Assemblies of God hopes to keep presence in Belgium despite permit problems

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- The Assemblies of God hopes to maintain its missionary work in Belgium despite having four church volunteers deported from the country for violating work permit laws.

The denomination said it was unaware until the women were detained that Belgium strictly enforced a 1999 law requiring work permits for missionaries serving outside the pulpit and church ministry.

The American women were volunteering Feb. 7 in a media office and a Christian academy in the town of Sint-Genesius-Rode when police took them into custody, saying they were working illegally on tourist visas. The women were jailed overnight then put on a flight to New York.

The church is now investigating the permit status of the 75 Assemblies of God missionaries who remain in the country.

Thomas Trask, general superintendent of The Assemblies of God, called for a day of fasting and prayer Feb. 21 for volunteers still in Belgium.

The 2.6 million-member evangelical denomination is based in Springfield.