This past November I received a phone call from my husband, Josh, that brought instant tears to my eyes.
“I think the church is gone, Babe,” he said softly, “I just went by and couldn’t see the steeple anymore.”
Although we knew this day was coming and had been driving by the church as often as we could to take photos and reflect upon the beautiful memories there, still, knowing that it was now officially gone felt like a punch in the heart.
I have heard many stories over the years regarding myself and my relationship with the Parkway Community Church and I felt to write a tribute to the building and the dream of it, and to also write the truth, the whole truth and nothing be the truth so help me God about my days there. Since I know that I will stand before my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as the judge of my soul and He will hold me accountable for all I say, do and think, I write this confidently.
In order for anyone to have a complete understanding of my relationship with the Parkway Community Church building and all those who loved it, I must start at the beginning, which actually took place at an amazing church called the 44th Street Church of God.
For those of us in the world who were blessed to attend the 44th Street Church of God under our shepherd, Senior Pastor Bro. Hurschel Diffie, and his precious wife, Hazel, we understand exactly what the Parkway Community Church building was; a beautiful vision from God poured into the hearts of Bro. Diffie and those in the church who wanted to expand the ministry. For all those who were there at the beginning of the dream, I hope that I do this beautiful church and its story the justice it deserves.
The 44th Street Church was located on the corner of McKinley and 44th Street (which once was called Chicago Ave). For those who live in Phoenix, there is now an office building there and it is located directly across the street from the Chinese Cultural Center.
The 44th Street Church was a picturesque structure like something you would see in a quaint, small town. Its architecture would best be described as Early American, painted all white, with a lovely steeple and stained glass windows. There were a couple of small little houses beside it that had been converted into Children’s Church rooms and Sunday School classrooms, and later on, a double-wide trailer was added to the property for multi-purposes. I have much more to say about my treasured days at the 44th Street Church but will leave some of that for blogs yet to come.
I can’t really remember the first time I heard about the “new church building”. It was just something I grew up hearing about, kind of like Mickey Mouse or McDonald’s, it was just always a part of my life that moved through the conversations and prayers of the good people of the congregation and surrounded me.
The need for the new church building was clear, Bro. Diffie’s ministry was constantly growing and the 44th Street Church sanctuary just wasn’t able to meet the needs for more space. If you knew Bro. Diffie, you knew his work was never done. Although he loved his “sheep”, the people of his church dearly, his eyes were constantly focused on the “harvest” of God, those who didn’t know the good news of the Gospel and love of Jesus Christ. Bro. Diffie desired that everyone who wanted to attend the 44th Street Church could have a place in it, so there was a need for more space.
Though Bro. Diffie’s spiritual heart was one of the strongest and most beautiful I have ever witnessed in a man, as time went on, his physical heart began to trouble him and he had to retire from full-time pastoral work— though he never stopped serving as a minister for the congregation and to all that he met, not until the day he went to heaven. Another Senior Pastor was brought in, Bro. Donald Logan and he served there for several years, continuing on the good work Bro. Diffie had started. After a period of time, Bro. Logan was called by God to another position and a third pastor was brought to the congregation. His name was Bro. Robert Blazier.
I think the most prominent memory for me where the “new church building” was concerned was the day that Bro. Blazier asked my mother, who was the administrative assistant for the church if I would design a bulletin board in the foyer of the 44th Street Church to display the architect’s painting of the new building’s design. The new church was going to be beautiful.
I was twelve, maybe eleven years old, when I happily took the task given me and designed the bulletin board to display the painting. I remember watching the people who came in the doors on Sunday morning to see the look on their faces when they saw the painting for the first time. All of those I remember expressed nothing but great joy and excitement. While looking at it, their eyes would sparkle and it seemed as if their hearts began beating faster from their joy. Some even had tears of happiness well up in their eyes as they now saw before them what they had only imagined. The dream of the “new church building” was carried and cherished by all who attended the 44th Street Church and their enthusiasm grew tremendously once they saw the design of it depicted in the painting.
This was an important moment for the people because until then, everyone had their own ideas in their minds and imaginations of what the building would actually look like. Mostly, it had just been described in words. Now, with the painting before them, it bonded them together. They all were able to see the shapes of the structures, the layout of the campus, and seeing the little cars and people depicted in the design made me think, “Someday, that will be us parking our cars and walking inside the doors!” The painting brought the dream to life and with it hope for the future ministries that would take place there.
The main design plans for the new church would include an octagon-shaped sanctuary that would hold classrooms all around the outer edge, an administrative office structure, a children’s preschool with a playground, a reception hall, and the Diffie Family Life Center which would have a gymnasium, other classrooms, and activity rooms. It was an amazing vision that the congregation members held in their hearts with great pride, and they were fully supporting it with their faithful prayers and finances.
Once everyone saw the architect’s painting of the entire structure, it was like a bolt of lightning struck the church with a new energy that sizzled throughout the congregation. Everyone wanted to do whatever they could to help make the dream a reality, and they trusted that God would bless their efforts and provide every need to build it.
Things began to move rapidly after that. The board began praying and searching for the perfect location. A decorating board was formed to choose the colors of the bricks, the tiles, the carpet, the chandeliers, and the style and color of the pews. With every decision that was made and presented to the people of the church, the excitement grew. If there were members who did not like anything that was being chosen, I didn’t know about it. All I remember were words of happiness and great anticipation.
