Eric Black — Pastor in Friend, Nebraska

Friend Christian Assembly in Friend, Nebraska, has announced that Eric Black has accepted a call to serve as the church’s senior pastor, beginning his ministry in Friend in early July.

Originally from the Midwest, Eric, his wife, Cindy, and his family returned to the U.S. this past spring after spending 12 years as a missionary to Nigeria where Eric was working with the Center for Biblical Studies in Aba in southeastern Nigeria. Since 2004, they were members/missionaries with Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle on Long Island.

Eric and Cindy are parents to four girls and two boys: Hannah, Jillian, Emily, Elijah, Caleb, and Naomi.

Eric and Cindy Black

Friend Christian Assembly has been in Friend for 88 years. By 1932 the Friend Gospel Tabernacle was renting the vacant Baptist Church in town as a meeting place. In 1968 construction on a new church home along Highway 6 was started and by January of 1969 a dedication service had been held.

Through the years, Friend Christian Assembly has equipped and sent a number of ministers to serve in various places in the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies, including Warren Heckman, Ron Drake, and Branden Dyer.

 

Celebrating 50 Years

The whole world took note in 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin became the first to set foot on the moon.

That same summer, however, something of even greater significance took root in the farm fields of northern Minnesota, just south of Fosston — Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of ministry at the camp, which since its start has served the area congregations of the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.

Humble Beginnings

In the camp’s early days, facilities and amenities were scarce. It began as a simple vision of several from Bethel Assembly in Fosston. The new pastor, Jake Toews, along with about a dozen men from the church soon arranged to purchase a farm on the east shore of Sand Hill Lake. Eventually more than a dozen churches invested in the vision and formed a board to oversee finances and decision-making.

Glen Forsberg, currently “Fellowship Pastor” to Canadian FCA pastors was the speaker at this year’s anniversary celebration. He recalled his first visit to the newly purchased farm just after he became pastor of Full Gospel Chapel in Steinbach, Manitoba.

Many from his Canadian congregation partnered with Minnesotans to clean up the grounds. Volunteers moved in an old church (purchased for $1) to hold services, setting it on a basement that became the dining hall. Kitchen utensils were donated from the air base in Duluth, Minnesota. A canteen was added. The farm’s granary became a girl’s dorm; the barn became the boy’s dorm. Later a large tent was pitched to hold bigger crowds until eventually the current chapel was erected.

Early campers overcame many challenges. They had no showers. (“Use the lake,” they were told.) For toilets they had rustic outhouses. They fought “duck lice” in the lake. They walked dirt paths instead of concrete. For years volunteers donated time and equipment to harvest crops on the property to defray camp expenses.

Over the years dozens of camp managers, cabin counselors, and pastors contributed their time and energy for ministry and to maintain and improve the grounds. Others joined in to pour concrete, erect buildings, shingle roofs, paint walls, and clean.

With God’s help, they gradually transformed the land. Hay, corn, and wheat gave way to a spiritual harvest. Those visionaries believed they would reap what they sowed — and they did.

50 Years and Counting

Year by year the impact of SHLBC has grown. “My greatest recollection,” says Forsberg, “is youth and adults discovering their personal relationship  with Jesus — [along with] the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.” He remembers the camp as a healthy social time and, even more, “the place where you went to meet God!”

Stories of miracles live on. When Pastor Warren Heckman’s son, Garth, took an awkward dive into the lake and broke his neck, some tried to determine how serious his injuries were and asked if he could move his head — precisely the opposite of what should have been done. God spared Garth from further damage, however, and the doctors soon had him in a protective brace.

Another time, more than 200 campers survived a deadly, night-time tornado. After it ended, campers and leaders searched by flashlight through the debris, looking for the injured. Despite many broken and splintered ironwood trees, the searchers found no casualties. “Everyone was whole and alive!” says Forsberg. “There was not a broken bone among us.”

One tree had smashed a small camper — just moments after Pastor Virgil and Ruth Rasmussen from Cloquet, Minnesota, had exited it. In the tent next to the camper was their young son, Steve, now pastor of Bethel Christian Fellowship in St. Paul.

On the Move

Today Steve Rasmussen remembers the powerful influence various camp speakers had on him as he grew up. Through them his heart was stirred toward ministry — and he wasn’t alone in that. Others also trace their own encounters with God’s Spirit to SHLBC, where they sought God and answered his call.

Other memories linger from those early days, of course. laughter and fun, great friendships (some for a lifetime), and even meeting a future spouse.

