MANATEE -- She's barely 5 feet tall and she wanders the lawless mountains of Pakistan's northern provinces in an attempt to convert Taliban jihadists to Christianity.
She's a graduate of the locally based Global Impact Bible College & Seminary, which stems from West Bradenton's Church Without Limits, 2209 75th St. W. Her actions define the church's "Book of Acts" teachings, according to Senior Pastor Steve Erickson.
"An Acts church is supposed to reproduce what was done in the beginning," Erickson said. "A lot of times we forget that the church is supposed to be a hospital for hurting souls, not a museum for saints. When that happens, it becomes about how holy we are and are no longer a hospital for hurting souls."
Erickson said the Church Without Limits is considered a Book of Acts church because it is the only book in the Bible that never ended.
"There is no formal farewell in the Book of Acts," he said. "It's continuing today because acts of the Holy Spirit are still taking place. It's still being written. An Acts church
means it's up to us, the called-out body of believers, to teach the word of God, to share the good news of Jesus Christ and bring love, hope, joy and peace to a dead and dying world. This has always been up to the church, and if we don't do it, then who will?"
Like the 12 original disciples of Christ who were tasked with the mission of converting others to Christianity and to create other disciples to do the same, Erickson said the task given to the original disciples is not over. The holy mission includes keeping Christ's first commandment to love your fellow man "as you love me."
Disciples and Christians are tasked to help widows, orphans and people in need as shown by Christ's own actions. The Church Without Limits takes those commands seriously.
As West Bradenton's only food bank, a small group of church volunteers distributed more than 85 tons of food this year alone. The food bank started with about 80 needy families and has grown to feeding more than 500 people a week, officials say.
The church's No Limits Orphanage in India rescues children from sexual trafficking. Another orphanage in Africa, as well as the No Limits Learning Academy, feature sites where hundreds of children receive an education, clothing, the gospel and likely the only meal they will eat each day.
Erickson reaches millions of people through his radio and TV show "Illumination," which brings the gospel into remote villages of the world, as well as a weekly Skype service to 10,000 Pakistanis.
Locally, the Church Without Limits has a congregation of about 200 people, "if they all came at the same time," said Erickson.
So how does this small "Mother Church" feed the souls of millions and send evangelists into the darkest corners of the Earth?
"God," said Erickson. "When you feel you are supposed to do something from the word of God, the first impulse is to look at your own finances, the people it will take, the steps necessary, but then you realize it's not about me. When God gives you an assignment, we never ask 'How Lord?' We say, 'Yes Lord.' God is never looking for your ability. He's looking for your availability. His will, His bill. Before He even lets you in on the plan, He always has the whole thing worked out."
Erickson is the author of the soon-to-be-released "Lord, Make Me A Precious Jewel," from Tate Publishing, one of the largest publishing houses for Christian books. The book, 10 years in the making, will hit stores in November and he is already scheduled for 50 speaking engagements across the country.
He has written other books, as well, but perhaps his proudest work in the written word is the award-winning curriculum of the Global Impact Bible College & Seminary that is changing lives across the globe -- right here at home.
"Because we had thousands of pastors and ministry leaders around the world getting our teaching materials to use as resources, we decided it was time to set up a very high quality Bible College and Seminary program that was both affordable and easily accessible to anyone, anywhere across the globe."
After working for years with accredited colleges and the Florida Department of Education, the dream became a reality and students can earn a ministry degree from associate to doctoral levels.
"We are extremely proud to have been chosen as one of Charisma's Best Christian Colleges and Universities, as well as graduate schools, seminaries and online educations," said Erickson.
The main campus is in West Bradenton, and there are 13 extension campuses around the world to offer courses to Christians in foreign lands in their native tongue. The fastest-growing extension campus is in Pakistan where converting to Christianity is much different than it is in the states. A Muslim who converts to Christianity must change their name, give up their business, are shunned by family and friends and often face death threats.
And yet, thousands of Pakistanis are flocking to learn the teachings of Christ through the Global Impact Bible College & Seminary.
Here in Bradenton, classes are available during the day or evening and students don't have to wait to join or work at their own pace through the college's DVD home study option or take the online courses.
For more information about the college, visit gibcs.com or call 941-792-3200. For more information on The Church Without Limits, visit thechurchwithoutlimits.com where you can learn more about this "soul-winning, devil stomping, hungry feeding, needy supplying, truth worshipping, pleasing to God ... end of times Church."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.