Training Police in Colombia

For Paul R. Robinson, a Northern Missouri District missions trip to Colombia in 2001 ignited the calling.

After four years of active duty as a U.S. Marine, Robinson graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Central Bible College and a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. Yet in 1987 he had difficulty finding a youth pastorate position as entrée to ministry.

As a stopgap measure, Robinson went into police work. That temporary job resulted in 17 years in the field, including a decade as an adjunct police academy instructor at the Blue River Police Academy in Independence, Missouri.

But that missions trip convinced Robinson and his wife, Kristi, who worked as a corporate secretary at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, that they should be part of something more consequential. So they began to make plans to leave their professions in order to transition to full-time ministry.

By 2004, the Robinsons had been approved as AG world missionaries. In the interim, M. Ray Brewer, then pastor of Tiffany Fellowship Church in Kansas City, mentored Robinson in ministry opportunities. Brewer is now superintendent of the Northern Missouri District.

In ramping up to become a missionary, Robinson over time voluntarily taught Sunday School, led men’s ministry, directed missions, and served on the Tiffany Fellowship board of directors. In 2006, the Robinsons went to Costa Rica for the AG’s language school to learn Spanish. Since 2007, they have lived in Bogotá, Colombia.

“Titles are important in Latin culture,” says Robinson, who received his chaplaincy endorsement in 2015. “Having the AG covering and chaplaincy endorsement opens doors to get into venues such as prison, hospitals, and military bases.”

With his police background, the National Police of Colombia agreed to allow Robinson, a fully appointed AG world missionary, to teach conversational English at its language school in Bogotá. He has instructed hundreds of Colombian officers in the past 11 years in classes that average 20 attendees. For lessons taught two or three times a week over three months, Robinson uses a bilingual Bible. At the end of each course, the vast majority of students accepted Jesus as their Savior.

“I never had to make apologies for sharing the gospel,” says Robinson, 58.

Massive changes have occurred in Colombia in the past couple of years. While the bombings and abductions carried out for decades by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) no longer are a threat, other paramilitary groups have stepped up criminal activity.

The Robinsons rely on the Holy Spirit as a guide to avoid dangerous situations.

Colombia police face a plethora of problems, including attempted bribery from corrupt elements, murderous threats from drug dealers, a low level of respect from the public at large, deficient wages, and a lack of empowerment to carry out their duties. Robinson says society at large views officers with the same contempt that the overall populace had for tax collectors in Jesus’ day.

David V. Woodworth, AG World Missions Andean area director, says not that long ago if a police officer came to a local church, the pastor assumed it would be to intimidate.

“For years, Colombia National Police have had to struggle with Marxist groups, paramilitaries, drug cartels, and a negative image with the general population,” Woodworth says. “However, now pastors and churches are seeing an open door to minister to these police officers and their families, thanks to the patient and persevering work of AGWM missionaries Paul and Kristi Robinson.”

In 2009, the Robinsons founded Heroes of Justice in an effort to better address the spiritual needs of law enforcement personnel. The Robinsons teach together, training officers in ethics, leadership, survival mentality, and a biblical perspective on the role of police officer as protector. The Robinsons also host teams that cover everything from basic first aid to advanced tactical training.

“We always talk about Christ and spiritual principles when training,” says Kristi, who graduated from CBC with a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education and is a credentialed AG minister.

“Because of Paul being a police officer in the U.S. and an ordained minister, his gift mix is crafted by God so that he and Kristi understand the pressures and dangers of their job, but also have the tools necessary to present a grace-filled gospel of Jesus Christ,” Woodworth says. “Paul and Kristi have not only provided quality training, but have also been able to pray and minister to officers and their families.”

The Robinsons serve as spiritual advisers to church leaders at an Assemblies of God church in Bogotá, El Poder de Su Amor (the Power of His Love).

In addition to being fluent in Spanish, Robinson has credibility with police officers because he is physically fit — and Latino himself. Although adopted by a white couple in Chicago as a 1-year-old boy, his biological parents — whom he knows nothing about — likely came from Puerto Rico.

Robinson’s next goal is to assist the Colombia Assemblies of God in starting a national chaplaincy office. AG pastors in Colombia who achieve chaplaincy recognition will gain more influence in their communities. “Only Catholic priests have the right to go unhindered into certain situations such as hospital visitation,” Robinson says. “The AG endorsement will give clout.” The U.S. Missions Chaplaincy Department has provided training for pastors wanting to be chaplains.

“AG world missionaries may receive chaplaincy endorsement to open doors that they could not go through otherwise,” says Manuel A. Cordero, senior director of Chaplaincy Ministries. “Paul’s police chaplaincy endorsement helps him accomplish his mission.”
Source: AG News

Austrian Church Plant Flourishes

Outside a large building complex in the idyllic Austrian city of Bregenz, two very different signs hang one on top of the other. The one below — Low Life Bar. The one above — Free Christian Church.

