There was much celebration and gratitude as the ministers and lay leaders of the River of Life Conference met in person on Saturday, April 17, 2021 at Bethel Life PHC in Greenville, Pennsylvania. After having to cancel the annual conference in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, we were all delighted to meet again. The conference made provision for temperature checks, masks, and social distancing for the meeting. Sadly the assistant superintendent, Holly Terry, was not with us as her father, Mr. Bill Chenault, had passed away a few days earlier. Holly and her mother and family were remembered in prayer.
Bethel Life is pastored by Rev. Kent Bell. As I entered the sanctuary, I was delighted to see this large reminder of the IPHC identity from Isaiah 54:2, 3. The IPHC is a Place of Hope and a People of Promise.
Bishop Adams began the conference session and introduced members of the conference executive council who gave reports and updates. Four things stood out in particular.
The first was the emphasis on prayer from Bishop Adams. The conference bought for each local church the books, workbooks, and video series of Rev. Doug Small’s teaching on Prayer: The Heart of It All. This resource is part of the IPHC focus on Arise in Prayer and there is much emphasis across the IPHC on this important part of our ministry and relationship to Jesus (see website).
Secondly, Kent Bell presented the strong financial condition of the conference in spite of the Covid-19 impact on local churches. In particular, he showed that the conference in 2020 for the fifth straight year increased its World Missions Global Outreach Offering.
The third was an emphasis on clergy continuing education by Rev. Jim Flack. It is rare that this important part of clergy development is mentioned at an annual conference, and it was encouraging to hear the emphasis. There are numerous resources available for IPHC ministers at the IPHC’s Continuing Education site.
Fourthly, the conference is using Hope Centers (Hope Center Ministries) as a way of helping men and women struggling with addictions.
The conference took time to recognize and remember the life of Mr. David Robinson, a layman at Bethel Life who served on the IPHC Finance Committee until his death on January 22, 2021 from Covid-19 complications. He was a successful businessman and active in Men’s Ministries. David was a US Army veteran of the 101st Airborne. Besides the love of his family and church, David was an active participant in Civil War reenactments at Gettysburg in the 10th Pennsylvania, Company G.
Presiding officer Presiding Bishop Doug Beacham led in the licensure of Rev. Julia Augustine. Her life is an amazing story of God’s grace, as she grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, later spent time in the novitiate (as a novice, a nun in training for service to Christ), and then came to the Pentecostal experience and the IPHC.
Bishop Beacham challenged the delegates with a message on Arise 2033, the IPHC vision to take the gospel across the USA and around the globe. A map of the location of the River of Life congregations was shared, highlighting the possibilities for this conference that extends across western Pennsylvania, northeast Ohio, and southwest New York state.
In addition, Bishop Beacham encouraged the ministers to participate in the IPHC 403b Retirement Plan, and emphasized the July 23rd Prayer for the Heart of the Nation at the Heart of the Nation in Lebanon, Kansas.