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A chaplain's view - the Haiti earthquake

Fri, 29 Jan 2010 - 3:46 PM CST

Today AG News received a journal from the U.S. Missions Chaplaincy Department. It was the journal of Lt. Marlin L. Williams, CHC, USN. Chaplain Williams, an Assemblies of God endorsed chaplain, had written down a few of his experiences while serving at a clinic aiding the injured in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

Following are his journal reports. They are not about the masses in desperate need, but rather individuals in desperate need. They are amazing moments frozen in time - or at least forever captured in the mind of Chaplain Williams.

Some people may wonder how one person or one small gift (financial or otherwise) could ever make a difference in the sea of this kind of devastation. Chaplain Williams learned, even when language was a barrier, that one person - one act of kindness - can make the difference between someone grabbing and clinging to a lifeline and someone letting a lifeline slip through their fingers in hopelessness....

 -  

1) I was spending some time in the clinic trying to help wherever I could. I noticed the HM1 [medic] sort of stooping in the corner. I walked over to check on him - I thought something was wrong. When I got over to him, I saw that he was working on a precious little girl - about 4 years old and wearing a pretty white princess dress. Her injuries included a severely broken tibia and a pretty large abrasion wound on her arm. I began assisting HM1 with her treatment. The little girl was just darling and trying to be a trooper. She was quiet but you could tell she was in pain. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a Milky Way. I asked her if she liked chocolate - I think she got the point. After I gave it to her, you would have thought that she had never had a candy bar. I motioned to her that it was something to eat. She began to take a bite with the paper on. I opened it for her and again motioned to eat. She spent some time just looking at - turning it around and holding it up. Finally she sniffed it - licked it - and then took the tiniest nibble. You could literally pinpoint the moment that she tasted it. Her eyes lit up and the biggest grin came across her face. I continued to kid with her as HM1 finished up what he was doing. He had to move on the next patient and asked me to bring her to the helo. When I got outside - her parents were there waiting. I explained to them through the interpreter the process regarding the helo and that the doc wanted to send her to the hospital. It took about 30 minutes for them to agree - they were heartbroken that they couldn't accompany her. I did what I could to mark her with their information and comfort them. When the moment came to run out the helo - everyone was tear-filled. I let them get one last hug and kiss and then took off. When we got to the helo, the little girl was frightened and would not let go. She looked at me with tears in her eyes - I had them in mine, but I think she may have found comfort in that. I showed her (again) my cross on my collar and gave her the OK sign (it was so loud and windy). After that she let go and I placed her in the helo - I went to leave when she stuck out her fist (like I had taught her earlier) for a fist bump. After I ran back to the waiting area - I had a moment of prayer and hugs with the family.

 

Chaplain Williams comforting child
Chaplain Marlin Williams comforting and praying for a child found alive after being buried under corpses for seven days.

2) On the third day - I arrived at the clinic and found a little boy on one of the tables. He was about 5 or 6 - totally naked - and very scared. The story was that he was found (after 7 days) under a pile of corpses STILL ALIVE. It was very chaotic - and since he was 'relatively' ok - the docs were having his mom give him a sponge bath. She was obviously upset so I put my arm around her and offered help through an interpreter. She smiled and said, "merci merci." I helped her bathe her son. He wriggled in pain as he was very sore and emaciated (hadn't eaten or drank since the quake). When we rolled him over to wash his back - we noticed that half of his backside was covered in sores and open skin type infection. I called for a doc and they came over to treat. The poor little boy was shaking the whole time. He was reluctant with others - so I moved toward his head and cupped my hand under like a pillow. I made eye contact with him and began communicating to him through an interpreter (telling him that he was so brave - over and over) and through smiles. He was very receptive - I was the only one with my mask off and I think that helped (obviously - GOD's presence also). He began to calm down and I just stood there praying and petting him and holding his mother's hand - trying to keep them both calm. Around the time we finished I was called upon to help walk a severely injured (looked burned from head down to waist) to the helo. After I was done, I returned. By this time the boy and his mother were alone on the table that I had transported him to. I found her some Chapstick and gave her some baby wipes to help with his severely dry lips and skin. It was sort of funny trying to explain to her how to use Chapstick - but I think she eventually got it. As we were visiting - I got the word that our helo was about to land - I left him a roll of LIFESAVERS - which put a huge smile on his face. I was amazed how someone in so much pain could smile so big.

