GCI Update

On turning 60: Looking forward

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As the New Year begins, I was amused to see that two small countries in the South Pacific could not wait for it. Samoa and Tokelau were the last places to begin 2011. But they became the first places to welcome in 2012. You see, these countries are located close to the International Date Line. So, as the clock struck midnight at the end of 29 December, they simply “jumped across it,” and fast-forwarded to December 31, missing out on the 30th entirely. In doing so, they became the first people to ring in the New Year, rather than the last. They did this for economic reasons. Now, instead of being 23 hours behind New Zealand, their main trading partner, they opened for business one hour ahead.

Perhaps many of us would like to move the clock in the other direction. In December I had my 60th birthday. Our home office staff gave me a surprise birthday party. I was deeply touched by the many cards and expressions of goodwill that came in from all over the world. I am blessed to enter my seventh decade of life surrounded by friends and colleagues like you.

As one of four million American “Baby Boomers” who turned 60 in 2011, I have officially joined the ranks of the “oldies.” Not so long ago this would have meant the approach of the end of life – certainly the end of working life. But today, it is quite possible that people who are now 60 have one third of their life ahead. Still, there is no denying that when you pass 60, you cannot pretend that you are still young. The jokes about old age suddenly seem not quite so funny!

Many of you reading this also are in your seventh decade. We do not feel ‘old’ in our minds, and may even resent suggestions that we are past our prime. Thankfully, many of us are in good health, and although we may be slowing down a bit, we are a long way from grinding to a halt. A 1995 study of Americans between 55 and 74 revealed that most felt 12 years younger than their actual age. Though this may be good in some ways, it is not good that our society fears and resents growing old. As those engaged in God’s work, we must not buy into the myth that we can keep going forever (we will, of course, but not as frail, temporary human beings). Instead, we should be thinking of and preparing for the future – not just our own, but the future of those who look to us for leadership and direction.

As the president of Grace Communion International, I think often about what lies ahead, and how our denomination can best prepare to continue to serve God and his people after my time is done and my contribution has been made. I know that many of you, particularly if you are an older member in an aging congregation, are thinking about this too.

I believe that GCI has a future! I don’t know all the details, but I see encouraging signs. We truly are a worldwide church. Some of our congregations are growing rapidly – bursting with youth and energy. In others, growth is harder to come by, but members are growing in love and service. In many congregations, youth are actively and creatively serving. Many are reaching out in mission at home and around the world. Through these activities, grounded in our growing understanding of Trinitarian theology, I believe God is showing us how we are to take the gospel to the world of the 21st century in compelling and powerful ways.

Looking back, especially over the last 15 years during which I have been privileged to serve as GCI’s president and pastor general, I realize that I cannot claim credit for what has happened. I feel sometimes that I have been swept along by events that I did not plan, and could not have anticipated. Changing technology has meant we do our work in a totally different way than even ten years ago. Many of the people who report to me hardly ever visit our home office in Glendora, CA, yet we seem to be in closer contact than ever before. Our church has grown in parts of the world where we had done nothing to lay the groundwork. Just last year we welcomed dozens of new congregations in the African nation of Mozambique. We had not made a specific effort to reach them–they just “showed up on our doorstep.” Our developing understanding of Trinitarian theology has brought us into contact with many leaders and theologians outside of our denomination. Many have become close friends. The world of Christianity is going through some important changes. I pray that GCI will play a useful role in this exciting journey of discovery.

At the start of this New Year, there are many reasons to be encouraged. Looking back, I can see so clearly that the Holy Spirit has been leading us. All I can say is that I am thankful to have been a part of it and look forward to where God will lead us in the years ahead. We should make plans for this journey, though experience tells us that we must be ready for the unexpected. How do we stay ready? Like members of a fire department, we must have in place the best possible equipment, and we must be trained – ready to do what needs to be done. As Paul wrote to Timothy, we must be ready “in season and out of season.”

