Connections: Zollie Smith
For 75 Years: We Are There
Zollie Smith, executive director of Assemblies of God U.S. Missions, visited recently with Pentecostal Evangel Editor Ken Horn.
evangel: Talk about some of the good things that are happening in U.S. Missions today.
SMITH: Each of U.S. Missions seven windows represents a number of unique ministries. For instance, one that especially impresses me reaches out to racetracks, whether they be horse tracks, dog tracks or tracks for auto racing. We have chaplains who reach out to the people there — unique people a local church would not be able to reach. But we’re there, so that none perish.
We have missionaries in the unexplored areas of Alaska. I have gone there and my heart is broken over the conditions in which some Native Alaskans live. They are souls, and we have missionaries making the sacrifice to reach them with the gospel.
We also reach the college campuses, enabling us in turn to reach future leaders in business and in politics around the world.
Then we have church planters who go into small communities of 500 souls who need to hear the gospel. And in the urban areas, where drugs and alcohol and crime seem to be the order of the day, we have missionaries who are sacrificing and reaching those hurting, lost souls.
We are there, wherever you find people who are perishing. We’re not just reaching the everyday John Doe — although those people need to be reached. Yet so many churches and ministries are doing that. We’re seeking out those who make up the vast majority of this nation — those who, in many cases, have not heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.
evangel: We would miss out on evangelizing a lot of people if not for AG U.S. Missions.
SMITH: Most certainly, without a doubt.
evangel: Many U.S. missionaries minister to small groups, so they will never see the explosive kind of ministry that garners a lot of attention. Yet where would those people be without individuals willing to minister to the few?
SMITH: I think this is the fulfillment of the Great Commission — reaching the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the disenfranchised and those maligned by society, just as Jesus commanded. I think that when we as U.S missionaries realize the need, it draws a certain passion and it causes us to feel like we must act to eliminate those needs.
evangel: U.S. Missions has a vision for reaching specific subcultures, such as rock climbers and motorcycle clubs. How does that diverse goal connect with your core values?
SMITH: We live in a very diverse nation. I remember one study that identified more than 500 subcultures in America. Every one of those groups represents people who are lost and perishing and on their way to hell. They need to be reached with the gospel, and they need to be brought into the kingdom of God.
In order for that to happen, we need people with a specific burden for their subculture to live as servants of Christ and go and share His love. And that means identifying the most appropriate way to communicate that message. The apostle Paul said, “I became all things to all men that by some means I could win some.”
evangel: When someone senses God’s calling to serve in a specific community, how can they go about making that vision a reality through U.S. Missions?
SMITH: Those kinds of partnerships, when carefully and prayerfully established, help us to be good stewards of what God has given us. Missionary candidates present us with a five-year strategic plan for their proposed ministry. In that plan, our directors work with them to develop it in such a way that the end results are going to be fruitful, and it justifies the means. That strategic plan helps to develop and give the candidates direction.
You know, the Scripture says that the visionary has to write it and make it plain so that others who get hold of it can run and work with it and help in fulfilling it.
evangel: There’s a very special milestone coming up for U.S. Missions. Tell us about it.
SMITH: From July 10-13, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of U.S. Missions. The event will take place in Tulsa, Okla. Everyone is invited, but we especially want our missionaries, chaplains and volunteers to be there.
When we look back over these past 75 years, I cannot help but think that all of our ministries are still writing the Book of Acts — seeing the mighty hand of God move to deliver people. We are so grateful for our history, a history that has been rich with great men and women who made great sacrifices over the years.
In our celebration, we first want to give thanks to God and celebrate our past. We know that recognizing what has happened in the past is crucial to understanding the future.
We also want to consecrate the present with prayer and thanksgiving. And then, we want to allow God to cultivate us for the future.
We will be engaged in prayer and fasting. It’s really not a conference, but a time of praise and thanksgiving to God — just as it was 75 years ago when our forefathers realized that we needed a ministry of this magnitude.
As people of the Spirit, we needed to make sure that we are connected with God, because we’re His laborers and His workmanship. If we don’t hear from Him, the next 75 years will not be as rewarding as the past.
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