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Sonlight Church and Community Center
The new Sonlight Church and Community Center (AG) was dedicated on November 9, 2014.

Skepticism. Disbelief. Strong opposition. Those were the kind of attitudes that greeted Pastor Chris Boggs and his wife Glenda when they talked about their small church of 40 people building a new church in 2009.

When the economy fell in 2010 and the new church was just underway, the negativity — especially from the religious community — poured in.

And a few months later, when Pastor Boggs felt convicted that the church should be built debt-free . . . .

For the past 15 years, the Boggses have been ministering at Sonlight AG, in Weston, Ohio, a small town with a population of about 1,500. When they first took over the church, it was nearly dead.

"If it wasn't for our home church, Kettering Assembly of God in Dayton (Ohio) supporting us like missionaries for the first few years, we never would have made it," Pastor Boggs says, explaining he also drove a school bus to help make ends meet. The church building itself was far from ideal — small, 14 steps up to the entrance, no alcove area, and no place to grow.

But finally, after extensive preparation and planning, the church decided to build. The challenge was, they did not have much money, no property to build on, and at that time, even home loans were tough to come by.

Struggling to find property to build on, Boggs and the church board requested the help of a former board member. They anointed him with oil, prayed over him, and sent him out to find the property God wanted the church to be built on.

Boggs says God gave them favor with a landowner who had refused all others in their attempts to purchase a prime 5-acre piece of property that sat on the highway intersection. Not only we're they able to purchase the land, but the man they had anointed felt led to buy the property for the church and give the church a substantial gift to begin its building program.

The church itself was also raising funds for the building program and on September 19, 2010, broke ground on the building.

"Our plan was to get a shell up and then as money came in, we would work on it," Boggs says. "Then, whatever was left to do, we would get a loan to finish it up."

Although donations were still coming in from unexpected sources as well as through pledges, it was barely enough to keep the building moving forward. "It doesn't take long to burn through money when building," Boggs admits.

But then the game changed. After attending a Financial Peace University event in January of 2011, Boggs was convicted that the church should be built without debt, meaning no loans. From that point on, the Boggses became cheerleaders, emphasizing the progress, while facing skepticism in the community.

Sonlight Church dedication ceremony
Pastor Chris Boggs (with plaque) and his wife, Glenda, at the dedication celebration.

For the next three years, the church would slowly progress, with God providing key gifts of money and encouragement along the way -- including other AG churches helping out and a friend handing the keys of a Jaguar automobile to the Boggses.

"I drove the car of my dreams for three months," Boggs says, "but then I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me. So, I sold the car, paid off some debts and gave the rest to the church building fund." The donation helped the church raise $25,000 in one offering.

But as progress slowed and frustrations mounted, the Holy Spirit gave Boggs a simple solution. "In a small town, rumors get started and people were saying that the church had gone bankrupt, which wasn't true," he says, "so I painted on our sign, 'Please be patient; we're building debt free.'"

That sign started changing some attitudes. People in the community liked the idea of a church building debt free and more people began to support the effort.

Finally, after nearly four years of fund-raising, encouraging and Boggs' overcoming his own personal frustrations with the never-ending help of his wife, the new church, Sonlight Church and Community Center, was dedicated on November 9 with a healthy, growing congregation of 80.

Boggs says the church has been transformed through the completion of the building.

"I believe our people had the poverty mentality, 'we can't, we're poor' — that is totally gone and has been replaced with 'We can do anything through Christ!'" Boggs says. "There's a difference in their attitude in who they are in Christ and what they can accomplish in Christ. This has really grown their faith!"

As far as where the credit lies for an estimated $1.5 million church being built debt free, Boggs is quick to respond. "There's no way this could have happened without the Lord smiling down and giving us favor. And because of this, I know He has big plans for this church."

The first phase of the new church is actually a gymnasium with classrooms and offices located above it. Boggs says it allows for seating of up to 300 and makes the church available for all kinds of church and community activities. In fact, the church is planning on starting an Upwards basketball league for kids in their community in January.

"I am looking forward to the day when we can put a sanctuary up in front of the gymnasium," Boggs admits, but then adds with a laugh, "but right now, I'm exhausted, so a little break might be good!"


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Groundbreaking black minister, Bob Harrison, dies

Wed, 07 Mar 2012 - 1:41 PM CST

Bob Harrison
Harrison (1962)

Robert Emmanuel "Bob" Harrison passed away March 4, 2012. He was 84.

Born January 23, 1928, in San Francisco, California, Harrison was a pioneer in the Assemblies of God, known for paving the way for blacks to become credentialed ministers.

Throughout his ministry, Harrison continually challenged blacks to carry the cross of Christ.

Harrison enlisted in the U.S. Army and served from 1946-1947. As part of the Army band, he became a very talented musician — a skill he would later use in ministry.

Following his service, he enrolled in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, earning a bachelor's degree in Music.

Harrison then attended Bethany Bible College (now Bethany University), receiving a certificate of theology in 1951. He was the first African-American to graduate from the school.

While attending college he met and later married Marilyn Betty Miller in 1952. Together they have five children - Keith, Carol, Adrienne, David and Stephen.

Harrison served as pastor of an Emmanuel Church in San Francisco, an independent church, since he was originally denied credentials to serve in the AG. However, through the efforts of Northern California-Nevada District Superintendent Leonard Palmer, Harrison was licensed in 1957.

Bob Harrison with Billy Graham
Bob Harrison (left) with evangelist Billy Graham in 1962.

In 1960, Harrison became a part of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and then worked in special evangelistic crusades in Africa. He also conducted gospel crusades and musical concerts in Europe, Central America, the Caribbean, Asia and the United States.

Harrison was finally granted ordination with the Assemblies of God in 1962 and approved for service under missionary appointment by the AG Foreign Missions Department (now AG World Missions) in 1964.

In Harrison's overseas work with the AG, he held crusades in Japan, Formosa, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, British Honduras (now Belize), Jamaica and Barbados. He also ministered to thousands of American troops in Vietnam.

In 1967, Harrison spoke at the General Council in Long Beach, California.

In the following years, Harrison and others, working with the Division of Home Missions (now AG U.S. Missions), reached out to the African-American community through inner-city evangelism.

Harrison then became pastor of Maranatha Evangelistic Center in Portland, Oregon, in 1973.

In 1990, the National Black Fellowship was formed in the Assemblies of God, and Harrison was appointed national representative of Black Ministries.

Harrison's memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. March 15, 2012, at the San Francisco Christian Center in San Francisco.

Authors: Becca Dickson

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