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An Escape from Romania

Dascalescu Wedding Mike and Ana Dascalescu were miraculously delivered from communist Romania in 1981. Their escape began one night when Mike, a merchant-marine officer, heard God tell him it was time for Ana, her brother and him to flee. As they navigated their way to the ship headed for Greece, God’s miracles began. Even though the entryway was guarded, they walked through the gate without being seen. For the next step in their nighttime journey, Ana (who was pregnant) and her brother had to jump into freezing waters so Mike could hoist them up to the deck using ropes. Ana recounts, “With the rope tied around my waist, Mike began pulling me out of the water. When I was only 15 feet in the air we both saw a searchlight from a patrol boat. At the moment it would have spotted us, the rope snapped, and I was dumped back into the water while the patrol boat changed direction. We knew that God was fully involved in every detail of our escape!”

Mike had a hiding place prepared for them once they were on the ship, but before he could take them to the closet located in the bottom level, Ana and her brother needed to hide in an empty oil tank while a final search of the ship was performed before setting sail. Ana remembers, “While remaining perfectly still, kneeling in a thick layer of sludge, my brother and I could hear the soldiers walking on the oil tank and see the beams of their flashlights penetrating through the cracks, but God again protected us. Soon, I heard a whistle from Mike indicating the coast was clear.” They were able to crawl out of the oil tank and sneak to the small, dark closet that was their cocoon for the next eight days.

Dascalescu-Article3When they arrived in Greece, the three snuck off the ship at night and sojourned across Greece into Yugoslavia where they were caught by police and sentenced to three weeks in prison for crossing the border illegally. They were then released with instructions to travel to Italy. Once in Italy, the American Embassy graciously granted political asylum for them to come to the United States which became their home for over 33 years! In 1989 Mike and Ana began serving at GT in Reading, PA.

After their harrowing escape from Romania, why would Mike and Ana want to ever return? Ana simply but passionately says, “Since the fall of communism we feel compelled to take the gospel of Jesus to the Romanian people.” They have done many missions trips back to the very country they had fled and were struck by a shortage of ministers to disciple new converts. It was this need for leaders that prompted them to answer the call to full-time missions. Leaving their secular jobs of business and nursing, leaving their three children and grandchildren, Mike and Ana returned to Romania and are planting churches, training leaders and serving in the unreached region of Southeast Romania.

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

Adventure to East Africa

Good African Food

Good African Food

The term ALL IN can have a few different meanings. It can refer to extending yourself physically to the point that you are exhausted. Or, more commonly, it can refer to someone pushing everything they have to the middle of the table as a last ditch effort to stay in the game.

The PennDel Network has ministers that are ALL IN, ALL OVER the world. They are working hard to share Christ with those who know nothing of Him. These missionaries, rather than pushing all their resources into the middle for themselves, are instead pushing everything to the edge for the unreached people of the nations.

This past January I, once again, had the privilege to get an up close and personal look at our Assemblies of God global teams. I had the opportunity to speak at the annual retreat for the East Africa Indian Ocean Basin world missionaries and their families. We experienced great services with a strong sense of the presence of God as well as times of rich fellowship. It was such a blessing to preach God’s Word among these amazing servants of Christ and to hear the fresh accounts of God’s faithfulness as He works through these leaders and the amazing people they serve.

Bryce with Masi Warriors

Bryce with Masi Warriors

My son, Bryce, and I were ALL IN as well, experiencing on this trip many of the challenges that missionaries often face. We spent many hours on planes and in airports. We both got sick and I had lost ninety percent of my voice by the first day I was to preach. Then, after we had a couple of days of ministry under our belt, we were on our way to dinner with Steve Pennington, his wife, and his son. As we were driving in Nairobi, a Peruvian physicist suffering from jet lag put his turn signal on but didn’t turn his steering wheel and plowed into us at about forty miles an hour. Fortunately no one was hurt! Despite the seemingly difficult time we were having on this trip, what hit me was the fact that this is what our missionaries face daily in their ministries.

Our missionaries deeply appreciate the financial support our churches provide for them, because without it they could never get to the field. However, they also know that without our prayer efforts, they could never stay on the field. Here are just some of the things we can lift in prayer for our missionary leaders. This list was given to me by Steve Pennington who is the Area Director for the EAIOB.

