For All People
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10, NIV).
Luke, in his narrative of the birth of Jesus Christ, gives us one of the first hints of God’s plan to offer salvation to all people, to everyone. I want to tell you another Christmas story that spans more than 80 years and beautifully illustrates that plan.
Troy and Stella Lowe are longtime members of our North Little Rock AG congregation. Stella is from Ghana. Some of the first Assemblies of God missionaries went to Ghana, back when it was called the Gold Coast, to establish churches and share the gospel. Stella’s grandfather, Samuel Mani, was a businessman in Tamale, Ghana, an influential man who owned the local store. He practiced native religion and witchcraft.
The missionaries, when they went to Tamale in the mid-1930s, bought their goods in Samuel Mani’s store. They shared the story of Jesus with Samuel and his employees. First, one of the employees accepted Christ. Then, Samuel and his whole family became believers. Several generations of Samuel’s family members, including Stella, all followed Christ because of the ministry of those missionaries. Samuel’s family became active in the Tamale Assemblies of God church, and are to this day.
Stella grew up in the church, hearing the stories of her grandparents and the missionary family who had witnessed to them. But she had never learned the names of those missionaries. Through the years, Stella dreamed of learning who the missionaries were and being able to thank them. Pastor Randy Jumper, on our pastoral staff, tracked down that information in the Assemblies of God World Missions Archives and the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
In the early 1930s, H.B. and Ruth Garlock, young AG missionaries in Liberia, sensed God calling them to the Gold Coast. In 1932, they started a small church in a remote town in northern Ghana called Tamale. They started the church where Stella’s family heard the gospel.
In a special Family Christmas service last year, our church had the privilege of connecting Stella with the Garlock family. We gave Stella copies of photographs from the Garlocks’ ministry the Assemblies of God had archived, including pictures of her grandparents and of the Tamale congregation. H.B. Garlock also wrote an article about those years, in which he mentioned a local businessman who spoke English and was saved and baptized — Stella’s grandfather. We gave Stella a collection of the Garlocks’ newsletters that included that article. Unbeknownst to Stella, our church also located the Garlocks’ daughter-in-law.
During our Dec. 18 Family Christmas service last year, we introduced Stella to Ruth Anne Garlock. Stella was completely overwhelmed. She cried tears of joy as she embraced Sister Garlock. You can watch that powerful encounter at http://subsplash.com/firstnlr/v/b2sfssn.
One more detail in this story clinches for me the meaning of Luke 2:10. In the 1930s, one of the churches that gave money to support H.B. and Ruth Garlock and send them to Tamale to build a church was First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Over 80 years ago, the church that Stella and Troy now attend helped send the Garlocks to Ghana so Stella’s grandfather would hear about Jesus and Stella and her family would one day be saved.
Perhaps, as you’re reading this, you wonder if what you have given to missions through the years has had an impact. You may never know in this life. But one day, you’ll see just how far God took your obedient sacrifice and how many lives He touched. You are part of His plan to reach out to all people with His love.
From WorldView, December 2017. To view the entire issue, please click here.
IMAGE - Stella Lowe embraces Ruth Anne Garlock for the first time.