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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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Jacob's Hope: The Assemblies of God launches global outreach to Jews

Fri, 07 Jan 2011 - 4:24 PM CST

Jeff Friedman grew up in a Jewish family, attended an Orthodox Jewish synagogue every week, and lived in the city with the world's largest Jewish population: Brooklyn, New York. The brief encounters he had with Christians left him with a negative impression of the faith during his first 26 years of life.

"Christians offended me; they turned me off," Friedman says. "I basically hated Christians."

One day in 1980, after Friedman moved to Miami as part of his job as a government pharmacist, he went to get a haircut. Mitzi, the hairstylist at the salon, was a Jewish woman - who attended an Assemblies of God church.

"She challenged me as a Jew to study the Jewish Scriptures as they pertain to the Messiah," Friedman recalls. "She spoke to me in a way that made sense."

A week later, after accepting an invitation to a Christmas party at the church, Friedman came to faith in Y'shua (the Hebrew name for Jesus). He immediately sensed a calling, realizing that the overwhelming majority of Jews never hear a culturally relevant presentation of the gospel.

"I have a desire to see fellow Jews come to know this blessing I know," says the enthusiastic and energetic Friedman.

Friedman became a licensed AG minister, graduated from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and for 17 years served as an AG U.S. missionary while the rabbi of Beth Emanuel, a Messianic synagogue in Philadelphia. When on a ministry outreach team in Eastern Europe, Friedman saw Jewish people living in abject physical and spiritual poverty. The experience motivated him to broaden his vision.

Friedman visited with L. John Bueno, AG World Missions executive director. He discovered that while the Fellowship had undertaken missionary efforts to Jewish people, no such global outreaches existed. Friedman devised the concept of an organization called Jacob's Hope (jacobshope.com) as the first AG World Missions effort to engage the worldwide Jewish community.

Jacobs Hope pic
(From left) Chris Mann, Jeff Coose and Jeff Friedman prepare to unload supplies of the first container delivered to Israel.

"It's latent in our Fellowship that people want to do something for the Jewish people," Bueno says. "This is our only ministry to reach Jews throughout the world."

"A lot of people are supporting Jewish ministries that are not run by Christians," Friedman says. "Those groups provide humanitarian aid. But the gospel is not shared, so people aren't being evangelized."

Jacob's Hope assists both Jewish and Messianic congregations in a variety of practical ways. These include feeding Ukrainians, clothing Israelis, providing teaching materials to Belarusians, and operating a farm to employ Ethiopians.

Friedman is assisted by Vixie, his wife of 28 years. They met in Frankfurt, Germany, where they both worked at a U.S. Army medical center. Vixie, then a Methodist from Alabama, served as a military corps nurse while Jeff worked as a Department of Defense pharmacist.

The ministry has three other AG missionary couples as part of the team: Chris and Shawna Mann; Jeff and Tammy Coose; and a couple directing operations on the ground in Israel.

"I've had a longtime burden for Jewish people," says Chris Mann, who had been an AG pastor in Kansas, Kentucky and Iowa. "It is an honor to serve the Jewish people not only in Israel but globally with Jeff."

In August, Jacob's Hope teamed with Convoy of Hope for the first time and distributed a 40-foot container that included medical supplies and clothing in Israel with the help of Messianic Jews in the Holy Land. Jacob's Hope has three compassion ministry distribution centers in Israel. Jacob's Hope will team with HealthCare Ministries for the first time in January in a visit to the Ethiopian Jewish community.

Jacob's Hope also has been active in Germany, Poland, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine. The ongoing vision includes operating a soup kitchen, repairing homes, building medical clinics, conducting job training and providing funds to dig wells.

As Jacob's Hope grows, Friedman says there will be opportunities for AG laypeople, who have a cultural understanding of Judaism, to take missions trips to distribute goods, work in coffeehouses and construct buildings.

Friedman believes Genesis 12:3 is a God-given promise to bless those who bless the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He also notes that in Romans 15 the apostle Paul writes that those who have received a spiritual inheritance from Jewish people are obligated to bring the blessings of heaven to them.

"We need to bring the Messiah to everybody, to the Jews with as much passion as we do with any other people group," Friedman says.

"I feel greatly blessed that we finally have a full-fledged ministry reaching Jewish people wherever they are," Bueno says.

AG General Superintendent George O. Wood, who has made dozens of trips to the Holy Land, also endorses the ministry.

"This is the first time that Assemblies of God adherents have a chance to invest in humanitarian, evangelistic and discipleship efforts to reach Jewish people around the world," Wood says.

Author: John W. Kennedy, Pentecostal Evangel

 


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