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100 years

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

Our Pentecostal Heritage Can Help Us Move Forward

My earliest childhood memories center around an Assemblies of God church in Harrisburg, PA. I am thankful for the solid role models God has placed in my life—primarily my parents—but also pastors, youth leaders and many others. My Pentecostal heritage has not been perfect, but the positives have greatly out-weighed any negatives. I am grateful to those who went before me and planted the churches I have called home, built the Bible College I attended and established the denomination that facilitates our calling today.

Every church and ministry exists because of the sacrifice of others who have gone before. We have all built upon the foundations laid by others; whether it be their groundbreaking apostolic ministry, financial sacrifice, faithfulness to God or mentoring of our current leaders; we are their debtors. Our present ministries have much deeper historical roots than we realize.

In diverse cultures around the planet, our Pentecostal pioneers had a handful of transcendent practices that well-served their callings. Remembering, re-examining and renewing these same practices today will undoubtedly position us to move forward in our respective ministries. There were certainly some temporary methods or structures based upon culture, chronology, or geography that have expired; however, the five transcendent practices mentioned below are just as relevant and critical today as in the days of the original Apostles.

Why is it so important for us to reflect upon and renew our Pentecostal practices? The world desperately needs to powerfully encounter their Creator, God. The more we conform to the book of Acts model espoused by our forefathers, the better equipped and empowered we will be to move forward in mission.

Emphasis on Participatory Prayer

Our forefathers had little systemic or financial support; they planted churches and spearheaded new ministries often with nothing to rely upon but God; so they prayed. Fervent prayer—both personally and corporately—brought about countless miracles. Today we may be tempted to enjoy the fruit of their early labors while not continuing the biblical practice of prioritizing participatory prayer times in our regular services. Do we give enough time for our people to actually pray in the house of prayer?

There is a direct correlation between regular corporate prayer/altar time and the amount of miraculous, supernatural power expressed in our churches. Acts 4:24ff shows us that more prayer = more miracles. We all know the importance of prayer, but may we make a renewed commitment to model it consistently in our services—fulfilling the commandment
of Jesus that His house would be defined as a
house of prayer.

Reliance on the Holy Spirit’s Gifts and Power

It is a fact; some churches are downplaying the ministry of the Holy Spirit today. It is most certainly because of fear; likely, the fear of having to deal with human excess or pride or perhaps the selfish fear of leader embarrassment. Paul warned the Galatian church of the error of beginning with reliance on the Spirit and trying to finish by relying on the flesh (Gal 3:3). The people we serve need the full, healthy expressions of Acts in their lives. It is entirely possible to have healthy, consistent expressions of the Spirit’s gifts and power if we take some time and teach with a positive, enabling tone. Spiritual leaders nurture what they teach. We must once again lead the way by relying and facilitating authentic Holy Spirit gifts and power.

Culture of Participation

New Testament church life is thoroughly participatory in Acts. In fact, the Pentecostal groundbreakers of the early 1900’s met a deep need of the mainline, formal churchgoer. They created an atmosphere where everyone could interact with the presence of God—rather than merely watch His representative perform distant ceremonies. This happened again during the Charismatic renewal of the 1960’s-1970’s and again in recent years. We need to watch our people carefully during every stage of our services—are they merely an audience or are they spiritually engaged and participating? Then pray to ask God what to tweak in order to enable greater spiritual participation.

Commitment to the Word

Today, our secular culture seems to have no tolerance for biblical standards or truth. Paul warned Timothy about this—and reminded him that he was not to operate in a spirit of timidity. Our communities still need the bold, unpopular-to-the-flesh proclamation of God’s Word. We cannot round the corners that our forefathers so accurately and righteously sharpened. God help us to continue to throw life-preservers of truth to the drowning instead of anesthetizing them with spineless, Word-less speeches. We must continue to be true to the standards of scripture while still expressing genuine love and compassion.

Passion for the Lost

I have yet to meet a pastor without a passion for souls, but I have met many who are so overwhelmed and distracted that this passion gets put on the back burner. Honestly, I have encountered this in my own priorities. Our Pentecostal forefathers were driven with urgent conviction that every person is eternally lost without Jesus, but that Jesus is here now to save. May we recommit ourselves to the urgency and priority of the lost.

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