GCI Update

Happy Mother’s Day

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Joseph Tkach Jr. and Mrs. Joseph Tkach Sr.
Joseph Tkach with his mother Mrs. Joseph Tkach Sr.

Mother’s Day in the U.S. is next Sunday (May 13). Other countries have a similar occasion on different days. Even a quick search with Google shows that literally dozens of nations, in all parts of the world, set aside a day to honor mothers and motherhood.

It is a reminder that one of the most important roles God has given to human beings is assigned exclusively to women. However, it is a role that often goes unrecognized and unappreciated.

I imagine that we all have memories of interactions with our moms. So it is appropriate that we remember the things they taught us. They were not only the voices in our heads, but around the kitchen table, the living room, just about everywhere. Like:

  • My mama taught me religion: “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”
  • My mama taught me time travel: “If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week.”
  • My mama taught me logic: “Because I said so, that’s why.”
  • My mama taught me irony: “Keep laughing and I’ll give you something to cry about.”
  • My mama taught me osmosis: “Shut your mouth and eat your supper!”
  • My mama taught me contortionism: “Will you look at the dirt on the back of your neck!”
  • My mama taught me stamina: “You’ll sit there ‘til all that spinach is finished.”
  • My mama taught me about weather: It looks as if a tornado swept through your room.”
  • My mama taught me about the circle of life: “I brought you into this world and I can take you out.”
  • My mama taught me about behavior modification: “Stop acting like your father!”
  • My mama taught me about genetics: “You’re just like your father.”
  • My mama taught me about envy: “There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do.”
  • My mama taught me about anticipation: “Just wait until you get home.”
  • My mama taught me wisdom: “When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.”

All kidding aside, we honor our mothers this weekend for the enduring love we receive from them from the womb to the tomb. A mother’s love for her children is perhaps the closest we human beings ever come to understanding the unconditional love that God has for us.

Since God reveals himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, some mistakenly view God only in masculine terms. Of course, God is neither male or female and not subject to the limitations of gender. Nevertheless, God created us in his image and likeness and it is not wrong to say that masculinity and femininity do reflect indirectly, each in their own way, something that does indeed correspond to God’s own life and character. So in Scripture we find images can be used of God’s character which align with the feminine gender. In four passages God is said to be like a human mother in labor or caring for her children (Isaiah 42:14; 45:10; 49:15; 66:13). There are three times where God is likened to a mother bird (Deuteronomy 32:11; Is 31:5; Matt 23:37) and one where God is compared to a mother bear (Hosea 13:8). The Spirit is described in Genesis (hovering, Genesis 1:2) and in the Gospels as being dove-like (Matthew. 3:16) and the dove is sometimes in the Bible viewed to have feminine characteristics. The apostle Paul compares his ministry to a nursemaid (1 Thessalonians 2:7). But even more to the point, readers of Scripture are directed to honor mothers (Luke 18:20).

Of course, no human mother is perfect. But whatever their flaws and shortcomings might be, most mothers do love their children in a profoundly deep and unconditional way. Whether you see it – or receive it – remember that motherhood is a reflection of the unconditional and nurturing love our heavenly Father has for us.

My surname is Russian, from my Dad’s family, but my mom is half-Greek. My dad was employed outside the home while my mom was a traditional stay-at-home, homemaker. So, in my preschool years, I was her constant companion. And I remember much of it very well. She taught me to read before I went to school. She taught me to pray as soon as I could talk. I remember watching her take several hours to make baklava from scratch. And I watched it all disappear in mere minutes once my dad arrived home from work.

My dad told me that he married my mom because he knew that in several areas she was smarter and how good it was to have her complete his team. Her father was a Greek immigrant, and I most remember him telling me that “the Greek part of you came from your mother” and that it was “the most important part” of me. I still smile every time I think about it.

I realize that Mother’s Day is not a God-ordained celebration, but for all its commercialism, Mothers’ Day is still a good thing. This year, remember to let your mother know how special she really is.

