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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

September 11: A day that changed American Christians forever

(September 8, 2002)

By John W. Kennedy, Kirk Noonan and John Cockroft

Editor’s note: More than 2,800 people died after two hijacked jets crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City last September 11. Most of the casualties involved office workers at the twin towers, although hundreds of airline passengers and emergency personnel also were killed. Because of the intense conflagration, no trace of the bodies of more than 1,600 victims was ever found. Another 125 people died in the Pentagon terrorist strike in Washington, D.C., and 45 people were killed when United Airlines Flight 93 went down in rural Pennsylvania.

The attacks of a year ago changed the nation permanently. While the impact for many Americans is limited to such inconveniences as longer airport check-ins and lower stock market returns, those directly involved with the tragedy and its aftermath replay September 11 every day.

This report focuses on a few people involved in those events. It is impossible to feature the activities of every minister and ministry in this report, but New York District Superintendent Saied Adour, Pastor Mark Gregori of Crossway Christian Center, and various chaplains and counselors from across the nation played key roles in meeting the needs of hurting people.

As followers of Jesus Christ, these people have found that their calling as Christians, indeed, their purpose in life, has been transformed by God as a result of the fateful day.

A pastor
Carl Keyes, 45, prayed a simple prayer and received a direct answer. "I asked God how He wanted our church to minister after the terrorist attacks," says Keyes, pastor of Glad Tidings Tabernacle in midtown Manhattan, recounting his September 11 plea. "God said, ‘Just serve the people.’ " That is exactly what Keyes and members of the Assemblies of God church have been doing.

Keyes’ congregation became one of the first responders at Ground Zero, providing boots, towels, masks, saline solution — and prayer — for rescue workers. As the days turned into weeks and weeks into months, Keyes and Glad Tidings became a dependable ally in the effort to get New York back on its feet. President George W. Bush even called to thank Keyes for his ministry.

Glad Tidings coordinated its efforts with the Office of Emergency Management and several other agencies in New York City. The church sent out prayer teams to hospitals to pray for victims’ families. Congregants housed and coordinated volunteer teams from around the nation who came to minister by distributing water and supplies and praying with those in need.

Today, two blocks from Ground Zero, Glad Tidings has opened Restoration Counseling Center. There, many people come for professional Christian counseling and career advice each week. The center also offers childcare.

"We have been coming alongside people and serving them," Keyes says. "We just try to be an example [of Christ]."

The events of September 11 forced Keyes and others to reevaluate ministry priorities.

"In an instant we realized why we were a church and why we were in New York City," Keyes says. "We had an opportunity to respond to the crisis with the love of God. I had waited my whole life to be in a ministry like this."

But six months after the attacks, Keyes felt downcast that the ministry efforts increasingly consuming him had stemmed from such a tragic occurrence. His guilt ceased when a mentor offered some advice.

"My friend told me that the ministry was not birthed because people had died," he says. "It was because we had responded and through our response God has used it."

According to Keyes’ wife, Donna, who is director of the counseling center, the repercussions of September 11 intensified this summer. She suspects the consequences will worsen.

"Until recently, most people did not have to face the fact that their lives were changing because they were still in shock and grieving," she says. "But now people are over their initial shock and we’re hitting the reality of all of this."

Many of the rescue and construction workers who come into the counseling center, she says, are not only grappling with emotions, but also with how to express those feelings. Some are turning to vices. New York Academy of Medicine researchers discovered that alcohol and marijuana use among Manhattan residents increased during the two months after the World Trade Center attacks. In an academy study released in May, as many as 400,000 New Yorkers indicated they have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression since September 11. Smokers and drinkers reported higher levels of depression, sleeplessness and nightmares.

But Donna Keyes is optimistic that despite such grim realities the church has a great opportunity to share Christ’s message of love and hope.

"Spiritually the church is poised to touch people now more than ever before," she says. "People felt that they were going to move past it, but now many are realizing they can’t move past it. They are reaching out to drugs and alcohol, but through this process many are going to realize that they can’t find the answer, and we’re praying they will turn to Jesus."