When I looked at all of the selections the decorating committee had made, I thought it would be one of the loveliest churches I had ever seen. The bricks which were chosen were to not only be durable for construction but also would never have a need for paint, which would save the church having to spend money for any outside cosmetic upkeep in the years to come. The tiles in the foyer were a light gray and the carpet was to be lavender with slightly darker lavender pew cushions. I couldn’t wait to see everything put together; to walk in it, sit in it, and worship in it. It was a beautiful dream and I was thankful to be part of it. Everyone was.
Then came the decision about the location. Some wanted it to be built on a piece of land that wasn’t very far from the location of the 44th Street building on McDowell. Some wanted it to be built on a piece of land that was where the new Parkway 51 Freeway was going to be constructed. The final decision was made that the church would be built by the new freeway. The address would be 1751 E. Maryland in Phoenix, Arizona.
One day my mother came home and told me to quickly get my little brother ready because she was taking us to the 44th Street Church property. I did as instructed and she drove us to the church. When we got there, my young heart was filled will great sorrow.
My mother had discovered that the 44th Street Church was going to be torn down that day and as hard as it was, we wanted to be there with it to say good-bye. The wrecking ball had already started it’s destructive work and most of the church was lying in ruins. A thousand memories of days spent inside that building, singing, serving, praying, listening and learning about Jesus with precious people washed over me and my mother. All we could do was watch and cry. Although my brother was only a baby, he sensed the seriousness of the moment and stared quietly at the ruins of the once beautiful, powerful house of God.
My mother asked one of the workers if we could please take some bricks and the workers happily obliged. We gathered several for family and friends and especially for Bro. and Sister Diffie, who were both out of town when the church was torn down. My mother only found out because as she was driving home she saw the wrecking ball going down the street toward the church property. I am quite sure if more people had known what was happening, they would have come to be with it too. The Diffie’s found out that it was gone when they came home. It was quite a terrible shock to both of them.
As we drove home from the rubble, I remember thinking to myself, “Why did we have to build a new church? Why couldn’t we just stay in the old one? It was a beautiful, happy, church full of wonderful memories, miracles and the powerful Spirit of God. To me, it was perfect. My grief of seeing 44th Street in ruins clouded my ability to feel joy for the new building. In fact, while writing this, it still brings me to that place of sorrow for the loss of the 44th Street Church. If I had my way, it would be rebuilt just as it was and I would have my family there serving and worshipping. There never was and I doubt ever will be again, a church quite like 44th Street. I am proud and blessed to have been part of it. Though it was hard, I am thankful that my mother took me there to say goodbye and be there with it when it was torn down. I know it may sound silly, but we just didn’t want it to be alone at its end.
As we moved forward in the building process for the new church, it helped me to regain the vision and once again be part of the dream. I remember the day when we “broke ground” on the new land location. The congregation gathered together on the land, many taking the time to pick oranges as the land was once an orange grove. I remember all the women in their nylons and heels kept sinking in the dirt, and we sang several songs, read scriptures and prayed over the land and the new building to come. The pastor then took a shovel that had been painted gold and dug the first hole. We all clapped and cheered and looked forward to the days ahead. The excitement of seeing this brought a new feeling of joy to my heart, though I was still missing the 44th Street building, I was refreshed with new hope for new beginnings in the new church which had been given the name Parkway Community Church of God.
The congregation held services at Madison School, which was located just down the street while the “new church” was being built. It was a transition to learn how to manage the services each week in a facility that wasn’t our own. But it all went well. I remember the sound men, Ralph White and James Stokes arriving early every Sunday morning and staying late every Sunday evening to unload, and set up the entire sound system for the services and then break it all backdown and load it back into Ralph’s van. These giving and dedicated servants did this with happy hearts every single Sunday for over a year.
The church office was moved into a double-wide that was placed on the northeast corner of the property. Every day that my mother worked there, she took my little brother who was now four years old. He had a special place behind her desk in the corner where he had toys, books, puzzles, and blankets so he could take a nap during the day. My brother, Nathan, was the easiest child I have ever known and so taking him to work was something that the pastor didn’t mind my mother doing. Nathan was friends with all the staff members including the construction foreman, Clyde, who gave Nathan his own hard hat and would take him for walks daily on the property.
I remember the rainy days when my mother went to work. The double-wide sat in an open dirt area and her shoes would sink in the mud while trying to get inside the trailer. Although this did not make her happy, it was something that never bothered my little brother who, like most little boys, enjoyed mud.
During the week, my mother often took her break, picked me up from school and then took me back to the property while she finished her work. I would walk the property with Clyde or sometimes by myself as long as I stayed out of the work zones so that I could see the daily progress.
My mother, brother and I watched as the land was transformed from tagged stakes in the ground and rebar, to cement foundations, plumbing, wooden wall frames, electrical, every detail all the way up to the support beams for the sanctuary roof which were put in place with a large crane. I remember thinking the beams looked like giant hockey sticks as they were unloaded from the trucks and slowly hoisted into the supports. Once the beams were in place, the work on the roof began. It all was a thrilling experience to watch and we weren’t the only ones who have those precious memories. Everyone who loved the church came to watch it be built. Congregation members made the time each week, sometimes several times a week, to come and visit the property and see the progress being made. We were watching our dream come to life!
I remember there was a woman construction worker there who was thin and not very tall and kept up with the men every step of the way. I marveled as I watched her throw wood planks upon her shoulder, then trotted up to the roof of the church, hard hat on, tool belt around her waist, to lay the planks down and go to work hammering them in place.
