I praise God daily for the many ways our churches are actively and creatively participating in the life of God in the world.
In conferences this year, we have been emphasizing how God reaches out in love to all humanity, revealing himself and declaring the salvation that he has secured for all people in Jesus Christ. And the beautiful thing is that God calls us to share in that with him.
Using Bible terminology, we call our part in that work “mission,” and that mission is trinitarian and incarnational. We call it trinitarian because it is from the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Spirit. We call it incarnational because it is being worked out in exciting ways through the Spirit by the Son who is present in his Body, the church. The church is formed, gifted and empowered by the Holy Spirit to participate in what God is doing to draw all people into Christ and his loving relationship with the Father.
As part of Body of Christ in the world, we are privileged to participate in what God is now doing in the world. In this issue of Weekly Update we take a look at some of the ways our members and congregations are taking part.
Our congregation in Kalispell, MT is hosting a community garden that demonstrates God’s love by benefitting a local food bank.
Several of our Philippine pastors gathered for a conference in Mindanao to learn more about their part in God’s mission.
New Heights Summer Camp is taking steps to equip staffers and campers for active participation in the mission of God back home.
My sincere thanks to all our members and congregations for the sacrifices they make every day to participate actively in what God is doing in his mission to our world. That participation always begins with and goes forward in prayer so let us remember that prayer is the battleground where we are fighting the good fight of faith.
Love from my family to yours,
Jeff Chandler, who pastors the GCI church in Jonesboro, Arkansas was featured recently in an article in Jonesboro Occasions magazine (see the article at http://www.jonesborooccasions.com/stylemay11.html). The article tells the story of how Jeff and his wife Trish adopted a healthier lifestyle. Here is a comment from Jeff:
I am thankful for the path God has brought Trish and me down. Our journey in this weight loss program has given us many opportunities for evangelism. One such opportunity involved the owner and one of the primary instructors of the fitness boot camp mentioned in the article. We got to know them and now both are members of our congregation. They also asked me to perform their marriage ceremony! I asked the husband why he likes our church (he comes from a charismatic church background). He answered, “I’ve been to churches with lots of music; I’ve been to churches where I’ve been preached to; but here it’s all about the love.”
Mindanao pastoral team conference
77 pastors and pastoral team members, from all over Mindanao, Philippines, attended a Pastoral Team Conference held on September 3-4. The theme was “Growing Together in His Love.”
Conference speakers were Philippine National Director Eugene Guzon, Assistant to the National Director and Metro Manila Area Superintendent Pastor Rex de la Peña, and Pastor Audie Santibañez and his wife Ma’am Rachel of the Crossway congregation.
Following is a report from camp director Jeff Broadnax, concerning Generations Ministries’ New Heights Summer Camp held recently in Connecticut
First I want to thank our churches in Schenectady, NY; Loudon, NH; Stratford and Meriden, CT; Queens, Manhattan and Rochester, NY; and Newark and Hillsdale, NJ for their financial support. We could not serve these amazing young people without their help. I also want to thank the Chillicothe, OH and Hillsdale, NJ churches for spending 24 hours in prayer for us during camp week.
This year we had 68 campers and 68 staffers. The number of campers was down a bit this year due to the poor economy. But this allowed our staff more time to re-assess our calling to be a mission-oriented ministry. We were also able to spend more time on a leadership development and transition plan.
Our theme this year, “Living Loved,” caught on like wildfire as campers and staffers embraced the secure relationship we have with and in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The theme was unpacked in chapel messages from Pastors Dishon Mills, Anthony Rice and Lawrence Evans.
I can’t thank our staff enough for yielding to the Spirit of God, allowing Him to use them to continue our transformation into a mission-oriented camp. Staffers came from the Northeast and as far away as Alaska. Every single day, these dedicated Christians laid down their lives in prayer, conversation and hard work to expand the Christ-centered worldview of our campers.
This year we added new life-skills classes: “time to speak” (public speaking), “roadside assistance” (basic car care) and a class on “helping in a local church.” We also had Pastor David Botha of GenMin Grace Missions share his testimony and experience in the mission field to help ignite in our campers and staffers a desire to participate in outwardly focused mission. Pastor and Mrs. Joseph Franklin from Haiti also shared their journey in the mission field. We are also working with the Franklins to bring Haitian children to our camp next year.
There were many highlights this year, but I’ll mention two. First, two of our staffers were baptized: Jasmine Broadnax and Sharon (Techiera) Ng. Second, we experienced a dramatic intervention from God. As we were readying for our final ceremony, we received a report that a line of very severe thunderstorms was headed toward the camp. We immediately gathered to pray and God diverted the storms. The moving closing ceremony went ahead as planned. We believe that God calmed the massive storm to remind our campers just how much he loves us and to assure them that he will be with them in the storms of their lives.
Montana garden outreach
The GCI congregation in Kalispell, Montana is sponsoring a community garden as an outreach project. Here is a report from Pastor Lloyd Barrie.
The community garden has been successful in many ways. In May, the congregation made the decision to put their vacant lot next to the church building to productive use. As is true in many states, budgets were cut and the local food bank’s needs were not met. While individual church members planted personal plots, the majority of the garden was devoted to supplying fresh produce to the food bank.
Montana has a short growing season, so black plastic was laid first. This not only controlled weeds, but also warmed the soil. The results were amazing – squash almost as large as one of the youngest church members! For the past month, bags of produce have been delivered to the food bank on a weekly basis. There will be more before the first frost.
