In 1931, during the early days of the Pentecostal movement in Arkansas, a young evangelist, Bro. Melvin Carter, had been traveling in rural areas to hold revivals. In the fall, he decided to settle in Waldron, to put the children in school. One evening, Bro. Carter announced to his wife, Dovie, that, “I’ve got to go to Mena for a revival!” They knew they did not have the money to rent a place for church, or a place to live, and could not support themselves. Bro. Carter had attended services in Mena before at an “Oneness” house church, and he knew there was no other Pentecostal witness in Mena.
The “Oneness” congregation had also been praying for a revival. During a prayer meeting, a message in tongues and interpretation went forth saying that, “I have heard your prayers, I have seen your tears and I’m sending you a Crying Preacher”. The Pastor also received a word from God to contact Bro. Melvin Carter to come and hold a Christmas revival. A lady in the congregation offered her house as a place for their family to live for the duration of the revival. Bro. Carter gladly accepted the offer as an answer to prayer.
On the way into Mena, on Highway 71 North, Bro. Carter stopped at a site along the highway and got out of the car. It was snowing and cold, but he just kept walking around the site and praying. When he got back into the car, he told Sis. Carter, “There is the place for an Assembly of God Church.” He continued the journey to the house church to begin the revival.
In spite of heavy snow, on the first night of services, the church was packed. The revival continued for several weeks, and it was estimated that over seventy-five people were saved, and many filled with the Holy Spirit.
One night, Bro. Carter preached on the subject of “In My Father’s House” and explained the message of the trinity of God. Many received the message, but others did not. As a result, the revival closed. But Bro. Carter knew God had sent him to Mena, so he stayed at the request of many who were saved during the revival.
The fledgling flock began to hold services in the house where the Carter family lived. The congregation grew, and had to move into a large store building on South Mena Street. In March of 1932, the church was set in order by Presbyter P. F. Ramsey of Malvern. It received official affiliation with the General Council of the Assemblies of God on May 3rd, 1932. Sixty people joined the church the day it was set in order. Several months later, through a series of miracles, the congregation was able to buy the very lots of property where Bro. Carter had stopped on his way into Mena, for $200. Mena First Assembly of God was built there with contributions of money, materials, and voluntary labor, not only from people in the congregation, but businesses as well. The “Crying Preacher” wept for joy, knowing that many souls would be born into the Kingdom of God. Bro. Carter went to be with the Lord on April 5, 1960, two weeks after preaching his last sermon from II Timothy 4 entitled “I Have Fought a Good Fight.” (Adopted from the booklet entitled “The Founding of the Mena Assembly of God by Mrs. M. W. Carter”)
The church remained in this building for 42 years, and supported several new pastors. By 1974, the church had outgrown the small building and parking facilities, and began to seek a new location. Another miracle resulted in the church purchasing ten acres of prime property with virgin pine timber on it. The cost was exactly the same price received for the sale of the old property. Construction of the church was completed the same year. In 1975, the church was able to add a parsonage to the property where the church is currently located at 2111 Sutherland Ave.
On June 3rd, 2001, Rev. Ron and Sis. Pam Tilley, and children, accepted the appointment as Pastors of Mena First Assembly of God. A long-time, faithful member of the church, Sis. Maggie Williams, kept attendance for the month of May, 2001; upon hearing the news of the Tilley’s appointment, she wrote these remarks on her record sheet: “We got Ronnie Tilley for our pastor...Thank God”. Although the congregation had declined to less than 20 members, the first Sunday of Bro. Tilley’s ministry saw 107 people in attendance and the church has steadily grown since that time.
Pastor Tilley’s vision for the church was to make it warm, friendly and helpful toward people of all backgrounds. He believed that those around us must be born-again, brought to a place of discipleship, and always remain hungry for a closer walk with our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. These principles must be accomplished through ministries inside and outside the church. Leaders must be biblically qualified and have basic core values of reaching the lost, being salt and light to the community, living by the authority of the Bible, and being empowered by the Spirit of God. Individual and corporate growth is achieved through study of the Word, fervent and frequent worship, prayer, and a steadfast commitment to ministry.
Around the year 2005, and as numerical growth continued, the church saw the need to begin a building program. The original idea was to build a multipurpose building, but as construction got underway, it was quickly made evident that the current sanctuary was too small to handle the numbers of worshippers in attendance. Therefore, plans were modified, and a new sanctuary for worship, along with additional classrooms and an elaborate guest area were constructed. During the early stages of construction, Sis. Tilley stated rather emphatically that the new sanctuary needed a balcony for additional seating. This statement was met with initial resistance from Pastor Tilley; but in the end, she won out, and the balcony was constructed, which proved to be a necessary and much-used asset to the facility.
The first service was held on April 8th, 2007—Easter Sunday morning. Construction was not complete—floors were bare concrete, raw plywood covered the stage area. 325 chairs were borrowed from CMA, and they appeared to be virtually all full of worshippers. It was an exciting time. It was not long until flooring had arrived, permanent seating was arranged, sound equipment installed, etc.
On October 15th, 2019, the church did something that had never before been done in its 87 year history—they took delivery of a brand new 15 passenger Ford van. They had previously only had used vans. For almost two years, the church family, along with help from former church members and friends, worked hard to raise close to $48,000 for its purchase and delivery.
As of this update (February 20, 2020), the church is seeing tremendous health and unity. The Holy Spirit is actively changing and molding lives—God is being glorified.
Special thanks and consideration goes to Sis. Bonnie Lyda for providing much of the historical information contained in this document.