A beautiful memory that stands out in my mind was the day the piano arrived. A deal had been made and the church was going to get a brand new, satin black finish, eight-foot concert grand. I had never seen an instrument like it in my life. It literally took my breath away to see it as they brought it in and I couldn’t wait to hear it. The church pianist at the time was Pat White, and my mother made sure she was called so she could be there to see it arrive. As soon as it was ready, we all sat down on the stage steps and listened as she played. Pat never read musical notes, but plays with an anointed gift from God. The melodic sounds of her music gloriously filled the sanctuary giving us chills, urging us to sing. We were all rejoicing. That was my first memory of worshiping inside the Parkway Community Church. It pains my heart to say that I was the one who made the decision to sell that piano. It no longer met the needs of the music department and took up far too much space. But I found it a wonderful home with a retired concert pianist who fell in love with it the moment she saw it. I’m sure it is still enjoying a happy life with her.
I remember the fundraising dinners that took place throughout this time and still have some of the placemats with the churches design upon them in the colors of lavender. I remember the pew sponsoring fundraiser held where people could donate the money for a pew. This was something my Papa, Samuel Boone, took very seriously. When the pews arrived, he went in, sat in several different ones and when he found the spot that he liked best, that pew is where he sat until his dying day.
When they finished the stage inside the sanctuary, everyone was excited. The entire church floor was concrete and so was the initial stage. (I say initial because, after one of my Christmas programs that included a live donkey who had a very upset stomach during the program, we extended the stage out an additional three feet all the way around to help cover the stains!) I remember the chandeliers and wall sconces being set in place, and the carpet guys doing their magnificent work. Bit by bit, day by day, the building started to feel the warmth a house of God. For me, it felt just like home.
The day when the large copper cross for the back wall and the matching copper pulpit arrived was also exciting. The light green glass of the cross was outlined with copper and there was a light inside that had an adjustment switch so the cross could be brightened or dimmed. The pulpit was also made of copper with a wooden top and the same light green glass in the front that had an etching of a dove upon it could also light up like the cross. There was so much thought and love put into the choices for every detail of the church and with every piece added to it, the joy and anticipation grew in everyone’s hearts for the day when it would all be finished and ready for us to move in.
There were some changes along the way, one of them being the Diffie Family Life Center didn’t get built and was deemed to be a project for the future. Though there were many people who were disappointed that it had to wait, the people of the church were still very thankful to the Lord for the stunningly beautiful new sanctuary and couldn’t wait to start holding services in it.
Finally, that day came. For me, it was just as exciting as Christmas morning. I could hardly sleep the night before and couldn’t wait to get there and have the first service in the new church. It was no longer a dream. It was a reality and it was beautiful! That first Sunday, everyone was smiling and laughing so much. We all sat there with hearts full of thanksgiving. God had blessed us and through Him, the church was completed. We were ready to let the ministry begin!
I think the best way to describe us overall would be like a beautiful, big family of a few hundred of God’s children who loved each other and loved worshipping together. All were bound together with cords of love to carry on the vision of their original shepherd, Bro. Diffie, to build a new home. A house of God for all who wanted to come. A house full of the miraculous power of the Spirit of God. A house that we all believed would stand the tests of time.
The joy of the congregation members was evident every Sunday as they entered the house with rejoicing. The church began to grow, drawing in people of all ages and the services were all that we dreamed, full of the blessings of God. The first year of holidays was very special, full of celebrations, special programs, music, great sermons, and praying together at the altar.
As time went on there came a few more changes to the position of Senior Pastor which sometimes happens in the Church of God organization and Bro. Blazier went to another position. After his departure, there would be four more Senior Pastors over the course of a couple of decades who would hold the position as pastor of the church.
I always served at the church as a volunteer in the choir, helper in children’s church and of course, whenever my mother needed a hand making copies in the office. But my first work done there where I was given a specific task, was as a teenager. I was asked to direct the children’s Christmas musical, something I had been given the opportunity to do when I was twelve and the congregation was meeting at the Madison School. I was thrilled to be able to have another opportunity to direct a Christmas musical as I had written a few and wanted to see how people responded to them.
The first year went very well and I was asked to direct the children the next year, which I happily did. That program went well and before I knew it, I was being asked to pray about taking the position of Music Minister for Parkway Community Church. This was an honor I hadn’t even dreamed of having.
The history of the choir that once filled the Parkway Church with song went all the back to the early 44th Street years when Bro. Diffie started a choir. As time went on and the choir grew a director named Dorothy Brooks was given the position and she served the church diligently for decades. The 44th Street Choir recorded several records, took tours and even had their own radio show. Once the choir had begun, there had always been a choir, even in the days while the church was in the Madison School. So to be asked to fill this position was not just a wonderful opportunity for me, it was an honor to be part of the choir’s history and legacy.
Although I happily took the position, while I was there, I never took the title of “Music Minister” because I believed I needed to go to school to earn the title of “minister”. Now that I am older, I realize that I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me that I was a minister. That title was earned through the work and experiences I gained by serving in that position.
I learned a lot about myself while working at the church. I learned that I have a great love for people, especially children, and I learned that in addition to being a musician, I am also a writer. I also learned that I loved giving and I don’t mean just my regular tithes and offerings but on a much larger scale.