In addition to helping the community, our garden has brought our members closer together. Even the younger children have been able to contribute and at the same time learn about growing food. We’ve all grown through this experience. Sundays, after services, we’ve donned gardening garb and worked and prayed together in Montana’s sunshine. Next year we hope to have an even larger garden and involve more members of the community.
Haiti mission trip
The following report is from Carribbean Mission Developer Charles Fleming.
Over the weekend of September 2–6, Pastor David Perry from Indiana and Pastor David Botha from Ohio accompanied me on a visit to our church and school in Haiti. Our members are doing well and have come a long way in restoring some form of normalcy to their lives following the earthquake. They are grateful for the prayers and other forms of support extended to them by so many in GCI. The knowledge that they are part of a denomination-wide community that cares for them means a great deal to them.
We had two goals for this trip: First, to be a physical representation of GCI to them. And second, to evaluate how best GCI members and sister churches can help the school be all it can be. What we experienced was far more than that. Mission trips can be times of heightened awareness of just how active the ascended Lord of all life continues his incarnated engagement with a sin-suffocated world. This trip was no exception, as Haiti has a way of laying bare the rawness of human need and resilience, on the one hand, and God’s love on the other. Here are a few reflections on what we experienced.
We were privileged to meet a few expatriate businessmen and missionaries. We were struck by their deep respect for the Haitian people. They acknowledged how hard it is to live in Haiti—with its weak governing structure, corruption, crime, inefficiency, etc.—but most of their conversation focused on the strength and resilience of the people. They put into words what I have felt on each of my visits over the past 20 years. Haitians highlight the fact that God made us in his image. In my view, many Haitians are living representatives of the way the Lord of Life always finds a way to let life win! No matter what God’s created children do to separate themselves from him and his true life, he finds a way to turn our death-wish into life. No matter what happens in their country, people in Haiti pick themselves up and move forward with a nobleness of spirit that always surprises and inspires me.
Our little church of 15 members demonstrates this resilience. Pastor Joseph Franklin and the school staff are ready for the new school year, which should have begun during our visit, but schools have been ordered to remain closed until a new Minister of Education is appointed. Undaunted, they continue to enroll students, expecting at least 150. They also persevere in the face of minimal infrastructure support. Like most Haitian institutions, they have back-up generators because of frequent power cuts. In a state where the government cannot provide adequate security, they have adjusted to a new rhythm of life where they are home before sundown.
We got to see how God adds to our little family in Haiti. We participated in the baptism of Cassandre Naval, daughter of Andre and Maggie Naval, who are leaders in the congregation. Jean Desravines, who lives at the school and serves as a watchman, was also baptized (picture at right).
I sat in on a meeting that Pastor Franklin had with leaders from a group of 30 churches that would like some form of affiliation with GCI (picture at left). Mr Franklin was invited to speak at the group’s upcoming annual convention at the end of this month. There are also plans to continue meeting to discern God’s will for them.
We became friends with two young Danish men who are back-packing around the Caribbean and Latin America. They were staying at the same hotel we stayed at and decided they wanted to experience Haitian life from our perspective as church pastors on mission. So they came to both of our church services (picture below), attended the baptism ceremony, ate most meals with us and engaged us in conversations about life and spirituality.
I was impressed by the growing passion for, and expertise in, mission within our denomination. God clearly is building a movement for mission that is both bottom-up and top-down. The top-down impetus is seen in the way our leaders emphasize and promote mission and set up basic systems and structures to encourage it. The bottom-up impetus was well represented by Pastors Perry and Botha.
I conclude with a few prayer requests.
Please continue to pray for our members, their safety as well as for God to provide for their needs.
Please join us in praying for God’s guidance as to what he wants to come out of the conversations about possible affiliation with the group of 30 churches.
Pray for the national leadership that, for example, there could be a new Minister of Education appointed soon.
David Perry and Jeff Snyder (pastor of our Savannah, Georgia congregation) are planning two trips to Haiti over the next eight months to upgrade the school. Pray for all the planning and especially for their safety.
Join us in giving thanks for the recent baptisms and blessings such as the fact that Daniel Naval (brother of the young lady baptized) recently won a full scholarship and is studying in France and is now part of our church in France.
Africa mission trip
Janet Morrison, director of Generations Ministries Great Commission Trips, returned recently from a mission trip to Africa. With her husband Mike (a senior editor in GCI media), Janet led a group that conducted Vacation Bible Schools in three GCI congregations in Zambia and three in Malawi (see map). Below are pictures from the trip to the church in Chawama, Zambia. For more information, see http://gctrips.org/ZAMBIA.aspx.
Many of us have been praying for Jason Richards, the grandson of GCI pastor Martin Manuel. Jason faces life-threatening health issues. Here is a report from Martin:
Jason’s recovery from the most recent crisis has been quick and remarkable, as stated by a number of nurses and doctors who have attended him for the past few days. He was released from the ICU and we have been told that probably he will go home in a few days. They have changed the medicine that is suspected to be at fault.
After his cardiac arrest, a nurse told us that “angels were with him in the room.” Another nurse said that “the prayers worked.” Though the past few days have been extremely stressful, the grace and presence of God with Jason and each of us has been very clear. Many of you have sent encouraging e-mails and some have called. We appreciate them and especially the prayers!
Love to all, Martin
58: The Film
NAE (The National Association of Evangelicals) has announced the October premier of the film 58:. It’s an inspiring story of how the global church is joining together to end extreme poverty in the world by 2035.
NAE is partnering with 58: to provide complimentary DVD screening kits for churches and organizations. You can learn more, and watch the film trailer at http://www.live58.org/thefilm/.