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Network Connexions

A Century of PennDel Missions

For one full century, the Eastern District (now PennDel Ministry Network) has been sending missionaries to engage in “the greatest evangelism the world has ever seen!” In December of 1916 Christopher and Inez Hines went to Guatemala and would become the Eastern Districts first recorded missionaries. That same month W.W. & Martha Simpson left for China, and would represent the District’s second missionaries.

A total of 131 missionaries have been sent from our District over the years, with 38 fully appointed missionaries and 18 missionary associates presently engaged in global ministry. Their stories are as inspiring as they are diverse. Personal sacrifices were sometimes monumental. Their experiences were legendary. Some would bury their spouse on their field of service (Margaret Baltau in 1919 and Isabelle Mueller in 1922). Some would find their helpmate on the field (John & Bernice Burgess, India 1926-1953). Others would find their efforts interrupted by world events (George & Helga Hemminger had to return from Africa during World War II because travel had become so dangerous). Others, like Annie Bailey (’44-’86, China/Hong Kong) would so impact their place of service, that dignitaries would honor them in their passing.

As the United States was exiting the Great Depression and entering World War II, the Eastern District continued to advance the cause of global missions by giving $131,185 to missions (an equivalent of $2 million dollars today). World Missions has always been at the heart of the Assemblies of God. Reaching the lost both at home and abroad has been a driving force and a central purpose in who we are as a fellowship. “We’re better together” is nowhere better exemplified than in our cooperative effort in sending missionaries, compassionately ministering to lost people, and leading these lost to saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Missionary: Bernice F. Burgess (Wife of John H. Burgess)

“My early life was lived in a strict adherence to the Roman Catholic faith as was that of my entire family. It was an unusual experience for me to visit the Pentecostal Church on Parrish Street, Wilkes Barre. At that time there was a great revival in progress. Having never seen anything of this sort, this was indeed a revelation to me.
At the close of the second service I was invited to the altar. I was told I was a sinner and needed salvation. This upset me, for I had been very faithful to my Catholic Church. Romans 3:23 was quoted to me; the Holy Ghost then gripped my heart with conviction, which prompted me to call upon the Lord for salvation and I was gloriously saved. Ten days later, I was filled with the Holy Ghost. At that time God called me to India as a missionary. I went to Bible College and in 1927 sailed for India and upon arrival there, I was married to Rev. John H. Burgess. In 1927 Bethel Bible School (Punalur, India) was established.”

Network Notes of Interest:

  • First District Missionaries – Christopher and Inez Hines (Guatemala, 1916-1919)
  • Most recently fully appointed missionaries: Steve & Sophia Getchel to Eurasia and Ben & Jessica Bock to Spain
  • 31 single women have served as missionaries
  • 2 sisters served together as missionaries to China (Bernice & Thelma Hildebrand, 1936-1957)
  • Over the past 5 years, Network churches have contributed over $750,000 to District projects in India, Africa, and Israel
  • In 2015 PennDel churches gave 6.7 Million dollars to Assemblies of God World Missions

Connect – Hard-Wired for Authentic Community

I still remember the emotions I experienced sixteen years ago as I pulled into the parking lot to attend my first Sectional Fellowship as a new minister in the PennDel Network. I was completely out of my element and unfamiliar with my surroundings. I felt insecure, self-conscious and was totally riding on the coattails of the only relational connections I had at the time – the two pastors that I was on staff with at our church. I had a deep longing to be accepted and came hard-wired for authentic community. But the looming question that day and for the first year was, “Will these leaders welcome me or will I remain on the outside?”

I’m happy to say, all these years later, that I felt wanted and valued as a new addition to the Section. That sense of inclusion continued as I began to attend Network events and formed casual relationships that have become the deepest of friendships. I am blessed by the ongoing connections that have been forged in the fires of frontline ministry and consider those who are in my Connect Group among God’s greatest gifts in my life.

I want this for you. It’s my hope and prayer that you’ll find the kind of love, support and encouragement that is found when we live life together like the first followers of Christ did. But what I want isn’t nearly as important as what Jesus wants for you. As it turns out, I’m convinced He longs for the same thing for you. On the night He was betrayed, He asked for us to have Trinity-level oneness in the bonds of community…

[blockquote“]My prayer is that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” John 17:20-21[/blockquote]

One of the obstacles we face is that our culture devalues personal relationships and interdependency. We can more easily isolate ourselves these days than ever. From ATM machines and online banking to internet shopping and self checkout lanes, we simply don’t have to interact with others. Add to that the thinking that church leaders should show no weaknesses and you have a recipe for loneliness, isolation and seclusion. Our heavenly Father made us in His image and as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit interact in community with one another, we carry within our DNA the core need to know others and be known by them.