AGWM missionary and church planter Paul Clark smiles. “The bar is being very honest about what it is,” he says. “And we are being very honest about what we are!”

Paul and his wife, Mechthild, planted Free Christian Church in 2016, having already planted six congregations in neighboring Germany.

Free Christian serves around 50 members, a blend of men, women, and children of all ages, walks of life, and nationalities. Nearby Lake Constance is breathtaking, ringed by foothills of the Alps and sharing its shoreline among Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. The church enjoys a prime location for attracting people from all three nations.

The church’s name is strikingly unique in the European landscape of state-run churches.

“In Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, people are usually registered at birth either with the Catholic or the Lutheran church, based on the traditional affiliation of their families,” Paul explains. “When they get jobs, automatically a church tax is deducted from their paychecks. There is no choice involved, and usually no connection. It is cultural tradition, nothing more. So, the concept of a free church — joined of one’s own free will and financially supported by one’s own free will — is very new and can be hard to grasp.”

Once inside the larger building complex, bright signs point attendees to the entrance of the church — a spacious, immaculate, and beautifully lit facility Paul and Mechthild personally decorated and equipped. The church’s Corner Café is a valuable point of connection and fellowship before and after services, and the Kids’ Club hums with activity during morning services.

The Clarks and their congregation also reach actively into their community, participating recently in the Bregenz City Festival to connect with families through music, face painting, and the distribution of balloon animals. On July 7, they conducted a baptism at Lake Constance, worshipping openly on shores crowded with vacationers before celebrating with fellowship and a cookout.

British-born Sarah and her Austrian husband, Roberto, attended the baptism and the following Sunday morning service.

“We have storage for our business in the same building as the church,” Sarah says. “When we moved here from England, we were so concerned with being able to find an evangelical church, as we were attending one that we loved in York, but they are not so common in other parts of Europe. We saw the sign for Free Christian Church when leaving our storage unit one day, and could hardly believe it! We were so happy to find it and to be able to attend. It feels so right.”

“As a church planter, over the years many of our first gatherings in various cities were scarcely attended and one wondered if a church would be established,” Paul remembers. “I will never forget one of our first Bible studies in Saarbrücken where no one showed up except my own family. My son Michael, who was 4 at the time, started crying and asked, ‘Dad, will anyone ever come to our church?’” (Michael and his wife, Laura, are Assemblies of God missionaries.)

At Free Christian Church Bregenz, the Clarks rejoice in the growth and solidarity of the congregation, and request prayer for new converts among them.

Edwin Jung, superintendent of the Freie Christengemeinde (a member of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship) Austria writes, “I am thrilled that Paul and Mechthild are planting a church in Bregenz. The city has been on my heart for many years. One of my great aunts, who is now with the Lord, fervently prayed for decades that a Pentecostal church would be planted in Bregenz. She would not live to see her prayers answered, but as her nephew, I am personally witnessing the answer to her prayers.”

To read more about Free Christian Church, the Clarks, and their ministry, stay tuned for the December 2018 edition of WorldView magazine.
Source: AG News

New Birth in a Funeral Home

Plenty of startup churches build the word life into their names: Life Center; New Life Assembly; Abundant Life Fellowship. Church plants want to set a bright, energetic tone.

Not many would be willing to begin services in a funeral home. But that appeared to be the only option Pastor J. Aaron DeLong and his team could find in 2013 in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, just east of Columbus.

“Spaces that had been vacant for years were refused to us because we were a church,” DeLong says. “The city’s schools said no as well. We even tried for an old Hooters restaurant building — but they bulldozed it rather than leasing it to a church.”

Then he remembered meeting a young woman who worked for a local, family-owned mortuary. He pulled out the business card she had given to him, gave her a call, and began the discussion. The chapel would hold around 70 people — a suitable size.

“How much would the monthly rent be?” DeLong eventually asked.

The owners replied that they just wanted to be a blessing.

“So, what kind of discount do you have in mind?” DeLong continued.

The owners explained they wouldn’t charge any rent. Not even to cover for utilities. Nothing.

DeLong bounced the idea off his mentor, Pastor Konan Stephens of nearby C3 Church in Pickerington. At first, Stephens offered a surprised laugh at the unusual concept, but he agreed it might be the most sensible option given financial constraints.

The name of the new house of worship would be as unique as the location: Simple Church. DeLong had struggled figuring out what to call the new effort, sharing his frustration with his wife, Shanda, adding, “I’m just a simple guy.” In that moment, something clicked. How about a church that stuck to the basics?

A streamlined list began to form in his mind: Sunday morning worship; small groups to build a sense of community; a set of four classes to orient people and prepare them to serve; and finally some kind of action group to touch practical human needs.

