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Memory Lane
Van Buren First Assembly of God's Memory Lane Alzheimer's Special Care Unit is considered the finest Alzheimer's facility in Arkansas and one of the best in the nation.

Many Assemblies of God churches care for the needy through food pantries, clothing banks, holiday meals and similar compassion ministries. But Van Buren (Arkansas) First Assembly of God may be the very first AG church to not only offer a retirement center for seniors, but now a fully-staffed care unit for individuals who have Alzheimer's or dementia.

The new $5 million, 34,000 square-foot Memory Lane Alzheimer's Special Care Unit, dedicated on November 13, was recently completed through the donation of a gift of $5 million given anonymously last November. The care unit is an addition to the already existing 60,000-square-foot Legacy Heights Retirement Center.

Senior Pastor Bobby Johnson, who has been ministering at the 1,100-member church for the past 34 years, says that in 2007 the church opened the Legacy Heights Retirement Center, offering 55 units for retirees.

Having converted a wing of the center into an Alzheimer's care unit in 2009, Johnson says at first the church struggled as the economy crash at that time took its toll. "But three years ago, a foundation offered us a $1 million grant, if we could match it," Johnson says. "We matched almost all of it and that helped us recover."

Memory Lane pictures
Much of the decor in Memory Lanes is designed to help those with Alzheimer's use their memories.

Apparently liking what Johnson and Van Buren First Assembly were doing, the same foundation came back to them this past November and offered the grant money to build a state-of-the-art Alzheimer's care facility.

AG General Treasurer Doug Clay spoke at the dedication of the new unit. "Thank you for being a wonderful and biblical example of excellence in ministry to our seniors," Clay said. "There is nothing quite like this . . . praise the Lord!"

When the new facility, which is expected to open by mid-December, is at capacity (40 patients), it will have a staff of 50 to 60 people, including nurses and other professional staff who will provide 24-hour care in private rooms. The facility is also licensed by the state.

"Memory Lane is divided into two mirroring pods of 16,000-square-feet each," Johnson says. "They each have 20 rooms and include a dining room, activities room, a beauty salon, whirlpool, an outdoor walking track within the confines of each pod, and between the pods is a safe room for residents of Legacy Heights and Memory Lane."

Clay observed that one out of eight Americans are now age 65 or older, with more than 5,500 Americans turning 65 every day. "As the percentage of older people in the population increases, problems, attitudes, responsibilities, and care related to the aging become matters of increasing concern," Clay said.

Pastor Bobby Johnson
Pastor Bobby Johnson

Johnson agrees with Clay's assessment. "Statistics say 1 out of 2 people who are 85 will contract this disease — a disease where there are no survivors."

According to what state officials have already communicated to Johnson, the new Alzheimer's facility is the best in the state and is one of the best in the nation.

"The difference is, this facility was built strictly for Alzheimer's patients — it's not an older building converted to house Alzheimer's patients," Johnson explains. "For example, our large outdoor walking track is secure, pictures and decorations are from the 1930s, 40s and 50s, which will help with memory, and each patient's door will have pictures of their family members on it."

What's more, Johnson says, those residents living at Legacy Heights and the patients soon to be a part of Memory Lane will continue to have the opportunities to hear the gospel message, through visitation of retired AG ministers and live-streaming of all church services.

And perhaps Clay summed the church's efforts up best when he said during the dedication, "Thank you for addressing this concern with care, quality and excellence."

For more information about Legacy Heights or Memory Lane, contact Van Buren First AG at info@vbfirst.com.

 

 


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Ministers' Holy Lands trip like "no other"

Wed, 30 May 2012 - 2:37 PM CST

Marc Turnage, director of the Center for Holy Lands Studies, has led countless tours through the Holy Lands for people of all ages and giftings. However, he has come to recognize that ministers and those preparing for the ministry, need more than a tour - they need to come away from their experience enabled to apply the experience to their ministry.

In cooperation with Dr. James Bradford and Pastor Mark Batterson, Turnage has created the "As One With Authority" trip - a training experience that's like no other. This Holy Lands trip, scheduled for February 23 to March 3, 2013, is specifically designed for those in ministry.

"The uniqueness of this trip is that we're not just bringing ministers into the land and giving them a visual picture," explains Turnage, "but the itinerary is very intentionally geared for using the Holy Lands as a platform to improve preaching and teaching."

Turnage explains that in addition to numerous site visits, ministers will receive personal training from Batterson and Bradford - two Holy Lands veterans and outstanding ministers of the gospel. In evening sessions, the two will share with ministers on how to craft sermons and enhance their teaching from the pulpit in a dynamic way based upon their immersion into the lands of the Bible.

Through the As One With Authority Holy Lands training experiences, Turnage says ministers become stronger more confident expounders of Scripture. "They will have not only stepped into the space of Scripture," he says,  "but stepped back into the world and culture of Scripture from the standpoint of leading and teaching." 

But Turnage says the training goes beyond dynamic communication of the Word of God - it also emphasizes personal leadership growth and transformation.

"One of our site visits will be into the desert area of Israel to focus on the character and nature of Bedouin shepherd life in the ancient world," Turnage explains. "This is especially significant when you consider the Old Testament patriarchs of Abraham, Moses and David were all shepherds. When ministers come to understand the importance and role the wilderness played in shaping these shepherds, these leaders of the people of Israel, our prayer is that it would not only enhance their preaching and teaching, but it would challenge and grow them as leaders within their congregations."

Turnage says that the As One With Authority training experience will also differ from normal tours in that ministers will receive pre-trip preparation materials and more time will be spent at specific-to-ministry sites. "The pre-trip study materials open the door to making each site a 'lab' or case study," Turnage says. "We'll talk through the Scripture passage, the historical and archeological issues, then process it, before moving on."

The As One With Authority training experience will also be offered as credit courses for Assemblies of God Theological Seminary students and upper-level students of North Central University, as the dates coincide with the schools' spring breaks.

"My prayer is that ministers of all ages will be able to come together for this time of personal enrichment and spiritual edification," Turnage says. "For what better place to experience renewal than in the Holy Lands?"

For more information about the As One With Authority training experience, including itinerary, trip costs and deadlines, click here.

Authors: Dan VanVeen

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