 

3) When I arrived on the first day things were very chaotic - they were really a "hot mess." We were immediately connected with the HS1 (USCG equivalent of a HM1) that had been there from day 1. He gave us a brief on what was going on. After he finished, he came up to me and gave me a big hug and thanked me for being there. He showed me the other corpsman that had been there with him from the beginning. They both expressed interest in talking later. He also mentioned to me that there was another chaplain and that I should connect with him. I began walking around and found the other chaplain - turns out he is from the same denomination (AG) as I, and we knew each other from previous training and meetings. He told me that there was another chaplain that I might know outside. When I found the other chaplain I was surprised to see that he was a buddy from seminary - also an AG chaplain. As the day carried on I continued to feel somewhat overwhelmed - but stayed people- and mission-focused. Another chaplain showed up at the end of the day. He was another AG chaplain and another buddy from seminary. God has a funny way of doing things. Knowing that out of all that chaplains that could have been there - mixed with the fact that we only have about 25 or 30 AG chaplains in the Navy - the only four that made it to the Haitian Coast Guard following the most devastating earthquake that they have experienced - all four of them were AG chaplains who were buddies (not to mention - all former USMC enlisted). This being the first time I have ever experienced anything close to this magnitude - I really needed something. God provided in a miraculously way through old friends and colleagues. This really gave me the extra boost, confidence and encouragement that I needed to carry out the plan of the day.

 

4) Everyone there thought that all of us were doctors. When I was approached - which was about every minute - I made sure that I let them know either through translator or my broken French and their broken English that I was a pastor not a doctor. For most this proved to be a positive thing. As word spread, people began to remember and recognize the chaplains or 'pastors' and would approach us for prayer either for themselves or for their injured family/friend. There were times where the person being prayed for seemed almost lifeless - however, wanting to facilitate regardless - I would always pray. There was one particular instance that I remember when I was outside. An elderly man approached me to pray for his wife. As I approached her I noticed that she was one of these who seemed almost lifeless - definitely unresponsive. As I knelt to pray, I began to feel God place words to pray - I had no interpreter but I didn't let that stop me. As I began to pray, I placed my hands on the lady. Others around bowed their head and listened silently. About half way through the prayer I was about to stop - thinking that she really couldn't understand me and I wanted to be able to move on to the next person. About that time, her hands began to rise toward the sky as she began to mutter what I only assume was her own prayer. When this happened I couldn't help but to keep praying. When we finished she opened her eyes and I gave her a hug. As I got up to leave her husband cornered me and happily shook my hand and patted me on the back saying, "Thank you, thank you." As I walked away I felt God speak to my heart telling me to never give up and to always let my prayers be heard.

 

5) As [AG] Chaplain Jerry Durham and I were walking around outside - Jerry pointed out an elderly woman that he had seen the day before lying under a tree. Her story was that she was the lone survivor of a nursing home that had collapsed. She had no one there to care for her. He told me that the day before he had asked them to IV her, but evidently it didn't happen. As we approached her I was taken aback. She was very old - probably the most frail person that I have ever seen. She was wearing a paper-thin pink nightgown. The only sign of life was her faint breathing. I knelt down to pray and as I did she grabbed my hand. This startled me a bit - but as I gently rolled her over - we made eye contact. I immediately began to pray. After I was done I tried to communicate with her to let her know that I would be back with help. I found a corpsman and had him bring IV fluid. We moved her up on the porch and into the shade by picking up the blanket that she was on. As doc worked on getting her IV, I knelt down to hold her hand. As he worked I was saying simple prayers - and again she made eye contact. I gently cupped her head with my hand and began 'petting' her and praying. In this moment I felt all alone with her, and even though I know she couldn't understand me, I felt as if she could.

 

 

Chaplain Williams and our other AG chaplains on location in Haiti are making a difference, as Williams' accounts show. Perhaps he's not impacting thousands of lives at a time, but each life he touches, one at a time, are lives touched with the love and care of Christ. It may seem like something "small," but for the individuals touched with this kind of compassion and care, nothing could be more significant.

To assist with the AG relief effort, click here.

