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

A Testimony of Persistence and Patience

Her name was Mary. She had faithfully attended a Christian church for nearly all of her life, but she readily admits, she was committed to her parents and their faith, but had no personal relationship with or commitment to God. She had never heard the plan of salvation and didn’t even know what it was.

When Mary was 18, she was involved in a horrific car accident. Three of her friends in the car she was riding in were killed and a person in another car also died. Mary was seriously injured, with the doctors telling her parents that if she survived, she would be nothing more than a vegetable.

However, now a licensed minister with a teaching degree and two master’s degrees, she has long ago proven the doctors . . . “mistaken.”

But the miraculous recovery Mary experienced did not draw her nearer to God; instead it simply led her to question His existence even more — she experienced a miracle while four others lost their lives? Secretly, she started to identify herself as an agnostic even as she participated in and even led some of her church’s ministries.

Years past and Mary met and married Ben Moss, a military man. While he was deployed, she began attending an interdenominational gathering at a local church in Springfield, Missouri, called School of Christian Living.

Mary recalls taking the class on the Gospel of Mark. “There was this red-headed kid who had a really good sense of humor and was also very intelligent, teaching the class. I remember him asking, ‘Who is Jesus, who is Christ, who is the Son of God to you?’ and I was thinking to myself, I would like to know!

Following the conclusion of the classes, George, the class instructor, recalls Mary approaching him and asking him straight out who Jesus was.

“I told him that I don’t believe in Jesus Christ and that I don’t believe in the divinity of the Bible,” Mary recalls, who was about 28 at the time. “I expected him to argue with me, but he didn’t.”

Instead George asked Mary to read two books: The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and They Speak with Other Tongues by John Sherrill.

George sensed Mary’s questions were genuine, so he, with the blessing of his wife, invited Mary over to their small apartment that was on the campus of Evangel College (now University) to answer any questions she had.

“I had no idea he was Assembly of God,” Mary admits. “If I would have known, I wouldn’t have gone!”

When Mary arrived, George, who at that time was 25, recalls she had a yellow note pad with her — filled with pages of questions.

George and his wife, who was expecting their first child, spent several hours answering Mary’s questions to the best of their ability. George recalls Mary had few lightweight questions, instead they showed much thought and were intensely profound.

At the conclusion of their time, Mary was still not convinced, but her search for truth was driving her. The next week, she returned to the couple’s apartment with a whole new list of in-depth questions.

“This kept on for weeks and weeks,” George says, who adds he wasn’t always sure the answers he was giving were being accepted by Mary, but he relied on the Holy Spirit to fully communicate the answers to her heart and soul. “Finally I told her, ‘I’ve told you all I know to tell you Mary, faith is resting in the sufficiency of the evidence — it’s not a leap in the dark; its evidence is compelling.’”

Mary left, unable to make a decision. But she returned to the apartment yet again the following week, only this time, instead of pages of questions, she had written out her confession of faith. The threesome knelt in prayer and Mary became a totally sold-out believer and follower of Christ. Mary began seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and under the ministry of one of the first AG Military Chaplains, Stanford Lindzey, she experienced the Baptism with evidence of speaking in tongues.

Not long after this, George lost touch with Mary. However, when Ben returned from deployment to find Mary a passionate born-again Christian (attending an AG church no less!) he would have none of it. At first, he would only drive her to church if it was bad weather, but finally, through Mary’s transformation, he decided to attend a service. Mary recalls that not long after, Ben accepted Christ as his personal Savior. At the time, Russ Turney was their pastor — he also spent hours answering questions for Mary. Later, Turney became the Asia Pacific Regional director for AG World Missions.

Mary vividly recalls when David Wilkerson visited Springfield. Already well-known for his ministry and The Cross and the Switchblade, George had connected with Mary to let her know Wilkerson would be in town.

Whether it was reading Wilkerson’s book, hearing him in person, her heart to reach the lost, or some combination of the three, God planted a burden for girls trying to break free from life-controlling addictions in Mary’s heart. With Ben’s full support, she would spend years serving as counselor to the women of the Teen Challenge center located in Kimberling City, about an hour’s drive south of Springfield.

Mary became a licensed AG minister, earned a second masters through AG Theological Seminary, was one of the early members of the now mega-church, James River, and when Frank Reynolds, then the national director of Teen Challenge, began looking at starting a Teen Challenge center in Springfield, one of his first calls was to Mary and Ben to help establish it. A pretty amazing journey for a former agnostic.

But none of this would have been possible if some “red-headed kid” and his wife would not have been willing to patiently give of their time to ultimately lead Mary to Christ (circa 1966).

That kid and his wife? That would be former AG General Superintendent George O. Wood and his wife, Jewel. Although Ben passed away in 2001, Mary made it a point to be at George’s retirement reception in October to congratulate him and thank them once again for investing in her.

As Mary reflects on the class George led all those years ago, she says, “You know, that was an interdenominational class, and there never was an Assembly of God person teaching there, never . . . , George was probably the only AG person who ever taught there, and God had him there for me!”

