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Jim and Linda Schulz
Missionaries Jim and Linda Schulz.

Missionaries in Venezuela, South Africa, Alaska, Belgium, India, Bolivia, Romania and more have benefitted greatly from the $200,000 the annual national Girls Ministries Coins for Kids missions giving program typically raises each year.

Yet, with new annual focuses every year, past years' projects can sometimes be forgotten. But in the land of the midnight sun, Alaska, the Coins for Kids 2012 giving project to help build a permanent building at a camp for children, has come to pass.

But it was more of a miracle in the making than anyone ever imagined.

The creation of Camp "Agaiutim Nune," which means "The Place of God," and is also known as Camp AN, began with a miracle. The pristine property was donated to AG missionaries Jim and Linda Shulz to create a camp for children.

Camp AN David Huff
Volunteer David Huff with wood beams traveling up the Yukon River to Camp AN.

However, Camp AN may also be a dictionary's definition of "middle of nowhere." Located on the banks of the Yukon River in Western Alaska, with no roads in or out, and accessible only by boat, Camp AN's nearest neighbor is a small village 17 miles away . . . the nearest city is 500 miles away.

But not to be detoured, the Schulzes have been operating the annual camp since 1996. Their focus is on demonstrating God's love and compassion to girls and boys, who are mostly from the Yupik Eskimo tribe, and introducing them to Christ.  However, with limited resources, the camp has had to utilize tents for church services, cooking, eating and sleeping, which had to be shipped in, set up, taken down, and stored every year.

Middle of Nowhere
Where is the "middle of nowhere"? How about Western Alaska, on the Yukon River, 500 miles from the nearest city with the only access being by boat? That is Camp AN!

In a more temperate zone, tents may be the ideal camp experience. But at Camp AN, the temperature sometimes drops below 40 in the summer. The building of a permanent multipurpose building that would protect campers and staff from nature seemed like the best of plans.

Yet even the best of plans hit roadblocks. After the strong giving effort through Coins for Kids to make the building possible, the Schulzes learned that barges couldn't navigate the river to their remote location — there was no way to transport the large, heavy steal beams or other equipment and supplies necessary to the building site.

But where barges failed, God prevailed.

"The very logistics of this projected indicated that it was impossible," Jim Schulz admits, "but God gave us wisdom, creativity, and sheer manpower to move and handle extremely heavy pieces of building materials without the use of heavy equipment."

Steel floor supports
Wood beams and steal floor supports are in place, awaiting layers of decking.

Schulz says that with the help of many volunteers and using their two relatively small camp boats, they transported 80 tons of building materials to the project site. From the ground to the locked doors, it took just 32 days to put the building up.

"Many men and church groups from both Alaska and the 'Lower 48' worked extremely long hours to accomplish the task," Schulz says. "So many miracles happened before and during construction that a brief statement like this could never begin to enumerate."

Volunteer David Huff, who attends Central Assembly in Springfield, Missouri, learned about the Camp AN project through a Pentecostal Evangel article. He agrees with Schulz, stating that the miracles that took place for the building to be completed are too numerous to name.

Nearing completion of building
The building nearly enclosed.

"Even though I have a background in carpentry, this project was very unlike anything I had ever done, due to the remote location and lack of equipment," Huff recalls. "There were lots of challenges that seemed insurmountable, but God provided solutions at just the right time.  

"We had 10 very large and heavy beams and 26 large red iron trusses that we had to move by boat, and unload them without equipment," Huff explains. "At one time it seemed completely impossible, but God gave the answer how to move them." 

Huff even praises God for the weather, explaining that typically August is a very wet month in Western Alaska, but during the two weeks he was there, the building effort was blessed by only two short periods of rain. "It was really amazing and incredibly unusual," he says.

Enclosed building at Camp AN
Through the efforts of missionaries and many volunteers, the Camp AN camp building is built in just 32 days.

Schulz says that the new building will house the chapel, dining hall and kitchen. 

"We have used the tents for 19 years and they show much wear," Schulz says. "Now we will be able to continue with a safe, dry, warm facility to continue reaching and disciplining souls for Christ. Next summer we have some 'finish' work to complete — outside steps, windows, two side doors, electrical work and insulate. We are confident God will continue to help us with this as well."

To view additional pictures of the building project in different stages of completion, see the Shulzes' Facebook page. To learn more about Coins for Kids, click here.

 


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Cities increasingly restricting basic religious liberties

Wed, 02 Jan 2013 - 1:46 PM CST

Shane and Marlene Roessiger
The Roessigers

Not so long ago, local government officials usually agreed that members of churches brought benefit to - or at least didn't harm - their communities with their prayers, Bible studies and evangelistic activities.

But an alarming number of municipalities now take a hostile approach toward Christians exercising their First Amendment freedoms. In various cases around the country, followers of Christ have been threatened, fined and even jailed for such protected liberties as discussing Scripture in a living room or talking about Jesus on a public sidewalk.

In October, the city of Venice, Florida, dropped charges against Shane and Marlene Roessiger, a couple accused of having an unauthorized "house of worship" in their home. Although only six to 10 guests showed up for Friday night prayer and Bible study meetings at the Roessigers, the city contended that the gatherings violated an ordinance requiring houses of worship to be on at least two acres of property.

