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Eggstravaganza set for Saturday at Jeannette Assembly of God

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Lenten season finds the faithful seeking out fish fries and worship services while little ones await a visit from the Easter Bunny.

At the Jeannette Assembly of God on Route 130, the faithful can find a mix of all of this.

Now in its eighth year, the Easter Eggstravaganza has entertained about 150 kids and their parents and, with activities such as face painting and hair creations, the number may increase.

The Rev. Joe Charest, youth pastor at the church, said that “trying to reach out to the community” and a public representation of faith is an important message to send.

After majoring in recreational studies at the University of Massachusetts, Charest was encouraged by his roommate to attend a Christian group on campus.

After several requests, Charest said, “Finally to appease him, I went. The people there seemed genuinely interested in me and I figured if someone's praying for you, it has to be good, right?”

Soon after, he entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

He attended a Baptist Church for a time and then attended services at a Pentecostal Church in Northampton, which he described as a different experience.

In what might today be considered a risky move, the church members invited him and his friends to their home after church services.

“They didn't even know us,” he said.

As a result of the pastor talking about Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo., Charest and four of his college mates went there together. Charest earned his degree in religious education.

He met his wife, Tina, at a UMass reunion and the two married in 1974.

They have three children, Jen, who is 32 and a pastor's wife; Joel, 30, who is a missionary to Mozambique and is also a cancer survivor; and Jonathan, 29, who is a United States Marine and attends classes at North Carolina State majoring in business.

Charest became involved with the Assembly of God Church in Worcester, Mass., and after spending some time as a volunteer, he was asked to become a full-time employee.

A call from a pastor who wanted him to work at a school changed his path, then, after a visit, Charest said, “From that moment, I knew I was supposed to be there.”

He spent 20 out of his 24 years at the school as principal.

He and his wife decided to follow their daughter, Jen, to Erie and taught for three more years and then felt the call to move to children's ministry.

Charest then became involved with the New Stanton Assembly of God, but three bouts of serious illnesses landed him in the hospital and he had to resign his position.

That ultimately brought him to the Assembly of God in Jeannette, where he is celebrating his fourth year as children's pastor.

Charest is excited about the Eggstravaganza this weekend and all the activities that the church holds. The Eggstravangza will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday on the church grounds.

Kids from preschool through grade six can enjoy games like plinko and knock the bunny down and board games. There will be hair creations by Stephanie Kurlej and free food like hot dogs, chips, drinks and cotton candy.

Wendy Rose, the artist who worked in conjunction with Charest to paint murals on the interior of the classrooms, will offer face painting at the Eggstravaganza.

All the activities will culminate in an Easter egg hunt in which more than 4,000 eggs with prizes and candy inside are waiting to be found on the property.

The hunt will occur rain or shine, although some activities will be moved indoors if the weather is too severe.

Also appearing is Charest's own “Happy the Clown,” a gentle, loving clown who is just happy in Jesus. Charest has been portraying his alter-ego for more than 40 years at birthday parties, preschools, Lions Club activities and other events.

For children who are nervous, he's accompanied by a timid friend, Tink the Turtle, who is shy.

Tabitha's Closet, in which gently used clothing is given away for free, occurs every spring, and vacation Bible school will be held from July 7-11 and will offer classes not only for children, but teens and adults, as well.

The Jeannette Assembly of God offers something for every member of the family and welcomes anyone willing to visit.

Services begin with Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. and worship begins at 10:40.

Church services can be heard on the radio for a live broadcast on KFB 770AM at 11 a.m. and Children's Church begins at 11:15.

At 6 p.m., Evening Evangelistic Services are held.

Each service has a fully staffed nursery, van transportation for those who need a ride and a handicapped ramp.

Tuesdays are family nights with service starting at 7, adult Bible study, Royal Rangers for boys, MPact for girls and Youth Alive for older teens.

The church staff can be reached at 724-832-7066 during business hours. All are welcome.

Maria Tyger is a contributing writer.

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