Helping Others Answer the Call
by Cynthia J ThomasWednesday, December 22, 2021 2:00 PM
As director of missions advancement for U.S. Missions, Anthony Freeman brings 34 years of inner-city missions experience, including 28 years as an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary. He also has served as a Bible college president and professor, pastor, church planter, and street evangelist, and has done hurricane relief work.
Those experiences have combined to make Freeman keenly aware of the need for missions in the United States, but along the way he has learned that many churches and Christians don’t realize just how great that need is. Now 56, Freeman travels the nation helping other U.S. missionaries increase their ministry visibility through video.
Freeman and his wife, Melanie, met at Central Bible College in 1983. They worked in youth ministry at Springfield’s Faith Assembly, while Anthony attended Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. In 1987, they began their urban ministry journey in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They began working with U.S. Missions in 1993 and became missionaries in 1997, helping start the School of Urban Missions in New Orleans as well as in Oakland, California.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Freemans became involved in relief work in New Orleans, and in 2006 they planted All Nations Fellowship (ANF).
“The neighborhood had not had a consistent Pentecostal presence for 40 years,” says Freeman. “Churches had come and gone without a real understanding of the inner-city model.” That model includes addressing poverty, violence, vast numbers of single-parent families, and other factors which create unique ministry needs.
Along with hands-on inner-city work, the Freemans learned the importance of communicating the vision, as many U.S. churchgoers seemed only minimally aware of the mission fields in their midst. As an example, Freeman shares his own impressions when visiting missionary John A. Koski, who works among Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan.
Koski says living in a community of 40,000 Muslims is like living in another country.
“The average U.S. church member has no idea,” Koski says.
Complementing the work at All Nations Fellowship, the Freemans directed Compassion Corps International. CCI brings students into dormitory settings at All Nations Fellowship in partnership with the Louisiana Network Ministry School of Ministry and with Bridges Christian College. Bridges Christian College was founded in North Carolina in 2011 and moved to New Orleans in 2015 under new leadership, including Freeman as provost. The school also has built partnerships with Tulane University and Loyola University for student ministry.
As Compassion Corps teams assisted with street ministry and other All Nations outreach, Freeman started to see video ministry as a way to increase awareness of missions in the U.S., for All Nations Fellowship as well as for other missionaries across the nation.
“Young people are used to constant video such as TikTok,” says Freeman. “This type of promo is vital in presenting U.S. missionaries to a new generation.”
As Freeman prayed one day about finances for building needs at ANF, he says God spoke to him about coming alongside other missionaries. He already had been mentoring; and oldest son, Justus, and his wife Myrinda, had been praying about transitioning into the lead pastor role at All Nations.
However, spring of 2020 brought several challenges including COVID-19 shutdowns. They began creating videos to raise awareness of inner-city needs, such as sharing stories of gang violence and, homelessness. For instance, Max Parish, formerly a homeless addict, was led to Christ by a Christian woman at the store where he worked. After discipleship through Compassion Corps, he is now married, has a family, and serves as youth pastor at All Nations.
Now, Compassion Corps interns travel with the Freemans to visit missionaries and help with set-up, videography, and directing the story through off-screen questions to capture the adventure and drama. The videos can be used for church presentations or the links sent to inform donors.
Another Freeman son, John Mark, and his wife, Alyssa, are assistant pastors and media directors at All Nations; son Jordan and his wife, Jessalyn, serve with Connect International at Tulane and Loyola; and son Josiah is associate director of CCI.
The work can help solidify a calling to missions. Alexis Guillory had planned to enter foreign missions work, but COVID-19 restrictions sent her to Compassion Corps instead. The experience proved to be eye-opening, especially a visit with Trey and Becky Hancock, longtime missionaries to Muslims in the U.S.
“I’m a pastor’s kid, but my understanding of the U.S. as a mission field has grown tremendously,” says Guillory, 20. Now a U.S. Missions missionary associate, she serves as administrative assistant and helps with video production and editing.
A recent Alaska trip deeply stirred CCI team members, where Ministry Network Superintendent Bill Welch shared about the state’s 100-plus unreached remote villages, some accessible only by boat for only part of the year.
“I had read about Alaska’s high rates of alcoholism and depression, but seeing the harsh conditions brought new meaning,” says Guillory. “The hard work and sacrifices of these missionaries renew my commitment to missions every time I talk with them.”
As for the missionaries, they are grateful to Freeman and his team.
“Exposure is an incredible tool for us in U.S. Missions,” says Jason A. Brooks, lead pastor at AGORA Ministries, which reaches at-risk families in inner-city San Antonio. “Anthony got interviews, took video of ministry in action, and is creating video footage for our use. And equally important, this is someone with experience, who is encouraging and brings a lot of wisdom in so many areas.”