"This is a trend we're seeing across the country, with local code enforcement going after small religious group meetings in homes," says Kevin T. Snider, chief counsel of the Pacific Justice Institute, which represented the Roessigers.

Snider believes there is underlying ill will by various local governments against people of faith, particularly Christians.

"That animus is usually by one person in code enforcement or on the city council," Snider says. "It used to be that people who were anti-religious kept their views to themselves. Now they feel emboldened."

Venice threatened the Roessigers, who are Pentecostals, with $250 daily fines for holding the meetings. In October, on advice from the city attorney, the Venice Code Enforcement Board voted 6-0 to dismiss all charges and penalties.

AG PASTOR TARGETED

Paul Gros
Gros

For the past 31 years, on Tuesday and Friday nights, Assemblies of God pastor and evangelist Paul S. Gros has gone to Bourbon Street in New Orleans to share the gospel with revelers. His wife, Mireya, accompanies him many times, and members of various churches, including Vieux Carre Assembly of God, where he has pastored since 2009, also go along.

But a year ago, the city passed a speech ban that prohibited congregating on Bourbon Street "for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise."

"I suspect someone in city government decided this was cramping the party style, and anything that might hurt the party atmosphere needed to be eliminated," says Joseph E. La Rue, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Gros.

Although the French Quarter pastor shared his faith in Jesus in a nonconfrontational way, in May a city police officer told Gros he could be arrested if he continued evangelizing after dark. So Gros, on the recommendation of ADF, confined street preaching to daylight hours while the organization challenged the law in court. If arrested, Gros could have faced six months behind bars and a $500 fine.

However, La Rue says the law is so outrageous even the liberal American Civil Liberties Union filed suit after ADF did.

In September, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the city from enforcing the law until its constitutionality is determined. In the meantime, Gros, who is recovering from liver cancer, has returned to evangelizing in the evenings.

Typically, Gros carries a 9-foot cross with 2-inch-tall LED lights containing short, scrolling gospel messages. He also uses a megaphone on occasion in an effort to convince raucous carousers to repent and accept Jesus as their Savior.

"Religious speech is just as important and just as protected as any other type of speech, at any time of the day," La Rue says. "The city of New Orleans has said if you are going to talk about Jesus after dark, you're a criminal. The very idea that government can tell us you can't say 'God bless you' is ridiculous."

CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS

While the expanding plethora of local ordinances is problematic, researcher William Jeynes argues that additional laws protecting prayer and Bible reading may be the solution.

"The great danger is that people are coming to the conclusion that our Constitution is subject to varying interpretations and therefore they are restricting religious rights," says Jeynes, a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

Jeynes, who also is an Assemblies of God evangelist, has been instrumental in ensuring that the Bible is taught statewide in public schools in nine states. He also helped construct a constitutional prayer amendment that 83 percent of Missouri voters approved in August.

The amendment, passed earlier by overwhelming majorities in the Missouri Senate and House, ensures that public school students can pray over their lunch in a cafeteria and read their Bibles during recess or study hall. More broadly, the amendment guarantees the right of citizens - including elected officials - to pray and to acknowledge God in public settings and on public property.

Jeynes sees the recent spate of city officials trying to curtail religious expression as the fallout from the Supreme Court declaring sponsored Bible reading and organized prayer off limits in public schools half a century ago.

Curtailments have accelerated in numerous school districts, so that now students in some places are suspended for uttering, "Praise the Lord," or even for bringing a Bible to school.

"Subsequently, school administrators who are anti-Christian bigots seem to have more leeway to declare certain freedoms as impermissible," Jeynes says. Whether through ignorance or abuse, enough principals and superintendents are engaged in restricting rights to keep most Christian teachers and students intimidated about talking about their faith in public schools, Jeynes says.

"It's amazing how our society protects the rights of people to say four-letter words, but not to utter a five-letter word: Jesus," Jeynes says.

Dana Crow-Smith
Crow-Smith

In Phoenix, The Rutherford Institute tangled with officials over distribution of free water by an Assemblies of God member motivated by compassion. Dana Crow-Smith handed out bottled water on a public sidewalk in 112-degree heat in July and engaged willing passersby in conversations about their religious beliefs.

A city official with the Orwellian title of "neighborhood preservation officer" approached Crow-Smith, who attends Deer Valley Worship Center in the suburb of Peoria, and told her she had to possess a $350 mobile vendor's permit to give away water. The Rutherford Institute informed the city that such action violated Crow-Smith's First Amendment right to freely exercise religion.

In October, Phoenix City Council members struck down the ordinance prohibiting distribution of free water in public.

STANDING UP

Rutherford Institute founder John W. Whitehead and Jeynes believe there will be increasing numbers of instances limiting liberties unless and until Christians rise up en masse to protest.

"With so many attacks going on simultaneously, the Christian community becomes weary of fighting," Jeynes says.

Regardless of being discouraged or oppressed, Whitehead says Christians don't have the luxury of failing to respond to bullying officials.

"Churches can't be too comfortable to be bothered," Whitehead says. "It's up to churches to tell government to leave these people alone."

Nevertheless, Whitehead is encouraged by the outcome of the Crow-Smith ordeal.

"This victory in Phoenix shows that one person can stand up and change government for the better," Whitehead says. "The democratic process can work, provided that Americans care enough to make their discontent heard."

Author: John W. Kennedy, Pentecostal Evangel


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