On Mother’s Day 2013, Simple Church held its first regular Sunday service. As word spread around the city, some people felt understandably queasy about worshipping in a funeral home. Others couldn’t get past memories of a deceased loved one lying in the facility.

But enough people felt comfortable about the setting to necessitate a second service due to growing attendance. Along with some help from the Ohio Church Multiplication Network and the C4 Church Planting Network, the congregation moved in September 2014 to a larger Main Street warehouse space. A renovation that followed has allowed Simple Church to keep growing.

Meanwhile, Stephens is pleased with the efforts of his protégé, who is now 39 years old. DeLong serves as a frequent table coach at Church Multiplication Network launch training events.

“Aaron has always been a little unorthodox in his approach and style,” Stephens says. “He doesn’t mind taking on some edgier topics that more conventional pastors might avoid. Simple Church has a very authentic vibe. It’s reaching people whose ‘dead’ hearts are being resurrected by the living Christ every Sunday.”

Source: AG News

Rescuing Trafficking Victims . . . Then What?

When Tess Franzen, a U.S. missionary associate with Intercultural Ministries, speaks about human trafficking and rescuing those who are being trafficked, there’s a distinct tone in her voice that’s difficult to describe. Passionate patience? Intense composure? Perhaps loving endurance?

Franzen, 55, believes she’s been called by God to establish a reproducible ministry that moves trafficking victims from the “rescued” stage to the “happy, healthy, and whole” stage and beyond. That’s why, after three meaningful years serving with U.S. missionary Mike Bartel and F.R.E.E. International, she, with Bartel’s blessing, has begun a new ministry called Freedom’s Journey based in Rapid City, South Dakota.

For many people unfamiliar with the horrors of human trafficking, the idea of rescuing people — especially children and women — is romanticized. The knight-in-shining-armor/hero ideal where the victim is freed of his or her bonds and the villain vanquished is, for the most part, a fantasy.

“Someone caught up in sex or labor trafficking is trapped,” Franzen says. “Very few — as in single-digits few — successfully leave. However, all the survivors I know and worked with are pretty amazing and resilient people. They’ve endured things few could imagine, yet they’re still moving forward.”

Franzen explains that victims typically suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and often have been so manipulated by their trafficker, that he (or in many cases, she) is seen as their protector and the only one who truly cares for them, even though at times, because of the victim’s behavior, the trafficker “is forced” to be mean to them.

“A friend of mine, who is a trafficking survivor, equates the experiences with being prisoners of war,” Franzen says. “The violence, humiliation, torture, no control, and degradation — it’s physically and psychologically devastating.”

The problem, as Franzen sees it, for the women and men who are rescued from their traffickers — 40 percent who are women — it’s not like they can just go out, get a job, and start living a normal life.

“Some trafficking victims don’t even have an I.D.,” Franzen explains. “The world of a trafficking victim is so completely different from the world the rest of us live in that learning to function well outside of trafficking can be a long process.”

Freedom’s Journey is relationship based and Franzen’s focus is on helping survivors bridge the gap between slave and “normal” life. The goal is to become a trusted, non-judgmental, compassionate friend that listens and helps survivors meet needs that result from being trafficked so they don’t just survive, but thrive.”

The motto for the ministry is Yesterday Doesn’t Get to Write Tomorrow’s Story. Freedom’s Journey works to find survivors shelter, provide them meals, clothes, groceries, help with home or car repairs, enable job training, get them I.D.s, find transportation for and help with relocation, secure legal assistance if needed, and sometimes they just provides a listening ear to allow survivors the opportunity to vent in confidence — all as part of their journey to freedom. Currently Franzen is working to raise funds to get Freedom’s Journey on solid financial footing, with establishing a safe house for survivors being the next step.

For years, Franzen, who works closely with local law enforcement, has felt a call to this kind of ministry. The mother of three, she waited until her youngest daughter turned 18 before going to college, getting her master’s degree, and becoming a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God. She joined F.R.E.E. International about three years ago to be part of a team that educates others, locates victims, and works with authorities to see trafficking victims rescued.

“God placed a verse in my heart that has stuck with me for many years,” Franzen says. “It’s Isaiah 1:17 (ESV) — . . . seek justice and correct oppression. To bring justice to the fatherless and plead the widow’s cause. I see those who are being exploited in trafficking as today’s widows and orphans.”

James Moore, pastor of Journey Church in Rapid City, says Franzen is uniquely gifted. “She has a tremendous level of understanding of these situations,” he says. “She has the energy and grace to deal with broken people, to deal with people who are in difficult circumstances without being judgmental . . . people are willing to talk to her because she’s not going to look down on them.”

Some may wonder why western South Dakota would be a good place for a trafficking ministry, but Moore quickly makes it clear: South Dakota is rural, the interstate I-90 runs right through Rapid City, it’s a huge tourist destination with Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills (meaning a lot of transient people), and every year, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally comes through the city.