I know that God has much for us to do in his service. I am thankful to have a part along with all of you. Let’s continue to work together in 2012, submitting in faith to God as we actively join with Jesus in what he will be doing through the Holy Spirit to take the good news of salvation to a world that needs it so desperately.

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach

Crossing Borders mission trip

The following report is from Lee Berger who directs the GenMin Crossing Borders mission team.

We returned recently from a mission trip to Mexico to deliver shoe box gifts. In several ways it was the most challenging of the 13 mission trips we have made into Mexico since 2005.

From churches and other groups across the U.S. we received almost 600 shoe boxes full of gifts, together with personally-knitted baby blankets, handmade pillows, infant supplies, custom-carved wooden cars, several boxes of nice shoes, bags of good clothing and other items. Finding space in the vehicles to transport these items across the border was both a challenge and a blessing.

Carol Meyer from Kansas City donated copies of “Project Renewal” (in Spanish), a book she authored about recovery from abuse (a common problem in Mexico). Truett Seminary at Waco University donated 100 books for training pastors. Generous cash donations allowed us to purchase many other needed gifts and resources for the pastors and ministry leaders with whom we partner in Mexico.

Pedro Orduno and van

Our crossing into Mexico from Laredo, Texas on Saturday started well with visits to two churches to sing Christmas songs, teach about the birth of Jesus and hand out the shoe box gifts. However, it was raining hard and both of our team’s vans got stuck axle deep in mud at the second church. A tow truck was called but it got stuck too. Then the host pastor’s van and another vehicle got stuck. While some worked outside to free the vans, the rest of the Crossing Borders mission team and local church members prayed and visited inside the unheated church. Two young men who lived in nearby houses (we thought of them as our “Mexican angels”) worked hard to help pull out a couple of the vans. After four hours struggling in the cold rain and slippery mud, a truck from the fire department arrived to free the vehicles.

Our final stop of the day was supposed to be lunch served at the children’s home. Instead, it was supper. Soaking wet and cold in our muddy clothes, we visited with the kids for an hour and a half, distributed shoe boxes and provided the meal. Now well past dark, we headed back across the border to warm showers and our own dinner, thankful for the experiences and inspired by the patient and willing spirit exhibited by all. We had hand-distributed about 300 shoe boxes and left the remainder of the boxes in the hands of two of our Mexican ministry partners who delivered them to churches further inland.

I (Lee Berger), my mother Jean Berger, and Steve and Barbara Solari were scheduled to catch a flight the next day (Sunday) to Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, to take gifts to Karen Salinas and her 17 foster children. This was the first time we had ventured into interior Mexico. Once again, we encountered unexpected challenges. Our flight was cancelled on Sunday due to bad weather (no radar at the local airport), and then cancelled again on Monday.

In the meantime, we made ourselves useful assisting pastor Raymundo Rendon and his wife, Lisa. The Rendon’s kitchen stove (which they use to cook food for various feeding ministries) had stopped working. So we went stove shopping and also bought the Rendons a new set of tires to replace the unsafe dry-rotted ones on Pastor Ray’s car. Lee and Steve made a hospital visit with Pastor Ray one afternoon and prayed for a Mexican government official they had met on the previous summer trip. The group provided babysitting for the Rendons so Ray and Lisa could have a rare night out for their wedding anniversary. There was much brainstorming about ways the Crossing Borders mission team can assist Ray with ministry needs in the future.

Praying for the children (Lee Berger at left, Barbara and Steve Solari at right)

On Tuesday, the weather was bad again, so we took the commercial bus to Victoria. We arrived in Victoria at about midnight, and Karen and several of the older children visited with us into the wee hours of the morning. We then had a busy day on Wednesday at Karen’s home, visiting with her foster children and hosting a party to deliver the gifts we had brought, including a bilingual Bible for each child. We prayed for each child and several gave moving testimonials. It is difficult to describe the close bonds we feel for these lovely children being brought up in the nurture of the Lord. Thursday was filled with playing with the kids and restocking the foster home with supplies purchased with donations from many supporters.

