Thirty-three years ago Jim Rivera sat on a park bench in downtown Philadelphia with heroin syringes hidden in his socks. Abused as a child, Rivera, who was 27 at the time, had been homeless and on drugs since the age of 10. “I felt abandoned. I wanted to end my life,” he says. “I thought I was a throwaway.” As he entertained these thoughts, a group of men approached him. Among them was David Wilkerson, founder of U.S. Missions Teen Challenge, and Tom Keinath, lead pastor of Calvary Temple International Assembly in Wayne, New Jersey.
They were in the city for an evangelistic campaign and told Rivera that Jesus had sent them. After anointing and praying over Rivera, they handed him a card with contact information for
Teen Challenge Philadelphia. Although initially annoyed, Rivera soon checked himself into the programme. Three days later, he committed his life to Jesus as Saviour while attending a Bible
study led by Pastor Steven Bogdan.
Upon completing the first stage of treatment, Rivera transferred to the Teen Challenge in Rehrersburg, Pennsylvania, where he met his future wife Deborah. At the center, he sensed a calling by God to reach the lost. Rivera earned his ministry credentials, and then became an intern at Pennsylvania-Delaware Ministry Network, before returning to Teen Challenge as a vocational administrator.
When he felt the time had come to plant a church, Rivera, who is Puerto Rican, chose Allentown, which has the second highest number of Hispanics per capita on the east coast. He began his ministry in the First Ward, a low-income, crime-ridden neighborhood. He and Deborah handed out bagged lunches and an invitation to attend a service in the gymnasium at a local school. That night he led 56 people to salvation decisions. Twenty-two years later, Rivera is still meeting the needs of the people at City Limits Assembly of God in Allentown. “To save a life, first meet the need, then save the soul,” Rivera says. “We must learn to earn our permission to be heard.”
Last year, Rivera helped spearhead the establishment of Executive Education Charter School, located 12 blocks from the church. The school draws 95 percent of its students from low-income families. “It’s the foundation of our program to teach respect, discipline, and character building and to ultimately make these children productive members of our society,” CEO Robert Lysek says. Rivera says the school helps fulfill his vision to reach the lost for Christ by embracing people at their need and helping them to live from a position of victory. Meanwhile, 20 years ago, Rivera purchased the park seat on which David Wilkerson sowed the seed in his heart, and he has led hundreds of people to the Lord on it!
Source: PE News
Bible Study: Exodus 6:6-8
PRAISE God that He can save and bestow ministerial gifts even upon a “throwaway.”
PRAY That this church and school will continue to minister the saving grace of God.