The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 19, 2011

Freedom Life Church opens doors in Lewisburg

By Tricia Pursell
The Daily Item

— ALLENWOOD — As a young man growing up in Bronx, Tony Cruz could often be found deejaying for parties and living among a group that some might say had little hope for a promising future.

Immersed in that lifestyle, Cruz said, “I saw a lot of teenagers fall by the wayside because they needed direction.”

That direction is something he has since aimed to provide through the ministry he says God called him to at the age of 16.

Following 16 years of steady evangelism throughout the United States, preaching to audiences of 5,000 to 6,000 people, Cruz, along with his wife Elisha, have planted Freedom Life Church in Lewisburg.

Traveling five days a week for seven years, leaving behind his wife and two children as he went on the road through his evangelism ministry, Cruz said fatigue began to set in.

He saw that as God’s way of opening up other doors for ministry, closer to home.

“God’s timing is almost just as important as God’s will,” Cruz said.

Looking back, he can see the perfection of that timing.

Raised by a Catholic family who “respected God from a distance” Cruz would only go through the motions at church.

“It wasn’t part of me,” he said. “With that, I always thought there might be more.”

In his pursuit of truth, Cruz met someone who invited him to a church outreach that offered something he could relate to — a hip-hop concert.

“That’s where I heard the Gospel,” he said. At the invitation of the pastor, “I accepted Jesus,” he said.

He was 15. A year later, he was called into ministry, he said, and followed that calling by attending Bible school at Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, where he majored in pastoral ministry and met Elisha, who was majoring in pastoral counseling.

Cruz’s preparation for ministry in college also included two years with the drama team, where he toured the country, “preaching up and down the east coast” at various services and camps.

Tony and Elisha were married after graduation, and served for four years as youth and associate pastors in a church outside of Philadelphia.

Though there are a lot of churches in the area, Cruz said, they each have different focuses and strengths.

“We felt we wanted to be a piece of the puzzle,” he said, as they all work to fulfill the Great Commission — reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The church’s “grand opening” took place Sunday.

“We want to be known in the community as a church that is giving to the community,” Elisha said, “showing God’s love to them.”

No matter your background, they say, you will be accepted, as the church is “a real church for real people.”

“We really work hard to make the gospel understood,” Cruz said.

They also want to “break out of the mold,” Elisha said, of what has become traditional and rote in many churches. “We want to be relevant to the culture,” she said.

“As a church, we have a great team that has prayed and planned well in the last four months,” Cruz said. “We are a united front, so we can be a strong church.”

Services are held at 10:30 a.m. Sundays in the Silver Moon Bingo Hall, at 150 Silver Moon Lane, off Route 15.

The Cruzes reside in Allenwood with their three children, Elijah, 5; Josiah, 3: and Hannah, 8 weeks.

More information about Freedom Life Church is available at freedomlifeag.com, or by calling 538-4649.

— Email comments to tpursell@dailyitem.com