I took my work at the church very seriously and allowed God to keep control of my hands and my ideas. I had been called into service by God one night in a dream. My personal goals were set on Broadway and I had been working toward that goal as a Music Theater major in college. But God had the right plan for my life and He told me in the dream, “What you are doing is fun and people will have a moment that will bring them joy, but if you use the gifts I have given you to serve Me and reach the hearts My children, you could give them more than a moment of joy, you could change their eternities.”
I woke up instantly from that dream and went to my knees. I asked God to forgive me for being so selfish to seek my glory with my gifts instead of His and I immediately knew that for the rest of my life, no matter what, I would use the gifts God had given me in music, performance, art, theater, and dance for His glory.
When I began the work at the Parkway Community Church, I had a lot of support and people came happily to join the music department. I loved the people in that group so much. They were all family to me and together we built something beautiful, something good that God blessed.
Every time God gave me a dream of a musical production, whether it be for Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, etc. I did exactly as He showed me in the dream. I remember my husband, Josh, asking me, “How do you remember your dreams so vividly?” I replied, “I don’t. Only the dreams God gives me.” Whenever I did as God showed me, He blessed the production and anointed it. Lives were changed through the performances of the good people of Parkway. God used all their talents for His glory and people came to Jesus because of their faithfulness and trust to do what was asked of them.
It was through writing the musicals that I began to understand God had also given me the gift of storytelling. I wouldn’t consider myself a writer for many more years as I lacked proper training and knowledge in the field, but to just be able to tell the story God gave me, that was something I was able to do and I loved to do it with music.
As the years passed the music department grew. We had an adult choir, a children’s choir, praise, and worship leaders and teams, and our musician’s area grew so much we had to build an extra extension for the stage, and we had an excellent audio/visual team.
When we did the Christmas and Easter musicals, we opened up the productions to anyone who wanted to participate in them and just reserved the solos to be sung for the choir members. As far as I knew, it all worked well. Yes, there were a lot of hours required of the people to rehearse but I never heard anyone complain about it. I tried to be as flexible and understanding as possible because I knew these people were all volunteers, every single one of them and I wanted to be respectful of their time and lives.
In my opinion, it all worked beautifully and I felt that we had a beautiful music department family. One that was rich in talent, open-hearted and welcoming to newcomers, loving and supportive of one another and extremely hard working.
Serving as Music Minister of the Parkway Community Church was one of the greatest honors of my life. I was blessed to work with all of the people that I did and I loved the work we did together.
I was also blessed to be part of the great legacy of the choir that was started (at this point in time) over fifty years ago by Bro. Diffie. When I stepped into that role, I did not try and tear down what once was. I did not destroy the foundation the choir was built upon. I just took the baton and kept going with it. I didn’t throw out a single song for the worship choruses or the choir’s repertoire that was chosen by other directors. I kept all that was done previously and just began adding some new to it. I understood that you cannot take something that has been blessed with success for decades, throw it out, start over and expect those blessings to continue to flow. When you see something successful that you are handed to run, you pay attention to why it was successful and you build upon that. I tried very hard to also keep a balance with the music at the church. I tried to provide something for every age from the oldest of the elders to the youngest of the members. This was the vision of the pastor and the pastors before him and I was obedient to that vision. My service at the Parkway Community Church was something that I will always look upon with great joy. Knowing that I got to be part of a musical legacy that was so richly anointed by God for such a long period of time will always make me smile.
Then there came a shift. A false accusation was spoken against me that had spread through a certain group in the congregation. The accusation was that I did not forgive a member of the church when they asked for forgiveness, but instead, I scoffed at their request.
This was not true. This event never happened nor have I ever rejected anyone who asked me to forgive them.
Because the accusation was not true, I did not know that this story was being told about me for several months. The time the story had to simmer damaged these people’s hearts and minds where my leadership was concerned. My character, my being fit for ministry and even worse, my heart and soul were judged.
Even though my husband was present when this event took place and testified that no forgiveness was ever asked for and no forgiveness was ever rejected, it didn’t matter. We were told, “Well, they thought they asked for it.”
That was the moment I learned the life lesson that no matter how much truth you put before a person, even if you have another to testify on your behalf, people will believe what they choose to believe.
I entered a period where Josh and I were engulfed in complete confusion and chaos. I kept thinking, why is this happening? I sometimes had the usual conflicts in the music department that came from time to time, wherever you have groups of people, that’s bound to happen, but nothing like this. So why now? I had just come back from a trip with the choir to California to learn how to do two-morning services and we were making plans to record our first Parkway Choir album. I was also working on a new Christmas musical for the following year. In my mind, there was so much good work yet to do with so many wonderful people, I couldn’t understand why God was allowing this to take place. Still, I trusted Him.
Then, amidst the pain and confusion that Josh and I were dealing with came a tremendous miraculous blessing. I learned that I was pregnant with our second baby. All babies are precious miracles from God, and for us, this baby was an extra special miracle because I was not supposed to be able to get pregnant without extreme medication and surgery (that is another blog for another time!). Our first baby was a test-tube baby. Josh and I had gone through 5 years of infertility, which is a drop in the bucket compared to some, so we could have a family. I had many things wrong with me and could not conceive the natural way. We did the ZIFT procedure two times and were blessed with our first child, a beautiful girl we named Aven Salei. Then, one day before Thanksgiving 2004, I felt different and I remember telling Josh, “If I didn’t know better, I would think I was pregnant!” The next day I took a test and learned I was right. In the midst of a storm, God gave us one of the three greatest blessings of our lives, our second baby!!!
