An Eighty Year Legacy
By Bob Pajer
Yonkers Christian Assembly: A Brief History
In the spring of 1906, at an abandoned old building that had been at different times, a Methodist church, a warehouse, and a stable, a small band of Pentecostals led by William J. Seymour sought a deeper experience with God. After a time of seeking the Lord, the fire of the Holy Spirit fell upon that building and spread across the entire world eventually reaching Yonkers. Once here, the Azusa revival fires burned in a small group of spirit-filled believers and they started a church. A number of years later, an Assemblies of God pioneer work, started in 1923 by Matilda Stevenson, a former missionary to Africa, began what is now Yonkers Christian Assembly. Three people were responsible fororganizing our original church. Mary Graf, the mother of Betty Gladwell and Mr. & Mrs. Edwin Hooper. They along with Matilda Stevenson and Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Lee formed the foundation God used to build His present church in Yonkers.
In 1927 this dedicated group opened a store front church on Elm Street and one year later they became an Assembly of God constituent calling their church, "Pentecostal Gospel Hall.
Matilda Stevenson, already in her sixties, served on the mission field with her husband from 1896 to 1911. Her husband, Alvin, died in Africa leaving her with three children to raise. In 1914 she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues and was asked to leave the Mennonite church she was attending. Soon after, she became an Assemblies of God minister and later our first pastor.
Rev. Isenberger Rev. & Mrs. Richardson
Rev. Ted Gianapolis Rev. & Mrs. Williams
After Matilda Stevenson, Pastor Goodwin followed, then came Samuel Roickle, Lester Eisenberger, Russell Martin, Pete Richardson, Ted Gianopulos, and our present Pastor, James Williams. Betty Gladwell has witnessed all the joys and sorrows of Yonkers Christian Assembly's growth.Her mother, Betty Graf, enrolled Betty in Sunday School at the age of three and she has been a faithful member for over seventy-five years.
Through the years the church had periods of growth and decline. The largest periods of growth were during the late seventies and early eighties under Pastor Pete Richardson's leadership and the latter half of the nineties under the leadership of Pastor James Williams. Throughout its history Yonkers Christian Assembly has been a powerful witness for Jesus Christ in the City of Yonkers.
In 1982 over 60,000 pieces of literature explaining the plan of salvation were distributed to every home in Yonkers. Evangelistic street meetings have reached into neighborhoods with the Gospel for the past twenty years. Prison ministry, hospital visitation, children's ministry, ICI University Bible study courses, National Girls Ministries, and Royal Rangers, and citywide prayer meetings have been other outreach tools
Now in the 21st Century, we of the present day Yonkers Christian Assembly face the same crossroads as those who have gone before us. Will we continue to grow or will we stagnate? Will Yonkers Christian Assembly continue to be a powerful witness for the Gospel in our city or will we go the way of many other churches and dry up spiritually? The outcome will be determined by our commitment to Jesus Christ.
Can we learn from the past? Yes. Our lives are interwoven with the lives of those who built this church in the past. They were dedicated and persevering in spreading the Gospel. We have to follow their example. They have passed the baton to us. Their race is finished and they have become a part of the cloud of witnesses, cheering us on to victory. From the foundations of the world God had a plan for this church. Across the corridors of time, He saw the completed work. Our heritage lies in the past but our destiny lies in the future. Each of you plays an important part in this work. None are insignificant. You are God's workmanship; He put you here. Let us finish the work He has given us. Let us reach out with the message of hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.