Paul Vizzini, Arizona
Phoenix is the sixth largest and the second fastest growing city in the USA. Thousands from the Spanish speaking countries to the south are among those migrating to this city in the Valley of the Sun. West Phoenix, with its estimated 300,000 Spanish speaking residents, is a field "white unto harvest." In December, 2000, more than 50,000 homes were visited with Spanish texts, tracts and invitations to gospel meetings. This Seed Sower distribution resulted in scores of contacts. It was evident from the response that there was a thirst for spiritual things.
Gospel meetings began on January 5, 2001 with brethren John Dennison and Shad Kember. From the first night, the meetings were well attended and the initial series continued for more than nine weeks, as interest remained strong and souls were being saved. Meetings were held seven nights each week in the front section of a small factory called Aqua Spa, but this environment did not hinder the Lord from working among many souls.
Among the first to respond to the invitations were two men from Central America. These two men had assembly connections and were the subject of their mothers' prayers for many years. The Lord was about to graciously answer. Upon seeing the John 3:16 text at his door, Willy remembered gospel messages he had heard, as a child in Guatemala. It had been more than 15 years since he had attended a gospel meeting and salvation suddenly became the most important issue in his life. He was at the first meeting, he continued nightly and was saved in February. Willy's wife also began attending meetings and was saved in September.
Jose had been saved in Honduras, but had gotten away from the assembly. While visiting clients in West Phoenix he noticed two young women delivering texts. He thought, "I'm sure that these girls are from the Gospel Hall!" (A commendation of the lovely Christian appearance of our sisters!) He received a Seed Sower packet as they passed his car and he too attended the first night. He had prayed that very morning about finding a place that simply followed the word of God. Unknown to these two praying mothers, God was working in their sons' lives a thousand miles away! This is an encouragement to parents to "pray without ceasing! "
John and Shad were kept busy visiting during the afternoons and again after meeting. In some cases, meetings were arranged in apartment complexes during the afternoon, and then folks were encouraged to attend the evening gospel meeting. And the Lord continued to bless. Following the nightly series, the meetings were reduced to Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights. Although the original intent was to give teaching ministry on Monday and Thursday, many nights were changed to gospel with the attendance of new or searching souls.
In April, Freddy, a 24 year old quadriplegic man, was contacted while sitting outside his apartment. He showed some interest and agreed to come to meeting. Transporting him was difficult so we did not really expect to see him. To our great surprise, he arrived that very night with his mom, who had pushed him for more than a mile through heavy traffic and 108 degree heat. They never stopped attending. Freddy and his mom were soon saved, and along with Willy, were baptized in August, 2001 at the factory where more than 100 attended.
On a visit to the area, Brother Bill Coleman from Hatboro, Pa., asked if used clothing might be helpful in the work. The assembly followed through by sending a 500 pound crate of clothing that was dispersed after a gospel meeting. Since then, the Newington, CT and Jackson, MI assemblies plus many other assemblies and individuals across the US and Canada have sent help for the needy. There have been upwards of 250 people present at one of these distributions where the gospel is first faithfully proclaimed. An older couple that had been saved and baptized first came into the hall for one of these meetings. Also, medical clinics have been held, and these too are well attended. Patients leave with tracts and texts for their spiritual need and medicine for their physical need.
The Lord led the Dennison family to relocate to Arizona in July, 2001 to be closer to the work as the new believers needed teaching and nurturing. Brother Shad Kember continues to help as often as possible helping with meetings, door-to-door visitation and shepherding the new believers. And when he is not here in Phoenix, he keeps up with the folks by phone.
The Lord graciously opened the door to a more suitable building for the work. A very simple, well situated primitive Baptist church building was for sale. The asking price was reduced and after much prayer a purchase offer was submitted. With great joy, the building was turned over on September 10.- Remodeling began the next day and the first meeting in the new facility was held on September 30. Nightly gospel meetings began with the opening of the new hall and again, the Lord blessed in salvation.
Children's work began in November, 2001. The "Escuela Biblica" has continued every Thursday night since then with good attendance of up to 50 children plus a good number of unsaved parents. This has proven to be a valuable tool to teach the new believers basic Bible stories.
A number of believers and winter visitors from the Sunnyslope assembly have labored consistently in a variety of ways such as: transporting folks to and from meetings, providing cookies for after-meeting refreshments, baby sitting little children so parents can listen more easily, sewing head coverings for the women, building a new kitchen and resurfacing the interior and exterior walls of the building, etc. And as most of these fellow helpers don't understand Spanish, it's to their eternal credit that they have sat through countless meetings just for the sake of the gospel.
More than sixty believers converged on West Phoenix for a second Seed Sower distribution in December, 2001. What a joy to have those saved as a result of the first distribution work alongside us to reach others. On the first night of the distribution, a group of 50, including the new believers plus some Seed Sowers, met at the Harold Bell home to sing hymns to him in Spanish. The new saints wanted to express their thanks for the effort he made to bring the gospel to them. Brother Bell went to be with the Lord the following week. Gospel meetings were held during the first four weeks of 2002 with five souls professing faith. Among those saved were Ricardo and Adriana, a young couple with solid character, who have hardly missed a meeting since. After the series, a Sunday morning ministry meeting was started to give teaching on assembly truth. In April, the baptized brethren began meeting on Tuesdays for teaching, prayer and Bible study.
Visiting workers from Mexico, including brethren Alves, Cain, Kelly and Thiessen, all made appreciated visits in 2002. In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Doherty have been an excellent help during their winter visits. Brother Doherty has helped with gospel and ministry, while his dear wife has worked among the Spanish speaking women. It has been a delight and privilege to see how the Lord has brought along the right kind of help, both spiritual and material, just at the right time. On September 14, five believers obeyed the Lord in baptism after brethren Kember and Alves preached to a full hall. This was the fourth baptism since August, 2001.
On the following Lord's Day, September 15, the assembly met to break bread for the first time with seventeen in fellowship. It was wonderful to witness seven of the newly saved brethren worship acceptably. Visitors from eight other assemblies joined in sharing the joy of the West Phoenix saints at this memorable meeting. Brethren Alves, Thiessen and Kember later shared an afternoon ministry meeting. The addition of this Spanish speaking assembly marks the third assembly within Phoenix city limits. Lord willing another Seed Sower distribution is planned for December 25 - 29. All type of help is needed, from stuffing packets and driving vans to distributing them. Any interested in coming to help, please contact Brother Tim McCalley of Cedar Rapids, IA.
The Lord has been gracious and kind, and we pray for His continued blessing in salvation, for the spiritual growth of the believers, and also for a number of others that have been saved and not yet baptized. Even in these "last days" we echo the words of the psalmist when he said, 'The works of the Lord are great" (Psalm 111:2).