This changed everything for me.
I was already struggling with being away from Aven who had some development issues with her neck when she was born and couldn’t be left unattended until the neck was corrected. I had been seriously thinking about having more time with her than I was able to have. I hadn’t even taken proper maternity leave after Aven was born. I directed and sang in a full Easter production only two weeks after having a cesarean. Now that I knew God had given us this new miracle child, an unexpected blessing that brought us tremendous joy, I knew the timing had to be for a powerful reason… and I wondered if God wanted me to remain in the position I held in the church or to resign.
A conflict began to arise in my heart. I loved Josh and my children more than anything, still, I had loved the Parkway Community Church most of my life and had been part of the congregation that began at 44th Street my entire life. I was born into the church as was my mother before me. How could I possibly leave it? How could I possibly leave all that I have ever known? I still had so much to do, so many dreams that God had given me for future programs and projects, how could I leave?
We were right in the middle of presenting to the public a Christmas musical called “Give Him Your Heart” when all this was taking place and I remember one night before going to bed, I knelt to pray and told God, “Jesus, I gave You my heart when I was seven years old, and I gave You all of my talents almost a ten years ago, now, I give you my ministry. I know that You gave me this work to do, but You also gave me this beautiful family that I prayed so hard to have. What is Your perfect will? What do You want me to do?”
That night as I slept, I had a dream. I was walking inside the throne room of God, the Father. It was glorious. Everything around me was glistening white, and there was a brilliant light shining all around. God was on His throne and was so big, I could hardly take Him in. Bigger than the Twin Towers, bigger than a mountain, and I trembled with fear. I remember looking up at Him, He was completely white, glowing like lightning and I could not speak. I could barely breathe. I kept my gaze upon Him and placed my hand on my heart and thought what I wanted to say, “God, You know my thoughts and what I came to ask. What is Your will? What do You want me to do?”
I was standing on his left side at the edge of his feet. I still remember it as if it were yesterday, God looked down at me for a moment, then He looked out in the distance toward His right side and pointed. He didn’t speak, He just pointed.
When I woke up I didn’t know what my dream meant. I called my dear friend, Rhona Mullins, a prayer warrior with a powerful love for God, His Word, and His Holy Spirit. She is wise and has always given me good counsel ever since I have known her.
I told Rhona the dream. While I was talking to her I kept saying, “I just feel like I should go quietly.” After Rhona heard me say this for the third time she stopped me, “Angelique,” she said, “That is the third time you have said that.”
“Said what?” I asked.
“Go quietly. That is your answer. That is what God was telling you to do. He didn’t speak, He just pointed. He wants you to go quietly.”
I knew at the moment that she said it, she was right. The Holy Spirit was speaking to me through her to give me a confirmation for the answer to the question that I asked God in the dream. God did want me to leave, and to do it quietly and from the moment I had the confirmation that was what God communicated to me, I wanted it to. I did want to go quietly. I didn’t want to hurt the church. I loved it too much. I loved Bro. Diffie too much and I didn’t want to do anything that would destroy his precious work and legacy.
I talked to Josh and the rest of my family. We all cried and talked it through, but the Holy Spirit had already prepared their hearts and they knew that it was time for me to go. I then spoke to my godfather, Myron Jones, who has always been there for me and has always given me good counsel. I set it up while still in the midst of the Christmas program performances and on Saturday, December 11, 2004, I resigned from the Parkway Community Church as the Music Minister.
I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t vengeful. I just wanted to be obedient to what God instructed me to do; gently lay the work down and leave as quietly and quickly as I could. And I did. I had witnesses present when I did this and those were the exact words I used, “I want to gently lay this down and be done.” I constructed a letter to the congregation explaining how blessed Josh and I were and that my heart was being called to stay home with my children. All of that was true. I chose not to tell the entire story because I did not want to bring the confusion, chaos, and pain that Josh and I had experienced, to the church body. Everything I said in that letter was the truth. I told the people that I loved them and the church with all of my heart, and explained that God had given me a new ministry through my family, little did I know at the time all that God has planned for us!
The night the letter went out, I went home and went right to sleep. I had another dream. I dreamt that I was carrying a huge boulder, like something that was even bigger than the ball chasing Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was a burden and I was trying to carry it upon my back. Then, I looked up and the burden began to float upward. I stood and watched as it slowly floated up through the sky, into space and then into heaven to the mighty hand of God. When the boulder reached His hand, I saw that what was so huge and burdensome to me, was nothing bigger than a grain of sand to God. I watched as it slowly floated into the palm of His hand, then disappeared.
When I woke up, I had total peace. And not just peace, but also joy. Because I knew that God had a new work for me to do and that work would surround my babies.
The hard part was saying goodbye to the choir, musicians, children and tech crew members that I dearly loved. Truly, like family, some for the length of my entire life.
We had a party at the home of two dear friends, Dan and Donna Maye, and something happened there that I wouldn’t realize for several years later, but the very last act that I did for the children members of my music department would be the first act of my new ministry– and it involved teddy bears. It was nothing but the mysterious and miraculous hand of God in action. You can read that story here: https://angeliquelafoncox.wordpress.com/2018/10/
I was packed up and gone before the next Sunday in December and my family and I took a trip to Disneyland, which for me is always a good thing and the best place I could go after saying goodbye to the church I loved.