The list of accomplishments at the camp over the years is long and impressive. But physical improvements pale in comparison to the spiritual changes. Many, now serving as ministers, missionaries, or church leaders, look back to SHLBC as a significant, formative time in their walk with the Lord.

In 50 years, Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp has truly impacted the world. And that’s worth celebrating!

Pastor Glen Forsberg who attended camp in the early years and who has ministered occasionally through the years since returned to challenge and inspire this year's Family Camp.

Fifty years ago an old rural church building was trucked to Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp to serve as the first site for powerful preaching and altar ministry.

Soon the camp needed more space for services and erected a large tent.

Those attending this year's Family Camp took time in the chapel to remember, looking at photographs from previous years.

Ministers Ordained

After retiring from careers in public service, the congregation and pastors of Journey Christian Church (Cloquet, MN) set aside into the ministry two lay ministers on June 23 and recognized them for their spiritual gifts and callings.

Pastor Hollis Graves charges two ministers standing with their wives during their ordination service at Journey Christian Church June 23, 2019. L-R: Fay and Jon Haataja, Grace and Dave Hall. [Photo by Walt Lindquist.]

Jon Haataja, retired from the Duluth police force but now continues to serve as a police chaplain. For years he has served in the church in ministering to youth, children, and others. He is married to Fay, who is the director of children’s ministries at Journey Christian Church.

Dave Hall, retired from his counseling career after working in medical facilities and, more recently, for Carlton County in Minnesota. Before retiring, he volunteered a number of hours weekly to lighten the counseling load of the pastors at the church. Now he plans to give a couple of days a week to an ongoing counseling ministry at the church.

Dave spoke at all three weekend services about the one leper in ten who turned back from his assignment to go see the priest in order to give thanks to Jesus. He shared his personal life stories of how Jesus had transformed him. Jon also gave testimony to the grace of God and his own journey into ministry.

Passing the Baton

All Nations Family of Churches Transitions to a New Era

Pastor Jim Olson, along with pastors and elders of the ANFC, pray for Pastor Sam Snyder and Pastor Justin Byakweli.

The All Nations Family of Churches, eight multicultural and multilingual congregations that formed out of Bethel Christian Fellowship in Saint Paul, Minnesota, witnessed a major shift in direction as they gathered for their annual combined outdoor service and picnic on June 2nd.  This group of FCA churches, which have been led for a number of years by Pastor Jim Olson, is transitioning leadership as they step into the next season of their ministry together.

Jim, who stepped away from pastoral ministry a couple of years ago to minister as President of the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation, passed the baton of leadership to Sam Snyder and Justin Byakweli. Sam is Pastor of Cross Culture Community Church in Minneapolis and current president of the USA Fellowship of Christian Assemblies National Board. Justin is Pastor of the International Christian Fellowship in St. Paul. Both of the new leaders were selected by the All Nations Family of Churches joint pastoral and elder team.

During the commissioning service and the messages by the two new appointees given in response, English was translated publicly into three other languages. The ANFC consists of congregations who worship in English, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Nepali, Oromo, Karen, French, and Swahili. Many of the members are refugees and immigrants who have settled in the Twin Cities’ area in recent years. The churches and leadership share relationships, resources, some facilities space, and a unified vision.

At their recent leadership retreat, the diverse group of leaders focused on a growing clarity of their calling for the future: To Manifest the Kingdom of God as they Mature, Mobilize, and Multiply life-giving and joy-filled churches that are houses of prayer for all nations.

Pastor Justin Byakweli sharing about the call to Mature together as individuals, as churches, and as a Family of Churches.

Pastor Sam Snyder sharing about the call to Mobilize and Multiply as individuals and as churches.

Special Honor for Davies

Bob Davies, along with several other veterans of the U.S. armed forces, was honored the Veterans Service Award by California State Senator Jeff Stone in May. The award is based on both military service and the contributions made in the veteran’s community after returning to civilian life.

Davies serves as CEO of Community Outreach Ministry, which is affiliated with the FCA. The Wildomar, California, organization helps at-risk children break family cycles of poverty, illiteracy, drugs, gangs, and incarceration. Davies and his wife, Mona, work to give “kids a second chance to be winners and champions,” through a variety of outreaches, camping, mentoring, and seasonal Christmas programs.

Born in England, Davies also lived in Canada before ending up in California. He was drafted in 1966, joined the Air Force, and was assigned to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines as an aircraft technician. He spent nearly a year and a half deployed to Vietnam during the TET Offensive in 1968.

California State Senator Jeff Stone, Bob Davies, and Rev. Dr. Mona Davies at the award ceremony.