After an event-filled and challenging trip, we returned to Laredo on Friday and everyone was back home in the U.S. by Saturday, thanking God for an amazing trip full of unexpected obstacles that led to many wonderful opportunities to serve others on mission with God. We are now looking forward to our next mission trip to Mexico in June 2012. You can learn more about it at http://www.cbmission.org/.

Portland Christmas outreach

This report is from Living Christian Fellowship member Paul Hailey.

Pastor Dee Bulante leads in prayer

Living Faith Christian Fellowship, the GCI congregation in Portland, OR, has about 30 members. We meet adjacent to King City, a senior (55 and older) community with about 1600 residents. Since most of our members are of this age group, it made sense to us to make King City our primary focus for outreach.

With guidance from Pastor Dee Bulante, we began sponsoring events at the King City club house with the goals of serving the community and making our presence known. In December 2010 we held a Community Christmas Celebration. In the summer of 2011 we sponsored a seminar on overcoming grief. Then this last December, we held our second Community Christmas Celebration.

We paid to advertise the event to all 1400 homes in King City. We hired a professional three-piece band to play Christmas music, invited the local King City Music Club to sing carols, asked a local singer to lead in a sing-along, and invited a King City resident who previously performed with notables such as Danny Kaye and Red Skelton to sing a solo.

The one and a half hour program went smoothly. About 90 people attended. Pastor Dee Bulante served as emcee, introducing the performers and giving a short message focusing on the love of God expressed through the person of Jesus Christ—love not just for Christians, but for all people. He commented:

We share time with family and loved ones because God has shared time with us through Jesus…. We exchange gifts to one another because God has given us the ultimate gift of Jesus…. We sing songs of warmth and merriment because of the peace and joy that wells up in our souls, expressing thanks to the baby born who is our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Several “amens” were heard from the audience as he spoke, and some appeared to be on the verge of tears as they were reminded of God’s love.

We feel the event was a smashing success. Some attendees asked where we meet for church, and a few took copies of Odyssey magazine. Many gave comments expressing their gratitude:

You outdid yourselves this year…. Everything looks so beautiful…. Thank you for the delicious food…. We had a wonderful time…. I came primarily for the Christmas music, but was pleasantly surprised with the food served and the whole program. I appreciated the message as well. It gave me a different perspective about Christmas…. I really am glad I came today for the whole program, the food and the people. Nice pastor, didn’t talk too long, but got the message out.

We have learned how a small congregation can reach out to the community. It takes prayer and hard work, but it is worth the effort. We plan to hold two King City outreach events in 2012 – possibly a seminar on aging gracefully and definitely another Community Christmas Celebration.

Birthday gifts for Jesus

Two GCI members, Kayla Shallenberger from Cincinnati, OH, and Carrie Smith from Pittsburgh, PA, are presently teaching at the Worldwide Church of God school in Blantyre, Malawi. Kayla was teaching her class about the real meaning of Christmas and she asked the children what they would give Jesus for Christmas. The children turned in their answers and Kayla was so moved, she asked the children to share their answers on camera. This video is the result.

Transformational Church consulting services

In 2012, the GCI U.S. Ministry Development Team will continue to provide Transformational Church consulting services. To read about those services, click here (see under “consulting services” in the right-hand column). To hear from a GCI pastor and his wife concerning the value of these services, watch the video below. If you would like to arrange for these services in your congregation, phone Church Administration and Development at 800.574.2299.

The Christmas epistles

For a helpful article from Jeff McSwain on the importance and meaning of the incarnation, see http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/decemberweb-only/christmas-epistles.html.

Death of Byron Duke

We are saddened to announce the death of Byron Duke who died unexpectedly on Monday afternoon at age 62.

Byron grew up in Pasadena, CA where he attended Imperial Schools and then graduated from Ambassador College in 1971. In recent years he served as the treasurer in the GCI congregation in Joplin, MO. Byron is survived by his wife Sharyon, his son Brandon, his daughter Sharby, his parents James and Claire Duke, his brothers Russell and Warren Duke and his sister Kay Overstreet (for a longer obituary, go to http://www.ferryfuneralhome.com/view.php?view=1857).

