A HISTORY OF ZION CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLY
Our church in Ulysses, Pennsylvania was originally called Hebron Tabernacle, but it was changed to Zion Christian Assembly in 1991. We began the church in 1982 under the leadership of Pastor Paul Caram. Since then he has been the Senior pastor, with the exception of a two year period in 1983 to 1985 when Pastor Eldon Kropf and his wife came with their family to pastor here before going to Africa as missionaries. Pastor Donald Miller became the Assistant Pastor of ZCA in 1986. Pastor Phillip Vaughn joined him as an Assistant Pastor in 1999 along with Gerald Russell as our elder.
Our first church service was held on July 4th, 1982 in the Ulysses Community Building, and services continued there until August 1983. We then purchased Pastor Chris and Debbie Haley’s home on main street Ulysses. For a few short years this became our church home. Then, after much prayer and several years of planning, God enabled us to move to our permanent church building on Route 49 Ulysses. We had our first service there in October of 1988 in the finished basement of our new building. Because it was the conviction of our small congregation to build debt free, it was another seven years before we moved upstairs into our lovely, new sanctuary in May of 1995.
Since our beginning in 1982, we continue to stand amazed at how God has repeatedly moved on our behalf, as we have obediently sought to fulfill His purposes for our church and our small, but faithful, congregation. The first miracle of God came when we were given a beautiful seventeen acre parcel of land, which was donated by Pastor Don and Jeanette Miller. Since then we have watched God show His greatness through many miracles too numerous to mention in this brief history. Yet, because we know it honors God every time we declare His marvelous works, we feel obliged to enumerate some of the supernatural provisions we have received through the years. As we share these blessings, it is our hope that many who are also believing God to move in their midst in a similar way will be encouraged and strengthened by this testimony.
The First Phase
After receiving this beautiful piece of farmland, our congregation began making plans for a new church building, and very soon God graciously began to perform His wonderful works. The first miracle came when He sent Christian architect, Jack Thorp, who created the blue prints for our building at no charge to us. Clarence McKinney, a Christian contractor, offered to help us lay out our church building site, later coming back to make sure we had a firm foundation—all at no cost to us! Paul Watson, a local businessman, offered to excavate, grade, and create the driveway on our property. When we tried to pay him, he would not even allow us to pay for the fuel that ran his equipment. Another miracle came when Ed Button, a Supervisor of a large office complex, invited us to come to his warehouse to freely choose anything we felt we needed for our new building. What a joy it was to load up enough carpeting to complete the entire downstairs, along with doors and frames, ceiling fixtures and lights, all of which fully equipped us with everything we needed to finish our fellowship hall and classrooms.
We are happy to report that God continued to provide for our needs in miraculous ways! Next, he sent David Ross, a landscape contractor. When he saw us preparing a small section of our lawn for seeding, he immediately offered to bring all of his equipment to seed our entire lawn at no cost to us. Also, when the time came to prepare our sanctuary, the Lord sent Eric Landstrom, a professional carpenter, who built our sanctuary pillars, wall cross, communion table, pulpit, and the panels in the front of our altar area. He gave us two weeks of his valuable time and would only accept a small donation. He and Jessie Vaughn, our artistic designer, worked together, giving their time and talents for the glory of God. John Mallery, a Christian businessman, provided oak for our trim work at no cost to us, but he also surprised us with a check for $23,000.00 to finish paying off the last of our building expenses. By God’s grace, we now had a church building worth much more than what we had paid for it. Most importantly, we had a beautiful sanctuary where the presence of the Lord was pleased to dwell.
The first phase of God’s plan for Zion Christian Assembly was now completed. Eight long years had passed, but God had graciously met our little flock in so many marvelous ways. Our collective faith had increased through this experience, and by His grace, we were now becoming conditioned to believe Him for greater things. We therefore continued to look ahead with expectant hearts toward the second phase of God’s master plan for our church property. During these years of learning His ways, God had given us several very important prophetic words of direction. These words made clear God’s intentions for us as a congregation, and we desired with all of our hearts to allow Him to fulfill His plan in and through us.
God has instructed our congregation to prepare for the revival He is about to pour out upon the earth in these last days. He has also graciously reassured us that we will not remain small, telling us that many will come from the North, South, East and West to join themselves to us. Therefore, as early as 1986, we were instructed to arise and build, and lengthen our cords and strengthen our stakes (Is 54: 2). There have been many wonderful words about our sanctuary being filled to overflowing. In fact, a prophetic word came in 1994 saying that many will come here and receive light and life because of the light that God has given us. Pastor Brian Bailey, our spiritual father, also confirmed that our present sanctuary would not be large enough to contain the people that God was going to bring into our congregation. In a vision, he also saw hundreds of feet walking across the grass on our seventeen acre property. However, God has also spoken to us about His reason for keeping us small for now. One such time occurred on January 1, 1992. As we all knelt before the Lord to pray at the midnight hour, a woman in our flock had the sense that our congregation was like the men spoken of in Judges 7:5-6. Those who cupped their hands and drank from the river were chosen by God to be a part of Gideon’s army. She felt we had to be reduced in size so that God would get all the glory for the victory He was bringing. A similar word was spoken as recently as 2014.