A caregiver
For Denny Nissley, the terrorist attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., changed the focus of his Manassas, Va.-based ministry, Christ in Action.

With the help of more than 400 volunteers — many from the Potomac District of the Assemblies of God — Christ in Action cooked and served more than 55,000 meals in 17 days to emergency and military personnel working on rescue and recovery efforts at the Pentagon parking lot. Dubbed Camp Unity, the Christ in Action tent served as the hub of the feeding operation and included an 8,300-square-foot tent, a 48-foot command trailer, a 75,000-watt diesel generator, a 53-foot-long refrigeration trailer truck, a 6,000-gallon water truck, two commercial grills, a double-stack convection oven and a 60-gallon soup cooker. All funds for the outreach came from the Assemblies of God and other church ministries.

Before September 11, nearly all Christ in Action efforts involved evangelistic outreach. "It changed the face of our ministry," says Nissley, 47. "Now we’re broadening our disaster readiness — earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and flooding and now terrorist attacks." Christ in Action is erecting a 10,000-square-foot disaster training and preparedness center in Manassas.

"This past year has encouraged me," says Nissley, who has been doing evangelistic outreaches for 25 years. "It was a wake-up call to the church, which has rallied. Christians have realized the value of meeting human needs and sharing the hope of Christ."

As with Keyes, Nissley’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented Nissley with a commendation.

A chaplain
After a brief flurry of interest in daily prayer, most Americans returned to life as usual soon after September 11. Joel Terragnoli has grappled with that fact ever since.

"This country didn’t know what else to do at first, but turn to God," says Terragnoli, a chaplain in the Army National Guard and member of Expressway Assembly of God in Buffalo, N.Y. "But it was a superficial ‘God bless America,’ " he says. "Now it seems the world has forgotten."

But Terragnoli, who led a group of soldiers to guard Ground Zero in New York City 10 days after the terrorist attacks, can’t forget.

"We didn’t know what we were going to face," Terragnoli, 47, says of his experience. "I remember one man just devastated about losing his son, and a firefighter crying that some body parts being carried away could be her partners’. All we could do was pray and ask for God’s strength and comfort."

Prayer proved effective.

"Our presence as chaplains was a reminder that God was still there," Terragnoli says. "We were all walking together, hurting together and looking to God for strength together. That, not just our words, made the difference."

Though horrific images still flood Terragnoli’s memory, they propel him to urge people he meets to be spiritually ready. "We need to be living for God right now," he says, "as if every day is our last."

A clergy group
The Primitive Christian Church is a 10-minute walk from Ground Zero. During the chaos following the dual impacts with the World Trade Center, members of the Assemblies of God congregation rushed to the church and urged people to seek refuge by making telephone calls to loved ones, praying in the sanctuary or simply taking a drink of water.

"September 11 forced us to be one of the few churches that were ministering at the forefront," says Senior Pastor Marcos Rivera, explaining the church’s proximity to the World Trade Center. "We’re right in the shadows of where the World Trade Center used to be."

As a result of September 11, Rivera and pastors from other denominations, with financial assistance from the national Assemblies of God, formed the Northeast Clergy Group, an organization designed to help city residents heal from the attacks. Through the group, pastors provide grief and trauma counseling as well as mental health services. In addition, Northeast Clergy Group provides an all-expense-paid, out-of-state getaway for overburdened ministers and their spouses.

"We’ve been able to help families pay rent in the months following 9/11," Rivera says, noting that money from donors around the world was immediately available for use. "The organization was formed to exalt Christ and serve the church, fellow clergy and the city."

A servant
Within 48 hours of the attacks, Convoy of Hope, an international relief agency based in Springfield, Mo., was at the Pentagon with nearly 40,000 pounds of food and supplies. COH also arrived in New York with more than 80,000 pounds of food and supplies ready for distribution.

