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Communion and Memorial Service -- Truly Memorable

On Friday, the morning worship gathering at the Kansas City Convention Center was filled with more than 9,000 eager worshipers who had come to celebrate Christ’s resurrection by partaking in communion.

On Friday, the morning worship gathering at the Kansas City Convention Center was filled with more than 9,000 eager worshipers who had come to celebrate Christ’s resurrection by partaking in communion. They also came to honor the lives of the 817 men and women ministers who have died since the last General Council was held in Orlando, Fla., in 1999.

Scott Creswell, music minister at Exciting Assembly of God in Creswell, Ga., and his worship team began the service with an intense and extended time of worship. Several hymns and contemporary worship songs were sung that primed those gathered for a service that was marked by moving testimonies, honors and powerful worship. Though General Council was nearing an end, worshipers were as energetic and fervent as when the gathering started on Tuesday.

Hands and voices were raised high as those gathered soaked up the sweet presence of the Lord, which pervaded the hall. During one song, which spoke of raising hands, nearly everyone in the hall raised their hands as a display of their surrender and love for Jesus.

Next, a video was shown. In the video, General Secretary George Wood was standing on a boat with another man with the Statue of Liberty in the background. The man was talking about what it must have been like for those who came to America. Wood dovetailed on this and talked about the early missionaries whose last sight of America was the Statue. Wood went on to talk about early missionary families who left the shores of the United States before two actors took the stage portraying the life of a missionary family and the costs and rewards of such service.

The video/drama continued with Wood talking about the great sacrifice, including death, many missionary families have experienced while sharing their faith on the field. In one of the most moving moments of the service, John Weidman, whose parents were missionaries to what is now Burkina Faso and whose brother Paul Jr., died while the family was overseas, spoke of his experiences. Though the cost of fulfilling the Great Commission was great, he said, the fruit of his family and other’s efforts were reaping eternal dividends. "Today, there is a great church in Africa," he said, which drew rousing applause. "And for that we praise God." He then noted that there are currently one million Assemblies of God believers in Burkina Faso.

Wood then introduced one of 45 students from Assemblies of God schools who took part in ministry in The Balkans this summer. Candice Canfield, a student from Evangel University, spoke about her trip and the impact it had on her life. "One of our focuses today is to take the treasures from past and pass them to a new generation of missionaries," said Wood, speaking to Canfield. "To you, now is given the task to complete the Great Commission. It’s your generation that is going to do it, and we thank God for you."

Wood then honored the men and women who had gone to be with the Lord. He held up a book, which contained the handwritten-names of ministers and missionaries who held credentials with the Assemblies of God when they passed. Music played as their names scrolled up on three giant screens. The hall was exceptionally quiet save for the music that accompanied the list. Some in the audience wept. "These men and women helped lay the foundation for what we are reaping today in our fellowship," said Wood, before he read the names of those who have died since June 1 of this year.

Family members of the deceased were recognized. Thomas E. Trask, superintendent of the Assemblies of God, came to the podium and prayed for them as they stood. "Strengthen and encourage them and stand along side them Lord," prayed Trask. "May the comfort of the Holy Spirit comfort these loved ones and friends."

Issac Canales, president of Latin American Bible Institute in California, brought the Word. "I am proud to be Pentecostal," shouted Canales, "what about you?" The worshipers applauded.

Canales spoke about the power of the Holy Spirit and His significance. Canales’ exuberance and passion for a Spirit-led life resonated throughout the hall as he spoke of his history and the heritage his mother and father left him with. "You’ve got to have faith," he said. "I have seen the power of God in my life. It’s your faith and the power of God that can make mighty things happen."

His sermon was laced with humorous stories about his life growing up in poverty. Through hardships his character was forged and through his relationship with Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit a powerful Pentecostal preacher emerged.

Worshipers were then asked to stand if they had a need. Hundreds rose to their feet across the hall. Those nearby laid hands on those standing as Canales prayed. The voices of thousands of people interceding for one another rumbled throughout the cavernous room before communion was served.