A memorial service will be held for Byron on January 6 at 2:00 p.m. at the Ferry Funeral Home, 301 South Washington in Nevada, MO.

The family deeply appreciates your prayers. Cards may be sent to:

Sharyon Duke
431 E. Minnesota St.
Nevada, MO 64772


Jason Richards

The following prayer update is from GCI pastor Martin Manuel concerning his grandson Jason Richards. For an earlier update, click here.

Thanks to all of you who have been praying for Jason Richards. He continues to be a miracle child and testimony of God’s grace.

Jason was released from Seattle Children’s Hospital recently. While there, his doctors adjusted one of his medicines and added another due to a recent event that led to an inability to receive night feedings through his nasal tube. As a result, he was suffering from diarrhea. We asked for prayer specifically about these problems, and they were answered! Jason received daily night feeds and the diarrhea stopped. Already he has started to gain weight!

Our level of knowledge and understanding does not enable us to see how a stroke followed by cardiac arrest can result in improvement. We know that normally they don’t. In fact, normally the percentage of recoveries from cardiac arrest in hospitals is 50% at best. The Lord is batting 1000 with Jason! God did not cause Jason’s stroke; we did – of course not deliberately. When I say “we” it includes all humans who are part of the process – doctors, nurses, employees of pharmaceutical companies and all other caregivers. We do our best most of the time. Occasionally, we drop the ball. But our God in His mercy hears our prayers and acts on our behalf to turn our mistakes into blessings (remember Joseph in Egypt).

Our God – Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit – loves each of us and faithfully answers our prayers. And I believe it is a special joy in heaven when so many are praying fervently together out of compassion and love. Many of you sent e-mail notes of encouragement in response to our prayer request. I am sorry that time does not allow a response to each. But we deeply appreciate the notes and prayers. This has been a rough journey, to put it mildly. You have given us a lot of support along the way. Jason is progressing toward a heart transplant. He and his parents will continue to need your prayers all the way and beyond. We will keep you posted.

Hallelujah to our wonderful God! Thanks again to each of you.

Love, Martin


Destruction in the Philippines

Eugene Guzon, GCI national director in the Philippines, writes concerning the recent devastating floods in Mindanao.

I recently returned from Mindanao where I visited and gave immediate assistance to our members in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, the two main areas in Mindanao severely damaged by the typhoon and flash floods that occurred at dawn on December 17.

The storm produced a ferocious flash flood that swept the city, trapping families in their homes, resulting in tremendous loss of life and property. We heard of accounts of bodies of entire families embracing each other as they all perished huddled together.

We have two churches in Cagayan De Oro City and one in Iligan City. Each of them has about forty to fifty members. I joined GCI Area Superintendent for Mindanao, Mr. Jerome Manriquez and Pastor Rollen Olango of Cagayan de Oro and Pastor Cristito Rico of Iligan City, in visiting our members in those areas. Due to power outages, it had been difficult to contact them immediately. But I am happy to report that all are accounted for. They are safe, though some are looking for temporary shelter. We thank God for delivering them from the rampaging waters.

The Mugot family told of how they had to climb their way in the dark through the roof of their house with the aid of a small penlight. That was their only option, because flood water was rising fast, rampaging outside their door. After they got to the roof, they lent their ladder to the neighbor who was sick and who was screaming for help. That ladder allowed them to flee to safety.

They prayed even in their near panic as the water reached to only about a foot below them. Thankfully at about five o’clock in the morning, after about four hours of being drenched in rain and almost swept away by strong winds, the rain subsided, and the flood slowly receded. The same story of miraculous intervention happened to another member, whose family lives about four kilometers away. All were exhausted but grateful, telling stories of how, by God’s grace, they survived.

Prayer points:

A. For God’s comfort and provision for the people of Cagayan De Oro and Iligan City who suffered severe loss of life and property.

