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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

Payback time: Christian volunteers motivated to give back to community

(July 21, 2002)

By John W. Kennedy in Chicago

Saturday, May 25. It’s 9 a.m. and looming gray clouds look threatening. Meteorologists have predicted rain all day for Chicago’s northwest side, which doesn’t bode well for the Convoy of Hope outreach set to start in two hours at Hanson Park. Rain would substantially reduce the number of neighborhood residents who come out for the event, especially since the temperature is in the upper 40s with wind gusts of 20 miles per hour.

A torrential half-hour downpour ended at 7 a.m. and saturated the grounds. Despite the continued overcast skies, Evangel Assembly of God Senior Pastor Ray Berryhill is confident. He says he has received a word from the Lord.

"This morning I was awakened by rain tapping on my window," Berryhill explains. "As soon as I opened my eyes the word of the Lord spoke to my heart saying, ‘Elijah was a man of like passion as we are; yet he earnestly prayed that it would not rain — and it rained not.’ I prayed this morning as Elijah did that God would hold off the rain, and when I looked out the window, the rain stopped."

Making a decision: Sean Parker (pointing) urges attendees to come to the altar at the tent’s platform as Ray Berryhill (right) prays.

Berryhill, 46, believes this is a sign that more residents will visit the site than in two previous Convoy of Hope outreaches hosted by Evangel Assembly in the same location.

It doesn’t hurt that Adrienne Berryhill, Ray’s wife, is leading a group of 20 intercessors who are praying in a tent in the park adjacent to where families will hear the gospel preached before receiving free groceries, haircuts and more.

By the end of the day, the optimistic and enthusiastic Berryhill is correct on both of his forecasts. God withheld the rain and more than 9,000 guests registered for the event.

Hanson Park, at the corner of Central and Fullerton, is the junction of different ethnic communities: Hispanics, African Americans, Italians, Poles and Greeks. Many residents have never ventured beyond their own neighborhood. "We can meet a diverse group of people with this outreach," Berryhill says. Several members of Evangel A/G, which is located a mile northeast of the park, have come off the streets themselves, including Sean Parker, senior associate pastor. He uses John 3:16 as his foundational verse.

"The streets were my mother and my father," says Parker, as he preaches the 15-minute sermon that guests of the day hear under a tent. "I was a gang banger, a stick-up man, a dope dealer. God brought me out of all that mess." Parker holds up his Illinois Department of Corrections rap sheet during his testimony, revealing 20 felony arrests, including two for attempted murder.

Parker, who became a Christian while in jail as a teenager, urges people to accept Jesus as Lord, in addition to the free bag of groceries distributed at the Convoy. "In five days you are going to be hungry again," says Parker, 36. "But Jesus is the resource that never runs out."

Unlike many Convoy events, which rely on dozens of congregations for volunteers, Evangel A/G and suburban Willow Creek Community Church are providing more than 80 percent of the help today.

"Even though Willow Creek is large, we’re very concerned about the needs of the least of these," says Pastor Alvin C. Bibbs Sr., director of extension ministries at the church, where 20,000 attend each weekend’s main services. It is located in South Barrington, 25 miles northwest of Hanson Park.

Most of the 400 Willow Creek volunteers are white and from the affluent suburbs, in stark contrast to Bibbs, who grew up in Cabrini Green, a black housing project that is one of Chicago’s roughest. "Convoy of Hope represents what Jesus meant when He spoke of the oneness of Christ in John 17," says Bibbs, 43.

Many of the Evangel A/G members serving this day say their lives have been transformed by God and they want to offer others the same hope.

Evelyn Irizarry is praying in the tent during the preaching times and then at the altar with those who make salvation decisions. "I want to give back a little bit of what has been given to me, although I can never repay enough," says Irizarry, 48. "Someone took the time to reach out to me once and talk to me about the Lord. Through their perseverance and prayer I’m here today."

The event, while offering Jesus’ message of eternal life, also can be a physical life saver, according to nurse Tonni Townsend, a member of Evangel A/G. Free medical services offered include vaccinations for children; asthma, blood pressure and diabetes screening; and, for the first time at a Chicago Convoy event, HIV testing. "There’s a lack of education about health care issues and a lack of knowledge about health care services in the community," says Townsend, 42. "Young people think they won’t get diseases. So it’s great to provide them with information and services, while giving them free food and entertainment."

Evangel A/G members provided the majority of the 10 entertainment venues for the day, including a choreography team, drama troupe, hip-hop singers, adult and children’s choirs, and jazz poetry.

Ronny Fondren, a car rental com-pany manager, is cooking thousands of hot dogs for the meal provided during the day. Fondren, who attends Evangel A/G, says he would rather be around Christians instead of the worldly environment that dragged him down in the past. "It’s hard to live a godly life, but I can’t be a quitter this time," says Fondren, 30. "At the beginning of the year I decided to give it my all. God has been too good to me. This church has helped me realize God wanted me to be in His kingdom."

Reaching people with the gospel is the whole point of a Convoy of Hope event. By the time of the final altar call, 2,156 people have indicated a decision to make Christ their Savior.


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