We are praying that we will finish strong in the final year of our commitment to the East Africa region through the PEOPLE LIKE YOU REACHING – PEOPLE LIKE ME vision which involves our prayers, financial support, as well as our personal interest and relationships with our missionary teams. If you have made a pledge we trust that God will help you in fulfilling it. If you haven’t had a chance to make a pledge, yet, we encourage you to do so as your resources will help us to reach the many unreached people groups of East Africa.

Oh, and by the way to wrap up our adventure to East Africa… the place where Bryce and I stayed during our trip caught on fire the day we left. So I guess we are glad that we were ALL OUT!

As printed in the 2015 Network ConneXions

Church Planting Projects 2015

Life Church  •  Hershey, PA

bentleyHershey, PA started as a “model town” for employees of the world’s first modern chocolate factory to live, work and play. But how can “The Sweetest Place on Earth” model true community without the example of Christ’s love among its people? This need is part of what called our family to “Chocolate Town, USA.”

God paved the way for Life Church to be planted in Hershey, PA in February 2014. Our vision is to REACH people in a way that exemplifies a genuine and growing relationship with God and to CULTIVATE a Christ centered, spirit-filled environment where people GROW in their relationship with God.

“Life is a journey. Everything we do is centered on helping people take their next step in their journey of faith.”

After enjoying our first few months of Sunday services at the Cocoaplex Cinemas and a short transition at the local Elementary School, God blessed us with the opportunity to lease a great facility at a remarkable price right in the heart of Hershey. Our new location is only two blocks from Hershey Square (the intersection of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues) and provides us with an amazing amount of space (16,000 square feet).

The Hershey Project will help transform ten old school classrooms into strategic environments for facilitating relational growth within the Hershey community. Thank you for taking time to prayerfully consider our request!

The Place  •  Reading, PA

KlinglerReading, PA is a city of over 88,000 people that has been riddled with poverty, violence, drugs, and a seeming hopelessness, especially in the heavy urban areas. Like with Nineveh, we believe God desires to and can transform whole cities. In this age, it takes the work of churches – old and new- to get His powerful Gospel to the lost. Planting new churches births fresh opportunities for people to be saved. This was our incentive for planting “The Place…a church of HOPE for everyone!”

Our young church is comprised of several cultures that reflect the heart of the city. Hispanics, Blacks, Italians, Germans and many others worship together each Sunday in our growing community. Our greatest joy is watching people come to Christ and walk with Him in full surrender.

“The Place is a congregation that God wants to use to tell Reading and the world that He still cares.”

To continue to reach people effectively, we have been praying and believing for a new property. The Lord has opened the door for us to purchase a property that puts us in our immediate neighborhood where people will be able to walk to church (a benefit in our urban setting). The location is excellent for our mission. We will be across the street from the Intermediate School where we now do an after school outreach program.

My husband and I work bi-vocationally as not to tax our young congregation as it continues to grow and become a strong, vibrant church. We ask for your help so that we can purchase this terrific building and continue to reach Reading’s inner city for Jesus.

Our Goal This Year Is To Raise $100,000 For These Projects

We need your help! We can do this if…

1 Church Gives $ 20,000
2 Church Gives $ 10,000
5 Church Gives $ 5,000
8 Church Gives $ 2,500
10 Church Gives $ 1,000
10 Church Gives $ 500

Second unreached tribe discovered in Shamokin

My last post seemed to generate some interest so I am following it with this which occurred Sunday night. I do believe that the discussion and implementation of missional ideas and practices is just beginning. Experimentation and retooling are words we had better get used to.
The fact is that unreached tribes make up most of our culture. When we focus on being attractional we see these tribes as competition because we want them to leave their tribe and join ours. But that’s not how successful missions work accomplishes the goal of growing the kingdom. We cannot merely put on native clothes in order to infiltrate the new tribe. We must have genuine love for people, and be willing to spend time with them.
Our Faith in Action team of 25 (including teens and children) met at 6 pm for prayer and the Word before heading out on four mercy missions. I shared Luke 14 -the Parable of the Great Supper -to give foundation to our task of going into the highways and hedges. We also included our prayer team, who remained at the church to intercede for our work.

Space does not permit me to elaborate on the amazing God moments experienced by the three smaller groups we sent out. But the group I was leading discovered a second lost tribe of young people at a local skate park. It resembled “Lord of the Flies” as there were no adults in sight, and there was an aboriginal feel to the place.