Although Franzen understands the heart of people who want to be a part of ending human trafficking, she advises never to try to personally free a person from a trafficker or to attempt to intervene in any way.

“Freeing someone is a job for trained authorities,” she explains. “Well-intentioned people, in their attempts to help, could end up getting hurt themselves or getting a victim severely beaten by his or her trafficker. The complex challenges that come from being trafficked need to be addressed in safe shelters with people who understand the effects of trauma. However, if you notice indicators of human trafficking, you should contact authorities immediately.”

Moore says that Franzen has an undeniable heart for people and a heart for God. That kind of passion shows through as she cares for people who struggle to trust and, due to their experiences, are quick to grow defensive.

“I’m going to love survivors no matter if they send me profanity-laced texts or even if they decide to go back to their old life for a time,” says Franzen. “I’m here for them, no matter what.”

That type of commitment, that type of enduring love, pays off and often opens the door for Franzen to share Christ with survivors who don’t understand her devotion, even when the the road gets rocky.

“Every time I encounter someone being trafficked or a survivor, I know that there’s something in their past that has made them vulnerable to this,” Franzen says. “Most victims are terrified of their trafficker, as they will use death threats, threaten a person’s family or children, or use whatever leverage they need in order to control the victim. What’s incredibly sad is that it’s no longer that uncommon for authorities to arrest parents who are trafficking their own children — some only months old.”

With some estimates reaching as high as 40-plus million people being trafficked around the world, the numbers can seem overwhelming. Franzen wants to help people rethink how they see people who are living in the margins — the trauma they’ve experienced and what that kind of abuse could do to anyone.

“We can get psychological and psychiatric help for survivors, but I know, as a believer, that without Christ, it will not result in a very best tomorrow story,” Franzen observes. “Christ alone can minister to a heart wounded that badly . . . I’m simply a tool who He has called here to minister to survivors’ needs, help them understand we care, that we’re praying for them, and we’re doing what we do because God cares about them.”
Source: AG News

When Rural and State Are Synonymous

In rural Kansas, megachurches exist only on Sunday television broadcasts from metropolises far away. Instead, attendance at Assemblies of God congregations scattered along the Sunflower State’s long, dusty, and lonely back roads typically number in the dozens, rarely topping triple digits.

But where numbers inside services may be small, the potential community impact Christians can make outside the walls of their churches is limited only by prayer, inspiration, and hard work, according to Steve McBrien, pastor of the Oswego Assembly of God. The Kansas Ministry Network recently appointed McBrien as its rural ministry consultant.

“There are 145 Assemblies of God churches in Kansas, and 75 percent of them are rural,” McBrien says. Small-town pastors — many of whom hold second jobs to make ends meet — often cannot afford traveling to out-of-state rural ministry conferences.

“My vision is that we go into those rural churches to do the training on such things as community outreach, church finances, and how to make your church more appealing to the lost,” McBrien says.

These teams are comprised of McBrien and other regional AG ministers. The training is aimed not just at pastors, but deacons, teachers, and volunteers as well. Customarily, teams gather for Friday night and all-day Saturday training sessions.

McBrien has pastored in Oswego, population 1,700, for a decade. He, his wife, Gwen, and their three now-grown children found local schools in the southeastern Kansas community to be fertile ground for public ministry. McBrien says half the kids in Oswego come from single-parent families.

“The schools are the hub of the town,” McBrien says. “The church tries to help some with the financial burden. That can be anything from stocking head-lice treatment kits for the school nurse to special teacher-appreciation programs.”

In such a setting, a church blessing can be something as simple as keeping the schools supplied with facial tissues, especially important during cold and flu seasons.

The McBriens’ public footprint also includes coaching positions at the local high school: Steve is a football and basketball assistant, and Gwen coaches cheerleaders. In addition, several of the church’s 120 parishioners are coaches and teachers.

“As long as there’s a school in the town, that’s where the life is,” McBrien says. “And, that’s where you have your opportunities to reach the kids.”

In rural ministry, it is not about obsessing over church attendance figures, trying to duplicate high-tech worship band music, or offering a plethora of programs available in metro-area houses of worship.

“We need to understand we can’t do everything like a big church does,” McBrien says. “But there are some things a rural church can do, and a lot of things we can do that big churches can’t.”

Terry L. Yancey, superintendent of the Kansas Ministry Network, agrees. He also underscores the need for encouraging and training rural pastors and their leadership teams to identify and maximize their ministry opportunities.

Even in a small town, that list could be long: nursing home services, jail visitation, volunteering for city clean-up campaigns, sponsoring food pantries, financial management classes, substance abuse counseling, summer youth camps, to name a few.

Along with the message preached inside the church, the love of Christ overflowing outside the doors and into the community at large can serve as the gospel in action. Seeing that mission thrive, Yancey says, is why the district appointed McBrien to oversee the ministry network’s rural ministry initiative in April 2017.

