GCI Update

On being evangelical

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

An interesting map appeared recently in USA Today. Based on research by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, it shows the distribution of faith groups in the United States. I find it of interest to note that Evangelical Protestants are the United States’ largest faith group. You may view the map at http://www.usatoday.com/news/graphics/pew-religion-08/flash.htm.

As you probably know, Grace Communion International is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in the United States. We are members of similar organizations in other nations and regions, including the Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches. These organizations represent individual local churches and denominations (the NAE represents over 45,000 U.S. churches and 40 U.S.-based denominations). Though these congregations and denominations differ on certain points of doctrine and practice, they hold in common core biblical beliefs and missional practices.

I’m sometimes asked, what is an evangelical? I like the answer given by Leith Anderson (NAE president): “My short definition of an evangelical is someone who takes the Bible seriously and believes in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord” (see Leith’s article, The Coming Evangelical Future at http://www.nae.net/from-the-president/556-the-coming-evangelical-future).

That short definition certainly describes GCI, and flowing out of our belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord (a belief informed and shaped by our Trinitarian, incarnational view of Holy Scripture), comes our commitment to share with Jesus in the ministry he continues to do in our world. I’m excited to see how our congregations are growing in their participation! For examples, see two articles in this issue: Big Sandy revisited (https://update.gci.org/?p=6518) and New church launched in L.A. (https://update.gci.org/?p=6532). I praise God for these missional developments!

I pray that God will bless and guide all our congregations as together we share the love and life of our Triune God as it is being expressed in our world. Doing so is to be truly evangelical.

Love from my family to yours,

Joseph Tkach

P.S. An important part of our practice as an evangelical church is celebrating the great events of God’s work, in Christ, for our salvation. In November-December, we’ll have opportunity to celebrate Advent – a month-long season in which we remember our Lord’s advent (advent means “coming”). The season focuses on Jesus’ coming in the future (his bodily return in glory), the present (his coming to us now through the Holy Spirit), and the past (his coming to us in the flesh 2,000 years ago). For additional information on celebrating Advent, see the November Equipper posted online at http://mindev.gci.org/Web%20Documents/Equipper6.11.pdf

New church launched in L.A.

A recent report in GCI Weekly Update told of the work of our San Fernando, CA church in starting a new satellite congregation that meets in Los Angeles. We are pleased to report that this new Spanish-speaking congregation held its grand opening worship service on October 23. Here is a report from pastor and church planter Heber Ticas, with additional comments from regional pastor Lorenzo Arroyo.

From Heber Ticas:

I have been working over the past couple of years to put together a church planting team and plant a satellite church of my San Fernando congregation in the northeast area of Los Angeles. God has been faithful! This past Sunday [October 23] we held our grand opening. There were 165 people in attendance, including 63 from the mother church in San Fernando (helping provide the critical mass needed), Regional Pastor Lorenzo Arroyo (my coach), and Pastor Manuel Ochoa. The rest of the attendees were people from the community, and friends and family of the church plant team. We were amazed and surprised to see this many people coming as the result of our community outreach efforts. On the two Saturdays prior to the event, the team went out to nearby North Broadway Street and gave out roughly 800 free water bottles with a flyer inviting the community to the grand opening.

Our church plant team has grown to nine committed families, including my wife and myself, four that were recruited from outside of my congregation and the other five from within my church. They all show an intense enthusiasm for what the Lord is doing in our midst. We continue to push forward to live out the mission and stay true to our ministry process of connecting people to Christ, to one another and to his mission. We are looking to accomplish this as we continue to expand small groups, move believers to workers and continue to do missional outreach.

Your prayers are solicited and needed. We also ask you to pray that the Lord will provide the financial support that we need to sustain the ministry. We need to raise about $15,000 in the next six months to put us in a good position over the next 12 months. That is with everyone in the plant team graciously donating their time and resources for the kingdom. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement. We pray that God continues to bless us as we move forward and start planting the seed within the team, my district pastoral network and our Southern California church planting network for a third campus in the next three years.

From Lorenzo Arroyo:

GCI pastor Manuel Ochoa and I arrived about 4:45 PM (15 minutes prior to the service). We had to navigate the city streets and surprisingly found a parking spot in front of the church building. After exchanging greetings with Heber and a few of the leaders on the street, who looked somewhat nervous, we decided to go in and hopefully find a couple of seats. It was about 5:00. In a sanctuary built for 150 to our shock there were not even 30 people present! Manuel and I took a couple of seats in the back and began praying. We thought, what if this is all there is? But again, this is a Hispanic community and our clocks often run on a different time zone. People began arriving, at first just a trickle – but as the band began playing, waves began to arrive and settle in their seats. By the time the service was in full swing (about 5:30) the place was packed from front to back and wall to wall. Praise God! It was just AWESOME!

The music was upbeat and the attendees were jubilant. The sermon was inspiring and relevant to the needs of folks often trapped in city life. To hear of Jesus was liberating. Some 30 people responded to the altar call. It is truly a joy to witness the movement of the Spirit. Heber and his team put a lot of effort into making the launch the success it was. Even the day before, they were handing out water bottles and flyers, which brought a dozen or more new folks to the launch service in that one effort alone. They also are multiplying cell groups to accommodate new contacts they have made as well as sending cards, making calls and visiting homes. A new daughter has arrived. Praise God!

Big Sandy revisited

The following report is from John Halford.

Pastor Sonny Parsons

When Ambassador University in Big Sandy closed its doors in 1997, the local people might have thought they had seen the last of our church. Only a small congregation continued to meet in the area, pastored from neighboring Longview.

