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Route 66 and Beyond

Hal Donaldson

Editor's note: In April, Editor Hal Donaldson and Associate Editor Joel Kilpatrick flew to opposite coasts and drove 4,000 miles across America to see how the Holy Spirit is working in Assemblies of God churches. Donaldson, who started in New Jersey, and Kilpatrick, who started in Los Angeles, traveled through 13 states, spending much of the trip on Route 66 which stretches from Los Angeles to Chicago. They spoke with pastors and laypeople, visited powerful prayer meetings and saw bold outreaches. Their stories will instill a fresh faith in even the most road-weary traveler. Joel Kilpatrick

Friday, April 16,
Camden, New Jersey

Hope in a murder capital
Pulling out of the Philadelphia airport in my rental car, I realize I am 20 minutes late for an appointment with Jack Schell, pastor of Life Assembly of God in Camden, New Jersey, perhaps one of the more gospel-resistant cities in the United States.

Last year, Jack, 56, and his wife, Dawn, felt stirred to start a church here. They have spent many of their years in Teen Challenge ministry, church planting, as well as suburban pastoral work. When they first walked through the streets of Camden — which has the second-highest murder rate per capita in the country — Jack felt a tremendous peace. "I don't see any giants here," he told his family. "With God's help, we can make a difference."

Today they walk those same streets, and people know them by name. Every weekday, an average of 140 needy residents come to the church for a luncheon. A church service is held before lunch and more than half of them are there to seek God. Jack plays keyboard and Dawn leads worship — they alternate the preaching responsibility, and God gives the increase. A week before my visit, six people who found Christ through the feeding ministry were baptized in water. Sunday services attract many new converts.

Jack and I sit in his office; and while we talk, at least four people with desperate stories knock on his door seeking help. On one occasion, Schell opens his wallet and gives the person several dollars. Turning to me after the person leaves, Schell says, "When I have it — and I'm pretty confident it's not going to be used at the liquor store or for drugs — I'll do everything I can to help them. That's what Jesus would do."

As we walk back to my car, a man approaches us seeking prayer for high blood pressure. We lay hands on him and ask God for a miracle. Tears come to the man's eyes as he hugs us.

I hug Jack farewell and tears come to my eyes — tears of gratitude that God has sent people like the Schells to share the message of hope with such needy people.

On my way out of Camden I open the U.S. map on the seat next to me. "Lord," I pray, "make this more than a writing assignment. Do something in my heart." Little do I know what God has in store.

The journey continues...

 

Friday, April 16
Pasadena, California

On the front lines
Pioneering churches

My trip begins in Pasadena with Jaren Lapasaran, 44, a missionary to the United States who two years ago left a thriving church in Manila, Philippines, to pioneer Filipino churches here. Lapasaran's grandparents were among the first converts of Assemblies of God missionaries in the Philippines, he says, showing me around the facility where his congregation of 120 meets.

"I feel God is calling His generals out of the war rooms and onto the front lines," he says. "Los Angeles has a rich heritage for our Movement."

In Pasadena, several of Lapasaran's home groups are ready to become churches, and he is eyeing other cities that need a strong Filipino work. If his presence here is any indicator, America is increasingly a missionary-receiving country.

The journey continues...

 

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