To this end I invite you to join one of the Connect Groups that have been designed to help you live and lead in the context of genuine, transparent community. I acknowledge this can be intimidating, but in the long run taking the relational risk is worth it. You weren’t designed to follow Jesus alone, and there are benefits to having other Christian leaders who understand the unique challenges of ministry in your life to speak truth and grace to you when needed. If you don’t find a Connect Group that fits what you’re sensing is needed, please contact us, and we’ll work together to explore adding new groups.

If you’re an elder or board member, I implore you to insist that the pastoral staff in your church find support and accountability in the context of community with spiritual leaders outside your church who will help provide wisdom, counsel and friendship. They need it more than they might ever let on. I encourage you to help resource them so that they have the time and necessary funds to invest in relationships that will help them to be healthy in the most important areas of life.

To those who are facilitating our Connect Groups – “Thank You!” I appreciate your leadership, and my prayer is that you will create the kinds of environments where those who are new to our Network will find a place to belong and call home just as I did so long ago. Jesus said that the world would know that we belong to Him by our love. So may we extend His love to one another and be the answer to Jesus’ prayer.

We’re Better Together! David

As printed in the 2015 Network ConneXions

The Gift of Prayer – Pastor Gerry

IMG_1405On August 25th, I set out with a group of church planters and bikers on an exciting 7,000 mile, church planting road trip that would take us from Pennsylvania to Seattle and back again. We set off with the goal to encourage church planters all around the nation to make the leap into starting a new, local church. Two days later, on August 27th, our goals became very different as we found ourselves praying for God to spare the life of our friend and pastor, Gerry Stoltzfoos. The morning of the accident, we had split up (as any Scooby Doo gang would) to complete some repairs on one of the other bikes that was having trouble. Gerry had gone to the local motorcycle dealership to pick up a part that we needed to finish the repairs, but as we waited for Gerry to meet up at the agreed upon rendezvous, we began to be concerned. We began tracing any possible route Gerry may have taken because we had no idea where he may have gone. With God’s help, we came upon an intersection filled with police cars where we found his bike, lodged under a tractor trailer. Gerry had already been taken by ambulance to the hospital. We were given very little hope for him.

We serve an amazing, miracle-working God who did miracles left and right as His people began praying!!

The night before his accident, I felt impressed to snap a picture of each of the riders that were on the trek with us. In Chicago’s setting sun, I snapped a picture of each bike and rider. I managed to capture an epic picture of Gerry riding his signature Harley with his finger pointing directly at the camera. Little did I know that that picture would become a flash point for so much prayer in the days and weeks of recovery that laid before him.

I recall that my very first discernible prayer was “Please God, don’t let that picture be the last picture of Gerry on earth!” I believe God took that prayer very seriously as those first few moments passed. Within minutes, family and church staff were notified of the accident and in a very short matter of time, people all across the country began to lift Gerry up in prayer with great passion and precision!

A semi-truck pulled out in front of Pastor Gerry…leaving him in the ER with bleeding in his brain and an unclear future.

Julie, his wife, hurriedly joined us in Chicago and kept a constant prayer vigil at his hospital bedside. His immediate family quickly followed Julie and the remainder of what came to be called, “The Furious Five,” stayed on to assist Julie and the Stoltzfoos family with encouragement and care. I cannot adequately describe the intense reality of living under the prayer covering all of you were producing in those days directly after the accident, but each of us knew that God was restoring Gerry with miracle after miracle. Each day brought encouraging news in spite of the possibility of long-term brain injury.

IMG_1416[1]The picture I had snapped quickly made its rounds on Facebook as people posted and reposted it as a reminder to pray for complete healing. Many churches in Gettysburg prayed together for Gerry the following Sunday. His own church family and network, Freedom Valley, organized an overnight prayer vigil to cry out for the completion of Gerry’s healing and restoration, physically, spiritually and mentally.

I am pleased to report that as of the end of September, Gerry received a clean bill of health from his physicians and is back in the pulpit, teaching God’s Word with
passion and integrity! It is my conviction that without the prayers of God’s people, the outcome could have been very different.

James 5:16 assures us that, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

I had the privilege of having a front row seat for a spectacular show of God’s power that came through the earnest prayer of righteous people who love Pastor Gerry. I will never stop thanking God for the wonderful results those prayers produced. On behalf of Gerry, the Stoltzfoos family, and every Freedom Valley Network pastor and partner, allow me to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

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