We first set out for the park where we discovered the “Ultimate Fighting” tribe a few weeks ago (see earlier post). They were nowhere to be found. So we cleaned up the park again and talked and prayed with a group of five who were playing basketball. They seemed embarassed, but grateful as we gave them each a 20 oz. ice cold energy drink.
Next we headed to the skate park. A notoriously dirty and dangerous place. It was filthy, but the tribe of about 30 skaters between the ages of 11 and 20 seemed oblivious to their surroundings. We began sweeping and picking up, waiting for a chance to speak with some of them. We had only 19 energy drinks to give out, but with 30 kids there, I was afraid giving them out would start a riot, so I began to ask the Lord what to do.
Then it became clear to me that I could stand in the middle of the park and hand the drinks out to those who answered questions I would ask. It was a bit risky, but I ran to the van and got the cooler. I summoned anyone who wanted an energy drink to come close, and instantly had a group of 15 hanging on my words. (the older “cool ones” did not come around, it was mostly the younger ones)
I proceeded to ask them general Bible questions off the top of my head. “Who was Moses and what was the most important thing he did?”, “Name one thing Jesus said,” “Who was Judas and what did he do?”, and so on. It was electric. These kids were thinking and talking about God. One kid recited the entire Lord’s Prayer. They came up short on John 3:16, but it gave me a chance to tell them about it.
The spontaneous atmosphere, and incarnational character of what we have been doing opens the door for the Spirit to do more than if we had stayed in our church box. It also gives more value to the times we do meet for worship and teaching because that’s where we get fueled for the mission.
As we were leaving some of the boys came and said thanks for cleaning up, and for the drinks. I am hoping they will begin to take pride in the place and keep it clean themselves. Then one of the boys, who was wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, came up to me and said, “I think you were my pastor when I was a kid.” I thought he looked familiar, and it turned out to be Georgie. His family had left the church in a split a few years ago, but George always sat up front and loved to be in church. It was great to reconnect with him, and I think something stirred in his heart. I know something stirred in mine.

1 Corinthians 15:58 With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

Unreached tribe discovered in Shamokin

Many of us have been reading a lot over the past few years about the missional church and how to reach our culture. It is obvious that things are changing rapidly, and we are lurching farther and farther away from the type of church we grew up in. We are clearly at the place where we must be true missionaries who bring the gospel to unreached people, rather than trying to return the culture to a church they never really knew.

In light of this new reality many have spoken of the tribalization of our culture. We are no longer a homogenous “American” culture, but rather a panoply of tiny and distinct tribes. From skaters to goths and from Nascar to NY City arts types, not to mention the many ethnic groups, we seem to be coalescing around fairly narrow personal interests and affinities. The trend is accelerating. The church is seen as a separate subculture all it’s own, with numerous sub subcultures. This has profound implications for us in pastoral ministry as we move away from a purely attractional model.

Mountainside began a bold experiment (bold for us, anyway) this summer as “Faith in Action” was born. We morphed a successful in house small group ministry into a team mission approach to reach our own community. The tiny group of 8 who began with us a few months ago has swelled to as many as 32 as we branch out every Sunday night to perform acts of service for whoever needs help. The focus is on the unreached, though we help church folks too. There are no strings attached, and we have not pushed or promoted our church at all. We do pray with people (they almost always cry grateful tears when we do) when we are done, but prefer to wait for them to ask us why we are doing what we are doing. We have had some visit our services, and one single mom has already surrendered to Jesus. Teams then gather at a local eatery to discuss our excursions and share what God did each night.

This past Sunday I took a small group of teens to do some street sweeping and trash pickup at a local playground. As we drove up we were surprised to find a large group of about 35 teens and younger kids gathered on a grassy patch. They were cheering and we noticed two shirtless teens wrestling in the middle. At first I thought they were just wrestling (Shamokin is a wrestling town), but as I spoke with some of the boys, I found out it was their own version of “Ultimate Fighting”. There is no punching, but choke holds are allowed, and you either pin your opponent or they have to “tap out”. They alternated matches between older teen and pre-adolescent boys. There was not an adult in sight.

