Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Call to Gloversville, Part 1

When Bob completed requirements for his Master of Divinity degree in December 1976, we were finally ready and eager to begin full-time ministry. The New York District of the Assemblies of God's "Missions Advance New York" (M.A.N.Y.) program, accepted us as new church planters. In January 1977, we made a reconnaissance trip to New York to determine where we would open a new church.

The Assistant Superintendent of the New York District, Rev. Leon Miles, who headed M.A.N.Y., had told us to take a map of New York State, compare it with a list of churches in the district at that time, and ask the Lord to direct our attention to the location He wanted us to go to start a new church. Both of us felt drawn to the  twin cities of Gloversville-Johnstown, "Gateway to the Adirondacks," in Fulton County, about 45 miles northwest of Albany, the state capital. There was no Assemblies of God church in the entire county. Neither of us had even heard of Gloversville prior to seeing it on the map.

The Wednesday evening before we left, even though we wouldn't be in church that Sunday, I went to the weekly choir practice at Central Assembly, as was my custom. Our large choir always took prayer requests and had a time of prayer at the beginning of each practice. That night, I asked them to pray for our safety and God's direction as we traveled to New York to decide where we would open a new church.

After choir practice, Irene Holsinger approached me. "Where in New York do you plan to go?"

She was a retired lady who was an active supporter of Evangel College (now Evangel University), whose son, Calvin Holsinger, was a professor there. We had known her for two years. She and her husband were members of our Sunday school class of retired ministers and missionaries. It was no secret to the class that we planned to go to New York to start a church soon, but this was the first time she'd spoken to either of us about our plans.

Previously, the district had asked us to look at Saugerties, just an hour's drive north of Newburgh, where Bob's folks lived. "I'm not sure," I said, "but probably somewhere in the Mid Hudson River Valley."

She looked me in the eye. "You ought to go to Gloversville. My daughter lives there. Her husband is the superintendent of schools, and they need an Assemblies of God church."

I felt like someone had turned on a light bulb. It sounded like a Macedonian call (Acts 16:9). That was the first time anyone had ever mentioned Gloversville to either of us. Was God using her to confirm that He was leading us in that direction? She gave us the Everharts' contact information, and the next day we called them. They invited us to stop by for lunch on our way from Newburgh to the district office in Syracuse.

January 1977 went into history for its severity with blowing snow and subzero temperatures. Buffalo received 20 feet of snow that month. And we drove from Springfield, Missouri to Newburgh, New York, in the worst of it. When we got bad gas in Ohio and broke down on the freeway, we huddled in our Volkswagen Super Beetle as snow whipped and whirled around us, rapidly dissipating the heat.

Every time a semi approached, Bob would open the window and hold out a simple red paper sign with "Send Help!" in white letters. After half an hour, we were chilled to the bone, and our feet were numb. We were thankful for the prayers of our church choir. Finally, a help truck drew alongside. Six-year-old Bobby and I climbed into the warm cab of the truck while the driver and Bob worked on the car.

After a brief visit with Bob's folks in Newburgh, we headed to Syracuse. On our way, we met with Barbara and Glen Everhart, who quickly became fast friends. When they had first arrived in Gloversville, they told us, they had put a notice in the newspaper to see if there was any interest in starting a church and had received no response. They were heavily involved in a church in Schenectady. They didn't encourage us to come, but they offered to assist us in every other way should we decide to come.

At our interview with the district officials, when they asked, "Where do you feel God is leading you to go?"
Bob answered, "To Gloversville."

Immediately, the Presbyters burst out in praises to God. "I just drove by there recently and prayed that God would send someone to Gloversville to start a church," several said.

Little did we know at the time that we were being thrust into the challenge of our lives! Knowing definitely that God had called us to that specific community gave us the confidence when the hard times came that we were in His will.

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