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Obedience and Prayer Bring Growth to Arizona Church

Led by Romanian-born pastor Gheorghe Boanta, Grace Fellowship has seen God grow its membership while expanding its ministry to the community.
Romanian-born Gheorghe Boanta was 17 years old when he received a call to ministry. Raised in a Pentecostal family, Boanta was familiar with Pentecostal ministry and attended the Bible Theological Institute in the Pentecostal Union.

After graduating in 2009, Boanta met his wife, Diana, and began his first full-time ministry assignment as a youth pastor in a small town.

“We worked really hard in that ministry and organized a youth camp at the national level in Romania,” he states.

His hard work and creativity earned him recognition with national level leaders and within a year of starting his youth pastorate position he was asked to serve as the national youth leader in the western part of Romania.

It was while serving in this role that Boanta received an invitation to move to the United States to serve as lead pastor of a small, new AG church plant in Peoria, Arizona.

“We had two young children at the time, and we were young ourselves,” Boanta recalls. “But we fasted and prayed and felt God moving us to the U.S.”

In 2016, Boanta arrived in Arizona to fulfill a message he felt God impress on his spirit: that he would be moving to a desert to start a spring with fresh water.

Grace Fellowship Church, a church still in its infancy stage, had an average of 20 families attending upon Boanta’s arrival. It would take two years of patience and perseverance to experience a breakthrough.

Boanta knew that God had called him to Grace Fellowship but also understood that his strategy for growth had to be different than what he had done in Romania.

Desperate for the Lord’s guidance, Boanta went on a three-day mountain retreat where he spent time fasting and praying for a fresh vision and spiritual growth for the church. At the end of his retreat, he sensed God giving him a clear vision.

“I felt we needed to grow spiritually by emphasizing Christ-centered teaching and Holy Spirit teaching,” he says. “I also felt we needed to cultivate a community of family and fight hard to maintain that family atmosphere no matter how big we got. And finally, we needed to put the next generation first.”

Boanta and his team set to work immediately implementing these three mountain top revelations.

The church started by taking strides to become more multicultural in its makeup. They began to offer English-speaking services, reaching beyond their core community of Romanians. They also began reaching out to their community through feeding the homeless, going into nearby neighborhoods, and being “consistently out of the church building.”

Additionally, there began to be changes in the culture of the church. Boanta and his team desired to help the older generation understand that some things had to begin to shift in order to reach, receive, and retain young people. Their goal was to create an atmosphere where that generation would feel accepted and would have a place to belong.

Grace Fellowship’s strategic changes began to make them a pillar in the community. Although there was some hesitation with their widened approach, slowly other churches in the area also began holding English-speaking services and catching the vision for the youth of the city.

As the church stayed focused on its threefold initiative, it quickly began to outgrow its rented facility.

Boanta and the Grace Fellowship staff found and purchased a small property with the intention of building a sanctuary that would comfortably seat 200 people. However, by the time the purchase of the land was complete and, thankfully, before construction began, the church was already pushing past the 200 attendance mark.

It was clear that they would need more land and a bigger blueprint.

The small property was sold, and another plot of land was purchased. Yet as the church began to prepare for its second attempt at construction, the country came to a standstill because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the community was finally able to resume its normal functions, the property’s value had increased by nearly threefold.

“The entire story of the church’s new construction has been simply supernatural,” Boanta states. “There was even a man who knew nothing about our church but felt led to sell us an additional acre of property for less than half its market price,” he says.

Construction is currently on target to be completed in late 2024; but for the growing church, additional space cannot come soon enough.

Today, the church is home to over 400 regular attendees including a number of young people.

“Out of the 400 people who attend, over 50% are less than 40 years old,” remarks Boanta. “They have a place where they feel accepted.”

Vasile Cinpean, president of the Romanian Alliance Fellowship of the Assemblies of God, states that the church is quickly growing and Boanta’s testimony of faithfulness and perseverance is great.

Now in their eighth year in the United States, Boanta and his wife are thankful for their new home and are 100% sure that they are serving where they were called and have no plans of looking back.

Ashley B. Grant

Ashley B. Grant has a master's degree in Human Services Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University and is a credentialed Christian counselor through the American Association of Christian Counselors. Grant also holds certifications in crisis pregnancy counseling and advanced life coaching. Ashley is a fourth generation Assemblies of God preacher’s kid and has one daughter and three sons.