The Founding of Good News Assembly of God

In The Beginning…

“For I know the plans I have for you,’” declares the Lord,  “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”- Jeremiah 29:11

Though spoken to a people in a context at a time far distant from our own, we too can hear the words of Scripture echo as we consider the events surrounding the founding of Good News Assembly of God.

Though well known in this fellowship, the larger story requires that we look beyond the mere moment of its initial beginning towards the deeper background.

Most important in this regard are the disparate individuals whom God providentially guided to Bridgeton, New Jersey at just the right time in history to accomplish His purpose.

Understanding the stories of those that comprised the fledgling congregation is an important step in appreciating what happened in the early days of our shared community of faith.

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Rev. Alfred and Ernestine Ziefle with children Bill and Monica Dec 1961

Alfred and Ernestine Ziefle

Two individuals integral in the beginnings of Good News Assembly of God were its founding ministry couple, Alfred and Ernestine Ziefle.

Alfred Ziefle, who was eventually to be the church’s founding and longest tenured pastor, was born in Schauringen, Poland on July 30,1933. His wife, Ernestine Hobrath, was born in Velimirowac, Yugoslavia on July 6, 1935. Both were of German descent and returned to their shared homeland in the years following the Second World War.

They met first in 1952 while Alfred was traveling as an itinerant Pentecostal preacher in Germany and Ernestine and her family were refugees in the town of Schewgenheim. Acquainted with Alfred after being converted under his ministry, the two were married in December 1954.

The couple immigrated to the United States in 1955, moving first to Cleveland, Ohio. Alfred, who had desired to  minister in this country, became affiliated soon after with the German District of the Assemblies of God and a pastorate in Java, South Dakota quickly followed. Ernestine and Alfred were blessed with two children in those early years, William Jack(born 1956) and Monica (born 1959).

In 1960, the Ziefle family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Alfred and Ernestine worked at planting a church. Outreach efforts to Trenton, New Jersey and a radio ministry were also part of their time there. It was during this period in their lives that they became acquainted with certain individuals who would become pivotal in God’s plan in Bridgeton, New Jersey, Rudy and Helene Kolbe and Elfriede Zibulski. At times, prayer meetings were held with these and other individuals as they sought the Lord’s will in their lives.

So it was that June 17-1, 1964, Rev. Ziefle was present at an Oral Roberts Crusade held in Philadelphia, having been invited to the meetings to minister to the German speaking people.The following is the story of some of the individuals involved and the church they would found.

Anna-Kaser-~~element55

Philadelphia Inquirer Wednesday, June 17, 1964 Page 18

Anna Kaser

An important figure in the church’s early years was Anna Kaser. Born in 1911 in the German village of Fischerdorf in the Ukraine, Anna was the youngest of six daughters of Jakob Zernickel. Her father, a lay pastor in the local Lutheran church, prayed diligently with his family and read the Bible aloud to his children every day. Through this example, Anna developed a lifelong love for the word of God.

Although society began to grow increasingly atheistic in the Communist Soviet Union, it was evident God’s hand remained on Anna. Though 1943 was one of the most trying times of her life, where she witnessed the German and Russian armies fighting some of the fiercest battles of World War II in the Ukraine near Fischerdorf, God gave Anna a dream. In the vision she saw the footprints of our Lord leading her out of the Soviet Union to Germany.

A short time later, as the German army retreated, she and her sisters Malwina and Maria together with all of their children were led to safety in Germany.

In December 1954 these footprints led to Seabrook, New Jersey, where Anna, her husband Karl Kaser and daughter Ella came to join her sisters, Maria Karich and Malwina Metzger. They were followed in 1956 by her older daughter Lilly and her husband Kurt Vohland. All found work at Seabrook Farms. In 1956 Karl and Anna Kaser, daughter Ella, Emma Nurnberg and her son Paul purchased a large tract of land on Big Oak Road where the two families soon built a brick house. Ella and Paul Nurnberg were married in 1958.

Since she was a young adult, Anna Kaser had suffered from muscular dystrophy. As she grew older, she grew increasingly more disabled and day-to-day tasks such as walking and lifting became difficult. In June 1964, her nephew Jakob Mohr heard about the Oral Roberts Crusade in Philadelphia featuring speakers Oral Roberts and Robert F. DeWeese and suggested that his aunt go to receive prayer. According to advertisements in The Philadelphia Inquirer, prayer for physical healing was a major focus. Karl and Anna Kaser, together with their daughter Ella and her husband Paul Nurnberg, attended several of these services.