Source: AG News

Remembering the Impossible

Jason P. Noble, pastor of First Assembly Church in St. Peters, Missouri, hung up the phone and exhaled heavily. He’d just received the call no minister wants to get. That day, Jan., 19, 2015, churchgoer John Smith had fallen through ice into a lake and had been submerged for 15 minutes. The outcome didn’t look good.

When he arrived at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St Louis around 4:30 p.m., the waiting room outside the pediatric ICU was bursting with church members, family, friends, and John’s classmates. Noble caught snippets of what had happened.

John, 14, and two friends had walked out onto frozen Lake Louise, and ice gave way. The other two boys were rescued, hospitalized, and released.

But John didn’t survive the experience.

He was moments from being pronounced dead when his mother, Joyce Smith, walked into the emergency room and began calling out to God. Immediately, after more than an hour with no pulse, John’s heartbeat started. Everyone rejoiced over the miracle of a boy coming back to life. However, doctors didn’t believe John would stay alive — and if he did, he would be a vegetable.

It was time to pray.

“The family was resolved that it didn’t matter what the doctors said, we were going to take this to God and trust Him to be who He says He is,” Noble says. So, Noble gathered several other pastors from the waiting room and went into John’s room.

“He didn’t look good,” Noble remembers. John’s skin was gray-tinted, his body and face were bloated almost beyond recognition, and he was in a coma. Noble and the other pastors surrounded the bed, and Noble leaned close to John’s ear, telling him everything would be OK. Then the group started to pray, specifically that God would give John the breath of life back into his lungs, and that God would rewire his brain.

“We prayed for complete healing,” Noble says.

From that first night in the hospital, Noble sensed God telling him he needed to stick close to the family. He understood the sacrifice of the commitment.

“God wanted me to stay and see it through — no matter how long it would take,” Noble says.” He recognized that might mean spending a lot of days and late nights away from his own family.

Thankfully, his wife and children agreed, and encouraged him to follow God’s leading.

“The moment Jason told me what he felt God calling him to, I felt God speak to my spirit that He was walking us all through this,” says Paula, Noble’s wife of 22 years. “I knew He would take care of my family’s needs while Jason was taking care of what God needed him to do.”

Thus, Noble remained with John and his parents, Joyce and Brian — who adopted John as a baby from Guatemala — continually praying, ministering, and speaking words of life over the teenager. And watching miracles take place.

They all rejoiced when John survived the first 24 hours. As John faced each new challenge — from possible infection in his lungs to an unstable blood pressure to restoring his mental faculties — Noble led the family and First Assembly in spiritual battle.

“We continued to pray God’s promises from Scripture, and to remind ourselves that God is the Great Physician and can do all things,” Noble says. The more people prayed, the more John’s outlook improved. Within three days, John had recovered all his mental faculties — something the entire medical community claimed couldn’t happen.

After seven days, physicians removed John’s ventilator and moved him out of intensive care. A week after that, John went home. Noble witnessed the entire hospital stay. He walked side by side with John out the medical center’s doors.

Joyce Smith is grateful for the sacrifice her pastor made for her family.

“I truly believe God sent Pastor Jason to this church for this situation,” says Joyce. “I don’t know what we would have done without him.”

Noble says he continues to feel an intense closeness with the family.

“I will have a deep heart connection with Joyce, John, and Brian for the rest of our lives,” Noble says.

Now, two years later, Joyce Smith has written their story in The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection. The book released Nov. 7. Noble wrote the afterword for the book, in which he shares further insights about the experience.

“God is still in the miracle-working business,” Noble says. “It’s been incredible to watch this story play out and see God’s hand at work.”

In addition to the book, the miracle story tentatively will be a 20th Century Fox motion picture late next year from producer DeVon Franklin, who last year produced the hit movie Miracles from Heaven. Assemblies of God Pastor Samuel Rodriguez is executive producer of the new film.

IMAGE – John Smith and Jason Noble
Source: AG News

AG World Missions Highlights "Every Tribe, Every Nation"

Assemblies of God World Missions has announced “Every Tribe, Every Nation” as its annual ministry theme for 2018. The Fellowship’s missions arm develops annual themes as a unifying and motivating tool for churches and members supporting its work in more than 190 nations.

Missions has remained a central element of the AG’s corporate identity throughout its history. From 32 missionaries endorsed by the Fellowship in 1914, ministry personnel have grown to nearly 2,800 missionaries and missionary associates worldwide.

“Revelation 7:9 offers a biblical framework for the 2018 theme,” says Andy Raatz, AGWM Communications director. “The heartbeat of the Great Commission is to take the message of Jesus’ grace to ‘every nation, tribe, people and language.’ The focus of AG World Missions is to see churches planted among every one of those groups — communities of faith that will continue to spread the message of good news.”

Beginning Nov. 22, a series of free online devotionals will be available to promote 40 days of prayer for the launch of the 2018 theme. These will center around Revelation 7:9, but include supporting Scriptures, missions quotes, and missions history.