During one of our town’s community services held in 1988, Dr. Brian Bailey spoke a message that has become for us like a beacon of light shining brightly through the darkness of this world, and this light surrounds us and encourages us after these many years. He received the word “Jehovah Shammah,” which means “The Lord is present or the Lord is there.” He gave a very convicting message about the Lord’s presence coming to our community in a very real and strong way. He also said that this will be a place where the “fear of God” will convict people of their sin and their need. In fact, he emphatically stated that people would even say, “If you don’t want your sins found out, don’t come to Ulysses!” Pastor Bailey also told us that we would be feeding people in the natural, but most importantly, we would be feeding them spiritually as well.
Another word from God in 1989 has given our church a clear vision of our purpose here in this little hidden away place. God said He was calling us to be a hospital where many who were sick would come to receive healing, and those in the congregation would be doctors and nurses who would help others. A number of other prophetic words have declared that we would see miraculous healing and deliverance in our church. One woman in our congregation, who is in a wheelchair, had a vision of our church in revival. She was in our sanctuary, which was filled to overflowing, and she miraculously saw herself walking around. She saw the mighty power of God being manifested throughout the sanctuary, and the Church was full of people who were being touched by God. She saw than many people were being healed and delivered, but no one was laying hands on them. There was no preacher in the pulpit directing what was happening. It was only the presence of God’s glory that was moving throughout the sanctuary, and only God was getting the glory for all the healing and deliverance that was taking place. She also saw that there was a line of demarcation around the church that prevented anyone from entering that did not mean business with God, or that did not value the precious anointing of the Holy Spirit that was evident in our midst. Pastor Bailey also gave us a word about the senior pastor pointing people to the pathway of healing.
At least four prophetic voices have spoken over us that Zion Christian Assembly will be a teaching and training center, where many from near and far will come to be taught of the Lord. Here they will receive training for the ministry that will shape them and bring them to a new understanding of the New Testament Church principles. We take this call seriously as our eight pastors in the flock continue to prepare themselves for that day by reaching out to minister in jails, prisons, nursing homes, and a Christian camp, and senior citizen housing center here in our local community. By God’s grace, we wait expectantly for God to fulfill all of these promises.
The Second Phase
Our prophetic words have made us all keenly aware that the time of the Church age is soon coming to an end. This is why we began to feel an urgency to prepare for revival by completing the second phase of God’s plan for our church. Knowing that many people will be supernaturally birthed into the Kingdom on that glorious day when God pours out His Spirit, we clearly understood that our present sanctuary would be too small. Thus, we would need another meeting room for an over flow crowd. We also knew that our current ministries—a Bible School, and a book publishing company needed to be expanded and enlarged. Therefore, the plans for a second building adjacent to our present church was eventually birthed within our hearts.
After much thought and fervent prayer, we proposed a formal plan to house a food distribution center for the poor, a counseling office for Pastor Caram, a Bible School and meeting room for various youth activities, and a much needed print shop for the production of Pastor Caram’s book ministry. Then, in God’s perfect timing, the leadership was introduced to a retired architect living in the area. At this time, we had no available funds for a down payment for the necessary drawings, but Byron Salsman was still very willing to work with us. It is important to note here that it was after we took this initial step of faith to hire Byron that God began to financially provide. This first step would actually last approximately two years. Yet, God was teaching us about His faithfulness through the kindness of this Christian brother, who only charged us a fraction of the normal cost for the architectural plans on a “pay as you can” basis.
As we waited, hoped, prayed, and continued to keep the vision of this new building at the forefront of our hearts and minds, the next miracle of provision came in the form of free office furniture, which included conference tables, padded chairs, and expensive executive desks for a building that was still just a dream! This used, but beautiful furniture, was headed for a dumpster because the new owners of an office complex had no use for it. Here again we were seeing the hand of the Lord, as He gave us an earnest of what He intended to do for us in the future. As Pastor Miller joyfully said, “It was as if God was giving us the icing on the cake before we even had the cake!”
When God originally began to speak to us to prepare for the greatest revival the world has ever seen, we thought it was going to happen after God brought an increase to our small congregation. However, in the spring of 2012, we received several large anonymous gifts of provision. These financial miracles convinced us that Jehovah Jireh had spoken to “rise up and build,” and by faith, we felt to obey. As a result, we held our ground breaking service for the new building on May 22, 2012, just two days before the twenty-fifth anniversary of our first one.
When we began the work on our second building, we hoped to have enough funds to have it closed in for the winter. There were a number of times, however, when our finances got pretty close to the “bottom of the barrel.” Yet, this was always the time when God would send us another miracle of provision. In faithfulness, God also honored our prayer and gave us a heated, closed in building well before the cold, snowy Potter County winter began. All these miracles, small and large, caused us to understand that God intended to finish what He had started on His time schedule, not ours! In fact, instead of taking eight years to finish our building project, the Brian Bailey International Building was completed in just one year. You can imagine what a spiritually enriching experience this was for our little thirty member congregation, as we watched God provide (within just one year) $421,000.00 to completely pay for this awesome undertaking. To God be the glory, great things He has done!