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Elfriede Zibulski with son Ron Philadelphia Mid 1960’s

Elfriede Zibulski

Elfriede Zibulski helped play an important role in Philadelphia. Born September 9, 1925 in Lochocin, Poland, she became a Christian in Germany in 1948 through revival meetings held at her church. With her son Ron, she immigrated to the United States in 1952 and settled in Seattle, Washington with her sister.

During a 1960 visit to her friends Rev. Emil and Loni Degen Philadelphia, she felt God leading her to the East Coast. She and her son relocated to the area where she soon began assisting with ministry among the German speaking people.

In the spring of 1964 an Oral Roberts Crusade was scheduled to be in Philadelphia and many of the Assemblies of God churches in southeastern Pennsylvania were helping by supplying lay workers for the ministry.
Elfriede’s pastor at Calvary Assembly of God had asked her to be a volunteer in the prayer room. Rev. Ziefle had also asked her to watch for German speaking people to whom she could direct him.

At the end of one of the services, Karl and Anna Kaser found themselves in line in the prayer room. Elfriede Zibulski overheard Anna Kaser say in German that she wished the lady offering prayer could speak German. When it was Anna’s turn to receive prayer, Elfriede greeted her in German, and at her request prayed with her for healing.

Rudy Kolbe

Another Philadelphia resident key to the work was Rudy Kolbe. He was born September 12, 1935 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Rudy and Helene Kolbe with David and Esther in front of Kaser - Nurnberg home  Fall 1964

Rudy and Helene Kolbe with David and Esther in front of Kaser – Nurnberg home
Fall 1964

He was born again at age 19 through extensive Bible study to prepare for his confirmation in the Lutheran church.

After immigrating to Philadelphia in 1957, he met his wife, Helene Schlack, at the home of her sister Loni Dege. They were married in 1960 and spent the next several years in Kansas where Rudy was stationed with the United States Army.

When they returned to Philadelphia in 1963, they met Rev. and Mrs. Ziefle. Rudy assisted Rev. Ziefle on his home visits to German speaking families throughout the Philadelphia/New Jersey area.

At one point during the 1964 Oral Roberts crusade, Karl and Anna Kaser and Paul and Ella Nurnberg met Rev.Ziefle. He recorded the family’s address and phone number and asked Anna Kaser if she knew how to pray.
After sharing with the family for a few minutes, Anna asked Rev. Ziefle to come to their home so that they could invite more of their friends and relatives to hear the gospel. In the summer of 1964 after the crusade, Rev. Ziefle called the Kasers and scheduled a meeting with them on a Sunday afternoon. He invited Rudy Kolbe to accompany him.

What they found when they reached the Kaser and Nurnberg home was the beginning of a work only God could have designed. To their surprise, the basement was filled with 25 -30 people. Rev. Ziefle spoke to those gathered about the good news of Jesus Christ.
After this initial meeting, the Ziefles together with the Kolbes, Elfriede Zibulski and others began traveling to Bridgeton weekly for Sunday afternoon services. These early times were centered on Bible-based preaching and explanation of the gospel to those in attendance. Over the course of the first few meetings, some began committing their lives to Christ and seeking to know more about the faith.

Top Row L to R: Olga Hoerner, Peter Hoerner, Karl Kaser Bottom Row Lto R: Malwina Metzger, Rebekka Ossiboff, Anna Kaser, Paul Nurnberg, Ella Nurnberg, Lilly Voland, Kurt Vohland, Ernestine Ziefle, Rev. Alfred Ziefle (c.1970)

Top Row L to R: Olga Hoerner, Peter Hoerner, Karl Kaser
Bottom Row Lto R: Malwina Metzger, Rebekka Ossiboff, Anna Kaser, Paul Nurnberg, Ella Nurnberg, Lilly Voland, Kurt Vohland, Ernestine Ziefle, Rev. Alfred Ziefle (c.1970)

Peter and Olga Hoerner

Two of those attending these early meetings were Peter and Olga Hoerner. Peter Hoerner was born in 1914 in New Petersburg, Ukraine.

