Friday, April 1, 2016

Reaching America

This year I began a new endeavor-I started the process to obtain credentials with the Assemblies of God.  In order to meet the educational requirements, I enrolled in NTDSOM-North Texas District School of Ministry.  Each month this year (minus a one month break in the summer and also in December) I take a new class, which includes mostly personal study times, and once a month I come together with the class to hear lecture and take the exam.

Here is a picture of this month's book-and my blanket as I enjoy being able to study from the comfort of my own bed.

This month we are studying Assemblies of God History, Missions, and Governance.  I found the chapter on U.S Missions (the first part of chapter 12) the most intriguing as my husband and I are U.S. missionaries.

Much of the U.S. Missions material was somewhat of a review for me.  When we attended Candidate Orientation two years ago, we learned about the role of the U.S. Missions (which I usually refer to as AGUSM) as related to being a facilitating and sending agency-the department appoints us as we go through the missions process.  We are a part of the Missionary Church Planters and Developers Department, which is led by Darlene Robison.  She has been an incredible support, advocate, and cheerleader to us and I can't imagine being on this journey without her!  There are 6 other departments that we got to know in our missions process-chaplaincy, Chi Alpha, Intercultural, Teen Challenge, MAPS, and Youth Alive.

There was also some material in the text that I learned from regarding U.S. Missions.  Much of the historical information I had minimal knowledge prior to this course.  The chapter described how the department grew throughout the years.  Starting off in in the early part of 1900's, the "department" was referred to as pioneer evangelism, and then in 1939 it became it's own official department-Home Missions and Education Department, with the first director being Fred Vogler.  At that time emphasis was primarily on church planting and Bible institutes.

Over time, specialized ministries began to pop up as the need arose.  Prisoners, various ethnic groups, Native Americans, and other special needs groups were added to the list of areas receiving missionaries.  (These areas of ministry were the reason the various departments I listed above were created.)  Over time, the department changed names again to the Division of Home Missions in 1971 and to U.S. Missions in 2003.  The current AGUSM director is Zollie Smith.

Names, dates, and places are probably some of the most difficult things I have trouble remembering.  The stories, though, stick with me.  As I read the material about the different departments, my mind went to the missionaries I know in some of those departments within AGUSM and what incredible work they each represent.

Chaplaincy-Nate and Sarah Moore are fellow North Texas missionaries, and friends of ours, to the rock climbing world.  They can relate to the lifestyle of rock climbers because they live that lifestyle day in and day out.  They live out of their van and follow the rock climbing scene around the nation.  I don't know many people who could live the way they do.

Chi Alpha-Lennon and Christal Noland are also North Texas missionaries, and happen to be one of our neighbors, as we both currently live in missions housing.  After serving on the campus through Chi Alpha missions in San Angelo, they went to North Carolina before coming back to Texas to serve as directors to all North Texas Chi Alpha missionaries.  Since his time in this new role, we have seen an influx of Chi Alpha missionaries begin to seek national appointment.  I am excited about the work he is doing for the department, as our work as Youth Pastors has shown us first hand that many students turn away from God in their college years.

Intercultural Ministries-Steve and Sandra Hogue are AGUSM missionaries out of Florida.  They specialize in adoption and foster care-specifically training the church to fill the need as foster, and potentially adoptive parents, and in turn giving kids a chance to hear about God.  Since so many orphans in America come from various ethnic groups, they were placed in this department.  I can't remember how many kids they have-but it is over 10!  This is certainly a calling, and no doubt God has His hand on this family!

Missionary Church Planters and Developers-Josh Holder (and what is his wife's name?  Remember that thing up above where I said I wasn't good with names?  Prime example!)  Josh and his wife moved to New Orleans (I believe from Illinois) to work with the low income in the crescent city.  He sticks out in my mind, as we (Mercy Chefs) had responded to tornadoes in Reserve, Louisiana a couple months ago, and since it was just a few miles away from his city, he came and joined us one day to help out.  He regularly works with the homeless, and in the cold of winter made sure his outdoor friends had plenty of blankets to keep warm.  This type of work is very close to my heart as we work with the homeless regularly in Dallas and Fort Worth.

Teen Challenge-Paul Ecker is one of the first U.S. missionaries I think I ever met.  When John and I first married was when we began attending an A/G church, and our pastor invited him out to our church annually.  He typically brought the Teen/Life Challenge guys out with him, and their music ministry always touched me.  They sang "My God is real..." with such passion-they knew He was real because of the change He had made in their lives.  On a side note, Paul was originally from Philadelphia and I always laughed at his reference and desire for Tastee Cakes-which at the time was a treat reserved only for the east coast, but has since become available in Texas.  But I digress!  Again-this is one of those ministries that you really must have a heart for, and Paul definitely is in his niche!

MAPS-Ken and Peggy McGowen entered my life a few years back.  I worked at the district office at the time, and they had an opening for a part time front desk receptionist.  Ken's current MAPS assignment was at Lakeview Camp as an electrician.  Peggy applied for the receptionist to give her something to do during the day.  She was so sweet to work with and an incredible encourager.  Since their assignment at Lakeview, they have been to many places around the country-California, Maine, and Florida among others, and also out of the country to Senegal through A/G World Missions.  I love to see what God can do through the layperson's abilities to further the Kingdom!

Youth Alive-Kyle and Janelle Embry are North Texas Youth Alive missionaries.  They work so closely with the district youth department, particularly at summer camps, and provide incredible training to teenagers through their Together Trainings (which we have participated in when we were youth pastors) which prepare students to lead Bible clubs on their school campuses.  The thing they are most known for is their Seven Projects-school assemblies where they typically teach on secular topics such as bullying, and then invite the students to a local church later that night and preach a gospel message.  During Candidate Orientation we met another Youth Alive couple who were pioneering a Youth Alive in their district and one of their biggest troubles is churches understanding why this type of ministry is needed.  I was shocked-Youth Alive is such an integral part of district life and camps here in North Texas that I simply cannot imagine not having such a vital ministry. 

While history is not one of my preferred courses of study, there was enough material in this month's book to keep my attention.  Some was stories of real people and what they accomplished.  Other had information that I could relate to for one reason or another.  As this month comes to a close, I am looking forward to my next study on the book of Acts.

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