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Rose Cannon loves to tell others about the Lord, and her preferred method of introduction is a tract accompanied by a little piece of candy.
Valentine’s Day a year ago proved to be no exception, as Cannon encountered Theresa Arons at a gym. Cannon handed Arons, who has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (LGMD), some gospel literature along with chocolate.
Afterwards, Arons accepted an invitation to the church Cannon attends, Living Waters Christian Fellowship in Fallbrook, an unincorporated California city about 50 miles north of San Diego. Locals dub the place the avocado capital of the U.S.
Arons, who says she never went to church during a dysfunctional childhood, accepted the Lord as Savior and was baptized in the Holy Spirit last May while attending a revival service conducted by Assemblies of God evangelist Doyle Jones.
The 38-year-old Arons makes the mile-long trek to church on the street in her motorized wheelchair because the area has no sidewalks. Although she has a reflective sign on the back of the chair, the trip is risky due to traffic.
But Arons, a single mother with a 12-year-old autistic son, says immersing herself in Bible study has been a blessing, as has the friendship she’s developed with Cannon, whom she views as a mother figure.
“Rose is an awesome person,” Arons says. “I respect her so much.”
LGMD is a progressive muscle weakness disease. Arons began exhibiting symptoms during youth. In junior high, running became difficult; by high school she fell down regularly from fatigue. Now she has a daytime caregiver.
Cannon, 70, emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a 13-year-old girl. She accepted Jesus as Savior at 42 when a co-worker at the Dial Corporation evangelized her. Today, Cannon hosts a Living Waters Connections group in her home, is part of the church’s nursing home ministry, and serves on the congregation’s board.
Interaction between churchgoers heartens Steve D. Slater, who admits that building disciples hasn’t been a priority since he became lead pastor at Living Waters in 2014. Slater and leaders from the church, which has 70 regular attendees, participated in quarterly meetings last year of the Acts 2 Journey facilitated by national consultant Ron McManus. The AGTrust Church Transformation Initiative is designed to help pastors and other congregation leaders strengthen their church’s mission, vision, and values while creating a strategic plan to become a more firmly established Spirit-empowered body.
“As pastor, I’ve learned I need to encourage ownership among the people and not keep the ball all to myself,” says Slater, who, with his wife, Nola, served as an Assemblies of God world missionary in Fiji for a decade before spending a couple of years as missionary in residence at Vanguard University. “Through this Acts 2 process we’ve learned the importance of going outside our walls.”
Slater, 50, believes the church is poised for growth in a community with a growing Hispanic population, a sizable number of retirees, and a noticeable presence of veterans due to the nearby Marines Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
“When people come into Living Waters the first thing we want for them is to experience God,” says the bivocational Slater, who also drives an elementary special needs school bus four hours each weekday. “I know people are busy, but we need to be busy for the Lord.”