 

 

 

 


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Today AG News received a journal from the U.S. Missions Chaplaincy Department. It was the journal of Lt. Marlin L. Williams, CHC, USN. Chaplain Williams, an Assemblies of God endorsed chaplain, had written down a few of his experiences while serving at a clinic aiding the injured in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

Following are his journal reports. They are not about the masses in desperate need, but rather individuals in desperate need. They are amazing moments frozen in time - or at least forever captured in the mind of Chaplain Williams.

Some people may wonder how one person or one small gift (financial or otherwise) could ever make a difference in the sea of this kind of devastation. Chaplain Williams learned, even when language was a barrier, that one person - one act of kindness - can make the difference between someone grabbing and clinging to a lifeline and someone letting a lifeline slip through their fingers in hopelessness....

 -  

1) I was spending some time in the clinic trying to help wherever I could. I noticed the HM1 [medic] sort of stooping in the corner. I walked over to check on him - I thought something was wrong. When I got over to him, I saw that he was working on a precious little girl - about 4 years old and wearing a pretty white princess dress. Her injuries included a severely broken tibia and a pretty large abrasion wound on her arm. I began assisting HM1 with her treatment. The little girl was just darling and trying to be a trooper. She was quiet but you could tell she was in pain. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a Milky Way. I asked her if she liked chocolate - I think she got the point. After I gave it to her, you would have thought that she had never had a candy bar. I motioned to her that it was something to eat. She began to take a bite with the paper on. I opened it for her and again motioned to eat. She spent some time just looking at - turning it around and holding it up. Finally she sniffed it - licked it - and then took the tiniest nibble. You could literally pinpoint the moment that she tasted it. Her eyes lit up and the biggest grin came across her face. I continued to kid with her as HM1 finished up what he was doing. He had to move on the next patient and asked me to bring her to the helo. When I got outside - her parents were there waiting. I explained to them through the interpreter the process regarding the helo and that the doc wanted to send her to the hospital. It took about 30 minutes for them to agree - they were heartbroken that they couldn't accompany her. I did what I could to mark her with their information and comfort them. When the moment came to run out the helo - everyone was tear-filled. I let them get one last hug and kiss and then took off. When we got to the helo, the little girl was frightened and would not let go. She looked at me with tears in her eyes - I had them in mine, but I think she may have found comfort in that. I showed her (again) my cross on my collar and gave her the OK sign (it was so loud and windy). After that she let go and I placed her in the helo - I went to leave when she stuck out her fist (like I had taught her earlier) for a fist bump. After I ran back to the waiting area - I had a moment of prayer and hugs with the family.

 

Chaplain Williams comforting child
Chaplain Marlin Williams comforting and praying for a child found alive after being buried under corpses for seven days.

2) On the third day - I arrived at the clinic and found a little boy on one of the tables. He was about 5 or 6 - totally naked - and very scared. The story was that he was found (after 7 days) under a pile of corpses STILL ALIVE. It was very chaotic - and since he was 'relatively' ok - the docs were having his mom give him a sponge bath. She was obviously upset so I put my arm around her and offered help through an interpreter. She smiled and said, "merci merci." I helped her bathe her son. He wriggled in pain as he was very sore and emaciated (hadn't eaten or drank since the quake). When we rolled him over to wash his back - we noticed that half of his backside was covered in sores and open skin type infection. I called for a doc and they came over to treat. The poor little boy was shaking the whole time. He was reluctant with others - so I moved toward his head and cupped my hand under like a pillow. I made eye contact with him and began communicating to him through an interpreter (telling him that he was so brave - over and over) and through smiles. He was very receptive - I was the only one with my mask off and I think that helped (obviously - GOD's presence also). He began to calm down and I just stood there praying and petting him and holding his mother's hand - trying to keep them both calm. Around the time we finished I was called upon to help walk a severely injured (looked burned from head down to waist) to the helo. After I was done, I returned. By this time the boy and his mother were alone on the table that I had transported him to. I found her some Chapstick and gave her some baby wipes to help with his severely dry lips and skin. It was sort of funny trying to explain to her how to use Chapstick - but I think she eventually got it. As we were visiting - I got the word that our helo was about to land - I left him a roll of LIFESAVERS - which put a huge smile on his face. I was amazed how someone in so much pain could smile so big.

