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2003 PE Report

Americans find comfort in ‘nesting,’ but connecting is another matter (December 22, 2002)

Viewer discretion advised: Reality-based programs stoop to new low (December 15, 2002)

A/G among fastest growing faith groups (December 8, 2002)

Christians play crucial role in foster care (November 24, 2002)

A/G churches remember with outreaches (November 17, 2002)

Elderly face added woes from credit card debt (November 10, 2002)

PE Kidz News from BGMC (October 27, 2002)

Cyber-evangelists find innovative ways to share gospel (October 20, 2002)

Risks, stigma accompany wearing of tattoos (October 13, 2002)

Women lead on-campus ministries (September 29, 2002)

Tobacco, alcohol, gambling industries find underage Internet client base (September 22, 2002)

Marijuana, cocaine have abusive company: Ecstasy, meth and prescription painkillers (September 15, 2002)

September 11: A day that changed American Christians forever (September 8, 2002)

Congress, courts clash over Internet filtering issue (August 25, 2002)

People with disabilities bless churches (August 18, 2002)

Short-term youth binges can result in long-term habit (August 11, 2002)

Christians aim to preserve traditional marriage (July 28, 2002)

Payback time: Christian volunteers motivated to give back to community (July 21, 2002)

Urban training centers minister
to ever-growing population
(July 14, 2002)

E-mail rumors dupe multitudes, hurt credibility (June 30, 2002)

Not so innocent: PG-13 films increasingly push sex, language limits (June 23, 2002)

Skipping church: Why are some Americans staying home on Sunday? (June 16, 2002)

Fudge fellowship: Pastor's wife treats tavern clientele (June 9, 2002)

Persevering nomadic church finally reaches promised land (May 26, 2002)

Tragedy brings A/G church, community closer to God (May 19, 2002)

Couples find God's calling in adopting, raising children (May 12, 2002)

A/G chaplain ministers to women in maximum-security prison (April 28, 2002)

Youth center offers alternative to teens (April 21, 2002)

A week without television (April 14, 2002)

Technological know-how aids San Jose church outreach (March 31, 2002)

Cincinnati racial reconciliation brings inner peace to inner city (March 24, 2002)

District's fund-raising efforts aid pastors planting churches (March 17, 2002)

GED program an effective ministry (March 10, 2002)

Building relationshipis at heart of women's ministries outreach (February 24, 2002)

Single-minded devotion: Unmarried ranks offer ministry opportunities (February 17, 2002)

Bethany College honors black minister pioneer (February 10, 2002)

A/G quarterback wins Unitas Award (January 27, 2002)

Camp Melody plants song of love in boys' hearts (January 20, 2002)

Pastor breaks giving record after 10 days atop billboard (January 13, 2002)

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Urban training centers minister
to ever-growing population

(July 14, 2002)

By Isaac Olivarez

Seven years ago, a typical day in Billy Soto’s life was spent on street corners, in alleys or at drug houses, scrounging whatever money he could find to get his next fix. For 35 years, his life spiraled downward as drugs overwhelmed his body and nearly ended his life.

"I was the epitome of pathetic," Soto, 55, recalls. "Everything that pertained to the devil, I was doing." But the night in 1995 that Soto dared God to change his life would transform him forever.

"I didn’t get on my knees and beg for forgiveness," Soto says. "I had an attitude. But from the bottom of my heart, I yelled, ‘If You’re real, do something.’ "

The next morning, Soto awoke with no desire to take drugs. Two weeks later, he became involved with the Los Angeles Dream Center. By 1996, his faith had matured and he started Under the Bridge Ministries, a food outreach to the homeless of Los Angeles. In 2000, Soto graduated from the Los Angeles Urban Bible Training Center, and was recently ordained as an Assemblies of God minister.

"There is no power on this earth that could have changed my life except the power of Jesus Christ," Soto says.

Soto’s experience is one example of how Urban Bible Training Centers (UBTC), an Assemblies of God Home Missions ministry, is helping change lives.

UBTC began in 1993 with a vision to provide training to city residents so they wouldn’t have to leave their community to benefit from the training. Course work usually takes place in a church, with classes meeting up to three times per week. Urban A/G pastors mentor UBTC students as they work together to enhance class work by volunteering in an authentic environment such as church ministry.

The main objective of UBTC is to train church leaders to effectively reach people for Christ in their community, something experts say is a growing need.

"In the developing world, where cities are [now] growing fastest, missionaries did wonderfully in getting the gospel over the ocean, through the jungle and over the desert," says Ray Bakke, author of A Theology as Big as the City and The Urban Christian. "We now need that same kind of commitment to the big cities of the world."

For many, big-city ministry means inner-city ministry, but Bakke notes that because today’s cities are changing, ministry needs to be tailored to fit the needs of the city.

"Urban ministry is not just going to focus on what we would traditionally call the ‘inner city,’ " he says. "It is going to be at-risk urban populations living under bridges, in tunnels and in abandoned cars who need Christ just as much."

Today, more than 1,000 students of all major ethnic groups are enrolled in more than 35 UBTCs throughout the nation, and more than 200 have graduated. Urban ministers, as well as retired pastors and missionaries, use material provided by Global University’s Berean School of the Bible to teach Bible courses on a volunteer basis. Those seeking ministerial credentials with the Assemblies of God may take more than the 16 required courses.

"Most of our students can’t afford to attend local colleges," says Eldon Brown, director of UBTC for Tampa Bay, Fla. "They wouldn’t go anywhere if it weren’t for the existence of UBTC." With five locations around Tampa Bay, UBTC is filling a gap that wouldn’t be reached otherwise.

"UBTC and I were a perfect fit," says Rich Kinney, senior pastor of Calvary Assembly in San Pablo, Calif. "I was not able to afford college, and UBTC gave me the opportunity to train for ministry as well as learn about the baptism in the Holy Spirit." Kinney, 46, learned of UBTC from an A/G professor at a community college and has since received his ministerial license.

Through relationships built in UBTCs across the United States, urban pastors, sectional and district leaders, and Assemblies of God Home Missions are working to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to today’s cities. As students are mentored, they gain the knowledge and experience they need to be effective in lay ministry, pulpit ministry or street ministry, strengthening the local church.

"We’ve seen churches become more effective in their outreaches by raising leadership through UBTCs," says Jim Hall, national UBTC director. "It came from graduates being able to function fruitfully with confidence in their ability."

With the help of UBTC, individuals like Soto are being equipped to face the challenges of taking the gospel to today’s metropolises where drugs, prostitution and crime have escalated and church attendance has declined.

"UBTC showed me that I wasn’t worthless and that I could succeed," Soto says. "I should have caught every disease known to man or I should have been dead, but God had a plan."


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