"Superheroes" of the Assemblies of God
Although most well-known superheroes in today’s culture are clad in muscle-enhanced spandex and seem perpetually in their late 20s or early 30s, the Assemblies of God has hundreds of “under-the-radar” superheroes and heroines who are far more likely to be found in overalls and many are eligible for social security. And instead of fighting crime, these AG superheroes literally revitalize and restore the “lives” of scores of AG churches throughout the United States every year.
The superheroes — though they would never label themselves as such — are known as RV Volunteers.
“Superhero” may seem like too strong of a word for U.S. Missions Church Mobilization RV Volunteers. Perhaps it is. But what do you call people who are highly skilled; spend weeks and even months volunteering their time in building, remodeling, or rebuilding churches and ministries; charge no fees for their labor and provide their own food and housing; and literally save AG churches and ministries millions of dollars a year in construction costs? Maybe “miracle workers” is a better fit?
NEW FOUNDATION CHURCH
On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 hurricane, changed the course of life for thousands of people and dozens of AG churches, including the former Life and Praise AG in Panama City, Florida, which experienced catastrophic damage from the powerful winds and storm surge.
Pastors Lloyd and Lorie Lykins had just been appointed by the West Florida district as the new pastors of the small, struggling church. However, before they could even hold their first service, Hurricane Michael struck.
“The district considered closing the church because the building was destroyed and no one was sure of the economy (as so much of the community had suffered extensive damages),” Lloyd Lykins says. “But the congregation didn’t want it closed and I knew my calling was to go there even after the storm.”
After meeting in the parking lot and then under a tent for about a month and a half (before another storm destroyed the tent in late January), Lykins says they got their first introduction to RV Volunteers when they purchased a modular home in need of repair before it could be used as a chapel.
“The district sent some RVers over to build an entrance ramp, fix holes, paint, and put new carpet down for us,” Lykins says. “The building was ready by the first of April.”
Meanwhile, the original church building was declared a total loss and had to be demolished and removed, down to the ground.
After his introduction to the RVers, Lykins prayed about what God desired for the new facility.
“The Lord gave me the layout of the building and I passed it on to an RVer who used to be an architect and he drew up all of our plans for the building,” Lykins says. Although off to a good start, Lykins says that they started to run into trouble with contractors and crews, which were understandably in high demand.
“The building materials were delivered in May 2020,” Lykins says, “but the first contractor and crew didn’t show up. The second crew only did a little bit of work. The third crew showed up the week before Thanksgiving and promised to have it done by June or July 2021. By then the RVers had put in the slab, roughed in all the plumbing, and had built all the walls (and stacked them in the parking lot) and chalk marked where they were supposed to go.”
Lykins says it was the RVers who pushed the construction crew in the fall of 2021 to get the roof on — as the roof was going on the RVers where underneath them putting the walls up, getting the electrical, painting, suspended ceilings, and as he put it, “a pile of stuff,” completed.
The new church, which was aptly renamed New Foundation Church, will seat 210, and has seen the congregation grow from a handful to the mid-40s in recent months as the church was able to open its doors in August 2022. Lykins says they’re hoping to have a dedication service in February as they work on finishing touches.
According to Lykins, the RVers not only saved the church hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs, a number were also actively involved in the church while they were on site.
“RVers really got this building built for us,” he says. “They were also a very positive influence — if it hadn’t been for them, I don’t know if I would have made it; they were very encouraging . . . our folks love them to death — they light up whenever they see them!”
CALLAWAY ASSEMBLY OF GOD
Although Callaway AG in Panama City didn’t experience total destruction as New Foundation Church did from Hurricane Michael, it probably came in a close second.
Of the nine permanent structures on the property, five of them had to be demolished.
“All of the remaining buildings had to be gutted,” says Tim Stephens, whose been leading the Callaway congregation since 2012.
“The entire campus was completely unusable . . . the community, it was like you put a house in a blender then threw it up in the air and wherever it lands . . .,” Stephens says.
Giving credit where due, Stephens says that the scores of volunteers from their church, other churches, Christ in Action, college students, and countless other volunteers saved the church tens of thousands in labor cost as the grounds and interiors of the remaining buildings were littered with everything from nails, glass, and snapped pieces of lumber to people’s personal possessions and even a restaurant’s drive thru menu sign.
However, when it came to reconfiguring the campus for a more effective ministry through new and remodeled buildings, where skilled labor was a necessity, that’s where the RV Volunteers were highly valuable.
“The RV Volunteers’ biggest contribution was providing skilled labor,” Stephens says. “They were with us for two solid seasons (October to April) doing drywall, plumbing, electrical, trim work, painting, framing . . . we had multiple buildings and multiple projects running simultaneously — there was so much going on!”
One of the challenges, Stephens notes, is that RVers typically come in and have a set of plans to work from, but in this case, demolition, designing, and building were all going on at the same time as there were numerous buildings at different stages.
“The patience and flexibility that they (the RVers) were able to bring into a very fluid and sometimes chaotic situation was very helpful,” he says. “It required another level of patience and grace as they helped us navigate that chaos.”
