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25 things that make the Fellowship great

Editor’s note: Assemblies of God people are involved in faithful, innovative and effective ministries around the world. Men, women and young people are accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, seeing their lives transformed, being delivered from drug and alcohol addictions, receiving tangible care, and seeing their families restored.

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This special edition of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel provides a thumbnail sketch of the many things the church is doing right by sampling 25 of the Fellowship’s ministries. These are not the “top” 25 ministries, and the Assemblies of God is not the only church being used by God to build His kingdom. These are merely examples of the countless innovative ways believers are reaching people with the gospel. Some are well-known ministries; others are everyday people working in relative obscurity. But they are all effective.

1. Dentist donates services overseas

Dr. Robert Puleo just returned from a HealthCare Ministries missions trip to India — his 15th such venture around the globe in four years.

Although the dentist in solo practice loses his income during the two-week trips, he never has run into financial difficulties because of it.

“In the natural it makes no sense, and a lot of my dentist friends don’t understand why I go,” says Puleo, a member of The Church of The Hills in Bedminster, N.J. “But God has blessed my business. I live in the land of more than enough.”

Usually Puleo is the only dentist on the trips and he sees an average of 115 patients, whether it involves extractions, restorations or fillings. He also has been to Lithuania, Vietnam, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, the Philippines, Mongolia and the Solomon Islands, paying his own way each time.

While providing free medical care to the needy, Puleo finds the trips to be fulfilling God’s plan for his life. In addition, he says the relief from everyday distractions allows him to hear clearly from God.

“HealthCare makes it so easy,” says Puleo, 45. “I just have to show up and see patients.” Puleo and his wife, Sally, a nurse, have four children.

Among his most rewarding experiences on the trips, Puleo remembers a witch doctor in South Africa who accepted Jesus as his Savior at a clinic outreach. Although wealthy and influential in his small village, the shaman had come to the outreach under extreme oppression, Puleo says. But he burned his amulets on the spot and left with a wide smile.

2. Teen Challenge transforms lives one at a time

Some have said if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. The same might be said of Teen Challenge, an Assemblies of God ministry that has made an impact on countless lives.

Established in Brooklyn in 1958 by David Wilkerson, the program emphasizes the “Jesus Factor” as the key for substance-abuse rehabilitation.

“Teen Challenge is a powerful example of how the church can address social ills in our society without compromising the gospel message,” says Dave Batty, executive director of Teen Challenge in Brooklyn.

Batty, 54, believes the best years are to come for TC. “The miracles that started 45 years ago are still happening — except now on a larger scale.”

Today, there are 184 centers nationwide, with many in major cities, and 372 additional centers in 77 countries. A great number of those seeking help are in their 20s. Yet there are 23 centers in the country that work exclusively with teens.

Since Teen Challenge began, more than 50,000 men and women have completed the program domestically. Three major independent studies report that 70 to 86 percent of TC graduates continue to live a drug-free life after leaving the program.

“I was so broken and destroyed,” Elizabeth Smith, 41, says of her arrival at Brooklyn’s TC center, noting she spent 24 years addicted to heroin. “I had lost custody of my three sons. My fifth husband was in prison.”

But she found hope at TC.

“I was introduced to Christ,” she says. “I knew if I was going to change I needed to know Him better. I prayed, ‘God, make me a real person.’ ”

After graduating from TC, Smith returned to Oklahoma City and attended seminary. Since then she has been reunited with her family and now works in Christian retailing. Of her new life she says, “I live with joy today.”

3. Windy City outreach powered by Holy Spirit

For many U.S. soldiers, Vietnam was a place of despair and death. For Spencer Jones, pastor of Southside Tabernacle Church in Chicago, it was something entirely different.

It was a July day in Vietnam in 1967 that Jones, now 57, was baptized in the Holy Spirit, marking the spiritual high point during his tour of duty. “That experience was a defining moment that radically changed my life,” Jones says.

After returning from Vietnam, Jones enrolled at Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo. While there, he went on a summer missions trip to Chicago, a city he feared, to help plant a church. Soon after his arrival, the city and its people captivated his heart and mind. No longer afraid, he returned twice for extended stays to minister at the burgeoning church before accepting the pastorate in 1972.

Since then, the church, located in a predominantly African-American working-class neighborhood, has grown to more than 550 worshipers. Jones and his congregation have had a positive impact on the community through evangelism, prayer and discipleship.

“We reach into the community,” says Jones, noting that he daily visits inner-city schools to support and encourage teachers and students. Prayer warriors gather at the church every Friday for prayer. Members of his congregation also have joined forces with the Chicago Police Department to fight crime. “We’re known in the community because we go to the people and help,” Jones says. “Our passion is evangelism and we thrive on building relationships.”