Then in 2002, Sonny Parsons and his wife Jane asked to be transferred back to Big Sandy. They had worked on the campus, and wanted to make Big Sandy their home. They decided that the church would once again become a presence in this rural Texas community. Not as a beautiful, but perhaps rather mysterious, college on the outskirts of town, but as a lively church that would be a blessing and a light to the local community. So they bought a building in the middle of town, renamed the congregation “New Beginnings” – and began again.

Last weekend they held their annual Fun n’ Fall festival day, in which they invite everyone who lives in this small Texas town to enjoy a day of free fun and entertainment. Sonny had invited me to come as guest speaker. Saturday October 29 was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm, with clear blue skies. The church members had been preparing for several weeks, and some were on site at 3:00 AM preparing.

The day began with an “all you can eat” breakfast of waffles and sausage – then followed several hours of fun. There were face painting and games for the children, and competitions, free hot dogs and drinks for all.

Several tables were set up, laden with surplus clothing, free for the taking for any in need. A highlight was the BSKCAR (Big Sandy Kids) car races, in which children (and some adults) tried their skills in some gravity fueled Go-karts. White Chocolate, a praise band from neighboring Longview donated their talent to provide several hours of live music.

Over 500 people, or about one half of the town and surrounding community came to enjoy the day with us. Especially noticeable was the number of teens and young people. These were not just day visitors, taking advantage of some free food and entertainment. Sonny explained that whereas the regular Sunday service usually had around 55 mainly older people, a Wednesday night Teen Bible Study often had as many as 60 young people show up regularly.

The Big Sandy members have determined to make their church a benefit to the community. They allow responsible groups to use the facilities free of charge, and something seems to be happening every day of the week. The local Rotary Club holds their meetings there.

From the moment he arrived, Sonny Parsons became involved in the community. He served for two years as mayor, and has twice been selected as Big Sandy’s Man of the Year. He has also been president of the Ministerial Alliance. As a qualified paramedic, he continues to play a leading role in the local Emergency Response Team.

Melven Allen on the Go Kart at right
Ivirne Allen

When the University closed, many of the employees remained in the local area. I was able to meet up with some of my old friends and colleagues, some of whom I had not seen for many years. They are older now, and some are retired, but they still play an active part in church life.

Melven Allen once managed the Ambassador College Transportation Department. Now he supervised another fleet – of Go Karts for the downhill race. Mel’s wife Ivirne was dispensing frozen yogurt from the venerable machine that had once been a popular feature of the old SEP camp at Orr. Glenn Roberson, renowned at SEP Orr for his culinary and baking skills was still at work grilling hot dogs, assisted by veteran pastor Kelly Barfield. Another retired pastor, 84-year-old Ken Swisher, who was instrumental in starting the College, was visiting for the day. Dr. Bill Stenger, formerly registrar of Pasadena and Big Sandy, lives nearby, and is a regular speaker in the surrounding congregations. Rick Peterson (of Young Ambassadors fame) and his wife Lois (Weber) Peterson and their family are active in promoting teen activities. Lee Pettijohn, who was chief engineer for the Television Department, and his wife Vivian have built their dream retirement by the railroad. Not everyone’s dream location, perhaps, but the Petttijohns are railroad buffs and enjoy sitting on their front porch watching several dozen freight trains rumble by every day.

For some of us, visiting Big Sandy is inevitably a nostalgia trip, but a very positive one. Rather than dwell on the past, the Big Sandy congregation decided to become a bright, active part of the local community. One theme emerged as I talked with old friends and colleagues. The past is the past, what has gone is gone. It was fun and rewarding while it lasted, and we built many good memories and relationships that will last a lifetime – and beyond.

However, we agreed, if only we had known then what we know now.

Bernie Schnippert

The following note is from Bernie Schnippert.

Recently I gave a health update in which I mentioned being on a new drug which may or may not help my cancer (carcinoid, beginning near the small intestine and traveling to my liver) and which I may or may not be able to tolerate. Unfortunately, on Friday I reached a tipping point in the medication whose side effects of fatigue and breathlessness got so strong I was barely able to make it from the car to the doctor’s office. The doctor took one look at me and revoked the medicine 100 percent. My kidney function was being affected negatively and of course I could not get around so I am off the drug for now. This is pretty disappointing for me since the drug has the potential of slowing or even stopping tumor growth and there is really nothing to fully take its place. After I recover from the drug symptoms he may – may – start me on ½ dose again to see if I can tolerate it. In the meanwhile, I have some big strength catch up to do. Please pray that in time I might find a dose that I can live and thrive on as the only other therapy seems to be killing tumors that grow too fast – a good therapy but time limited in the end. Still, tumor killing can go on for years, which is what I need. Thanks for all your prayers.

Bernie and Arlene Schnippert
64651 Jan Dr
Bend, OR 97701-8824


Roy Page

Roy Page, GCI’s pastor in Vancouver and Prince George, Canada recently had a heart attack while visiting one of his daughters in the B.C. interior. He was hospitalized and released. Here is an update from Roy:

We have just returned home, and I am feeling fine. I’m not allowed to drive for 30 days and have to gradually work back to normal activity (exercise, lifting objects etc.). Having a heart attack was the last thing I thought would happen to me but fortunately – through God’s grace – I survived it, although I ended up with two stents in the heart and some heart muscle damage and now have to take medication to ensure that the same thing doesn’t repeat itself and my heart has the chance to recover fully. But – God willing – I should be back to normal activity within a month. Thanks and appreciation for everyone’s prayers and concern.

Email Roy at roypage@telus.net
Send cards and notes to:
Roy and Sheila Page
3825 Brockton Cres
North Vancouver, BC V7G 2K6