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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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From the depths of an Iranian prison

Fri, 11 Jan 2013 - 1:39 PM CST

Abedini letter

The letter, carried out from Iran's notorious Evin Prison, tells of beatings and interrogations, around-the-clock bright lights and ongoing lies designed to create hope - in order to crush it. The remarkable letter also reveals a depth of faith and compassion that could only be granted by God.

Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. minister, has been imprisoned in Evin Prison in Tehran for his faith since Iranian authorities removed him from a bus in September 2012 while he was visiting his homeland. 

Recently, Naghmeh, Abedini's wife, received a letter from her husband through family members who were able to visit him in prison. Naghmeh passed the letter on to AG General Superintendent George O. Wood, with the encouragement to share the letter with everyone.

"Saeed's letter is nothing short of a modern-day Pauline epistle," states AG General Superintendent George O. Wood. "As I read his letter through several times, I could only marvel at how God's faithfulness transcends time as the same Holy Spirit that was with Paul in his times of desperation is fully evident in the words of our brother Saeed."

"I always wanted God to make me a godly man," Saeed writes in his letter. "I did not realize that in order to become a godly man we need to become like steel under pressure. It is a hard process of warm and cold to make steel. The process in my life today is one day I was told I will be freed on bail to see my family and kids on Christmas (they are all lies) and the next day I am told I will hang for my faith in Jesus."

"It's amazing to me how this letter, from an imprisoned pastor, inspires and ministers to me when he - it would seem - is the one who needs our prayers," Wood states. "I encourage believers to allow this letter to inspire them to greater things, to pass it on to friends and to continue to uplift Saeed, Naghmeh and their two young children to God in prayer."

To read the letter, which is less than 500 words, click here. To read the original "AG News" story about the imprisonment of Pastor Abedini, click here.

Authors: Dan Van Veen

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