“The McBriens have built and trained local teams to restore the health, enlarge the vision, and elevate the ‘servanthood’ reputation of the Oswego church,” Yancey says. “Their consistent witness and kind actions have created ministry access points. Their qualifications involve humility, team-building capacity, and a consistent track record, coupled with a working grasp of rural life.”

Source: AG News

More Than a Tenant

When startup churches rent school buildings for Sunday services, the relationship can be anywhere from cordial to frosty.

Thad Huff, pastor of Open Life Church outside Tacoma, Washington, vividly recalls meeting with an elementary school principal and two assistants in 2010.

“I wasn’t asking to rent, since we were already meeting in a theater,” Huff says. “I just wanted to explore how we could help the school.”

Huff told Laurie Dent, who now is the Sumner School District superintendent, that Open Life would like to partner strategically with the school, and perhaps help plug some budget gaps. He asked the team about the interaction the school had with another church already renting space.

One of the associates expressed disgust with the way that church moved equipment and furniture to the wrong spots, and left litter for school staff to clean up every Monday morning.

Huff determined that Open Life Church would do the opposite. The church bought the school district an audiometer, which has been used to test the hearing of thousands of students; raised scholarship money for underprivileged kids to go to Junior Achievement camp; and had adherents volunteer for work projects around the building and grounds.

No wonder Open Life received a warm welcome six months later when the church asked to rent the building on Sundays. With help from the Church Multiplication Network and AGTrust Matching Fund, Open Life stepped up to rent Bonney Lake High School the following year. It remains there to this day.

“We’re not just tenants, we’re in for the long term,” Huff says. “We want the kids and families of this suburb to do well because of our presence.”

Every August at the Liberty Ridge Elementary School “Back to School BBQ,” the church shows up with loads of school supplies, some donated but others purchased, all sorted by grade level for the 400 students.

“Open Life Church has helped us in so many ways,” says Principal Julana Hardtke. “They even surprised the staff by redecorating the faculty lounge with fresh paint, a new ceiling light fixture, and other improvements. We really appreciate their involvement.”

Other nearby school districts are even calling Huff to ask if Open Life Church might plant congregations in their buildings. During the design phase for one of Sumner’s new schools, the planners brought Huff in to ask what the architect might do to make the new building more useful for the church.

At groundbreaking ceremonies for new construction, Huff has been invited to line up in the row of dignitaries wearing hard hats — the superintendent, school board members, and local politicians — to shovel the first dirt. The partnership runs deep.

Huff says some other ministers have criticized this approach, claiming it’s putting God’s money in the wrong place. He disagrees.

“God has given us such favor that when I’ve asked to do a water baptism in the school, they’ve said yes — while turning down other renting churches that asked for the same permission,” Huff says. “In our case, they said they wouldn’t even charge us for the cost of the warm water!”

IMAGE: Pastor Thad Huff (center) joins school board members and Sumner School District Superintendent Laurie Dent (far left) to launch another building project.
Source: AG News

An Eye-Opening Experience

CINCINNATI — In a transparent talk at a National Black Fellowship luncheon July 18, Church Multiplication Network Director Chris Railey confessed that he is in the beginning stages of a spiritual awakening regarding the ongoing struggles of African-Americans in the U.S.

In an address to a predominantly black audience, Railey explained that he earlier scrapped a prepared presentation for the biennial NBF conference at Peoples Church in Cincinnati. Instead, he felt God prompting him to be forthcoming about his longtime, albeit unintentional, acceptance of racial bias.

“It’s no longer an option to stay silent,” Railey said. “We no longer have the luxury of staying in our worldview bubbles.”

Insecurities on racial issues only began to surface at a CMN conference in February, Railey said. He sought out Herbert Cooper — pastor of People’s Church in Oklahoma City and a CMN lead team member — for advice on racial reconciliation.

Railey, who oversees the launch of hundreds of Assemblies of God congregations annually, stated that CMN needs to be more racially sensitive in the future. CMN doesn’t want pastors to ignore racial issues and new churches can’t be perpetuating racial divides, he said.

Pastors may often desire a quick resolution to thorny problems, but Railey vowed to patiently continue to listen to black church leaders air their frustrations.

In sessions on the last day of the convention, NBF Vice President Walter Harvey said the body is targeting America’s 25 “toughest communities” for ministry. The organization is looking for intrepid people, both short term and long term, to be boots on the ground.

“We’re called to be a movement of hope to transform communities,” said Harvey, pastor of Parklawn Assembly of God in Milwaukee. “We are not to be fearful of these cities.”

“Urban America needs the Church,” said Michael Nelson, who has been NBF president since 2012. “I know there is a struggle in the inner cities.”

Nelson, who pastors Peace Tabernacle Assembly of God in Jacksonville, Florida, said he appreciates the racial reconciliation efforts implemented by AG General Superintendent Doug Clay, but the Fellowship has a ways to go to increase minority representation at the district level.