B. For our members’ well-being, relief and recovery. Many of them have suffered loss and a disruption in livelihood. The six families in our church who were severely affected are still in a state of trauma and shock at this time, especially the children. Three houses of members in Cagayan and three houses in Iligan are nearly beyond repair. They are finding a place to rent in the meantime, while salvaging whatever is left of their belongings. They need another place on which to build again.

C. For relocation of the two church meeting places. The church house that they used in Iligan and the place where they hold their small group meetings lost its equipment and furniture to mud and water. The vicinity where we have our church hall in Cagayan De Oro also suffered so much that we will need to relocate to a safer place.

D. For additional supplies, food and clothing. We still need emergency food supplies for our members who lost almost all their belongings: beds, bedding, furniture, equipment and clothing.

E. For the restoration of power and drinking water for the cities. These may take a month or so to restore.

F. For additional volunteers and food supplies needed for the members to do a soup kitchen for the victims near the church area in Cagayan De Oro. Despite the trauma and the losses suffered by the members, they have started providing food through a soup kitchen to people near the near our church.

Meanwhile, the national office has extended some financial assistance to the members most affected by the floods. But this is very inadequate, because the need is just staggering. We are beginning to receive some help from local churches and we appreciate this very much.

This painful experience reminds us that there is only one real source of security and that is our Lord Jesus. Regardless of the physical, natural and emotional chaos we face, we can rely on him as our source of peace. He understands our needs and is able to identify with us. We may not fully understand why we have to go through so much pain and suffering, but one thing is sure: All things work together for good to those who love God. In him, we are secure!

For additional detail see http://gci.ph/weekly-updates/connect-2011/170-connect-december-30-2011.

The denomination is offering financial assistance from the GCI Disaster Assistance Fund to the brethren in the Philippines to help with their emergency needs.

Members and congregations in the US can help with recovery efforts by contributing to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. This special fund was established to help provide members in disaster areas with emergency needs such as food, water, medicine, clothing, temporary housing, home and/or church hall repairs, temporary local pastoral salary expenses and other emergency needs. Donations can be sent to:

GCI Disaster Relief Fund
P.O. Box 5005
Glendora, CA 91740



New Zealand earthquake

This report is from Philip Baldwin.

Another major earthquake rocked Christchurch, NZ on December 17.  The GCI members there are shaken but uninjured. The situation is horrible for the residents of that city – they had been hoping that seismic activity had ceased for the foreseeable future.

Gary and Cathy Deddo

In the last issue of Weekly Update it was announced that Dr. Gary Deddo is now working part-time with GCI (going full time in July). Here Gary shares some details about himself, his wife Cathy and their three children.

Dr. Gary Deddo

I was born and raised in Glendale, CA, not far from Fuller Seminary— which I attended in the mid ’70s. I was nurtured in a Christian family who attended Glendale Presbyterian Church. The Sunday school and youth groups emphasized studying and memorizing the Bible, which I very much enjoyed and found meaningful. But I also had a lot of questions. Not doubting ones, so much, but more puzzles about the faith and how to live it. Many things just didn’t seem to fit together in a way that could be lived out. But faith in Christ, conversion, and continual growth in Christ were pervasive themes that I seriously took up, as much as I could at the time.

I became a biblical studies major at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. It was there that I began to get a taste of fully Trinitarian faith primarily from Dr. Ray S. Anderson. He taught at Westmont my last year there and then at Fuller, my last year there. He introduced me to the theology of Karl Barth and Thomas F. Torrance. I knew there was something in their understanding of faith that was fresh, deep, vital, renewing and, well, real! But I couldn’t put much of it into words, although I often recognized when preaching or teaching I heard went in a different direction from the path on which these two theologians were traveling. C.S. Lewis also seemed to have a few clues that kept me looking in certain directions for further growth and understanding.

