Assemblies of God SearchSite GuideStoreContact Us
Evangelism, Worship, Discipleship & Compassion

News RSS Feed

Audio News Reports

   Additional Headlines & Audio Reports

Search AG News

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.

 

 


Search Assemblies of God News Archives

Modern Hymns of Revival

 

In the Gap

You Might Also Like


Videos (AGTV)

AG News

Return to News Index

God at work: transforming tragedy into testimony

Wed, 23 Jan 2013 - 3:31 PM CST

Full Gospel Church -- damage
Ruined drywall, carpeting and other water-logged items begin to pile up outside a side door of the Full Gospel Church of Island Park.

It wasn't a good day.

Pastor Peter Conforti and the members of Full Gospel Church (AG) of Island Park, New York, were left shocked, speechless - struck to the core. When Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast late in October 2012, damage was expected . . . , but this. This was much more than anyone imagined.

With many of his congregants from the hard-hit areas of Island Park and Long Beach, Pastor Conforti suddenly found his church of 250 had almost instantly dwindled to 60 as some members had their homes totally destroyed or made at least temporarily uninhabitable. And unknown to them at the time, the area would mostly be without power - with the exception of generators - for the next three weeks or more.

The church building didn't escape the wrath of Hurricane Sandy either. Four feet of water sat in the parking lot with a foot of standing seawater inside the building. The parsonage (located in Long Beach) was also heavily damaged by the flooding.

"The church was on higher ground, so we never thought it would be flooded," Conforti says, a sense of disbelief still evident in his voice. "But the sanctuary, fellowship hall, kitchen, Christian education wing - all had water standing in them. When the water receded, we took out the carpet, pews . . . anything even remotely close to the floor was finished, because the sea water is so corrosive and full of bacteria, it made a mess of everything.

"One of the first things that hit me," Conforti continues, "was how inclusive the damage was - it was everybody, everybody [in the community] was under water - basements, first floors and even higher than that. Everyone was scrambling trying to find places to live, or to come back to, but for many, everything was gone."

But even as things seemed to be going from bad to worse, as freezing temperatures and a snowstorm were expected to hit the area with power still out, God was already at work.

"Convoy of Hope was here within 24 hours," Conforti says, "setting up a relief distribution center at a nearby elementary school. People also came down from the New York District office, including Chaplain Don Schneider, and churches came to help and show their support in a big way."

Yet, as Convoy of Hope began distributing emergency relief supplies, Conforti says something odd began to happen.

Full Gospel Church -- sign
People, anonymous and known, began to drop off all kinds of supplies at the church for victims.

"For some reason, people just started coming by the church and dropping off clothing and furniture for people in need," Conforti says. "Within days, we were a clothing distribution center."

As the community reeled, Conforti and Full Gospel Church became a constant. The community knew where to go for aid. After three weeks, power was restored, and the church unexpectedly transitioned again.

"When the power came back on, Samaritan's Purse contacted us - they wanted to use our church for a staging area," Conforti says, conveying his surprise. "I tried to explain that our church interior was nothing more than cement floors and exposed beams where the drywall had been ripped out. But they assured us that the church would be fine."

And so it was.

Joining with Full Gospel Church and chaplains, Samaritan's Purse brought in teams to go into homes, rip out the damaged drywall, dry out the home and then spray it for mold - at no cost.

It wasn't long before word spread about what Samaritan's Purse and Full Gospel Church were doing. More and more people came to the church to sign up for a team to come to their homes.

"The sole purpose of the Samaritan's Purse outreach was to show people God's love in a tangible way," Conforti says. "We were there as well, with chaplains from the Billy Graham organization, helping people deal with the loss and frustrations they were experiencing."

As the teams ministered to people with their attitudes and physical labor, the spiritual doors began to open. "People were asking, 'Why are you here?'" Conforti says. "And we told them, 'We're here to help you and show you God loves you, knows what you're going through and to trust Him.'"

Conforti explains that prior to Hurricane Sandy, the church had many walls and stereotypes to overcome in order to reach the community. But following the storm, where the church and ministries displayed the love of Christ through being a servant to the community, people were suddenly more receptive and open.

"Our first week of services, we had about 60 people here," Conforti says. "The next, we had about 120."

However, since the beginning of the Samaritan's Purse outreach into homes, Conforti says about 80 people have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. The church is also running 250 again - but the congregation is made up of a lot of new faces as many of the original families have still been unable to return to their homes or have moved from the area.

Conforti doesn't believe the church could have ever made this kind of impact upon its community through evangelism, crusade meetings or programs.

"I don't see how," Conforti says. "Even if we went door-to-door in this community - half the doors would never be opened and those that did open, once they heard where we were from, they would never listen."

He explains that once people come to realize the offer to help is legitimate and they aren't asking for anything in return, attitudes change.

"Many have seen acts of love before," Conforti observes, "but for a person to go down into a crawl space loaded with mold and scrape it out for a total stranger? That's love. And people are responding to a demonstration of love they've never seen before!

Full Gospel Church -- interior
Stripped of the "amenities" of most churches and acting as a storage area for donations, Full Gospel Church has found God doing incredible things in the community as the church places the community's needs ahead of its own.

"We prayed as a church for many years to be a lighthouse to the community and to see people come to the Lord," Conforti says. "Look at what God is doing! People know us and not in a negative way - 'You're the church that's helping the community even though you have damage to your building.' Only God can do that. He's the One that's changing hearts and minds - even when we still have concrete floor, blue tarps and wet dry wall around us."

Author: Dan Van Veen

Editor's note: Convoy of Hope is also helping families with recovery by working through churches, in conjunction with local recovery efforts and case managers, to provide insulation and sheetrock. The church is following up on Samaritan's Purse contacts with a team of 12 people and is also developing small groups to meet within the community. For those desiring to help, contact Convoy of Hope, the New York District Office or the church for additional information.

 

Keywords: AG churches

Search Assemblies of God News Archives