We were asked by Reverend Sam Ajayi along with Larry Buckland to join him in Phoenix, Arizona, for the weekend of October 26-28 to support a fledgling group of believers there. On Friday morning we arrived at the Portland airport, full of anticipation, but due to mechanical problems, our departure was delayed for five hours. After being met at the Phoenix airport by Amos Ogundipe, who is the appointed leader of the new group, we walked into the evening service during the sermon.
The theme of the sermon Friday evening, "Following God's Schedule and Timetable" seemed particularly appropriate for our circumstances (being late). Reverend Ajayi, who had arrived the day before, contrasted the way Jacob and Elijah each responded to God's schedule for their lives. Jacob got ahead of God by taking matters into his own hands, while Elijah waited upon the Lord to lead him step by step. Reverend Ajayi suggested that, according to God's timetable, now is the time for an Apostolic Faith group to become a reality in Arizona. He quoted, "To everything there is a season" (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and challenged those present to fill up the empty chairs with co-workers, neighbors and friends hungry for the truth. Although the group is small in number, there is certainly no limit to their enthusiasm and trust as they fervently prayed for God's will in the future. That first service and prayer meeting were a great start for the weekend to come.
Saturday afternoon the visitors were treated to a sightseeing trip,including the Phoenix Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo. We admired the many types of cactus and vegetation native to the desert environment, which, along with the many species of animals at the zoo, reminded us of the awesome creativity of our God.
Four visitors from the church in Tehachapi, California, also came to the service Saturday evening. The visitors were asked to carry the testimony service. Everyone was thrilled to hear different ones stand to their feet and tell how they had been led to the Lord. One sister from Tehachapi told how she received news of salvation and then saw her siblings and mother find the Lord too. She also told how her mother prayed for the church to be established in Phoenix. As that prayer was being answered, the mother was gladly preparing to be in the services, but just recently she achieved her greater goal of making Heaven her home.
Reverend Ajayi selected John 7:38 for the message that evening, which says, "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." He explained that in the Old Testament, God said that those who would come to Him "shall be as a tree planted by the rivers of water." Now, under the dispensation of grace, the Lord expanded the blessing by saying that those who believe in Him shall not only receive blessings, but shall also dispense blessings to others. Reverend Ajayi exhorted the saints to let the "rivers" flow bigger and wider in their own lives so they could be witnesses to those around them in the Phoenix area. He said "There is no limit to how many you can touch if you let God widen that river of living water in your life." Having been encouraged to let God increase that "river" in our lives, the prayer service that followed was sweet, with the worshipers seeking more of the Lord's Spirit in their lives.
The Friday and Saturday services were held at the Residence Inn Marriott Hall, but due to prior commitments, the Sunday services were held at the Crown Plaza Phoenix Hotel Conference Hall.
The Sunday morning service began with a French horn and clarinet duet by Larry Buckland, from Portland, and Bunmi Ogundipe, from Phoenix. This was followed by three choir selections. Two singers from Portland and one from Tehachapi joined the Phoenix choir for the prelude. During the first congregational song, "I Have the Joy," everyone greeted one another hearty handshakes and hugs.
Joe Sand, a Native American from the Phoenix area, who has for years attended the Portland and Midwest camp meetings, was asked to give his testimony. He said that after he was saved, fellow Native Americans told him that the Gospel was the "white man's religion," but he stood true to God for many years and is thankful for the group God has now established so that he can worship with them. Before the message, Albert Udofia sang, "The Heart's Cry," written by Florence Crawford.
The text chosen for the morning sermon was 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. Reverend Ajayi contrasted the Rapture to the plume of smoke and roar of a spacecraft at lift-off. At the Rapture, there will be no smoke or noise, just a "going up" that will happen instantaneously and simultaneously to all the saints of God throughout the world. There will be no chariots of fire as with Elijah; but it will be like Enoch who "was not; for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). It will be the greatest event the world will ever witness! Consider the consternation of those left behind, as babies and children, who have not reached the age of accountability, vanish throughout the world from their non-Christian parents, teachers or guardians! Reverend Ajayi stressed that there are requirements to being included in that event. Just as Ivy League schools have requirements, God also has requirements for those that will be in His Church. God's church is not an organization, a denomination, or a congregation. It is a glorious and invisible Church and only God know who its members are. His church is "without spot or wrinkle," being constantly washed in the Blood of the Lamb. To be included in that select group one must watch and pray. Each one has the opportunity to be a part of that glorious Church, and we can all make it by God's grace. Fervent prayer and soul searching followed the sermon.
After the prayer meeting, sixteen people join together for a time of food and fellowship before a few had to return to their posts of duty. Although some returned home, the Lord brought in visitors to the Sunday evening service. These were co-workers and friends of those from Phoenix, and their attendance gave a boost of excitement. During the testimonies, a brother who relocated from Georgia about two years ago told how he and his wife had been praying for a church to attend. He said they had planned to start a new church, but that did not work out. Then one day at work, his wife heard a young man singing a Christian song and asked if he was a Christian. The young man told her yes, and said that he attended the Apostolic Faith Church headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Her response was, "That's the same church I attended in Georgia!" Her husband said he know why his plans to start a church failed: God was already preparing a church in Phoenix, and they are thrilled to be a part of it. How important it is to let our light shine wherever we are.
The text for the sermon was 2 Kings 7:1-9, which tells the story of the besieging of Samaria, the famine that followed, and the discovery by the four lepers that the Syrian army had fled, and left everything behind. Reverend Ajayi stressed the words of the leper:"This day is a day of good tidings." He said, "Right now is the day of good tidings. Go out and publish the good tiding to the people of Phoenix!" Although there are only six saints in the Phoenix group, there were only four lepers in Samaria - and God used them deliver a large city from famine. Reverend Ajayi admonished them to tell others that Jesus can save and deliver from sin, to share their testimonies, and to invite people to church. He warned that some will despise them and may not come, but said to tell them anyway. Only God knows who will listen and respond, and what God did for one He will surely do for others. God will give grace and power to publicize His great works. A good prayer service followed the sermon. What a great closing for the birth of a church!