The 40 days of prayer encourage personal involvement in missions, as will each component of the “Every Tribe, Every Nation” focus throughout the year. WorldView, the AGWM monthly magazine, will publish a progressive series of insights into the theme, and AGWM social media outlets will connect users regularly with each other, with the ministries of missionaries they support, and with unreached communities around the world.

“Many sources tell us that more than 7,000 people groups have no indigenous community of believing Christians to evangelize them,” says AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis. “As we contemplate these staggering statistics, we realize that not just millions, but billions, have limited or no access to the gospel message.”

While the concept of a tribe traditionally connects with anthropological definitions of people groups, the tribes of today can come into being through shared interests and common life experiences among people of different ethnicities and personal backgrounds. AGWM regional ministries have been addressing this phenomenon.

In Africa, the world’s most rapidly urbanizing continent, a growing class of business entrepreneurs, political leaders, and social influencers in the media are no longer defined by their historic tribal identity, but are forming new mosaic groups that are shaping Africa’s cities and the continent.

“We created the Urban Tribes church planting project to reach Africa’s culture changers,” says Greg Beggs, AGWM Africa regional director. “We want to plant churches where they are. When the culture changers become transformed by the gospel, there is a trickle-down effect.”

Paul Trementozzi, AGWM Europe regional director, notes a different alignment of people groups across his continent, the estimated 500 million Europeans with a largely secularist view of life, out of touch with Christianity or any other religious frame of reference. “The deep spiritual need among the native European majority is primarily secular and agnostic in its beliefs,” he says. “Our Secularist Initiative wants to see secularists encounter Jesus Christ within their context.”

“Every Tribe, Every Nation” is an invitation to AG World Missions partners to self-discovery, to a deeper sense of belonging, to a passion for rescuing lost souls. Throughout 2018, the theme will call for a renewed recognition of a world in need and a growing commitment to become part of the solution.

To join the 40 Days of Prayer prayer list, click here and scroll down.

Source: AG News

Pioneer Work Still Bearing Fruit

On a crisp autumn day in 1943, Lenora B. Annabel and Donna J. Liebler moved to Adrian, Michigan, to plant the community’s first Assemblies of God church. Liebler had been saved under Annabel’s ministry at an AG church in Peck, Michigan, and the two set out to launch the new work after Liebler finished Bible college.

Driven by their mission, Annabel, then 53, and LIebler, 26, set out to pioneer a church that could reach the children of a local government housing project who otherwise would not have access to a Pentecostal church.

Because of their love for their new growing community, with more than 15,000 residents during World War II, Annabel and Liebler decided they would name the church Bethany Assembly.

“Bethany, as mentioned in the Bible, was a place that Jesus loved to go to be with friends,” says William F. Leach, onetime pastor of Bethany Assembly. “Jesus was a friend of sinners, the forgotten society.”

The church started as a simple Sunday School that met in a small apartment owned by Deerfield Park, the local government housing authority. As children attended classes, parents started hanging out to hear the contents of the lessons.

Shortly thereafter, evening services began in a rented storefront. However, the landlord stopped leasing the building, so Annabel and Liebler found themselves without a brick-and-mortar establishment. Services continued on lawns if temperatures accommodated, and in residences — or even automobiles — during inclement weather.

In 1947, Liebler and Annabel purchased a large home used both for a main place of worship and as a parsonage. Church attendance continued to increase, and in the mid-1950s under new pastor Arthur G. Clay, construction began on another building. In 1956, Bethany Assembly had a permanent home.

Growth continued at an exponential rate, and in 1961 the church embarked on a series of expansions. Eventually, unable to build further on the existing property, newly elected pastor William Leach oversaw completion of an edifice that seats 1,500 in the main auditorium and has 67 classrooms.

Today, weekly attendance at Bethany Assembly averages more than 700 people.

Liebler — who turned 100 years old in August and lives in Maranatha Village in Springfield, Missouri — isn’t surprised that the church continues to be a force in Adrian, which now has 20,600 residents.

“Lenora knew that the birth of Bethany would likely be her last work, but that it would have the greatest impact and farthest reach of any of her previous ministries,” says Liebler, who remains mentally sharp. Annabel co-pastored until she moved to a nursing home. She died in 1959. Liebler remained a part of the church until 1980.

“Bethany’s legacy is far reaching,” says Leach. “It is a great missions church and has produced great leaders in the professional ministry who are now serving in the U.S. and around the world.”

The church launched several influential young people who became leaders within the AG. Leach, who pastored for 16 years at Bethany, went on to serve as Michigan District superintendent for a record 28 years before retiring last year.

“In 1972, Bethany took a monumental risk and invited my wife, Marilynn, and me to be their pastors,” says Leach, who started his duties there at 22. “I was young, green, and inexperienced, but Bethany affirmed us and encouraged us.”

Newly elected General Superintendent Doug Clay attended Bethany, where his father pastored, as a child and youth.

“While growing up in Bethany, I was able to see how a healthy, functioning, and biblically sound church should operate,” says Clay, who recounts his spiritual journey in the new book, Ordered Steps. “At Bethany, I had the opportunity to get involved in ministry at an early age and was afforded spiritual mentorship within the church that helped me develop into who I am today.”

Source: AG News