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ELT and EP photo in Hot Springs
Holding a historic picture from the 1914 gathering in Hot Springs, current members of the Assemblies of God Executive Leadership Team and some Executive Presbyters pose in the same place as the original photo.

Approximately 300 people gathered in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on April 10-11, 2014, to celebrate the centennial of the Assemblies of God. Echoes of the statements from the founding general council, where another 300 ministers gathered in the same place exactly 100 years earlier, could be heard throughout the two-day event.

The centennial celebration, sponsored by the AGTrust, featured seven speakers and a night of gospel music and worship. The celebration concluded with a pilgrimage to the site of the former Grand Opera House, where the first general council was held, to re-create the iconic photograph of the founders of the Assemblies of God.

One hundred years ago, Hot Springs had a reputation as a wild town, known for its alcohol, prostitution, gangs and drugs. When the founders of the Assemblies of God met at the Hot Springs Grand Opera House for the first general council, they had to pass by the saloon at the front of the building in order to attend the meetings in the auditorium. The centennial celebration was held in a more sanctified setting — the spacious First Assembly of God, Hot Springs, Arkansas, pastored by Larry Burton.

The centennial celebration drew people from across the United States. Jean and Magalie Rebecca, a husband and wife who pastor Haitian Assembly of God, Dorchester, Massachusetts, were excited to be able to participate: "We grew up in the Assemblies of God in Haiti. The Assemblies of God is a worldwide family, and we wanted to represent Haitians in Hot Springs."

Attendees also included descendants of some of the participants in the first general council, held April 2-12, 1914. Bonnie Olsen, the granddaughter of founding Assemblies of God minister Oliver P. Brann, felt right at home. She commented, "I experienced faith-filled services and the power of God this week. I wish I could experience this every day!"

General Superintendent George O. Wood opened the celebration on Thursday by recounting the five reasons for the formation of the Assemblies of God as enumerated in the century-old "Call to Hot Springs." Each speaker continued in this vein, expounding on why the founding principles of the Assemblies of God remain compelling today. Greg Mundis, executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions, shared about the heritage of missionaries who suffered, sometimes unto death, to bring the gospel around the world. Assistant General Superintendent Alton Garrison preached on the bedrock importance of the Word of God.

Hot Springs prayer
Many men and women came forward for healing during the centennial service held at First Assembly of God in Hot Springs.

True to Pentecostal form, the afternoon service included an extended time at the altar. Hundreds of voices were raised in fervent prayer, and people flooded the altars and aisles in the church. Following a time of prayer for specific areas of ministry, Garrison asked those present in need of healing to come forward for prayer. Vocal spiritual gifts were manifested, and several people later testified of physical healings.

Wilfredo de Jesús, pastor of New Life Covenant Church, Chicago, Illinois, encouraged those who are carrying on the Pentecostal legacy to fight complacency in their spiritual lives. "It is essential to build a bridge," he asserted, "so that the younger generation can learn about the power of the Holy Spirit from the older generation." He illustrated this principle with the biblical example of Elijah, the older prophet, who discipled Elisha, the younger prophet. De Jesús pointedly observed, "Elijah and Elisha were from different generations, but they walked together."

Thursday evening, gospel musicians Johnny Minick and Russ Taff led participants in three hours of rousing worship. The music included songs from each decade of the last 100 years. About 40 people - including Wood and Garrison — even participated in a Jericho March, which is a spirited procession around the church in a single file during the worship service. The practice originated in Kentucky Presbyterian camp meetings during the Second Great Awakening and had been adopted by some early Pentecostals.

On Friday morning, three younger ministers spoke — Rod Loy (First Assembly, North Little Rock, Arkansas), Rob Ketterling (River Valley Church, Apple Valley, Minnesota) and Aaron Cole (Life Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin). They described how Assemblies of God founding ideals are being carried out today and also envisioned the future of the Fellowship.

