GCI Update

Thanksgiving and praise

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In the United States, next Thursday (November 24) is the annual Thanksgiving holiday. I know that many of our congregations will have special Thanksgiving-themed services the weekend before or after. Perhaps some will read from the following proclamation from U.S. President Abraham Lincoln establishing a national day of “Thanksgiving and praise.”

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

Click picture to enlarge or go to https://update.gci.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/First-Thanksgiving-Lincoln.png

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

In the spirit of that proclamation, let us join together this Thanksgiving and every day in giving our gracious God thanks and praise for his many blessings. One of those blessings, of course, is the fellowship we share with dear brothers and sisters in Christ. I thank God for each of you, my spiritual family, no matter what your age might be.

Speaking of age, in this issue of Weekly Update we introduce a new occasional feature titled “Member profiles.” It will highlight some of our members around the world. Our worldwide fellowship is indeed blessed with many interesting and inspiring personalities. This time we introduce one of our young adult members, Alisha Austin. We’re thankful for her and excited about her future!

If there is someone in your congregation that you would like to see featured in “Member profiles” email text and pictures to WeeklyUpdate@gci.org.

Blessings from my family to yours,

Joseph Tkach

Crossing Borders mission

Lee Berger who leads the Generations Ministries Crossing Borders mission submitted this update concerning their upcoming mission trip to Mexico:

I have exciting news! As some of you know, we’ll be heading to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico on December 9-11 for our shoebox delivery mission trip. This is always a wonderful event, but especially this year because immediately after delivering the shoeboxes, four of our group will travel farther inland to Ciudad Victoria. By God’s grace, airline flights have just begun being offered between Nuevo Laredo and Victoria, so we’re flying to avoid the inherent risks of traveling by road.

We’ll be spending four days with Karen Salinas and her group of orphaned and abandoned children. We have visited these children for several years on the border, but about a year ago they were forced to migrate inland to get away from the violence. We are excited to be able to see them again!

We’ll be presenting the kids with gifts, helping them with homework, singing and laughing and praying with them, eating meals together, and hopefully helping Karen with some projects at their home. There is a GCI member in the city, and we will make plans in advance to try to meet up with her. We’ll also try to visit some other ministries in the city. Who knows if God may open new doors for future Crossing Borders mission work?

Please add this to your prayer list. It’s only a month until we leave.

Report from Canada

The following report is from Gary Moore, national director for GCI in Canada.

For health reasons, Alan Redmond will be stepping aside at the end of this year as District Superintendent of our western Canadian churches. He will continue to pastor our Winnipeg and Thunder Bay congregations. Alan has done a great job as a D.S. I have appreciated his wisdom, hard work and support as part of our national team. Bill Hall has kindly agreed to take Alan’s place. Bill has worked in the national office and edits the Northern Light magazine. He has also served for a number of years as a pastor.

Todd Martin will be writing a new “Single Page” feature that will appear on our Canadian national website (at www.gcicanada.ca). Todd pastors Harvest Christian Fellowship, the GCI congregation in Abbotsford.  He has written regularly for the local paper, and there has been good feedback. Our website will be enriched by Todd’s contributions.

Worship service

On November 5-6, young members, friends and families from Quebec and Southern Ontario met in Toronto for the annual Volleyball Weekend. The event included a worship service and meal followed the next day by volleyball games in nearby Whitby. Twelve teams participated, with the “Where is Waldo?” team from Ottawa winning the gold medal.

Volleyball winners

Children’s Closet ministry

The following report is from GCI member Mary Fozard:

With our nation facing a weak economy, churches wonder what they can do to help. Despite being small, aging and short on funds, New Beginnings, the GCI congregation in Hickory, N.C found a way – it’s a ministry they have named Children’s Closet.

It began in early October with a large yard and bake sale. The proceeds were used to purchase initial supplies. Now, one Saturday a month, they open their church doors from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and provide free children’s clothing for ages 0 to 12, and free baby diapers and baby products. The same day, they also hold a small yard and bake sale. The proceeds are used to purchase more clothing and diapers to distribute. All clothing offered is high quality, without stains or defects. It is laid out neatly according to size in a small, but brightly decorated room set aside for that purpose. Tables are also set up in the sanctuary where better quality clothing is sold for a small donation.

A small play area with toys is provided for children who come with their families. On their opening Saturday (November 5), they saw one family with five children returning for the second time to receive free clothing. Some who drop in for the yard sale are very generous and offer to pay more than what the yard sale item is worth. One man bought a coffee mug for 25 cents and gave $20.00, telling us to use the rest to buy baby diapers. Another retired grandfather on a fixed income was happy to get a few cute baby pajamas for his grandson for 75 cents. When one of our church members told her sister about Children’s Closet, her sister sent a donation of $50 to help even though she is a member of another denomination.

Since non-food items cannot be purchased with food stamps, the congregation also set up a Household Pantry Prize table with about $100 worth of personal need items like shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Also included are household cleaning items like laundry detergent, soap pads, and dishwashing liquid. Paper products like bath tissue, wax paper, Kleenex, plastic wrap, garbage bags and paper towels are also available. Every family who makes a small donation for clothing, yard sale items, or bake sale items is eligible to draw from the prize drawing box and win one or several items on the table. These products are donated by church members and are greatly appreciated by those who receive them.

Feedback from families coming has been quite favorable and some have begun to inquire about the congregation’s church services. Brochures about the congregation are given to those who visit Children’s Closet. They also put an announcement about the ministry on the sign outside the building.The day it is open, they set out many little signs with balloons to attract attention. Once people come in and see what Children’s Closet has to offer, they tell their friends and relatives. Free advertising!