Stephens says that with all the volunteer help and skilled labor of the RVers, projects were completed relatively quickly. He shares that the new kids’ building — a totally new structure — went from “first thought” to a fully completed and functioning 3,200-square-foot building in only about 12 months. “For a construction project, that’s moving blazing fast,” he says.
In the end, God has enabled Stephens and the Callaway congregation to reconfigure the church’s antiquated layout to create a streamlined campus that will enhance ministry moving forward as several of the buildings were combined and others were expanded, reconfigured, or fully remodeled.
“The insurance settlement for the property (not contents or vehicles damaged) was $2.6 million,” Stephens says. “I conservatively estimate that the RVers and the many others who volunteered saved us at least that much . . . by the end of 2021, construction was pretty much completed and on Easter 2022, we held our rededication service.”
APACHE JUNCTION FIRST ASSEMBLY OF GOD
Dallas Satterfield and his congregation at Apache Junction First AG had a good problem — they had outgrown their current facility.
“We even tore out a wall between the sanctuary and foyer to add 50 more seats,” Satterfield says, “but we were still pretty much packing out both Sunday morning services.”
In 2018, the Arizona congregation voted to build a new facility on the property. A fundraiser was launched and in July 2019, they broke ground. Satterfield said that he hoped they could raise $250,000 over three years to help offset some of the costs.
However, Satterfield connected with another AG pastor, Ron Rockwell of Harvest Church in nearby Glendale, Arizona. He shared how Apache Junction AG could benefit from using RV Volunteers on their building project.
“I got a lot of advice from Ron — he’s worked with RV Volunteers forever,” Satterfield says. “I took a van full of people to listen to him for an hour on a couple of occasions and go on their campus and see the buildings they (the RVers) did and hear about the miracles that took place along the way.”
Unlike the churches in Panama City, Apache Junction was not recovering from a natural disaster, so although supply chain issues did arise, plans were in place, the cement slab was poured, and the RVers began their work on what was to be a 15,000-square-foot building.
“Carpenters, electricians, plumbers — and these guys were top-brass, top-dollar (highly skilled) people,” Satterfield says of the RVers. “They put in all the electrical wires, the plumbing — they did everything on the inside — sheet rock, mud, tape, paint, blow insulation, they did it all!”
Satterfield says that when the fire marshal came to inspect the building, not only was he satisfied, he was impressed with the phenomenal work.
The RV Volunteers working on the church were also often regular attenders. Satterfield noted that some even tithed to the church while volunteering their time and labor.
“They’re not pew sitters on Sunday — they added to our worship experience,” says Satterfield who notes that during the four-year process he ended up in the ER six or seven times and had four stents put in due to blockages in his heart. However, God continued to provide people and finances to keep the work steadily progressing.
And on March 27, 2022, Apache Junction First Assembly held its grand opening, with an official dedication service held Nov. 13.
Although the church is valued at roughly $4.1 million, with all the volunteer labor and RV Volunteers’ work, the price tag came in at $2.1 million. What’s more, the building fund giving expectation was greatly exceeded.
“The Lord helped us raise nearly $1.2 million — 56% of the total cost — and although we did have one $100,000 gift, most of it was raised through many smaller gifts and offerings,” he explains. “I’m sitting in the sanctuary right now and I’m just in awe, whew . . .,” Satterfield pauses as emotion briefly overcomes him. “Just incredible. I turned 66 on Christmas Day and I never dreamed being a part of something like this!”
AND THEN AGAIN . . .
Perhaps “superheroes” and “miracle workers” are the wrong terms for RV Volunteers. These hardworking men and women simply do their best to be servants of God, using their skills and attained knowledge to glorify Him and bless congregations and ministries. The services they do provide, however, are ones that can greatly contribute to cutting a church or ministry’s cost of remodeling/building by 30, 40, and even 50% through volunteer labor.
Pastors Lykins, Stephens, and Satterfield all repeatedly expressed their thankfulness for God’s miraculous provision — RV Volunteers, for many churches and ministries, have become a significant part of His provision. All three ministers are also grateful that their buildings are complete and, due to God’s continued blessings, expanded ministry opportunities are already being realized.
“The Church Mobilization RV Volunteers are one of the greatest resources in the Assemblies of God,” states Billy Thomas, Church Mobilization senior director. “Faithful, hard-working, and giving all that they have, they serve the Fellowship using their talents. Some work for two weeks a year, and others are fulltime on the road building. Together, they save millions of dollars every year for the local church. I have said before, when we stand before the Father in heaven, there will be a sea of red vests of all the RVers that have given for the kingdom of God.”
Satterfield urges leaders looking to use RV Volunteers to first consult with other church and ministry leaders who have used RVers in the past so that preparations, expectations, and invitations are properly managed, which help turn a good experience into a great one.
However, if a church body has received God’s direction to expand, reconfigure, rebuild, or build new, Satterfield cautions leaders, if their experience turns out like his, to get ready!
“God has blessed AJ First beyond measure,” he says, reflecting briefly on God’s ongoing acts of provision, “but you got to get this: God’s a tiger going downhill and I’m hanging onto His tail — He’s going full blast and all I can do is hang on for dear life to keep up with Him.”
For more information about Church Mobilization and RV Volunteers contact your district office or click on this link.