According to David Auterson of COH, the food and supplies delivered to New York helped greatly in stocking Homeport, a relief site for rescue workers located on Staten Island, where Auterson was pastoring El Bethel Assembly of God at the time. For two weeks after the attacks many firefighters showered, ate and slept at Homeport. When the firefighters returned to their stations Homeport served as home for FBI and Secret Service agents, National Guard personnel, police officers and state troopers for three and a half months.

"Convoy was the first truck at Homeport," says Auterson. "A lot of the goods we brought to Homeport were distributed to other compassion ministries and secular organizations."

Part of COH’s vision is to empower local pastors to meet the needs of their communities, he says.

"At the end of the day the needs were not all physical, many were spiritual," says Auterson. "That’s where we come in. We’re about presenting the gospel through our outreaches."

Within the next year Convoy of Hope will conduct major outreaches in New York and continue to act as a supply line for various ministries and organizations.

An executive
World Trade Centers Association Vice Chairman David H. Lee believes the providential hand of God prevented him from being killed in the calamity. Normally he arrived at his 77th-floor office around 8:45 a.m. Stomach cramps caused him to run 15 minutes late and he emerged from a taxi just as the first hijacked jet crashed into the building.

It took three months for Lee to recover emotionally from the trauma. "I cannot say that everything has come back to normal," says Lee, whose office is now located six blocks from where the WTC stood.

Nevertheless, Lee, 44, has devoted himself to expanding the kingdom of God to unreached people, whether around the world or across the table. He finds himself often talking about his faith and the second coming of Christ when associates try to analyze the aftermath of the catastrophe. "It really has been easy and natural for me to mention spiritual things with my WTC colleagues," he says.

Recently, Lee has been involved in intense meetings with city and state officials concerning how the original WTC site will be used in the future. But just as importantly to him, he has been instrumental in expanding the WTC Corps, the charitable arm of WTCA. Under the program, volunteers go into regional hot spots to educate entrepreneurial-minded small-business owners.

WTC Corps also is preparing to launch a mercy ship named Adramyttian, based on Acts 27:2, with seed money provided by Lee. "It will help many underdeveloped countries to effectively trade with the outside world in the name of the ‘gospel of trade,’ " Lee says. The crew and workers, most of them missions-minded professionals, will be recruited from WTC Corps.

In addition, Lee has been active in WTC Foundation, a worldwide charitable organization that partners with nonprofit organizations, including religious groups, to overcome poverty through education and jobs.

A survivor
Stanley Praimnath became somewhat of a celebrity after his miraculous escape from the 81st floor of the World Trade Center South Tower. Stories about him appeared everywhere from USA Today to the Pentecostal Evangel and he made appearances on the Montel Williams Show and the 700 Club.

Three weeks later the interviews faded, and Praimnath faced the reality of returning to work as assistant vice president for Fuji Bank (now Mizuho Corporate Bank). He prayed for courage to ride the elevator to the 17th floor of his temporary office space in New Jersey. Images flashed in his mind of his last elevator ride with 18 associates he never saw again.

"My eyes get teary looking at the hole left by the towers," Praimnath says. "The towers used to be like a lighthouse for giving people a sense of direction."

The first time back, Praimnath received a hero’s welcome from co-workers, none of whom had yet arrived at work the day the plane hit the building.

"They call me ‘Brother Stanley’ now," Praimnath says, adding that the spiritual connotation is a good one. "People of different faiths approach me now and ask about my God. And I tell them, ‘He’s not my God. He’s everyone’s God. He is the only God.’ "

Since February, Praimnath has been sharing his testimony of God’s grace in churches and at other events on weekends. Praimnath, 45 and a deacon and Sunday school superintendent at Bethel Assembly of God in Queens, N.Y., is booked to speak months in advance. "People ask what my speaking fee is, and I tell them this is not about the money. I am doing it for God. Without Him, I wouldn’t be here."

— Isaac Olivarez contributed to this story.

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