughter wanted to pursue adoption. Brad and Rhonda met with the expectant mother and her parents a couple of times and worked out the legalities. The Trasks adopted their son, Elijah Bradley, in 2012 — the same week Brad turned 50.

In 2014, through a Christian who operated a social agency in Kansas, the Trasks adopted their newborn daughter, Elanore Faith.

“God has given us two amazing kids who are full of God’s grace and favor,” Brad says. “Every day I look at them and say, Thank you for the gifts, Lord.”

“The beauty and texture they have added to our lives is amazing,” Rhonda says. “I cannot imagine the journey without them.”

“We view adoption as God’s purpose for our lives all the while,” Brad explains. “When we couldn’t see the big picture, He was holding these two children for us.”

At the time of Elijah’s adoption, Brighton AG had no other families involved in adoption or child care. That has changed in a huge way.

Last November marked the seventh anniversary of Heart’s CRI, a ministry at Brighton AG devoted to foster and adoptive families, which includes a Wednesday evening support group.

Corporate donors have partnered with Heart’s CRI to finance two annual events at the church. Students receive clothes and backpacks at a back-to-school carnival. At the yearly Christmas party in December, 102 foster kids received three gifts from a wish list they provided. Two hundred volunteers from the church are involved in the outreaches.

Under then-Gov. Rick Synder, Rhonda was appointed to the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services Community and Faith-Based Coalition. She has been chairperson the past three years. With approximately 13,000 children in care in the state, the coalition raises awareness, provides training, garners resources, creates partnerships, and develops wraparound foster care services within communities and churches.

As an outgrowth of Heart’s CRI and her work at the state level, the AG Michigan District asked Rhonda to create a ministry called Narrative for AG churches to increase awareness, raise up foster and adoptive parents, provide training, and assist churches in developing wraparound services (including church families giving foster parents a night off for a date by watching the kids).

Meanwhile, the Trask children have different interests. Brad suspects Elijah may become an engineer someday due to his fascination with how things work. He sees Elanore in a leadership role in whatever she decides to pursue due to her take charge attitude.

“I wouldn’t trade what God has done for anything,” says Brad, elected last August to the 21-member AG Executive Presbytery. “This fashion wasn’t plan B. It was our destiny.”
Source: AG News

Meeting Needs of the Community

Along the boundary line between Stone County, Missouri, and Carroll County, Arkansas, roads meander past rolling pastures, rocky streams, and woods. But the peaceful scene hides a darker side of the Ozarks. Many families live in poverty. Some commute to work at poultry processing plants or small-town restaurants, but jobs are not plentiful. Some are hindered by disability or lack of transportation. Some turn to drugs for money, or to cope with the lack of it.

Just south of the state line in Oak Grove, Arkansas, The Harvest is addressing those problems.

Chartered in 1948 with 25 members, the Assemblies of God church grew over the years, with construction of the current sanctuary in 1997. However, in 2004, after a change in leadership, attendance declined, and interim pastors served with district supervision.

In 2005, evangelist Todd L. Rogers filled in and the congregation asked him to stay. Subsequently, the church began to grow again; finances improved; facilities expanded. A food pantry began serving up to 300 families monthly.

Rogers, 53, says he can’t pinpoint specific steps responsible for the turnaround; the Holy Spirit simply began to move and people responded. As the church grew, though, so did the number of church families affected by the area’s drug culture. Rogers himself, growing up in an Assemblies of God church, struggled during his teen years and abused alcohol before rededicating his life to God in 1988. His wife, Karin, has a similar story. They married in 1990 and entered evangelistic ministry, and both wanted to help people caught in substance abuse.

Karin started a Celebrate Recovery group at Harvest in 2007. Another recovery ministry in nearby Berryville had been looking for a Spirit-filled church to partner with, and now Freedom Seekers, led by Ron and Kim Hutchins, is an important outreach of Harvest Assembly.

Growing up in neighboring Stone County, as a teenager Jason Schwyhart saw his father killed in his home by a rival drug dealer. The youth’s anger, drug use, and gang activity subsequently landed him in serious trouble. After miraculously being delivered from an almost certain death penalty due to his under-age involvement in armed robbery and murder, he began bargaining with God.

“I knew what God wanted, and even promised to devote my life to helping others, but I wanted to do it my way,” Schwyhart says. Still consumed by bitterness, he soon reverted to run-ins with the law, and planned to flee, robbing banks and settling old scores.

Amazingly, before running, Schwyhart decided to attend a Sunday church service to connect with family he might never see again. As he sat at Harvest Assembly, Rogers began interpreting a message in tongues uttered through a congregant.

“I’ve never said this before in my years of ministry, but God is giving someone their last chance,” Rogers stated solemnly at the service. Schwyhart knew God wanted to reach him, and that morning he committed to follow Christ. He gradually realized that by harboring revenge, he actually served the same enemy responsible for his father’s death..

After discipleship at Harvest Assembly, Freedom Seekers, and Crane Christian Church where his mother attends, Schwyhart wanted to make good on his promise to help others. Schwyhart, 47, serves on staff at Hope Homes of the Ozarks, an Adult and Teen Challenge ministry of Freedom City Church in Springfield.

“Jason really had some issues,” recalls Rogers, “but he applied himself to growing spiritually and I’m thrilled at what God has done.”

Harvest Assembly offers discipleship opportunities for people returning to faith, recovering from addiction, or just looking for fellowship and spiritual growth. Sunday School classes, including youth, children, and several adult electives, teach fundamentals of faith and Bible study. Practical teaching on Wednesday nights includes topics such as divorce recovery or finances. The Sunday night Freedom Seekers meeting and meal is open to anyone, although many attendees are in recovery or satisfying court requirements. The food pantry still serves the area, and the church partners with a government program to provide transportation for low-income area residents to medical appointments.

The Rogers’ son, Braydon, coordinates media and TV ministries, daughter Mariah Baker leads the transportation ministry, and her husband, Heath, is youth pastor. Youngest daughter Shaylne serves on the worship team.

Rogers is grateful for the lives being changed through Harvest Assembly. He believes Schwyhart’s testimony underscores the importance of welcoming the Holy Spirit to move in every service.

“That’s the whole point of being Pentecostal,” Rogers says. “You can plan, but all the programs in the world can’t replace the Holy Spirit working in someone’s heart.”

Photo: Todd Rogers (left) helped Jason Schwyhart turn his life around. 

Source: AG News