Not sensing a calling to be a local church pastor, I pursued campus ministry, first at Azusa Pacific University, where I was assistant chaplain (to the Dean of Students!) and then, after a couple of years, switching over to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) campus ministry at the Claremont Colleges (in Claremont, CA) for 10 years. It was there that I was invigorated and challenged but was also brought to the brink of burnout in ministry. I had run out of spiritual gasoline.

As I contemplated what to do next, I happened to sit in on James B. Torrance’s (T.F.’s brother) extension courses for Fuller. It was there that I knew I should study with JB (as we came to affectionately call him) since he seemed to be on the same spiritual/theological path I was traveling on, just 100 miles ahead. So we (my wife Cathy, our one year old daughter, Linda, and I) packed up and went to Scotland. I went with the idea to ask him every question I could and read whatever he directed me to. Well, I thought it would only take a year. But as it turned out, I had more like three and a half years of backlog and unscrambling to do. And by staying that long and writing up my thoughts (according to a very specific format!) I would come back with a Ph.D. to boot. It was there in Scotland that so many loose ends came together that had been tripping me up for many years and hindering a ministry that was free and joyful.

Upon my return to the USA I took up IVCF campus ministry again, but this time on the opposite coast. I served at Princeton University and Princeton Seminary in New Jersey working with graduate students and faculty for another ten years. It was then I began to teach courses in theology for various seminaries and colleges. I haven’t stopped yet.

After ten years in Princeton, I made a shift out of campus ministry over to IVCF’s publishing branch, InterVarsity Press. I have just completed 12 years there, now, serving as senior editor, acquiring and developing new books with authors, about 20 per year. So that’s a different form of discipleship.

Of course, along the way I have also been active as member of various local churches. (I was ordained in California to the Presbyterian Church USA). So I occasionally preach, do Christian education, marriage counseling and officiate weddings. (Recently I co-officiated at my oldest daughter’s wedding.)

Cathy Deddo

My wife of 30 years, Cathy, also graduated from Fuller Seminary and served in campus ministry with IVCF for a number of years. She also has been very involved in women’s ministries teaching and doing intensive Bible study as well as retreats. She hosts a website on which she posts spiritual growth resources for laypersons and those serving in formal ministry. Cathy has led leadership training seminars for small groups and for leadership development in the church context. She has been the guest speaker at numerous retreats on topics ranging from “The Message of James” to “Building Loving Relationships” and “Learning to Worship the Triune God.” She and I have served as co-speakers at retreats. She is also currently working towards a certificate in Spiritual Direction at North Park Seminary in Chicago.

Cathy and I have three adult children. Linda is married, lives near Harrisburg, PA and is a hospice nurse. Our son, Greg, is in his senior year of college studying studio art. Our daughter, Krista is in her second year of college. She is planning on pursuing a degree in occupational therapy. Cathy and I co-authored a little booklet, God, the Bible and the Shack (IVP) and years ago the book George MacDonald: A Devotional Guide to His Writings.

Cathy and I look forward to getting to know more of you in the coming months and years as we join you in the privilege of participating in Christ’s own ministry through GCI.

Grace and peace,

Gary Deddo

Birmingham 50th anniversary

Birmingham, Alabama, will celebrate its 50th anniversary on February 12, 2012. Birmingham had its first service on February 24, 1962. It was the second church congregation of the Radio Church of God established in the Southeastern United States. Its closest sister churches were Memphis, Tennessee, and Big Sandy, Texas. We are pleased to have Joe and Tammy Tkach as our special guests. If you are interested in attending, contact Bob Miller for additional details [bob.miller@gci.org].

Larry Wooldridge graduates

Mr. and Mrs. Larry Wooldridge

We are pleased to announce that on December 17, GCI pastor Larry Wooldridge graduated from Philadelphia Biblical University in Langhorne, PA, with a master of divinity (MDiv) degree. Larry tells us that it took him eight years to complete the degree. Congratulations Larry!

Larry is senior pastor of GCI’s congregations in Meriden and Stratford, CT and serves as a district pastor in New England.