GCI Update

Participants in God’s work of evangelism

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

During the recent ministerial conference in Canada, Dr. Elmer (he asked us to call him “El”) Colyer, gave us a wonderful presentation on “participatory, trinitarian, Christian faith” (click here for El’s bio). El’s use of the term “participatory” refers both to the divine life and love shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to our participation in God’s life, love and mission. Here is part of El’s comments on the Holy Spirit’s essential role in enabling and empowering our participation in God’s work of evangelism:

It is only the presence and the activity of the Holy Spirit that makes us and anyone free to know and believe and obey God’s self-communication to us in Christ. No one ever comes to Christ on the ground of a human argument or human witness apart from the Holy Spirit. This is why you really can’t argue anyone into the Kingdom unless the Spirit is also active. This is why praying for those that do not know Christ is so important – praying that the Spirit of God will be at work within them and in their lives. This is why prayer is the first act of Christian ministry.

Indeed, only the Holy Spirit can soften a heart – but as followers of Jesus, we are called to be his agents, bearing his love and truth to non-believers. Though this is important work, we should not fear it or make it more complicated than it is. El’s presentation on this was very helpful, and I encourage you to explore this issue further by clicking the link to the article in this issue of Weekly Update titled, Evangelism: simple. There you will find a story sent in by James Newby, which illustrates El’s point that evangelism really does not have to be contrived or complicated. Sometimes the opportunities show up literally on our doorstep.

The Holy Spirit is at work equipping followers of Jesus to take active part in God’s work, including his work of evangelism. His tools for equipping include seminaries that prepare women and men for pastoral and other ministries. Our own Grace Communion Seminary (GCS) is currently going through the accreditation process. Thanks for your prayers about this – the accreditation team recently visited us and they are now considering their decision. We will keep you updated.

We also are building alliances with other seminaries. In that regard, GCI was invited to participate in the recent annual denominational fair held by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) in Deerfield, IL (Chicago area). Representing GCI were Greg Williams (who coordinates the GCI-USA pastoral internship program), and GCI pastors Harry Kall (who also serves as district pastor), Richard Frankel, Willard High, Tracy Porter (who is also a TEDS student), and Becky Deuel. Becky addressed about 30 women and men who are enrolled in TEDS’ Master of Divinity (MDiv) program. Becky’s story concerning her journey as a woman into pastoral ministry within GCI was particularly well received. Becky and Greg met with several TEDS MDiv students following Becky’s presentation. A few ladies who will be graduating soon showed interest in connecting with GCI.

Your prayers about these developments are needed and appreciated. Please also pray about the issues noted in the Prayer & Updates feature, including an update on Bernie Schnippert’s health. Remember that prayer is the battleground on which we fight the good fight of faith!

Blessings from my family to yours,

Joseph Tkach

P.S. The Advent season will soon be on us. For your preparation you might find helpful the resources (including an Advent sermon series) posted by World Relief at http://worldrelief.org/christmas.

Penticton retreat

Gary Moore, national director for GCI in Canada submitted this report.

Norva and Ron Kelly

Wendy, Kylie and I had a wonderful weekend at the retreat sponsored by the Vancouver congregation in Penticton, Canada. The fellowship was truly uplifting, and the setting both beautiful and peaceful. A focus on Christ permeated the occasion. It was a special treat to have Ron and Norva Kelly visiting. Ron gave two sermons and a seminar. Many of you remember that Ron was one of four presenters of the World Tomorrow television program back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He is now retired from the employ of GCI, but continues to serve as an elder in New Hope Christian Fellowship, the GCI congregation in Eagle Rock, CA.

ORM conference

Curtis May, director of the Office of Reconciliation and Spiritual Mediation (ORM), submitted this report.

We held our bi-annual ORM Chapter Leaders’ Conference in Columbus, OH on October 7-9. I feel that this conference was one of the best we have had. It seems that ORM is entering a new phase. Kimberly Brummett, Director’s Office Program Specialist in the U S Justice Department, was a conference guest and observer. She said she enjoyed and appreciated it. She will report back to her boss, Community Oriented Policing Director Bernard Melekian. They are planning a national event on Reconciliation and Safe Cities in Washington, DC and are considering me as a guest speaker.

John Connors

GCI elder John Connors, who has served as the CEO of various companies, challenged us to take ORM to the next phase of its existence. He pointed out that what began as a rather haphazard idea to “fight fires of broken relationships,” has developed into a full-fledged organization with the vision and talent to make a significant contribution in a hurting world. John reminded us that even though ORM is very much “of God,” it still is subject to the rules of good business practice. He told us that ORM had “come of age,” and must be ready for what comes next.

Tony Pierce and Cliff Parks updated us on the progress of their cross-cultural outreach in Peoria, IL. Their work is complex, expansive, and fits right in with the message of Jesus in Matthew 25 on helping to meet the needs of the poor, hungry and imprisoned.

Tom Pickett reported on ORM’s new broadcast opportunity on KCLE Big Country Radio Station in Cleburne, TX. The weekly program, titled “A Time to Reconcile” now has four regular broadcasters: Tom, his son David, Pastor Charles Dorsett and myself. You can listen to the program on the ORM web site by clicking here.