I have learned through the teachings of Christian Rabbi, Jonathan Caan, that in the Bible, the number 7 stands for completion and that the number 8 stands for new beginnings.
On June 17, 2005, Josh and I were blessed beyond measure with the birth of our new baby girl, MaCaedyn Janei. She was then and is now a precious child with a beautiful heart for Jesus. She is full of love, laughter, and song. We were all elated and so thankful! Aven was too, she was such a wonderful big sister and she loved to play with “her baby” every moment she had. These playtimes were so creative that I began journaling them down so that I wouldn’t forget them.
It was in the seventh month that I had another dream from God.
I was writing a children’s book series about a family of bears, a bear family-based upon my family, and the stories were about my children’s imaginative adventures. The family was named The Huggabears. The day I woke up from the dream I told Josh about it and began writing the stories. That was in the seventh month of the year, July 2005. Seven months had been completed between my last work of ministry and my new one, but it would be years before I would learn that!
The next month, in August, God spoke to my heart yet again and told me that I needed to start an organization for children in need and I was to call it The Huggabear Children’s Project, Inc. I admit I was a bit concerned. I was a musician, not a business person and I didn’t know how to begin. I believe that’s why God chose us for this task. He knew that I would have to rely completely upon Him for all that I did, which gave Him the control He needed to build exactly what He wanted. He will always have that control too because I know that I am nothing without Him and I want His perfect will first. Josh feels the same.
Josh and I had gone to a service at Phoenix First Assembly of God and that Sunday, Pastor Tommy Barnett gave a sermon titled “The Power of One”. It was for us, plain and simple. I bought the CD of the sermon and still have it to this day. When the service was over, I told Josh, that it was for me and Josh said he knew it was too. God was telling us to start the children’s organization. Josh agreed, he knew it was for us and our very first project came at the end of that month after Hurricane Katrina ripped its way through the communities of Louisiana and Mississippi. We didn’t have the 501c3 in place at that time, but we still raised hundreds of dollars for churches in need and continued to do so for months to come.
This all took place in the eight-month, August. According to Rabbi Jonathan Caan, eight represents new beginnings and we were beginning our new work! It was then that I began to understand why God wanted me to resign from the Parkway Community Church. I kept thinking about John 13:7 “Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.'”
At the time, I did not understand why God allowed the things to happen to Josh and I at the Parkway Community Church that He did, but now that I saw the path before me and the work that I would be doing, I was so thankful.
It has still been said of us that we have not given forgiveness because we no longer maintain a relationship with some who were against us. They say, “Forgiveness means relationship.” I would just have to revert back to the teachings of Bro. Diffie when he would say, “Let’s agree to disagree agreeably” on that. I have found nowhere in the Bible that instructs forgiveness means relationship.
Josh and I made a pact when we left Parkway. God would always come first and our children would always come second. Everything in our world would surround that. That we strive to protect our family and never allow the kind of confusion, chaos, and pain that we had experienced to infest our hearts, home or family again. That I would never allow my work to come before caring for our children. They were the main focus of my ministry and I would stay with them, teach them and pour the love of Jesus Christ into them daily. There are some I do not trust to have a relationship with and do not wish to walk my journey of life with, but that doesn’t mean that I have not forgiven them, or that I am angry with them, or harbor any ill will toward them in any way. I honestly don’t. I just want peace. Josh and I have found that peace by keeping to the path God placed us on fifteen years ago and I do not wish to part from it.
Another life lesson Josh and I learned through all of this is that there are going to be people that come into your life that you will never be able to please. There will always be those out there who will be looking for ways to find fault with you no matter what it is you do. You can either keep that kind of constant frustration and confusion in your life, and keep spending good energy and time trying to please them, or you can say, God bless you, I wish nothing but the best for you and your life, I look forward to spending eternity with together with you and Jesus, and then go on about your way. Having had three near-death experiences in my time, I believe life is too short to spend it trying to please those you never will. Don’t hold grudges, don’t hate, don’t be cruel or unkind in any way. Forgive others, pray for them and put your focus upon pleasing God! In all things, put Jesus first and I can promise you, He will do great things with your life! There will always come trials and tribulations, but Jesus will never leave you, nor forsake you! (Deut. 31.6)
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Josh and I truly hold no grudges, no anger, no revenge, no strongholds, no ill will of any kind toward anyone. We do as Christ instructed us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39) for these people through sincere prayer. We pray for all those who were against us, and we pray sincerely. We pray for their protection, their health, their joy, their relationships and families, their finances, every element of their lives to be richly blessed by the hand of Almighty God. We will look forward to the day when we are changed to be like Jesus and we will all be together in harmony in the realms of glory. Until then, Josh and I cherish the peace and joy that we live in daily and are so thankful that God brought us to this place. We live wonderful, happy lives and we wouldn’t trade what God has given us for anything else.
I will say publicly for all to read, forgiveness always was given to those who have asked me and forgiveness will always be given for those in the future. I am capable of forgiving great things. I had much worse things happen to me as a child that, through the love and power of Jesus Christ, I was able to overcome and forgive. Forgiveness is something I embrace for I know that it is more for me and my heart to heal than it is for the person asking for it. Forgiveness is also obedience so that I am able to receive forgiveness from my Savior as it is written in Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” I devote an entire lesson to the power of forgiveness in my second Intercessors book “Sword of Miracles”. Pretty much, the entire theme of the book is about forgiveness. It is a beautiful thing to forgive, it brings healing and strength. I am thankful Jesus gave us all the gift of forgiveness.
