Missionaries Commissioned to U.S. and the World
Although electing various leaders occupied much of the daytime sessions Friday at the 52nd General Council, the evening showcased the Fellowship’s missionary force, abroad and at home, already on the field and ready to go for the first time.
With 57 million followers, the Assemblies of God is the largest Pentecostal group in the world. The global constituency has more than doubled since John Bueno became executive director of World Missions a decade ago. Back then the worldwide Fellowship had 25 million adherents.
But much remains to be done to help a hurting world.
The Bethesda Choir from Fort Worth, Texas, under the direction of J. Daniel Smith, opened the Conseco Fieldhouse service televised by INSP, performing the aptly titled theme song “Everywhere.”
More than 700 enthusiastic flag-waving experienced world missionaries responded with affirmative pledges of service when regional directors one by one asked who would meet needs on their continent.
“Many of Africa’s 900 million inhabitants have never had a clear presentation of the gospel,” U.S. Africa Regional Director Mike McClaflin said. “Millions are dying with HIV/AIDS. Pastors and workers need biblical training. Who will help meet the vast needs in Africa?”
Asia Pacific Regional Director Russ Turney spoke of the spiritual darkness in great cities, small villages and remote jungles.
Eurasia Regional Director Jerry Parsley said Jesus is the only hope for eroding economies, corruption, war, persecution and religious fanaticism that dominates the area.
Ron Maddux issued a plea for the more than 1 billion unsaved people in Northern Asia bound by spiritual darkness and ancestral traditions.
Greg Mundis noted the European cities in spiritual decay, the majority of children living without moral foundation, disillusioned university students and culturally diverse residents without knowledge of Christ.
Dick Nicholson addressed the growing political unrest and rampant crime in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Later in the service, 123 new World Missions candidates who have been approved to go to 51 nations received official commissions before the biennial General Council.
In an unprecedented level of cooperation, Assemblies of God World Missions leaders shared the stage with their U.S. counterparts. U.S. Missions leaders introduced 95 candidates who have been approved for service with Chi Alpha, Intercultural Ministries, chaplaincy, MAPS, Teen Challenge, Youth Alive and church planting.
U.S. Missions Executive Director Alton Garrison noted that this nation is becoming a growing mission field day by day. Garrison said Americans are learning a lesson from foreign missionaries about contextualizing the gospel in the culture that surrounds them.
The 69-year-old Bueno, re-elected earlier in the day to another four-year term, preached the main message of the evening. During his tenure, 679 new world missionaries have been commissioned, three-fourths of them in lands with a majority of unreached people.
God’s plan of redemption is a divine plan, not a human plan or even a denominational plan, Bueno reminded the crowd.
Even some Christians may question what has happened to God’s purpose when looking at the chaotic state of the world, Bueno said, but God’s covenant shouldn’t be forgotten. The state of the stock market or the violence in Iraq doesn’t change God’s design, he said.
“God is still the desire of the nations,” Bueno said. “We dare not be caught up in any substitute plan.”
Church leaders can’t change the world in their own ingenuity or strategy, Bueno said. Christians must rely completely on God, even when the news of the world seems as though God isn’t listening, he indicated.
Bueno knows about faith from experience. He related a miraculous account from his time in El Salvador, where he spent 28 years, 11 of them with the Central American nation embroiled in a civil war that claimed 80,000 lives. When the battle intensified, Bueno spent many evenings in his darkened San Salvador home living under martial law.
Then Bueno received a phone call from a Puerto Rican evangelist—who wanted to conduct an open-air evangelism campaign in the capital city. Bueno responded with disbelief, explaining to the evangelist that as a pastor he couldn’t even hold church services after 6 p.m. because of a curfew.
The evangelist pulled rank, clarifying that God had told him to conduct the outreach in San Salvador.
The Puerto Rican preacher arrived during one of the worst weeks of the war. Bombs fell near the hotel in which he stayed. Dead bodies lay on the sidewalk outside.
Bueno asked if he still wanted to hold the meetings. The evangelist responded that he never wanted to come to El Salvador; God had ordered it.
The next day Bueno accompanied the evangelist to see a government official to ask if they could rent the city’s 60,000-seat soccer stadium. An incredulous politician pointed out that the city had no public transportation because buses had been burned and soccer games had been canceled because of fear of violence. Yet he granted use of the stadium—for free.
By the time the 15-day campaign got under way tensions had eased somewhat, and 1,000 people came the first night. God used the evangelist to heal three people confined to wheelchairs.
By the final night, 60,000 people sat around the stadium—along with another 20,000 on the soccer field itself. The meetings had become the talk of the city, and the nation’s most famous TV newscaster, a well-known critic of any form of religion, attended. The agnostic journalist wanted to see what would happen when his next-door neighbor, a woman handicapped for many years, asked for prayer.
On his program the next evening, the newscaster announced there could be only one reason his neighbor walked out of the wheelchair: the power of God.
“God’s power is still evident in the hour in which we live as much as it ever was,” Bueno told the missions service audience. “We have a supernatural God who works in every country of the world. His intention is to reach everyone everywhere because this is His supernatural power.”
God will fulfill His eternal plan and be exalted among the heathen, Bueno proclaimed.
The U.S. World Missions force is mightily involved in God’s agenda, with more than2,700 missionaries and missionary associates in 212 countries.
Bueno and his wife Lois became missionaries to El Salvador in 1961. Bueno pastored the Evangelistic Center in San Salvador, which grew in 25 years from 100 to more than 22,000 worshipers. The church planted more than 100 other churches and established 39 Christian schools, which have educated 787,000 children. Additionally, Bueno founded Latin America ChildCare, helping to educate, clothe, feed and care for 68,000 students.