“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Most of us know these familiar words from Acts 1 that Jesus spoke to his disciples. Jerusalem certainly made sense as a starting point for the spread of the gospel and Judea beyond it … but why Samaria? It would be challenging for the Jewish disciples to take the gospel into Samaria. Yet Jesus spoke with authority; there was no negotiating going to Samaria with the gospel.
Pastor Emma Adams and her husband Alphie understand the vision which Jesus laid out in Acts 1:8 to go to the hard places. In Seaford, Delaware, both Emma and Alphie were tired of seeing friends lost to the snares of drugs and addictions. The pain of losing friends motivated them to launch Hope Church, but it wasn’t without hardship.
Pastor Emma and Alphie’s core launch group were unchurched people who didn’t have a preexisting value of tithing and serving, which are vital for any church launch. Hope Church’s launch date was scheduled for September 2020 but was delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In their first year, *Jared, a regular member of the worship team, died of an overdose. Pastor Emma admitted that when Jared died, neither she nor Alphie knew how to navigate the loss. Ministering in a modern-day Samaria is challenging.
Without fully realizing it, they were already equipped for ministry at Hope Church because of how God brought hope to their own lives. Both Emma and Alphie started drug and alcohol use in their teenage years which continued into adulthood, but God intervened and Emma gave her life to Jesus. She experienced an immediate cleansing from drinking, smoking, pornography and drug use. Emma began to read her Bible and practice prayer. She then sensed a call of ministry but did not know what to do with it.
Alphie was simultaneously amazed and bummed at the complete transformation he witnessed in Emma. Their marriage almost ended but the Holy Spirit was working in Alphie. He studied the apologetics of Christianity and remembers the Holy Spirit telling him, “You’ve seen and read the facts: you can choose to believe it or not.” Alphie chose to believe.
In those early days of believing, Emma and Alphie experienced multiple years of several heartbreaking church encounters and were at times ready to give up on their young faith.
Through the pain and struggle, the Holy Spirit stirred in Emma’s heart a desire for church planting. She had a vision of sitting at a table with people from all walks of life. Each had a place at the table and God had brought them there through Emma’s ministry. In time, Emma and Alphie healed from their hurt, began the process of becoming church planters and subsequently launched Hope Church.
Neither the pain and hardship experienced by Pastor Emma and Alphie nor the hardship of ministering in Delmarva is fruitless. The driving theme for Hope Church is that you can belong before you believe. “The gospel is preached, sin is preached against, but you belong here,” said Alphie.
The church’s most effective outreach is the word getting out that lives are being changed.
*Jenn, a former heroin addict, now has her first apartment furnished through the support of Hope Church. She works in a recovery unit, distributes Bibles and shares the gospel.
*Doug, an inmate reached through Hope Church’s prison ministry, is now discipling other men in the prison. Hope Church funded his education in Christian counseling, which he uses to help others heal from unresolved trauma and pain.
*Avery was hesitant to be baptized because the clapping and cheering of the celebrating congregation was too loud for her special needs. The people at Hope Church quieted down so she could participate in baptism also. Afterwards, Avery was excited to tell Pastor Emma, “I am filled with the Holy Spirit.”
A former member of the Latin Kings is now ONE YEAR clean and was baptized February 25, 2023, despite being assaulted while exiting a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.
All these people and more belong to the kingdom because the Holy Spirit has come on Pastor Emma and Alphie to be witnesses in the Samaria of Delmarva.
Jacob Gibson is senior pastor at LifeSpring Wesleyan Church, Richmond, Indiana, and graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University and Wesley Seminary, Marion, Indiana.
*Names of congregants may be changed or omitted for privacy or safety reasons.
*Originally published in “Wesleyan Life,” spring 2023. Click here to subscribe and access our archives.