Curtis May with Evelyne O'Callaghan Burkhard from Ireland

Other conference speakers included Jeff Broadnax, Evelyne O’Callaghan Burkhard, Willard High, Ron Washington, John Halford and George Hart. We also commissioned Pastor Larry Hinkle as a new chapter leader in Florida. We were joined in our final session, a worship service, by the CenterPointe congregation (the Columbus, OH GCI congregation) that hosted the conference in their church building.

ORM is now incorporated as its own non-profit organization. We are focusing on reaching an even larger community as God leads us. Our vision is to put the teachings of the Word of God into action by advancing relationships between people of different beliefs and points of view. Our website is at http://atimetoreconcile.org/.


New superintendent for churches in Mexico

Lorenzo Arroyo

Joseph Tkach recently announced a change in the oversight of GCI churches in Mexico. Until recently, this oversight was provided by Hector Barrero who is director for GCI in Colombia and mission developer in Latin America. The new superintendent of GCI churches in Mexico is Lorenzo Arroyo, who will add this assignment to his work as a member of the U.S. Church and Development team led by Dan Rogers.

The reason for this change is two-fold: first because of close family connections between Hispanic GCI members in Mexico and the U.S., and second because of the relative ease of travel between the two countries.

Lorenzo, who is fluent in both English and Spanish, formerly supervised the eight Spanish-speaking GCI churches located within the U.S. (those churches are now overseen by Heber Ticas who is a GCI district pastor, pastor and church planter).



Swiss retreat

GCI members in Switzerland recently gathered in the town of Zug for a few days of study, prayer, praise and fellowship. The theme for the retreat was Our Identity in Christ. Your Swiss brothers and sisters send their love and warmest regards to their worldwide family.

Mission trip in Africa

In September, missionaries from Grace Missions of U.S. Generations Ministries led a two-week mission trip to the southern part of Africa. The trip was a follow up to a trip held last year to help the GCI church in Moruleng, South Africa install a septic system at their new church building. On that trip, the team developed friendships with local GCI members who expressed interest in conducting a mission trip of their own. The team agreed to help and the trip this fall resulted. Following are reports from team members. For additional pictures go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/Grace-Missions/234443013258723.

From Joel Clevenger:

Joel Clevenger second from left

Four of us from NE Ohio joined four members from the GCI church in Moruleng, South Africa for this mission trip to Gaborone, Botswana. While there we met the family of a longtime member who had just passed away after a long battle with cancer. We were able to help repair the roof on their home, but the relationships built were the greatest work. People there are making plans for a mission trip next year that will include many people from South Africa as well as from Botswana. Our goal in Grace Missions is to teach others to lead mission trips as well as to be active in their communities in participating in mission with Jesus.

From Lynne Botha:

Lynne Botha at left

Why did we go halfway round the world to serve when there are many here in need? Obedience. Trust. Love. Obstacles in the way (like lack of funds) seemed insurmountable, but the Lord carried us through. Fears were faced, doubts conquered. Personal growth amplified. Friendships and relationships forged for life. We helped many people, but I feel the greatest impact was to join with Jesus as he said to one particular person: “I see you. I know your need, and I sent these people to tell you that I care.” Yup. That’s it. Are there needs at home? Oh yeah, and now we’re better equipped to listen to the Lord, to trust him, to reach out in his name and make a difference for his sake here at home.

From Pat Shiels:

Pat Shiels second from right

It became clear that my job in Grace Missions is to extend God’s love and encouragement to new or struggling congregations around the world. Many of the people whose lives we affect say that they want to do the same thing for others – disciples making disciples – an ever-widening circle. I am deeply struck by the strong heart connection that I felt this year in Botswana, as well as last year in South Africa. Fortunately the work that God has required of me has not needed a young, strong body or construction skills, just an ability to love and serve the people I meet.

From Gary Schrimpf:

Gary Schrimpf

During this trip I visited two churches. One is a fairly new church located in Namibia. It is currently unaffiliated, but interested in joining GCI. This church is full of excited, energetic people striving to find their way. The other church is a long established GCI congregation that is dwindling in numbers. We prayed for both churches and I hope encouraged them and pointed them toward the Lord.  We also had contact with a third African church – the one that joined us on this mission trip. They were recipients of our work last year and this year served other African churches with us. In these ways, the Lord allowed us to minister with him – making connections and building relationships that will permeate through the churches that we served. Short-term missions are great tools for building expanding circles of mission that are centered more on relationships than on projects.

Evangelism: simple

We sometimes make evangelism more complicated than it is. For simple ways to engage your congregation in God’s work of evangelism, click here.  Note also the following story told by Brian Allen, executive director of the Joliet, IL Christian Youth Center (thanks to GCI pastor and church planter James Newby for submitting the story).