I have an extensive history in amateur wrestling and I am not a big fan of the more brutal forms of the sport. Much like missionaries to Africa were forced to overlook the nakedness of primitive tribes in order to be accepted by them I had to withold my criticisms and safety concerns in order to engage the members of the tribe in conversation. I was able to meet a few members of the tribe and set the stage for a return visit in a few weeks.
Shamokin is a difficult mission field. The city is facing bankruptcy and everything good is shrinking, while negatives abound. We have seen 4 churches close in the past few years, with many others holding on for dear life. The situation is dire.
Any strategy to see this community transformed must be long term or we should really not bother. Single events or splashy presentations will not make a ripple. Missions work is not for the faint of heart or glory-seekers. If we had been holed up in church that night we never would have discovered this “lost” tribe. Now we must pray for an open door for the gospel. The need for our being there is acute as we seek to gain their confidence and provide a redeeming presence.

Missions ‘Mistakes’

Ralph Winter is certainly one of the top evangelical missiologists in America, so I was interested to recently read this article warning of 12 missions “mistakes.” I wish the text were longer, because a few of them left me scratching my head. Maybe someone can elucidate me.

History of Religion in 90 Seconds

I got this from evangelist Tim Enloe. It’s the history of world religion in 90 seconds from a website that normally maps wars, of all places. It is oversimplified, of course, but nuancing would probably take, well, a little longer.

From Jerusalem and Beyond

I heard Ed Stetzer share this week regarding the epicenters of Christianity throughout history. The heart of the church moved from Jerusalem to Antioch and then to Athens and Rome. From there it has moved throughout Europe, Southern Asia and then to America and now it is largely a movement in the Southern Hemisphere.

Just moments after hearing Ed share this, I received this email from my friend Christopher Alam.

“Christianity began as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
When it went to Athens, it became a philosophy.
When it went to Rome, it became an organization.
When it went to Europe, it became a culture.
When it came to America, it became a business.”


Becoming A Priest To Those Who Don’t Go To Church

Many of you are already in relationship with or have heard of Johannes Amritzer from Stockholm, Sweden (http://www.missionsos.org). Early this year I heard Johannes give a great teaching on “Becoming A Priest To Those Who Don’t Go To Church.” Like me, I’m sure you’ll find something to apply.

Johannes focused first on Abraham in Genesis 23:3-6 and how he had lived among the Hittites in such a way that they had great respect and regard for him – seeing him as a “Prince of God!”

Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.” The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.” (Heb. = elohyim nasi = “a prince of God”)

– It is not enough to have respect and influence inside of the Church; we must have the same influence outside of the Church!
– Abraham walked in the land that he “would possess” as though he “already possessed it!” We must move through the land that God has promised to give us as though He has already given it and we fully possess it! It is ours!

Johannes then considered the Apostle Paul’s ministry in Athens recorded in Acts 17 and shared seven principles for “Becoming a Church Planting Priest in the City.”

1) Paul had a disciplined spirit. v16

– Paul could move throughout the pagan city without it affecting his testimony. There was no compromise within him.
– He wasn’t taken in by the city’s carnal attractions, nor did he remain aloof like some “holier than thou” visitor. Instead, Paul was able to observe the needs of the city without it exciting his unrighteous or self-righteous flesh.
– If you do not have a disciplined spirit you’re not ready to move forward in church planting.

2) Paul knew how to build relationships with all kinds of people. v17

– He gave value to all people, both in the synagogue and in the marketplace.

3) They gave Paul their platform. v18-19

– Once you are regarded in their eyes, they will open the door for you to share.

4) He connected with their culture. v22-23

– He did not attack them. His statement “You are very religious” may have been viewed as a complement by the Athenians – “Thank you, Paul!”

5. He could quote their authorities. v28

– He related to them by touching something that was important to them!

6) He called the people to repentance. v30-31

– The rest is in vain if we never present the Gospel.

7. He discipled those who responded. v34

– The focus is always on disciples, not simply decisions.

Pastoral Missions Trips

Yesterday, our Catalyst group had the privilege of hosting Christopher Alam, a long-time missionary evangelist who has planted over 1000 new churches and has seen millions of converts in Africa and Asia. Just last week he was received into the Penn-Del District of the Assemblies of God (his close friend, Reinhard Bonnke, was received into the Peninsular Florida district this month as well).

One of the group members asked Christopher what an American pastor should do to keep their faith level high that God can/will do the same kind of miracles here that are happening in many other places of the world.

I was struck by Christopher’s answer.

He said, “I would recommend that every pastor in the U.S. minister on a missions trip once a year to sustain his/her level of faith.”

What do you think? Has that approach been effective for anyone?

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