Reaching Chicagoans for Christ dominates his thinking these days. “One church is not going to reach every citizen in Chicago for Christ,” he admits. “It’s going to take a number of progressive churches to accomplish that.”

Today, Jones can’t imagine living or ministering anywhere but the Windy City. “I love this city and its people,” he says. “God couldn’t have put me in a better place.”

4. It has the feel of Korea.

When you enter Full Gospel New York Church (Assemblies of God) in Flushing, New York, you enter a world where 99 percent of the 4,000 attendees are Korean immigrants. The church has focused on this once-neglected segment of the population for some 26 years.

But this is not a culturally closed, self-absorbed body. Far from it. FGNYC is in the forefront of churches involved in local outreach and distant missions — and the community has taken notice.

This ministry-oriented church is an outgrowth of the vision of Nam Soo Kim, pastor since 1977. The energetic Kim, himself an immigrant, takes special pains to maintain an active church presence among New York’s burgeoning Korean population through numerous ministries. Many FGNYC members received their introduction to the church through its television program. The program is not hard-sell gospel. Instead, it deals with practical matters and trumpets the message “We’re here to serve you.” The church focuses on being a friend of the community — and that is how it is seen.

Members help underprivileged families and Korean-speaking immigrants who are having difficulty in their new English-speaking country. They supply rides for those without transportation, serve as interpreters for people seeking government assistance and help them fill out forms … many things that English-speaking people take for granted. A pastoral staff member oversees this ministry and recently a social worker was added to the staff for this purpose.

One lady’s case is typical. She lived alone and became extremely ill and unable to care for herself. Full Gospel provided a volunteer who took her to the doctor, prepared meals for her in her home and assisted her in a number of other ways.

Sunday is a full day of community outreach. Doctors, nurses and other experienced health professionals staff a free medical clinic in special church offices. The church’s lower level feeds an average of 1,000 people and has gained the reputation of “New York’s largest restaurant.”

The week hums with ministry as well. Full Gospel offers classes on health, nutrition, family — even computers. This year a free summer school is being added.

For years the growing church relied heavily on a large pastoral staff for the bulk of the church’s ministry. That has changed. Lay ministry is now the emphasis. No pastors were let go when Pastor Kim felt God moving him in this direction. Instead, as pastors left the church for other ministries (sometimes to plant new works supported by FGNYC) a hiring freeze was put in place and ministries were gradually turned over to the laity. A lay missions school continually develops lay leaders. Two-thirds of the church meet in 115 cell groups.

Ministry does not stop with reaching Koreans. Inspired by the history of American missionaries ministering to children in his homeland, Pastor Kim has championed two great overlapping causes — children and international missions.

Through a partnership with Mission of Mercy, FGNYC sponsors 2,000 children in Bangladesh, India, Cambodia and elsewhere. Each church cell group supports children overseas. The church recently completed the building of a school in Honduras that opened in May and soon should have 1,000 students.

Pastor Kim calls Honduras a “training camp” for missions. Some 500 people in the church have gone there. Kim sees the Honduran school as an “experiment” — a laboratory if you will — to inspire Christians and show them they can have a tremendous influence on children at a time in their lives when they are most likely to commit to Christ and stay true to Him.

Kim believes in building bases for ministry. (The church has another base in Ecuador.) A base means long-term ministry and a ready place to go for people to participate in missions.

“We need to build schools,” says Kim, “and go to other countries that have needs today like Korea faced.”

Among the places where Full Gospel has built schools are Kenya (serving 500 children), Bolivia (serving 600) and Ecuador (serving 2,000). Where children are ministered to, Full Gospel also builds churches for the families who come to Christ.

Kim tells his people that seeing missions firsthand is far more valuable than just hearing about missions. “Just for three days, go with me,” he tells them. “You will change.”

The church has proven this principle. Several years ago a group of laypeople returned from a dynamic short-term missions trip to Brazil. Their enthusiasm for missions was contagious and the missions vision of the church quickly expanded. Now every layperson is encouraged to take at least one missions trip. Missions giving to support children has exploded from $50,000 to $500,000 annually. Recently, a group of seniors, 70-90 years old, was so moved they took a spontaneous offering of more than $12,000 — enough to build six churches.

Full Gospel’s hands-on missions program extends to many other countries, such as North Korea. Five times members have returned to their homeland, sometimes accompanied by A/G leaders such as General Superintendent Thomas Trask. They bring medicine, food and necessities to orphanages, hospitals and churches.

It is not surprising that FGNYC itself is in a multi-million-dollar building project that will enable them to more effectively meet the needs of their community and other ministries. The first building, a gymnasium, was just completed, while a main sanctuary seating 2,400 is due for completion in November 2004.

Whether it is reaching immigrants, touching their own community, or actively participating in missions, Full Gospel New York Church is doing something right. It is truly Korea in the United States reaching the world.

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