I even became thankful for the group that was against me. All they did was drive me farther into the arms of Jesus, and I strengthened my relationship with Him and His Word. The helped strengthen the bonds of love and trust that Josh and I already had. It was like we had a brand new marriage! One that we could put so much more time into daily. They helped me learn how to spiritually and prayerfully protect my children whom I am totally, completely and helplessly in love with!!! I also am doing the work that I want to do for the rest of my life and I will do it. There is no work greater than what I am blessed to do now. I absolutely love it! So for all those out there who thought you had victory over me, I have to thank you. All your actions ended up doing was blessing me with a life that was richer than I could have ever dreamed!
If I hadn’t left the Parkway Community Church I would never be writing the books, songs, musicals and movie scripts that I am now. I would never have started The Huggabear Children’s Project, Inc. and all of the projects under it. I would never have been so blessed to serve so many thousands of children through the years–and I am believing for millions yet to come! This is the work that I will do for the rest of my life!!!
There was never a time when I have regretted the decision to leave Parkway and the bottom line for the reason why I left, plain and simple was because God told me to.
He told me to “Go quietly”. I trusted Him and am so thankful I did!
Once I left, I never felt that it was God’s will for me to go back. There were only three times in which I did, for three funerals, John Weik, Bro. Diffie and Linda Knauss. Josh and I were asked to sing a song that I gave Linda to sing with the choir, “So You Would Know” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. I had not stepped on that stage to sing in years and when it was our turn I knew there were some in the audience who were watching us closely. I also felt a bit strange in the sanctuary. The look of it had changed so drastically. The carpet was all gray, the stage walls were covered with large black drapes and the lights were kept down very low. It no longer looked and felt like the bright, beautiful and cheery church I once knew. It felt… sad and heavy. I whispered a prayer to the Lord for His strength and anointing and as I placed my foot upon that stage He spoke so clearly to me, “I taught you to sing for Me on this stage.” Upon hearing this my heart was overwhelmed by the presence of the Lord. I knew He was with us and He gave His anointing upon our song for Linda’s family. I was so thankful and honored to be able to be part of Linda’s service and to have God speak those words to my heart.
I have so many precious memories of that place. Memories of healings, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. I fell in love with my husband there and we had our wedding celebration there. Memories of my grandfather’s funeral and partings of other loved ones took place there. I went through my first pregnancy and dedicated our first baby there. All of the music we created and the amazing people we worked with, of the people whose hearts we won to Jesus, and the children we blessed and who blessed us that happened there. The list goes on and on and on.
The church felt like my home when I watched it being built and when I worked there I spent more time in it than I did my home. In fact, I had a futon in my office and sometimes, during holiday programs when the workdays were long and the hours were late, we would just stay the night in my office. It felt like home because it was home. Though it was hard to leave, God knew what was best. Always.
I am thankful for all of the memories that I have there, the good and the bad. Though I admit, it was hard to learn that I didn’t have as many close friends as I thought I did because I really did love them all. I think some of the people who were my friends while I was there were people that God wanted me to have in my life for that time, for that “season”. I’m good with it now because I know that the friends I have in my life love me and my family for who we are, not for what I do or the position I have. I wouldn’t trade a single one of them for anything in the world!
The days that Josh and I had at Parkway Community Church helped train us for what we are doing now. Our work there was within the walls of the church and those who came there. Now, we are working on a global scale with all kinds of people in countries all over the world. I am very thankful for all that I learned while there, through the trials and the victories God was teaching us, molding us, shaping and teaching us–and He is still not done. I don’t expect He ever will be until I leave this earth and go to Him in glory. Everything that happened at Parkway Community Church was according to His perfect will and plan and I wouldn’t trade any of it at all because it helped make me who I am today.
One of the main reasons why I felt led to write this blog after so many years and why I had to explain what happened to me while I was there, was because I needed to speak the truth about a matter of great importance to me and you couldn’t understand this without knowing a little about the past.
When I left Parkway, there were people who would often call me and tell me what was happening in the church. I found the negative stories painful because I loved my friends and didn’t want them suffering, especially since there was nothing I could to change it. But I also found the positive stories painful because some of the stories sounded like the people didn’t care that I was gone, like I had just been erased from the church completely which was also painful. So I had to stop allowing the calls to come and the stories to be told.
I knew that in order for my heart to have healing, I needed to remove myself from anything which would cause me more pain. Those who understood my position on this are my dear friends to this day, those who didn’t are not. Again, I trust God for all the relationships that He wants me to have and I am grateful for them.
But there came a story which I could not ignore and have felt led after these fifteen years and seeing the church lie in ruins to address. I was told by a dear friend, who I consider family, that there was a conversation which took place among some of the church leaders after my departure, who were casting blame upon myself and my husband, Josh, for influencing people to leave the church.
This – never – happened.
I never once influenced anyone to leave the Parkway Community Church, as God is my judge of all I say and do, neither Josh, nor myself, nor any member of my extended family encouraged anyone else to leave the congregation there.
It is true that there were some families that did leave and they came to where I was. I spoke with them seriously and directly asking them to please not leave because of me, and their response to me was that they were at the church to be part of my music department and now the music department I ran was gone and they wanted to come where I was. While this touched me to hear, I still was concerned that others would think I was an instigating force behind the departure of some of the members, but I was not. None of us were.
