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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Together in Mission

How can one person, or even one church, make a difference in the world? As part of a team.

The power of partnership has been powerfully demonstrated in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that struck the nation January 12.

Kirk Noonan’s article opens a window for readers to get a firsthand view of the coalition of people that the Spirit has raised up to feed the hungry and care for the injured in Haiti. In the coming months this team will help many tens of thousands of people rebuild their lives. Possibly even more important is that their efforts will not only restore what was lost, but also advance the cause of Christ’s kingdom. We believe many people who do not know Christ will come to faith, be added to the church and take their places in fulfilling God’s purposes by blessing others.

Compassion ministry has always been an integral part of Assemblies of God World Missions. Since the inception of our mission, the Spirit has moved individual missionaries to reach out in compassion as part of their proclamation of the gospel and establishing the church. But the growth of our national churches overseas and the complexities of the world in which we live have created needs for more focused and strategic compassion ministries that are beyond the capacities of individual missionaries.

About 12 years ago the Lord directed AG World Missions and Convoy of Hope to form a partnership to more effectively touch the poor and suffering in the world with the compassion of Christ. At first the partnership was formed with the goal of conducting large compassion outreaches overseas similar to those Convoy had already done for five years in the United States. Shortly after the partnership began, however, Hurricane Mitch struck with great devastation in Honduras, and Convoy of Hope assisted in the largest relief effort AG World Missions had ever conducted.

Since then, Convoy of Hope has partnered with us in response to major disasters in every region of the world. And because of its ongoing feeding program in Haiti, we were poised to respond immediately in what has been our largest initial response ever.

Long before the earthquake, God had already put several key components in place that are facilitating the massive relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts. Five years ago Regional Director Dick Nicholson and missionary Bill Smith formed a partnership agreement with Mission of Hope, a children’s education and medical compassion ministry in Haiti. Subsequently, Convoy of Hope began to facilitate an extensive feeding program that provides meals for children in many schools, including those sponsored by Latin America ChildCare in Haiti. The warehouse for this feeding program had just been restocked before the earthquake, enabling us to respond immediately with meals for disaster victims — even as other relief agencies were struggling to get help into the country.

Another factor in the effectiveness of our outreach in Haiti is the presence of missionaries already on the scene. In obedience to the Spirit’s call, they come to proclaim the gospel and establish the church. Through their long-established work, God has created a network through which we can minister.

Twice each year I am privileged to address new missionary candidates. In the opening session of our gathering, I share a perspective on the history and character of AG World Missions. I state that the Assemblies of God was organized by people who actually resisted organization. A careful study of the documents crafted in the first General Council meetings clearly reveals that our early leaders were compelled by the Spirit to come together, against their own natural inclination, to fulfill God’s purposes, knowing full well that they could accomplish more together than they could possibly do individually.

At the second organizational meeting, held at Stone Church in Chicago, those gathered made this firm resolution: “We commit ourselves and the Movement to Him for the greatest evangelism the world has ever seen.”  Such a statement from only a few hundred people may seem bold and even presumptuous, but several convictions guided their resolve.

1. They took literally and seriously the global implications of our Lord’s Great Commission to go into all the world to proclaim His message, make disciples and establish His church.

2. They believed our Lord’s promise that the Holy Spirit’s empowerment would enable them to do what He commanded.

3. They were convinced that a task so great required that they work together.

In succeeding years a plan and method emerged. Since then our mission has been committed to establishing self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating national churches that are not dependent on the church that sent the missionaries. While other sending agencies were determined to retain control over the churches they established, the Assemblies of God remained committed to establishing fraternal churches with whom we progressively and increasingly partner as fellow workers in reaching the world together.

In 1998, soon after the  devastating earthquake in Honduras, I preached at a church in Wisconsin. While sitting in a restaurant after the Sunday morning service, the AG pastor was approached by the pastor of a large independent church in the town. “Our congregation wants to do something for the people in Honduras,” he said, “but we don’t have any contacts there.”  When the AG pastor explained that the AG had 17 missionaries and more than 1,000 churches in Honduras, the other pastor asked, “Can we partner with you?”

Response to crises throughout the world caused by natural disasters, civil unrest and war has led to more extensive partnership and networking in the last decade.  An increasing number of churches and individuals outside the Assemblies of God are supporting our mission because they have discovered the effectiveness of our worldwide missionary fellowship. Our efforts have helped us seize opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ, share the gospel and establish the church. The effectiveness of these efforts is directly attributable to our capacity to work together in partnership — with national churches around the world, with Convoy of Hope and with thousands of local churches across our nation who respond quickly and generously in prayer and finances.

Increasingly, national churches around the world are joining with us in relief efforts. A church in an area of China struck by an earthquake in 2008 sent more than $1,200 to assist in the Haiti relief efforts. The Samoa AG, still rebuilding after a tsunami last September, received offerings from 71 churches and sent funds for Haiti relief. Convoy of Hope Europe, led by AG missionary Michael McNamee, has sent more than $370,000 to the AG World Missions/Convoy of Hope relief efforts.

As the Assemblies of God continued to grow and multiply, the cooperative efforts of churches united in the common cause resulted in exponential growth. Our worldwide Fellowship now surpasses 60 million believers in more than 320,000 churches throughout the world. The inspired vision of 300 Spirit-filled believers in 1914 who came together in the providence of God to proclaim Christ’s message and establish His Church throughout the world has resulted in not only an abundant harvest of souls, but also a telling example of the power of a voluntary, cooperative fellowship.

This principle is exemplified greatly when a crisis takes place. People who have joined together to serve Christ’s cause are prepared to respond in compassion and with a focused purpose. That sense of purpose enables the church to help the poor and suffering more efficiently than secular relief agencies and more effectively because spiritual as well as physical needs are met. People receive more than food, clothes, shelter and health care; they receive the gospel and the opportunity to become a part of a local body of believers.

The vision of our early leaders has proved true: We can accomplish much more together than we can individually. That is the power of partnership.

RANDY HURST is communications director for AG World Missions

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