Like many ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe, he was a refugee who fled to Germany at the end of World War II. There he met and married Olga Heckert, who was born in 1921 in Hutfien, Poland.

In 1952, along with their son Peter, Jr., they came to the United States. They first settled in New York, but within a short time were persuaded by some friends to move to Upper Deerfield where they found jobs at Seabrook Farms.

Olga remembers vividly that in the spring of 1964, she had a great yearning to know God better and felt there was more to having a relationship with Him than she had already experienced. Then when her neighbor, Malwina Metzger invited her to a Sunday meeting at the Kaser -Nurnberg home that summer, she eagerly went along.

She was soon born again, and her husband Peter received salvation a few months later.

The First Baptismal Service

As time went on, however, tension arose in the lives of many of the Lutherans in attendance over how to relate what

L to R: Magdalena Schurbas, Lilly Vohland, Anna Kaser, Karl Kaser, Ella Nurnberg, Malwina Metzger, Peter Hoerner, Rebekka Ossiboff, Paul Nurnberg, Olga Hoerner, Kurt Vohland, and Rev. Ziefle

L to R: Magdalena Schurbas, Lilly Vohland, Anna Kaser, Karl Kaser, Ella Nurnberg, Malwina Metzger, Peter Hoerner, Rebekka Ossiboff, Paul Nurnberg, Olga Hoerner, Kurt Vohland, and Rev. Ziefle

they were hearing to their older church experience.

In this respect, the issue of baptism was a major turning point. Because being born again meant giving one’s whole life to Christ and this was symbolized through baptism by immersion. Many of ​those in attendance were faced with the choice of going against Lutheran church teaching by being baptized or cutting ties with that congregation and taking a different step of faith.

In the end, it was this issue that divided many in attendance; some stopped coming entirely to the meetings, while even those who stayed remained tentative about the notion of baptism.

However, through the counsel of Rev. Ziefle and the interest of some in the group, eleven individuals decided to come forward and an initial baptism service was held on May 2, 1965 at Chestnut Assembly of God in Vineland.

In the August 1965 issue of Licht und Leben, the newsletter of the German District of the Assemblies of God, the following was reported concerning this day. “On May 2, eleven brethren were allowed to take the step of obedience and follow the Lord in baptism. With great joy they bore witness of what Jesus had done for them and became to them.”

Ten of those eleven became the charter members of German Full Gospel Church. Magdalena Schurbas, the eleventh became a member of a congregation in Philadelphia, near her home.

A Church is Built

Following this first baptism, these charter members of the small fellowship understood that they had taken a step toward something completely new. Unable and unwilling to return to the Lutheran congregation, they quickly decided it was time to build a new church where they could worship.

Land was donated by Karl and Anna Kaser, Paul and Ella Nurnberg, and Emma Nurnberg and in the autumn of 1965 a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new building. Donations from church members, financial assistance from the German district, and a building loan taken through a local bank were the major sources of funding for the project. Though a local contractor was utilized in construction, numerous individuals from the community of faith came together to lend a hand.

The masonry work was completed primarily by Kurt Vohland and Rev. Jacob Schneider, an Assemblies of God pastor in Philadelphia who assisted Rev. Ziefle on many occasions.

Many others helped out as well. Edmund Martin installed the electrical work. Peter Hoerner is remembered as having crafted the swinging doors leading into the sanctuary, and Edmund Steinke made the platform and altar area in the front of the church. Ella Nurnberg sewed the curtains for the baptistry as well as other items for the sanctuary. The pulpit was made by Rev. Harry Snook of Chestnut Assembly of God and presented to the congregation as a gift.

Officially Incorporated

On February 11, 1966, the congregation was officially incorporated as German Full Gospel Church with the following officers:

Alfred Ziefle, President
Paul Nurnberg, Vice President
Melitta Martin, Secretary
Kurt Vohland, Treasurer

Additional board members included Peter Hoerner, Karl Kaser, and Edmund Martin.

While the building pressed on, the home meetings at the Kaser residence continued on together with the evangelism and discipleship that was their hallmark. Meetings began to be held in the church around the time of its completion in early 1966.