“The multiethnic church is the antidote for racism in America,” said Scott Temple, director of the AG’s Office of Ethnic Relations. He noted that one-third of the national AG’s Executive Presbytery are ethnic minorities and 38 percent of the General Presbytery are ethnic minorities.

In a business meeting, delegates re-elected NBF Vice President Walter Harvey and Executive Treasurer Darnell Williams to new four-year terms.

The two-day conference concluded with a banquet at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Attendees toured the museum, which recounts the nation’s history of slavery. Scott Hagan, president of North Central University in Minneapolis, gave the evening’s keynote address.

“We have to have racial revelation before we have racial reconciliation,” Hagan said. “We are poised like never before, but it has to be an act of the heart.”
Source: AG News

This Week in AG History — July 21, 1963

Paul Patkotak (1891-1980) was born during a harsh winter on the North Slope of Alaska. His Eskimo parents left him on the tundra to die rather than face almost certain death from starvation due to lack of food. Paul survived, however, and later became one of the earliest Eskimos to identify with the Pentecostal movement.

Paul’s parents were traditional Eskimos and lived near Wainwright, a village on the Arctic Ocean. He was born in the family’s snow house. At the time, his parents and their five other children were on the verge of starvation. Other families also faced the agonizing choice of whether to allow their children to die from exposure or starvation. Paul’s father insisted that the newborn must be placed in the snowbank, but his mother initially resisted. After several days, though, it seemed obvious that she was postponing the inevitable. They bundled up little Paul, placed him on the cold tundra, and left to go hunting for food.

Shortly after Paul’s parents left, his grandmother ventured outside and rescued the hapless newborn. She tucked her bundled grandson into her own clothing, but she fell in the snow and was unable to get up and return to the house. It seemed that both would die from exposure. However, a hunter discovered their plight and brought them to his hunting camp. That night little Paul had nothing to eat, but he survived in his grandmother’s care.

The following morning, a caribou herd wandered into the camp. The hunters killed enough animals to provide food for the winter months. Paul’s grandmother fed Paul with milk from one of the caribou cows, which she had managed to milk. Later that day, Paul was reunited with his mother, who had never expected to see him again.

Paul was reared according to traditional Eskimo customs, learning to fish, trap, and hunt. He had contact with government workers and missionaries, who gave him a rudimentary education based on Bible stories. Although he did not become a Christian until years later, the stories of Jesus intrigued Paul.

Unlike many of his Eskimo friends, Paul wanted to further his education. He worked hard, trapping and pelting countless white foxes, which he planned to sell to make his dream possible. In 1911, he boarded a steam freighter with his pelts and headed for Seattle.

Paul arrived in Seattle and felt overwhelmed by the large city. He discovered a Free Methodist school called Seattle Seminary (now Seattle Pacific University), which he wanted to attend. He was not qualified to enroll, but professors allowed him to sit at the back of the classroom and audit classes.

Paul’s limited reading skills hampered his ability to understand, and other students severely ridiculed him. He grew desperate. He wanted to learn, but education seemed out of reach.

One day in 1913, while Paul was wandering down a street in Seattle, a man asked him, “Are you hungry for the Lord?” He responded affirmatively, and the man led Paul to a small Pentecostal congregation affiliated with the Apostolic Faith Mission (Portland, Oregon), which had roots in the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909).

The young Eskimo sensed the power of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal meetings. An African-American woman caught his attention when she testified that God looks at a person’s heart, not at the color of their skin. He realized that he had built up hatred toward white students at the seminary who mocked him. He also realized that he needed to abandon his belief in the power of traditional Eskimo shamans. Paul responded to the altar call, repented of his sins, and peace and joy flooded his heart.

Paul spent the next two years at a government boarding school for Native Americans, where he improved his reading skills. He also remained active in the Apostolic Faith Mission.

Paul sensed a burden for the Eskimo people. In 1913, in a letter published in The Apostolic Faith newspaper, Paul testified of his newfound faith in Christ and stated that he felt called to bring the gospel to his people. He began praying for a mighty revival to come to the Eskimos.

In 1919, Paul, his wife, and children moved to Alaska. They adopted the nomadic lifestyle of a hunter and trapper. This lifestyle made it somewhat difficult to effectively witness to other Eskimos, as they often lived in isolation. Paul was a faithful Christian and shared the gospel when he was able to do so. He was not a credentialed minister, but he went on several extended evangelistic tours across Alaska. The family later moved to Wainwright, so that their children could receive an education.

In the 1950s, the development of the oil industry brought significant changes to the North Slope of Alaska. Outsiders brought money and new opportunities for sin, disrupting traditional society.