Following the Footsteps of the AG Founding Members
Attendees of the centennial event make their way up to where the iconic "photo of 300" of the original founders of the Assemblies of God was taken in 1914. Once there, a new centennial photo was taken in the exact same place, re-creating the century-old photo.

The celebration culminated in a pilgrimage to the site where the Hot Springs Grand Opera House once stood. The 300 attendees viewed the new historic marker in honor of the Assemblies of God centennial, which was placed in the sidewalk near Mountain Valley Spring Company, located at 150 Central Avenue. They proceeded to climb the winding trail behind the site of the former Grand Opera House until they reached a small clearing where the iconic photograph from the first general council had been taken.

J. Don George, an Assemblies of God senior statesman and founding pastor of Calvary Church, Irving, Texas, called the centennial event in Hot Springs "a historic occasion that will be long remembered." He noted that the event was relatively small in comparison to the larger centennial celebration slated to be held in Springfield, Missouri, on August 5-10, 2014, in conjunction with the World Assemblies of God Congress. "As a movement we are called to generational, gender, cultural and racial diversity," George stated. When thousands of visitors from across the United States and the world descend on Springfield in August, this diversity will be on full display.

Commemorative Plaque
A historic marker, indicating the historic location of the site of the founding convention of the Assemblies of God, was placed in the sidewalk on Central Avenue in Hot Springs.

The men and women who met in Hot Springs 100 years ago laid a foundation for a cooperative Fellowship that would help Pentecostals to more effectively evangelize the world. One hundred years later, the Assemblies of God has more than 3.1 million adherents in the United States and more than 66 million worldwide.

The centennial gathering offered both a celebration of the past century and a vision for the future. According to George O. Wood, the Assemblies of God, throughout its history, "has been marked by purpose and passion." He explained, "Our purpose is embedded in our doctrine, mission, values and strategies. Our passion comes from the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to empower us to do the greatest work of evangelism the world has ever seen." Wood predicted, "The future for the Assemblies of God is truly as bright as the promises of God."

 

 


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Then and now; veterans reunited after 30 years

Fri, 09 Jul 1999 - 12:00 AM CST

1967. Ft. Hood. Killeen, Texas. Cecil Adams, 20, and Darcy Haisley, 18, are going through boot camp together. It's near the end of the month. Haisley is broke and hanging around the barracks with nothing to do.

"Cecil would witness to me and I had a lot of stupid arguments about God," Haisley remembers now. "He invited me to this little storefront hole-in-the-wall kind of church. People called him 'Brother Adams.' All this 'Brother' and 'Sister' stuff. During the service, a lady to my right was holding up her hands saying, 'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.' At the altar call, Cecil kept saying, 'You can go now.' I didn't know what he meant. I just wanted to get out of there."

1968. Vietnam. An outpost near Da Nang. Adams and Haisley are serving together. Adams is a conscientious objector serving as a medic.

"I knew he was a conscientious objector and wouldn't carry a weapon," Haisley says. "But I remember a time when a 17-year-old kid named Atwood was killed by a sniper and everybody was hugging the ground and Cecil was up and moving with his medic bag and working on this kid."

Haisley could see that Adams' talk about religion was not empty words.

"There was something about Cecil. I remember asking him what religion he was, and he said, 'I just believe the Bible.' I didn't know what to make of that. I just knew that he was different and had something that was genuine. Probably what made the biggest impact on my life was just watching his life. Just seeing the contrast between the way I and the rest of the guys were living and how he was living."

Haisley's life was a wreck. He was constantly smoking marijuana. Constantly trying to numb his awareness of his own mortality. And constantly confronted with Cecil.

"I remember one day the guys were giving Cecil a rough time and my friend George Vanderdeusen said to me, 'You know, Cecil's right.' We were laying on this bunk having a cigarette. And I looked at George kind of funny and said, 'What do you mean?' And he said, 'I used to be really involved in Youth For Christ. What Cecil believes is right.'