The Word of God in Jeremiah 29:11 tells us: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” For us, this “expected end” included many miracles. It also included many kind and generous acts of love from the hand and heart of numerous Christians who desired to be a part of what God was doing here in Ulysses. The memory of these good deeds will never be forgotten, for they are for us a sign of the tremendous faithfulness of God who was working through these willing vessels to bless us. To try to list all of these loving actions would be too difficult, but it is to the glory of God to mention some of our major blessings from the hand of God, as well as others.
For example, as our building plans began to progress, we needed an engineer to do our Storm Water and Soil Erosion plans. Initially we were informed that this project would take six months and the cost would be approximately $10,000.00. Miraculously, God provided these plans in just four weeks at the low price of $4,800.00. We received another miracle when the quote from Code Inspections came in for our building permit. To our surprise, they gave us a very unexpected twenty-five per cent discount. Then, when we were ready to order the Superior basement walls, we thought the price would be close to $30,000.00 because of a previous estimate we had received two years before. Yet God had another surprise waiting for us in the form of a church and cash discount from them, which brought down the cost of the walls to $20,600.00. Framing our building was an enormous endeavor, but we purchased all of our framing materials from a lumber company, who graciously gave us a discount of thousands of dollars. This, however, was just the beginning of God using His people to bless us.
When it was time to cover the roof and keep everything inside dry, we went from a grass lawn to a 5,660 square foot building with a roof in only fifty days! This could not have been accomplished without the Master Builder using His master craftsmen to complete the job so quickly. Another miracle of provision came from a paint company called Sherwin Williams. They sold us over 100 gallons of paint at a forty to fifty per cent discount, and then delivered it free of charge. Next, we received another unexpected blessing of new, free window shutters for the outside of all of our buildings. A great miracle also came from the Assistant Manager of a Building and Home Center, who sold us doors, sheetrock, floor coverings, hardware, carpet, and many other things too numerous to mention at only ten per cent above cost.
Throughout this exciting building project, we continually saw the hand of God working for us. For instance, several contractors told us that we would not be able to build for anything less than $100.00 per square foot. However, the actual cost of the Brian Bailey International Building ended up being less than $75.00 per square foot. This price includes plans, permits, excavating, furnishings, and much more. For our little flock in Ulysses, it has truly been a joy and privilege to watch God complete His purposes by building us a Bible School and a print shop. We are in awe of His grace and goodness when we consider and meditate upon the passage in Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Since the beginning of our church almost thirty-three years ago, we have had wonderful words spoken over us regarding what God is going to do in our church and community. So far, many of these words have not yet come to pass, but we still continue to cling to these promises and with a resolute oneness we are declaring together, “We choose to believe!”
The Third Phase
Because we deeply desire to see all of these aforementioned prophetic words come to pass, we feel it is now time for Zion Christian Assembly to begin the third phase of our building project. Obviously, if we are going to be a teaching center for the nations, we must be able to accommodate all the hungry, expectant hearts that God intends to bring from different areas of the United States, as well as other countries. If we desire to stand on His Word, to continue to believe, and to be ready when God pours out His Spirit in revival, we must be prepared to house and feed those who choose to be among us. This is why God has now birthed within our hearts a desire to build a Retreat House, which will provide housing for those who choose to come and participate in ZCA’s various teaching seminars, bible classes, and anointed church services in a revival atmosphere. We also plan to make this new facility available to various churches who desire to set some time aside to meet together in prayer, have youth meetings or couples retreats, or just a time for individuals to come and find rest in the scenic hills of Ulysses, Pennsylvania.
By faith, we took a few small steps to begin this project. And now, God has wonderfully confirmed His faithfulness by making it possible for us to sign a five year oil lease on our seventeen acre property. We believe the $30,000.00 we received from this unforeseen blessing is simply the first fruits of all that God intends to provide for this third building to be completed. As we enter this new phase, we know it is going to require an abundant amount of faith and a much larger amount of funds beyond what was required for the previous two buildings. We are also keenly aware of the enormity of the task which God has placed before our small flock. However, God has shown us that He has purposely, like Gideon’s army, kept us small for now so that the world may see His strong hand at work in all things, rather than the weak arm of human effort.
With much anticipation, we believe that God is going to bring to pass His purposes in our little corner of the earth. For this reason, we also ask you to pray with us and for us, while we continue to trust God to provide all we need for our current project—a Retreat House. With much gratitude for what God has already done in our midst, through faith we wait to see this building become a reality. While we wait, however, we receive our encouragement from the words of God found in Job 8:7. “Though thy beginnings were small, yet thy latter end shall increase abundantly.” This rhema word which was given to our church inspires faith and confidence within us, and it causes us to know that if we remain faithful as He is faithful, God will surely do all that He has promised. In His perfect timing, we know that God will increase our congregation as well as all of our necessary resources. Most importantly, as we continually give God all the glory for His wonderful works on our behalf, the blessings of His spiritual riches will be imparted to us individually and corporately. Amen!