Although Steven Milazzo is celebrating 25 years as senior pastor at Bethlehem Assembly of God in Valley Stream, his service to the community started years before the milestone.
Milazzo attended the church as a child, and said he felt the need to follow God’s calling even then. After he and his wife, Lisa, were married in 1983, they attended Bible college, and Milazzo began the process of becoming a pastor.
After graduating, Steven and Lisa took on leadership roles as youth ministers at the church. Steven moved through the ranks, from youth pastor to assistant pastor and, eventually, to senior pastor — a post he was appointed to in 1993.
“When I took over 25 years ago there were about 350 attendees, and now there are over 1,500,” Milazzo said. “The church is doing wonderful, and I’ve seen so much growth.”
Under Milazzo’s leadership, the church supports roughly 95 organizations worldwide specializing in charity and humanitarian aid, including programs to help drug addicts, as well as orphans, widows and the sick.
“Pastor Steven Milazzo has a passion for helping people, both locally and across the globe,” said church member Connie Wiermann, who coordinated Milazzo’s anniversary celebration. “He has impacted, influenced and touched the lives of my family for four generations, and we hold him and his family in high esteem and very dear to our hearts.”
Some of the people Milazzo mentored at the church went down similar paths of ministry, inspired by his impact on the community, Wiermann said.
“When I first became pastor, I knew I needed to grow in leadership,” Milazzo said. “Then I believed the church would be more effective and productive.”
“Every Sunday morning is a favorite memory for me,” he said. “A high point would be helping pastors and raising leaders, by helping them see their potential and [becoming pastors of] their own churches.”
Milazzo and his church joined other churches in 2012 to partner with Convoy of Hope, a worldwide humanitarian organization, in offering the first-ever Hope Day Network. The initiative provides a range of services to the needy, including free groceries, health services, clothes, job counseling and haircuts,.
After pioneering the event in Valley Stream, participating churches have helped broaden the Hope Day initiative to include churches in Suffolk County, New York City and New Jersey.
The church facilitating each Hope Day takes on the responsibilities of fundraising, creating partnerships, recruiting teams and finding volunteers, among other functions.
“Pastor Steve Milazzo took a step of faith and began brainstorming and dreaming of a way that churches could reach and transform their communities through volunteers,” the Hope Day website states.
“He is a model amongst ministers,” Wiermann said.
Future plans for the church — and Milazzo — include identifying pastors and leaders to start faith communities in other parts of Long Island. Milazzo spearheaded similar initiatives in the past, and he wants to increase the number of active pastors in his denomination.
His pastoral journey has taken him on a grateful and memorable ride, he said. The diversity of the community of people who worship in the church has increased in Milazzo’s 25 years of leadership. Membership in the multiethnic community now includes people from more than 50 nations.
“The church is a slice of heaven. When you look at the church, you see heaven,” Milazzo said. “It has given me a tremendous amount of thankfulness and a greater sense of gratitude.”
The Bethlehem Assembly of God offers its community a range of services, including English for speakers of other languages, Graduate Equivalency Diploma courses and the House of Hope, which helps community members by offering a food pantry and other necessities.
The church also posted more than 100 different sermons online. Topics include family, joy and faith. The church’s core values focus on diversity and unity, with the goal of helping people to grow, love and serve the community, Milazzo said.
“I am thankful that God has given me the ability and strength to do what I do,” he said.
Members of the Bethlehem Assembly of God will celebrate Milazzo’s 25 years as senior pastor this Sunday with a dinner at the Inn in New Hyde Park, as well as with special services at the church.
House of Hope is open four days a week: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesday, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. It is located across the street from the Bethlehem Assembly of God, at 12 E. Fairview Ave.
For more information, call Dawnelle Miller at (516) 887-1798, or go to firstname.lastname@example.org or www.hohonline.org.