 

3) When I arrived on the first day things were very chaotic - they were really a "hot mess." We were immediately connected with the HS1 (USCG equivalent of a HM1) that had been there from day 1. He gave us a brief on what was going on. After he finished, he came up to me and gave me a big hug and thanked me for being there. He showed me the other corpsman that had been there with him from the beginning. They both expressed interest in talking later. He also mentioned to me that there was another chaplain and that I should connect with him. I began walking around and found the other chaplain - turns out he is from the same denomination (AG) as I, and we knew each other from previous training and meetings. He told me that there was another chaplain that I might know outside. When I found the other chaplain I was surprised to see that he was a buddy from seminary - also an AG chaplain. As the day carried on I continued to feel somewhat overwhelmed - but stayed people- and mission-focused. Another chaplain showed up at the end of the day. He was another AG chaplain and another buddy from seminary. God has a funny way of doing things. Knowing that out of all that chaplains that could have been there - mixed with the fact that we only have about 25 or 30 AG chaplains in the Navy - the only four that made it to the Haitian Coast Guard following the most devastating earthquake that they have experienced - all four of them were AG chaplains who were buddies (not to mention - all former USMC enlisted). This being the first time I have ever experienced anything close to this magnitude - I really needed something. God provided in a miraculously way through old friends and colleagues. This really gave me the extra boost, confidence and encouragement that I needed to carry out the plan of the day.

 

4) Everyone there thought that all of us were doctors. When I was approached - which was about every minute - I made sure that I let them know either through translator or my broken French and their broken English that I was a pastor not a doctor. For most this proved to be a positive thing. As word spread, people began to remember and recognize the chaplains or 'pastors' and would approach us for prayer either for themselves or for their injured family/friend. There were times where the person being prayed for seemed almost lifeless - however, wanting to facilitate regardless - I would always pray. There was one particular instance that I remember when I was outside. An elderly man approached me to pray for his wife. As I approached her I noticed that she was one of these who seemed almost lifeless - definitely unresponsive. As I knelt to pray, I began to feel God place words to pray - I had no interpreter but I didn't let that stop me. As I began to pray, I placed my hands on the lady. Others around bowed their head and listened silently. About half way through the prayer I was about to stop - thinking that she really couldn't understand me and I wanted to be able to move on to the next person. About that time, her hands began to rise toward the sky as she began to mutter what I only assume was her own prayer. When this happened I couldn't help but to keep praying. When we finished she opened her eyes and I gave her a hug. As I got up to leave her husband cornered me and happily shook my hand and patted me on the back saying, "Thank you, thank you." As I walked away I felt God speak to my heart telling me to never give up and to always let my prayers be heard.

 

5) As [AG] Chaplain Jerry Durham and I were walking around outside - Jerry pointed out an elderly woman that he had seen the day before lying under a tree. Her story was that she was the lone survivor of a nursing home that had collapsed. She had no one there to care for her. He told me that the day before he had asked them to IV her, but evidently it didn't happen. As we approached her I was taken aback. She was very old - probably the most frail person that I have ever seen. She was wearing a paper-thin pink nightgown. The only sign of life was her faint breathing. I knelt down to pray and as I did she grabbed my hand. This startled me a bit - but as I gently rolled her over - we made eye contact. I immediately began to pray. After I was done I tried to communicate with her to let her know that I would be back with help. I found a corpsman and had him bring IV fluid. We moved her up on the porch and into the shade by picking up the blanket that she was on. As doc worked on getting her IV, I knelt down to hold her hand. As he worked I was saying simple prayers - and again she made eye contact. I gently cupped her head with my hand and began 'petting' her and praying. In this moment I felt all alone with her, and even though I know she couldn't understand me, I felt as if she could.

 

 

Chaplain Williams and our other AG chaplains on location in Haiti are making a difference, as Williams' accounts show. Perhaps he's not impacting thousands of lives at a time, but each life he touches, one at a time, are lives touched with the love and care of Christ. It may seem like something "small," but for the individuals touched with this kind of compassion and care, nothing could be more significant.

To assist with the AG relief effort, click here.

 

 

 

 


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A Centennial Pilgrimage to Hot Springs

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 - 10:36 AM CST

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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