I heard that some people believed that because Josh and I experienced some hardships and trials after we left the church that we were being punished by God, but I know that is not true. God chooses the lessons He allows us to have so that He can teach us and shape us through each and every experience. Everything that Josh and I experienced while at the church and after we left the church was to prepare us for the ministry that we are doing now; to teach us not to be judgemental, to have more compassion for others, especially children, and to become better givers. Again, I wouldn’t trade any of the lessons God has allowed us to learn for an easier route. He has made us stronger, wiser, kinder, more obedient and definitely more trusting of Him and all of that is a very good thing!
I don’t know all the details about what happened to the Parkway Community Church after we left and I don’t need to. It won’t change anything and it won’t bring the church back. All I know is, I never wanted anything bad to happen to it. I loved the church very much and I had the hope that it would be able to grow and return to the thriving life it once had. When I first heard it was up for sale, I hoped a congregation would get it that would make it great again and use it to minister to the people of Phoenix, just as
Bro. Diffie dreamed so many years ago.
When I heard that it was to be torn down, my heart grieved and so did the hearts of hundreds. I couldn’t believe it or imagine life without it. All my life the dream of that building was spoken into so many hearts, not just mine and my families, but hundreds of families who came together to pray, give, work and make building it possible. The dream of the church was so powerful, so strong. I never thought that one day it could or would be removed from the earth.
After I received Josh’s call that morning telling me that the church was gone, I went there alone. As I pulled up to the property I could see fencing that had been put up by the construction company and when I turned in and saw what was once one of the most beautiful churches in this world lying in rubble, I cried. It was a shock to my heart.
I took out my camera and recorded what was before me because I knew, though it would be painful for all who loved it to see, that there were so many people who probably had no idea that it was gone and because they loved the church too, I felt they should know.
As I filmed it, thousands of memories washed over me. Memories of healings that I and others received in the altars of the church. I could hear the voices singing and could see the dancing, and the musicians playing their rich melodies, their worship heaven-bound. I could see the faces of children as they ran around the fountain and of people as they hugged one another. I can still see their smiles and their laughter. I can still taste the amazing “pot luck” dinners that the people would cook and feel the warmth I used to feel when I walked into the sanctuary. All of us who loved the Parkway Church and were part of it’s beginning and it’s life will always have these wonderful, beautiful, memories that we will always treasure and that is something that can never be destroyed or taken away.
For those who will read this and try to imply something to my story other than what it is, or might say if I and so many other people loved the church so much why didn’t we stay to help rebuild it? My response to that would be, I had to be obedient to the direction God gave me and He told me to leave. I cannot speak for anyone else, but just because a person doesn’t attend a church, doesn’t mean that they don’t still have love in their heart for it. If I had been so blessed to have the money to save it, I surely would have. In fact, I had a friend who works for a women’s ministry and wanted to buy it and turn it into a church and home for single Veteran mothers, but they never could find anyone to talk to about buying it or even find a listing for it. Still, though it is very, very hard to accept, I believe God had to have a reason for allowing it to be torn down. Again, I trust in Him.
As I stood there, the memory of standing on the same grounds as a teenage girl watching it being “born” washed over me. I would stand in the same spot and watch it being built, coming to life, and now, I was watching it lay in rubble at its end.
While I looked at the remains of the church I felt it pressing upon my heart so strongly that I had to write this blog just to let the world know that I did not have a hand in the destruction of the Parkway Community Church. I loved it far too much to ever do it any harm.
Standing on the grounds reminded me of the memory of watching the 44th Street Church being taken down. I thought to myself, “How many people have seen two of the churches of their lives that they loved torn down?” It is a sad thing for sure. But the memory of standing on the 44th Street property with my mother and baby brother and asking the workers there if we could please take something to remember it by came pounding into my heart. So I asked one of the workers at the Parkway property if I could please gather some of the pieces of the church to take home with me. The gentleman, whose name was Kevin, was so kind and understanding. He helped me and as he did he said, “I often remind my crew that for us, taking a building down is a job, but for the people connected to these buildings, they hold precious memories and we always need to be compassionate for them.” God placed Kevin there for me that day, and I thanked him for his kindness and help.
I gathered several bricks from the main building, pieces of beams and wood, some tile fragments from the bathroom, some rocks from the rock beds and a large strip of the copper roofing. In the new year, Josh and I are going to take these “Pieces of Parkway” and turn them into a cross that will be placed on our Huggabear Farm for all to see as a tribute to the beautiful dream of Bro. Hurschel Diffie and the 44th Street congregation members that once was the Parkway Community Church of God.
The memories of it will live on in our hearts and the memory of the dream that Bro. Diffie had to reach the harvest for the people of Arizona will live on in all of us who had the blessing of being his sheep. We will keep his dream alive by spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ just as he did and he taught us to do.
There are so many stories that could be told by so many people and how much they loved the church through the years. Although we cannot understand it, God had a reason for allowing the church to be removed and in its place, homes to be built. One thing for sure, those homes will be built upon Holy Ground that still holds the anointing of God’s power.
Today is December 31, 2019. Tomorrow will begin a new year and a new decade. I will enter the new year having spoken truth that I needed to speak for fifteeen years and as Jesus teaches us in John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” With this truth, I am setting myself free, and I bring this story to an end by saying, “Goodbye Old Friend, Parkway Community Church of God, and thank you for being such a beautiful, significant, and powerful part of my life. I am a better person for having known you.”