By Carl Stagner
In 1881, it had become painfully obvious that hell had stolen heaven’s ideal of God’s one, holy church. Where culture and government built dividing walls, the Church of God had the audacity to build bridges. Walking by faith and not by sight, our pioneers worked together to deposit into others the truth which had been deposited into them. They didn’t always see the results of their labor, and they could not have imagined the global movement that is the Church of God today. But they faithfully invested in the kingdom, and knew that unity meant working together—not just agreeing together. At the kickoff session of the Church of God Regional Convention in Anderson, the visible results of past investments into the kingdom were celebrated, offering the crowd of nearly 1,000 a blueprint for reclamation.
Milton Grannum is an example of what can happen, and does happen, when the church chooses to move together. Including his childhood in Guyana and new birth into the Church of God, the telling of Milton’s story is one that only he can do justice. During Milton’s sermon on Tuesday night, former missionaries Don and Betty Jo Johnson responded to his invitation to join him on the platform. The emotional moment underscored the power of investment into others out of the abundance God has given to us. Not only did Milton thank the missionary community for their on-the-field labor, but the work of those behind the scenes, as well. “I thank God for those who gave to the Missionary Board [today’s Global Strategy], for all the sacrifice they made.” Because, without your gifts, the sending of the missionaries who planted the seeds the Lord germinated was not—and is not—possible. Thank you.
After more than thirty years of faithful service in Haiti, missionaries John and Jodie Ackerman are retiring. It would be impossible to recount the number of individual deposits of love and grace the Ackermans have made on the mission field. Who knows how many seeds will sprout and bloom? Who knows just how many Milton Grannums may come out of their work? Yet in this uncertainty, the Ackermans consistently put their hand to the plow. Following the kickoff service, the Church of God honored John and Jodie with a reception and a prayer of thanksgiving.
When nearly a thousand Church of God people from near and far come together at the same time, in the same place, to worship the same Lord and Savior, incredible things happen. Such was the case on the opening night of the Church of God Regional Convention at Madison Park Church of God in Anderson, Indiana. The Spirit’s leading was evident, and exemplified in a powerful word of encouragement from the lips of Milton Grannum for the newly-appointed missionaries to Spain, Alejandro and Carmen De Francisco. Powerful also was an unplanned moment in which voices rang out in a verse of the heritage song, “Consecration.” Hearing the story of how the Lord orchestrated the beginning of these missionaries’ journey to Spain was simply inspirational, as was the news of the Church of God advancement into Liberia.
Regional Convention Day 2 promises even more inspiration and celebration. Ben Hardman, Arnetta McNeese Bailey, Steve Arterburn, and Reggie McNeal complete the lineup of excellent preachers and teachers of the Word. Our chaplains will gather for a special luncheon, as will many of the women in our movement with Christian Women Connection. From 1:00 until 2:00 in the afternoon, those interested in more time to glean insight from Ben Hardman’s teaching will join him for a “Conversation with Ben.” After the evening session, all are invited to a reception sponsored by Mid-America Christian University.