The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW) took a unique step during its annual convention in New Orleans by not simply encouraging attendance, but mobilizing participants in community ministry projects such as providing housing, food, and clothing to the less fortunate.
"One of the things this convention did was to take our outreach efforts to a new level," Timothy Moore, director of media relations for PAW, told The Christian Post on Monday. The week-long conference ended last Saturday.
"We have been able to do tangible things to help impact the community as opposed to just going into a city as a lot of church organizations do and having meetings and worship services, and then leaving without really ever reaching into the communities and touching people's lives," Moore said.
The organization's 97th annual convention kicked off with a service focused on Christian unity. PAW is the fourth-largest Pentecostal church organization in the world.
The unity service was a joint meeting between the conventions of PAW and the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith (PCAF), an organization that was formed by former PAW members in 1957. The service on Aug. 5, in which 4,000 people came to listen to PAW Presiding Bishop Charles H. Ellis III speak, marked the second consecutive year the two organizations gathered together during their conventions.
The two organizations also partnered together for a Habitat for Humanity project in which they helped provide a house for a displaced single father and his two sons, who were able to return to New Orleans from Memphis where they lived after a hurricane had destroyed their home.
This is the first time the convention has been held in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. Prior to the disaster, PAW had only about 15 churches in Louisiana. Afterward that number dropped to 10, and some congregations that once had 400 people are now averaging about 100 after many of their congregants left the state for good.
Moore told CP in an interview last week that one reason for holding the convention in New Orleans is to help area PAW churches "know that they're not out there alone," to show the organization's commitment to reaching that region of the U.S. and to help a community as it continues to rebuild.
"We felt that being in New Orleans at this time gives us an opportunity to really show the love of Christ in a tangible way," said Moore.
"We didn't go in and just have convention-as-usual," he said. "Instead of spending all our time in hotels, we actually reached into the community and had some tangible impact on the lives of people there – hopefully to the point of impacting their lives towards salvation."
Organization elder LaVelton Daniel, an adviser to the Convention Evangelism and Outreach team, told CP that PAW doesn't go into a community and "reinvent the wheel." Instead, they partner with such organizations as the Salvation Army to help provide food and clothing.
"We don't limit our service to people only for their spiritual needs," LaVelton said. "We try to be holistic in our approach even though we always have a biblical desire to help people. We try to help them with their natural needs and if that is all they want then we know we gave."
Moore said that Presiding Bishop Charles H. Ellis III has been instrumental in the organization having a greater community service focus. Bishop Ellis' administration began shortly before last year's convention took place in Orlando. Also, during the conference, PAW presented a check to a school in Liberia it has funded for several decades.
"We reached out during this convention and made a substantial contribution to this school," Moore said.