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California ministry team breaking strongholds

Gang warfare and drug trafficking are common in this area of Santa Ana, Calif. But children flock to Castle Kids, a ministry of the Southeast Asian Ministries, a nationally recognized home missions project of the Assemblies of God. They come on Saturday mornings to hear about and worship Jesus. While other children stay at home watching cartoons, these children are memorizing Bible verses, singing simple songs of faith, and watching other children and teen-agers perform human videos, puppet shows and dramas based on biblical principles.

In the past year, more than 200 mostly Hispanic and Asian children have made commitments to follow Christ as their Savior at Castle Kids.

"This area needs the Lord," says Linda Gross, director of Southeast Asian Ministries. "These streets have been taken by spiritual darkness, but the Lord has led us to go back and reach them for the glory of God."

To do that, a committed team of young people, known as the Freedom Team, formed. Most of the team members are from the Kmhmu Christian Church which was planted by SEAM. Every other Sunday, team members, ages 7 to 18, take part in intensive discipleship training that equips them to perform, witness and lead peers to Christ. On Saturday mornings the team goes alternately to two of four locations where Castle Kids meets.

"The neighborhood children that come to Castle Kids pay attention because our kids are confident in what they say about their faith," says Holly Schaffer, an intern who coordinates the outreach. "Not only are they leading others to Christ, they are growing in the Lord as well."

"It makes me feel good when I see little kids’ lives get changed at Castle Kids," says Soulivanh Rangsy, 15, a Freedom Team leader. "I feel like God is blessing me."

In 1983, Gross started the Southeast Asian Ministries after leading three Hmong children to Christ. Since then, the ministry has expanded. Beside planting the Kmhmu church and conducting weekly outreaches, Gross says the ministry has developed resource material and started the Asian Bible Training Center where students are being trained for ministry in the United States and Asia.

Though most of the Freedom Team members are Asian, they are reaching many Hispanic children with the message of Christ. In doing so, they are shattering racial stereotypes and barriers.

"At first they [Hispanics] were saying, ‘Why are the Asians trying to reach us? We’re Hispanic,’" Gross says. "It takes time when you are reaching people who are so ethnically and culturally diverse, but Christ’s love is working."

In the past year, more than 200 mostly Hispanic and Asian children have made commitments to follow Christ as their Savior at Castle Kids.

— Kirk Noonan


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