"George was killed later. I had been wounded and Med Evac'd out, when I heard he was hit. I went and visited him in the hospital. I knew nothing about the gospel or the Lord. It was an intensive care unit. I remember an incredibly hopeless feeling. I didn't know what to say, and he said to me, 'They want to take my legs.' I didn't know what to say. I was loaded on dope. I remember saying, 'You're going to be ok.'"

1969. Everett, Washington. Haisley has come back to his hometown after his tour of duty. His life continues to spiral downward.

"I came home and got into drugs real heavy," he says. "Actually got to the point where I thought I was an animal and was eating with my bare hands. One day there were these people preaching the gospel down on the street corner. And I went over and talked to them. The first thing I said to the guy on the corner was, 'I'm not afraid to take all of my clothes off, right here, right now.' That's where I was at.'"

The group invited Haisley to their church, Gospel Light Temple, an independent Pentecostal fellowship.

"The guy that preached had a real anointing," Haisley recalls. "I went down to the altar."

This time it was Haisley's turn to say, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."

"I started saying it to copy the other people at the altar and I started feeling horrible. So I started saying it louder. I got to the point where I was screaming 'Jesus!' at the top of my lungs. The whole church stopped. They must have thought, 'We've got this madman.'"

And then a man walked up behind Haisley. He laid his hands on his shoulder and quietly said, 'Son, you don't have to scream. Jesus hears you.'"

Three weeks later, Haisley received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

"I used to tell the guys in our unit, 'If I ever got religion, I'd want the kind that Cecil's got,'" he says. Now he had it.

Haisley's transformation was immediate and dramatic. He had been living on the streets using drugs; he returned to share the gospel.

"Everybody knew me," he says. "I witnessed to thousands of people in the first couple of years. I've led hundreds of people to the Lord."

1999. Taos, New Mexico. Cecil Adams and Darcy Haisley are reunited at "The Gathering," an organized reunion of the 5/46th 198th Light Infantry Battalion.

"About the middle of May, my wife gets a phone call," remembers the Rev. Cecil Adams, now a veteran pastor with the Assemblies of God. "And this man says, 'Is this the religious Cecil Adams that was a medic in Vietnam?' And she said, 'Yes.' And he said, 'Well, for 30 years I've been looking for him. He witnessed to me over and over and I'm now an Assemblies of God pastor. And I'm shocked that not only is he an Assemblies of God minister, but he's pastoring in Killeen of all places. He's the one who took me to that little church that scared me."

Weeks later, the two friends saw one another for the first time in more than 20 years in Taos.

"It was powerful emotionally," Adams says. When we arrived at the reunion, they expected me to be religious. They knew about me. But they were shocked to find out here's Haisley and now he's like Adams!"

Just as Haisley had watched Adams' life, the others in the unit now saw his own complete change.

"There were a lot of people that came up to me and they just couldn't believe the transformation in my life. The way I had been living, they probably figured it was a miracle I was even alive."

The Revs. Haisley and Adams now share the joy of salvation as they pastor Assemblies of God churches in Killeen and Everett. They also continue to share painful memories of their months in Vietnam. But they use those memories constructively.

"When I have flashbacks," Adams says, "I pray for the men I knew there. Haisley is actually the second one who has come to Christ in the years since I've been home. And if there is one thing I really focus on from those years, it's the power of soul winning. Your witness is so powerful, that even though you don't know they came to Christ, God's at work in their lives. We think, 'Well, I witness and people turn me down.' Yes, these guys all turned me down. But look what's happened. This is two of them. How many more?"

"After I got saved," Haisley says, "I got to thinking about George Vanderdeusen. I had really cared about this guy. I really loved him. And it was one of those tough things when he was blown away. And all of a sudden, it dawned on me that he had been in that hospital 3 days before he died. And God gave me an assurance that Vanderdeusen had that time so he could get right with the Lord. He was going home. I always feel like when I get to heaven, he's going to be waiting and yelling out my name."


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