Dedication Sunday

-Dedication-Sunday-~~element52The dedication service for German Full Gospel Church held on March 27, 1966 was an important milestone for the young congregation. The May 1966 issue of Licht und Leben reports the following about that day: “At the dedication believers came from near and great distances.

Already in the morning service the presence of the Lord was overwhelming. In the afternoon was the dedication service. More than 250 people were present.

Town officials were also present and brought greetings and blessed us. Neighboring churches came to worship and celebrate with us. C.W. Loenser, Superintendent of the German District and pastor of the Cleveland German Church, was participating by bringing us the Word of God. He consecrated the whole fellowship to the Lord.

In the evening service the congregation participated by sharing what the Lord had done in their lives. We are filled with great joy and expectations and our prayers are, Lord, make this house a light house and an ark of Salvation where many more will find salvation and a haven of rest, especially among the German speaking community.”

It is also remembered that the township mayor and other local officials were in attendance. Harry Adler, the attorney for the church, and a Jewish man, offered his own greetings and encouragement to the fellowship.

Following the dedication, the young congregation had to face the daunting task of continuing on with its twelve members. Over time, numerous others in the local community devoted their lives to Christ and the church began to grow.

The church schedule in those days was much like it is today, with services both Sunday morning and evening, Sunday School classes for both children and adults and a Wednesday night Bible study.

Erhard & Maria Tiltmann

An important addition to the young church was the Tiltmann family. Erhard Tiltmann was born in 1937 in Galitten,

The choir under the leadership of Erhard Tiltmann, Spring 1974

The choir under the leadership of Erhard Tiltmann,
Spring 1974

Germany. Although raised in a Christian home, he did not give his heart to the Lord until he was seventeen years old. At that time, he became a Christian under the ministry of Rev.

Alfred Ziefle, who was holding ​those in attendance were faced with the choice of going against Lutheran church teaching by being baptized or cutting ties with that congregation and taking a different step of faith.
In the end, it was this issue that divided many in attendance; some stopped coming entirely to the meetings, while even those who stayed remained tentative about the notion of baptism.

However, through the counsel of Rev. Ziefle and the interest of some in the group, eleven individuals decided to come forward and an initial baptism service was held on May 2, 1965 at Chestnut Assembly of God in Vineland.

In the August 1965 issue of Licht und Leben, the newsletter of the German District of the Assemblies of God, the following was reported concerning this day. “On May 2, eleven brethren were allowed to take the step of obedience and follow the Lord in baptism. With great joy they bore witness of what Jesus had done for them and became to them.”

Ten of those eleven became the charter members of German Full Gospel Church. Magdalena Schurbas, the eleventh became a member of a congregation in Philadelphia, near her home.

In Conclusion

As the church moved through the early 1970s the arrival of the extended families of some members added new faces to the congregation. Between 1967 and 1969, Rudy Kolbe brought his brothers Paul and Albert Kolber and sister Helena Flatz, together with their families to the area from Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 1969, Rev. G. Fred Zeller and his wife Emma retired from their pastorate in Akron, Ohio and came to Upper Deerfield to assist Rev. Ziefle. In the early 1970s Ernestine Ziefle’s mother Eva, and brothers Adam Hobrath with his family, and Henry Hobrath came to Upper Deerfield. The older children in the congregation were now teenagers, and Henry Hobrath became the first youth leader. By 1972, attendance had reached 65-75 persons and would remain at this level for most of the next decade.

When looking back at the founding of Good News Assembly of God, one can hardly help but conclude that the hand of God was at work in its beginnings. From apparent chance encounters at a meeting in Philadelphia to the unique coming together of a group of people hungry for and receptive to the gospel, there can be no doubt that this church was the fulfillment of a plan not made by mortal hands.

Though there were difficult times early on and the congregation started out small, its sense of community and brotherly love seems in many ways something akin to that of the early Church recorded in Acts. It is this idea of love, openness, and community shared by believers in Christ that stands as a legacy to all of the work of God in Bridgeton, New Jersey and echoes strongly even today. If anything, the message this story brings to us is that God’s plan is secure, His love is sure, and through our participation in it, great things can occur. While God’s designs for our day may be vastly different that those of fifty years past, we would be wise to be attentive to His leading and have the same spirit in us as did those who came before.