The congregation used to wonder if anyone in the community noticed their presence. Now, when people drive by, some are saying, “That’s the church that gives out free children’s clothing and free baby diapers. Now that’s a church that cares!”


For information about Children’s Closet you may contact New Beginnings pastor Paul David Kurts at paul.d.kurts@gci.org.

Amphibious Christians

The following is from an article titled, “Amphibious Christians Make the Best Contemporary Evangelists” by Anglican Bishop and professor Todd Hunter, published online in the Alpha Library. It is shared with us by Jim and Becky Valekis who serve the GCI congregation in Tipp City, OH. Jim is senior pastor and Becky coordinates discipleship ministries. They have successfully used the Alpha Course for discipling seekers and believers.

To be amphibious means to have the ability to combine two characteristics. Think of animals that are equally comfortable in and out of water, for example. Amphibious Christians are well suited to evangelism today because helping a friend come to faith requires the ability to dive into that friend’s world, to closely interact with a co-worker or neighbor, to engage in honest and deep conversation without losing all values, truth, faith, confidence, etc. Such people have the capacity to live uncompromising lives in harmony with both churched and non-churched colleagues. They are able to live at ease in two worlds. They peacefully follow the incarnational model of Jesus who was in the world, but not of it. Jesus was able to be a fully participatory member of his community. It was precisely within the routines of his normal human life that he “only did and spoke as the Father directed” (John 5).

Jesus invites us into exactly that same kind of life… His invitation is that we, through the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, would live our normal lives as he would live them if he were in our place…. Here is a Jesus-centered, Spirit-enabled vision for effective, peace-filled contemporary evangelism through amphibious living. Jesus said:

The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message).

…Jesus is inviting his followers into the very intimacies of the Trinity. He is willing to show anyone willing to learn how to live Father-child amphibious living—the way he did it. He says such a life can be lived in “the rhythms of grace.” This means such a life does not need to be forced, over-religious, striving. In fact, he says such a life is free and light. It is the good life.

“Todd”, you may say, “this is all cool, but connect the dots to evangelism.” Okay, here is how they connect: seekers crave people who can meet them on their terms. It takes truly amphibious Christians to do that. Seekers want to see that our relationship to God “works”… They know life stinks around most of the world for various reasons. They don’t just have in mind systemic evil like poverty, gender inequality and global destruction. They are thinking of their unjust boss, unloving kids and unfaithful spouse. They want to find a way to do life. They are searching for a Master to follow for life. They suspect that if there is a God as we say that he might have the keys to “the good life.” We of course say: “Yes! He does. They are the keys to the Kingdom and they have been given to all who trust and follow Jesus.”

Amphibious, authentic, generously-spirited Christians…are really refreshing and hope-giving to seekers.

Rex Dela Pena

Here is a prayer update from Rex Dela Pena, one of our pastors in the Philippines:

My family and I would like to express our deep gratitude for the prayers lifted for my mom during her 36-day confinement. She was discharged on November 8 and is recuperating at home. Thank you very much for showing God’s love for all of us.



South African church

As is the case in other parts of the world, our churches in South Africa are facing difficult financial circumstances due to the global recession. Tim Maguire, the national ministry leader, along with the members of the South African church board, request your prayers for wisdom and guidance as they decide how to wisely steward the funds God has given them to best participate in his mission in their part of the world.

Wichita 50th anniversary

GCI’s Wichita, Kansas congregation is planning its 50th anniversary to be held on December 4, 2011 at their regular meeting place – Youth Horizons, 1601 East Douglas, Wichita, KS. The celebration will begin with a worship service at 10:30 a.m., followed by a very nice meal with special presentations. There is no cost for attending. For information, contact Ross or Rhonda Hays:

  • Mail: 14613 SW 180th St, Rose Hill, KS 67133
  • Telephone: (316) 776-0484
  • Email: r2s2@prodigy.net


Alisha Austin

Alisha Austin

In this occasional feature of GCI Weekly Update, we will profile some of our GCI members. This time we meet Alisha Austin, a young member in our Queens, NY congregation. In addition to her ministry within the congregation, Alisha is busily preparing for a career. Here is what she writes about herself:

I am a recent graduate of Nyack College where I studied English and Cross-Cultural Studies. My program included studying works by Wallace Stevens and Virginia Woolf, and wrestling with topics such as determining whether a country requires aid or development.

My undergraduate degree program intensified my great passion for writing and non-profit work. I am currently designing a Master’s degree program that will allow me to study how writing, whether in the form of literature (such as novels or poems), journalism or social media (such as Facebook), can be both a mirror of and a window for social change. I plan to complete this program at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

Besides being a person who loves writing and reading, I also enjoy volunteering, and running. So far, my volunteer opportunities have included working with a ministry for the homeless, a women’s outreach group and a coffee and tea festival. I ran college level cross country and currently give five mile and longer tours to runners from around the world. So far I have had the opportunity to run with people from France, South Africa, Germany, Canada, Minnesota, Louisiana and Ohio.

Some of my goals in life include being a college professor, traveling around the world, participating in marathons, triathlons, and being a writer and photographer for National Geographic. Besides that, I’ve been thinking about writing a significant literary piece.

I think learning and exploring are two things that will always be a part of my life; I think it is a vital part of the human experience.

God bless you Alisha! We’re excited about your future in our Lord’s service to humanity.