Social services officials showed up the other night at our neighbor’s home to take away her kids. Apparently, this single mom was considered unfit and the father wanted his two kids back. In spite of known problems in the home, our heart went out to this mom. The situation lay particularly heavy on my wife Carla’s heart, and she rose to action a few days later upon noticing Lisa (not her real name) in her garage. Carla walked over to offer support but noticed Lisa on the phone. Not wanting to interrupt, nor to miss an opportunity, my wife wrote a note of support and left it with her.

Within moments, Lisa was at our door seeking Carla. Together they went over to Lisa’s house, and my wife listened to Lisa’s heart, trouble and pain. For a couple of hours she heard about a life that was broken and feeling hopeless. So hopeless that after losing her kids she was contemplating suicide. Carla listened and offered support and encouragement, as well as a relationship. Though Lisa’s pain and sorrow remain, she was comforted in the fact that someone genuinely cares about her.

After a prayer, my wife was heading out the door to leave when Lisa asked, “Why did you stop by with the note?” Carla looked at her and said, “because you are child of God, and he loves you very much, and so do I.” Lisa leaped into my wife’s arms in embrace, and in tears thanked her for coming over.

After 25 years of ministry, I still am amazed at how complicated we Christians have made evangelism and how “over-decorated” we have made the gospel. A life won’t be transformed, nor will a neighborhood, nor will the world, unless light walks into darkness and says, “The God of the universe loves you, and so do I.”


Family camp

Tori Emerson submitted this report about Generations Ministries’ NW Connections Family Camp.

Despite an unseasonably rainy and cool summer in the Pacific Northwest, God blessed us with a sunny and warm weekend for the NW Connections Family Camp weekend, held at Schafer State Park near Elma, WA.

We had new friends and old join us this year. Some traveled from Oregon and northern Washington. Many are already planning to return next year and bring friends with them. The camp lived up to its name: Connections!

Our campsite was set apart from the rest of the campground, allowing us privacy and the opportunity to run freely. We enjoyed softball, volleyball, boating, fishing, swimming, sitting together in fellowship and meals cooked over the campfire (including an impromptu smorgasbord brunch on Sunday). We greatly enjoyed our morning devotional times. To sit in the sunshine with over 20 people each morning to pray and participate in an interactive discussion about Christ was wonderfully peaceful and enjoyable!

Overall, it was a wonderful, relaxing, fun and energetic (if you wanted it to be) camp.


Al Nelson

GCI pastor Al Nelson sent the following update concerning the flood damage that he and his wife Arlene experienced in their Vermont home as the result of Hurricane Irene.

Thank you to everyone for your prayers. We are greatly blessed. We are gradually making progress in cleaning up. We had a lot of help from family and relief volunteers. I have temporarily set up our computer in one of the corner rooms so we can use it.

We started staying in our house last week and have begun sanding the floors. We’re planning to seal the wood floors instead of laying linoleum or carpet.

Along with realizing our wood floors are good enough to sand, we found something else interesting when removing some wall – two waterlines: the one from the recent flood at 15″ and another at 9″ which must be from the 1927 flood, which Arlene’s parents experienced!

We also found old newspapers from 1924 to 1928 under 3 layers of linoleum.




Michael Wyatt-Paige

Please pray for Michael Wyatt-Paige, who pastors two GCI congregations in Phoenix. Michael recently had extensive oral (dental) surgery and will be unable to speak for a day or so. Please pray for his recovery so he can return to serving the congregations.


Bernie Schnippert

Dear friends,

As you know, I have been recovering very well from the four “Tumor kills” which I had done for my Carcinoid Cancer in my liver. My strength was in the high 90th percentile of how I felt when I was “normal” – meaning, before the cancer. As I believe I stated though, I am now on a full dose of a cancer fighting drug called “Afinitor.” My reaction to a half dose went well, but the full dose is very fatiguing, meaning I get out of breath after a few feet of walking. It is not so much that I do not have strength, it is that I cannot seem to tap into it without getting severely out of breath. It is psychologically hard to take a pill that makes you feel bad when you know if you went off the pill you would feel very good for a while.

It is too soon to say whether I can continue with the pill – which amounts really to “chemo” by pill instead of intravenously – since at this point the pill is worse than the disease in how I feel. The point of the pill, the only pill ever proven effective for Carcinoid, is to slow or stop tumor progression. The ideal thing for me will be that I will adjust to the side effects of the pill but it will do its job unabated. We will not know what effect it is having, good or bad, until my next CAT Scan in November. If I cannot tolerate the side effects, then plan “B” is to rely upon the fact that this cancer grows very slowly, and if we see a tumor start to grow then I will go into the clinic for another “tumor kill.” Although I can repeat this “tumor kill” procedure a number of times, there might come a time when no more tumor killing is possible. This is another good reason to be patient with the side-effects even though they are severe and sometimes discouraging.

Please pray that the side effects diminish and that the pills work to stop or slow down the tumors even more. If the tumors grow slowly enough, as they might, then this is almost a cure for me. I will keep you informed from time to time.

– Bernie


Atlanta church anniversary

Living Hope Christian Fellowship, one of GCI’s congregations in the Atlanta area, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The video below tells their story.