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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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Young adulthood brings big changes to families

Wed, 16 Jan 2013 - 3:43 PM CST

Kilsdonk, daughter-mother
Lisa Kilsdonk (right) of Baker, Montana, misses daughter Tessa now that she is halfway across the country attending Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.

Childhood is fleeting. That explains why even the smallest milestones - from the first wobbly steps to the loss of a baby tooth - can trigger a swell of parental emotion. Yet few things prepare parents for the often-jolting transition from full house to empty nest.

"It hits us at different times - and sometimes when we least expect," says Susan Yates, a mother of five grown children and co-author of the book, Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest.

Unlike the preschool years, which have a clear beginning and end, the empty nest is not neatly defined, Yates says. One parent may feel sad as a son or daughter enters the final year of high school. Another may not grieve until the last child graduates college or weds.

Whatever the timing, launching offspring into the adult world can be a poignant adjustment for families. Yates, who interviewed empty nesters across the country, says most parents reported varying degrees of loneliness. One reason seemed to be a lack of social support, she says.

"When the kids are little, we schedule play dates and seek out adult friends," Yates says. "But during the teen years, parents get so busy with the kids they put everything else on the shelf - including other relationships. By the time this major life change comes along, they can feel isolated."

Marriages may suffer as well. A study by Bowling Green State University in Ohio identified a disturbing trend among older couples. The divorce rate for people age 50 and older more than doubled between 1990 and 2008, researchers found. At the time of the study, this demographic accounted for more than a quarter of the nation's failed marriages.

Of course, the empty nest doesn't have to trigger an emotional or marital crisis. Wes Bartel, director of Discipleship Ministries for the Assemblies of God, says families can build a foundation for navigating this transition in a healthy manner.

"Early on, my wife and I established the goal that we wanted our children to become successfully independent from us," says Bartel, father of two adult children. "But we also knew we needed to become successfully independent from them. That meant keeping a primary focus on God and our marriage."

Bartel says while the process wasn't painless, he found solace in his relationship with God.

"I remember the quietness of the car as I drove home from visiting my daughter in college," Bartel says. "I prayed and made a recommitment to my personal walk with God and my marriage. I would advise people who are going through that to lean on God. Don't continue in quietness and frustration. Some of the best years of your life are still ahead of you."

Last August, Lisa Kilsdonk of Baker, Montana, sent her youngest daughter, Tessa, to Evangel University (Assemblies of God) in Springfield, Missouri. After spending 28 years raising four children, she says this new life stage marks a turning point that is both emotional and rewarding.

"Some days are harder than others," says Kilsdonk, whose husband, Rod, serves as pastor at Baker Assembly of God. "Sometimes the loneliness hits like a tidal wave, and the craziest thing can trigger it, like walking past Tessa's room and seeing it clean - bed made, no clothes on the floor."

Yet Kilsdonk says there are benefits to having the kids raised, such as having more time to devote to ministry, her marriage and her teaching career. She also enjoys close relationships with her other grown children, two of whom have started families of their own.

"I strongly dislike the term empty nest," Kilsdonk says. "It has such a sad, hopeless-sounding connotation. This time is a natural, normal part of the process of life."

A study by the University of Missouri in Columbia suggests many of the changes parents experience after the kids leave home are positive.

"As children age, direct caretaking and influence diminish, and children are often seen by their parents as peers with whom they can have continuing relationships," says Christine Proulx, assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Missouri.

Diane Ashton, a mother of three grown sons and a teenage daughter, says her evolving role has left her wondering where to direct the time and energy that had gone into parenting for so many years.

"I'm still working on it and praying about it," says Ashton, who attends Allison Park Church, an Assemblies of God congregation near Pittsburgh. "Fine Arts, Bible Quiz, basketball - that has been my life. Suddenly there's a lot of transition going on, and I'm wondering, Who am I, and what am I supposed to do next?

Adding to the shifting family dynamics, one of Ashton's sons recently moved back in after several years away at college.

"With different kids going different directions, God has made it obvious many times that He is in the middle of it all," Ashton says. "In that way it's all been good. God has shown that He cares about the details of our lives. I'm realizing I don't have to figure it all out. I can stand on God's promises and trust Him with the future."

In today's tough job market, a growing number of young adults are remaining in the nest - or returning to it. A survey by the U.S. Census Bureau found the number of 25- to 34-year-old men living with their parents increased from 14 to 19 percent between 2005 and 2011. Among young women, the figure rose from 8 to 10 percent in the same period.

Nevertheless, most fledglings eventually fly. And while letting go is never easy, Bartel says parents can find satisfaction in watching their children spread their wings.

"Children are a gift from God," Bartel says. "But we have a responsibility to develop them so that God can use them. That also means giving them back to God when the time comes."

Author: Christina Quick, Pentecostal Evangel

 


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