In 1954, Paul joined forces with Sherman Duncklee, an Assemblies of God evangelist who was planting a church in nearby Barrow. A significant revival swept Barrow, and then Wainwright. Assemblies of God churches were formed in these towns, and the revival spilled over in to the Presbyterian church and divisions between the churches came down. Paul’s son, Steven, was among the hundreds of converts in the revival. Another convert, Ned Nusunginya, would become the first Eskimo to be ordained by the Assemblies of God.

Paul had prayed since 1913 for revival among the Eskimo people. After 40 years of prayer, a spiritual awakening had finally come to the Eskimos!

The story of Paul Patkotak illustrates several themes in Pentecostal history. The interracial nature of the Azusa Street Revival reverberated through early Pentecostalism, and people from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds found new life in Christ through Pentecostal churches. Significantly, much of the ministry among early Pentecostals was performed by lay persons, such as Paul. The testimonies of these early converts helped bridge cultural divides and laid the groundwork for the development of revivals and churches.

The July 21, 1963, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel included an account of Paul Patkotak and the Wainwright revival. Read the article, “Arctic Village Turns to God,” by Ida Cecelia Piper, published on pages 24 and 25.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Revival We Need,” by Robert C. Cunningham

• “The Vision of the Lord,” by Arch P. Collins

• “The Precious Blood,” by J. Narver Gortner

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

* Photograph used with permission of the Apostolic Faith Church (Portland, Oregon).

Source: AG News

Seeing Beyond Black and White

CINCINNATI — Black and white speakers recounted how they have learned to trust Christians outside their own race at the kickoff of the biennial National Black Fellowship meeting July 17 in Cincinnati. Still, the Reach Conference: A Moment of Hope, shows there is a long way to go.

“The issue of racism is certainly more alive than it has ever been before,” said James E. Collins, senior pastor of Eagle Heights Cathedral in Revere, Massachusetts. “It’s not the Church’s fault, but it’s our responsibility.”

Collins, author of Racism and the Church, said attitudes change only when a person allows God to change his or her heart. He urged pastors to preach what congregants need to hear, not what they want to hear. Eagles Heights has attendees from more than 50 nations.

“The Word has the power to break every yoke of bondage,” Collins said. “What you tolerate, you perpetuate.”

Shannon Polk, ministry assistant at Riverside Tabernacle in Flint, Michigan, urged ministry leaders to see the invisible in their communities: the homeless, the unemployed, the illiterate.

“When you don’t acknowledge, they become invisible,” said Polk, who noted that Flint, a city with a majority black population, has spent four years dealing with a drinking water crisis. “Visibility confers dignity, and dignity confers value. God sees you, and you matter.”

Dan Miller, superintendent of the International Ministry Network, recounted how he never saw any nonwhite people growing up in northern Wisconsin. He pastored an all-white church in North Dakota before accepting the pastorate of Blue Roof Church an all-white congregation in St. Joseph, Michigan. He said he knew God called him to the racially divided city when he saw all the boarded up and burned down houses on the wrong side of the river. The growing church didn’t decide to construct a new building on the safe side of the city. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but Blue Roof Church is now 30 percent African-American.

“It takes the Holy Ghost and it takes guts to diversify,” Miller said.

Peoples Church is hosting this year’s event. Sessions in the sanctuary are punctuated by exuberant worship, demonstrative prayer, and rousing reactions to teachings.

When Chris Beard became senior pastor in 2001, the inner-city church had a virtually all-Caucasian makeup. Now Peoples Church is 25 percent African-American and 25 percent from 30-plus foreign countries.

Beard joined the NBF in 2006 and was one of just two white attendees at the 2006 conference. Nearly 30 percent of the more than 300 attending this year’s conference are Caucasians, several of whom have black spouses.

“The kaleidoscopic wisdom of God is revealed through the diversely united church,” said Beard, citing Ephesians 3:6 as the basis for all nations and ethnicities worshipping Jesus together. “The missing part of the strategy of God is a diversely united body.”

Many white pastors remain disinterested in racial reconciliation, Beard said.

“Satan fights this hard,” Beard said. “His number one strategy is to divide. We can’t keep doing church as normal.”

NBF leaders are nevertheless encouraged.

“My heart is overwhelmed to see diversity in this room,” said NBF President Michael Nelson. “When we come together as God’s people and start speaking the same language, there won’t be anything impossible for God’s Church to do. We want to look like heaven.”

Nelson conceded he often feels like a fish out of water at many AG ministerial gatherings because of the lack of ethnic diversity. Yet overall, the Fellowship is one of the most diverse religious groups in the U.S., with 43 percent of constituents representing ethnic minorities.

The number of African-Americans in the U.S. Assemblies of God has more than doubled this century, from 164,071 in 2001 to a record 330,780 in 2017. In the same span, the percentage of black adherents has risen from 6.2 percent to an all-time high of 10.3 percent. Likewise, there now are a record 913 African-American ministers in the denomination, up from just 294 in 2001.

