WESTMINSTER — For 13 years now, a group has met monthly to offer each other food, fellowship, inspiration and encouragement.
On the third Saturday of each month, the Carroll County Chapter of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International gathers at 6:30 p.m. at the Westminster Fire Hall.
The group numbers about 20 active members, representing various occupations and Christian faiths including Catholic, Methodist and Pentecostal. As many as 60 men and women have attended the meetings, which include prayer, scripture readings and dinner, as well as a guest speaker.
"We try to win souls to Jesus by inviting people who don't know the Lord to meetings," said Joseph D. Mish Jr., president of the group.
Mark Wadel, a fellowship charter member, explained that "full gospel" refers to the fullness of the Holy Spirit whose power was poured out on the disciples at Pentecost.
"We believe this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is still valid today as evidenced by the gifts in people's lives," he said.
The group's mission is not confined to one night a month.
"We have a ministry at the meetings, go to the hospital and Westminster Nursing Home, and minister at the local jail four times a year," he said.
Mish said the organization wasfounded to meet the needs of laymen, offering them an opportunity tominister to one another.
"It provides fellowship, deepens commitment and exposes people to the gifts of the Spirit spoken of by the Apostle Paul," said Mish.
A Sykesville resident and retired teacher,Mish was elected to the county school board in November. He also works as a substitute teacher.
The Carroll County Fellowship was organized in 1976 at the New Windsor Service Center by 15 men who felt the need for a ministry that would reach out to men, offering them a closer relationship to an evangelistic organization, said Wadel.
"The organization has produced fruit with souls saved, men active in churches, and healings," said Mish. "We share the love of Jesus."
Wadel said he experienced the power of the Spirit in 1976 when "God did a changing of who I was inside, and I became a completely changed person."
Five years ago, the Westminster resident and kitchen designer began pastoring the Lighthouse Worship Center, a Mennonite congregation.
He and the 20 members plan to build a sanctuary in a few months on Old Manchester Road.
He said the group helped him attain a worldwide vision.
"The Spirit of God will move in a direction least expected," he said. "I'm involved in helping missions in Peru and Kenya."
He added that the work of the Holy Spirit has enabled him to touch people "whom I used to walk by -- like alcoholics and drug addicts."
Wadel shared an experience he had in showing concern for such a man in Westminster.
Several times, he said, he had given theman money. One day, he sensed an urgency that the man should receiveChrist. Instead of just giving him money and passing him by, Wadel asked the man to kneel down and pray with him.
The Spirit impressedon me that it was the 11th hour for this man, Wadel said.
Two days later, the new Christian convert died in a fire.
Founded in 1952in Los Angeles by Demos Shakarian, an Armenian owner of a dairy herdand milk-hauling business, the Full Gospel Business Men's FellowshipInternational now has some 2,700 chapters in 83 countries.
The non-profit organization of Christian laymen from nearly every denominational background is dedicated to reaching people around the world with news of Jesus Christ. As the largest organization of its type in the Christian world, it serves as an arm of the church, encouraging itsmembers to be active and support their congregations.
Another county chapter is located in Mount Airy. That Full Gospel Business Men'sFellowship group, comprised of members from Carroll, Howard and Montgomery counties, meets the first Friday of each month at 7 p.m. at Mount Airy Elementary School.
For more information on the Carroll County Chapter, call 795-0917, and the Mount Airy Chapter, 795-3298.