“We have been called to be hope dealers,” said NBF Vice President Walter Harvey, pastor of Parklawn Assembly of God in Milwaukee. “God wants us to see color.”

“You can sense in this room God has birthed a new vision,” said NBF Executive Treasurer Darnell Keith Williams Sr., lead pastor of New Life Church International in Lima, Ohio.

IMAGE: James E. Collins, senior pastor of  Eagle Heights Cathedral in Revere, Massachusetts, shares at the Reach Conference July 17 in Cincinnati.

Source: AG News

Overcoming Fear in Order to Love

Islamaphobia – fear of Muslims. It’s real in America as well as in many parts of the world. Why? Perhaps it’s because radical/radicalized Muslims often have the loudest voices and whose horrific actions often target civilians, making it easy for media to identify and condemn.

Former AG world missionaries David and Sue Hartmann are now AG U.S. missionaries with Intercultural Ministries. They have found, both overseas and in the United States, that nominal Muslims — those who call themselves Muslims, but don’t adhere to a strict interpretation of the faith — abound and are curious about Jesus.

Beginning in 1993, the Hartmanns served as missionaries in Albania, establishing relationships and ministering to Muslims in that region. They became keenly aware of refugees in 1999 when 500,000 mostly Muslim Kosovar refugees poured into Albania as a result of war.

“Our hearts were deeply touched by their plight,” David recounts. “We began to pray for them and soon the Lord opened doors of opportunity to share the gospel. A key part in showing Jesus’ love to them was in helping to meet their many heartfelt needs. It was a joy to see many Muslim Kosovars come to our church and some give their lives to Jesus.”
Then, in 2011, the Hartmanns’ ministry to Muslim refugees was redirected to a new mission field — a major urban area in the southwest region of the United States.

“Some immigrant refugees come from people groups that are totally unreached by the gospel of Jesus Christ,” David says. “All of them have suffered from horrendous trauma and are in need of Jesus’ love.”

The Hartmanns have partnered with other ministries to specifically reach out to Middle Eastern and North African Arab Muslims who came to the U.S. either as refugees or on a Special Immigrant Visa. Most are Iraqis and Syrians. “They have come to the U.S. to start their lives anew,” David explains. “Without exception, they express appreciation for the peace and freedom they find in the U.S.”

Sue says that, as a woman, effective ministry to Arab Muslim women includes dressing modestly and greeting women with a kiss on the cheeks. “But what is most important is simply value and respect each life by being their friend,” she says. “I go to where they live, I don’t debate Islam, and I focus on loving them with Jesus’ love.”

In developing relationships with these Muslims, the Hartmanns have also come to hear their stories. Many are filled with horrific examples of the atrocities ISIS committed against their homes, businesses, and family members. Life for many was tenuous at best.

Many of the Muslim refugees who come to the U.S. have been traumatized and need help. But now they are living in a foreign land, that speaks a foreign (to them) language, has foreign laws, and they have no American friends — those who could help them adjust or be an advocate for them.

“These are wounded, broken souls in desperate need of Jesus’ saving and healing power,” David says. “Our ministry is based on God’s Word from Leviticus 19:33-34: When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own (The Message).”

Taking that Scripture to heart, the Hartmanns do what they can to befriend Muslim Arabs. They teach weekly ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, using the Bible as a source document. “For example,” David says, “we are now doing lessons from the New Testament about the miracles of Jesus.”

The Muslim ESL students, the Hartmanns have discovered, are very open to learning about Jesus. David shares how one woman felt “goose bumps all over her body” when they read about Jesus healing a person; 10 of their Muslim ESL students now attend a Bible study, and many of their Muslim students and friends are wanting to learn more about Jesus.

The Hartmanns create the opportunity to visit their students at their homes and pray for them. Each student has also been presented with a gift of an Arabic New Testament and an Arabic DVD version of The Jesus Film — the prayers and gifts have been greatly welcomed and received.

“We have discovered that not one of our newly arriving Muslim friends has ever hear a truly adequate presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” David says. “And now, the Lord has brought them to our neighborhoods, but more than that — to our hearts!”

The Hartmanns believe the key to seeing a great harvest of Muslims souls is intercessory prayer for their salvation. David has a prayer list of about 100 Muslim Arab refugee friends that he prays for daily. As he was driving home one day, the Lord spoke to him, “David, you may be the only person on this planet that is praying for their eternal salvation. Keep praying for them.”

If the Holy Spirit is already making a huge impact and opening doors into the lives of Muslim refugees through the prayers of David and Sue, one wonders what might take place if a few dozen, scores, hundreds, or perhaps even thousands joined them in their prayers for these Muslim refugees?

There’s only one way to find out.

Note: Much of this story is based upon the testimony of David Hartmann that originally appeared in the May-June 2018 issue of  Intercede magazine.
Source: AG News