To all of you and all mothers I say: Χρόνια Πολλά σε όλες τις Μανούλες της Γης! (Happy Mother’s Day to all mummies!)

With love, in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

P.S. In your Mother’s Day celebrations at church, please remember that it is not an easy day for some women. For those women struggling with fertility issues—longing for children they do not have—Mother’s Day can be an agonizing experience. So be sure to acknowledge them and their struggle on this special day.

Tucson outreach

This update is from elder Ted Millhuff.

Emerge Center

After two months of donations at services of Grace of  God Fellowship, Tucson, Nanette Krestle took 82 boxes of toiletries to the Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse on March 26. The Emerge Center is very thankful for the donations and was surprised that a congregation of our size could do so much.

During the spring and summer of 2011, we began working with Mentally Ill Kids In Distress (MIKIDS) set in motion by one of our members, Nanette Krestle, a project manager at the firm. The project involved an angel tree which had requests for gifts. Each child asked for a needed piece of clothing, which our members provided. This was a huge success and was heartwarming due to the incoming cards of thanks from several families.

After we finished that project, we took the next step, based on our outreach on the Care then Share approach taught at last year’s conference. We planned an Easter Service for the MIKIDs families to be held at our church. The overall planning by Pastor Tom and Michelle Landess and Nanette Krestel included all of our members taking part in this activity. We had 100 percent participation.

MIKIDs Project

On April 15, 2012, we had approximately 35 adults and children join us for services. Michelle led children’s songs, Tom gave a short message and Nanette led the kids out for an plastic egg hunt. Each egg had candy and there were four with $50 gift certificates and ten with $10 gift certificates. We had a lunch in our fellowship hall with games for kids. We gave away more prizes and bibles for adults, teens, and children along with some CDs and coloring books. Two families talked to Tom and said they would like to start coming to services.

The Director of the MIKID Organization attended this special event as well. She wants to connect more with our church in the future, with the intent of sending other MIKID families to us. The Director sees the need for a faith-based connection for all those families and saw that our people can fill that need for them. Wow – truly great beginnings!

Love Wichita

This update is from Ross Hays of Grace Fellowship, the GCI congregation in Wichita, Kansas.

Grace Fellowship of Wichita, Kansas participated in a city-wide all-day service project called Love Wichita. Churches across the city joined together in an attitude of service and hope at the fourth LOVE Wichita event of serving. A total of 235 projects were completed (100 more than last year), using thousands of volunteers and involving almost 40 churches. What an awesome demonstration of God’s love to those in need.

We had nine members from seven communities outside of the city of Wichita serving that day at two project sites. Our team spent the morning working on the West side of town at Woodlakes Senior Residence where we spread 75 cubic yards of mulch, added 800 pounds of top soil into a planting bed used by the residence and removed 10 cedar trees. After lunch we moved to the East side and cleaned out about a mile of Gypsum Creek. We pulled 4 bicycles, 1 scooter, 1 shopping cart, several car wheels and rims, and 38 bags of trash out of the creek.

God is calling us to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” (Jeremiah 29:7) and to answer his call, we’ll continue to partner to complete service projects throughout the area.



Virginia Beach 41st anniversary

This update is from Curtis May.

Tim and Donna Brassell

On the weekend of April 21-22, my wife Jannice and I joined the New Creation Community Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for their 41st anniversary. We served as Associate Pastor in the Norfolk area from 1974 to 1979.

The celebration was a wonderful experience beginning with an exquisite banquet and dance on Saturday evening where a panel of myself, and another former pastor, Tim Brassel, along with the current pastoral team members Calvin Sledge, Ada Wilson, Calvin Simon, and Clarence Roberts told stories, serious and funny, of our church experiences.

Simons (senior pastor), Ada Parson, Sledges, Mays and Brassells
Maude Shaw is a Charter Member of the Norfolk Church

On Sunday the new Senior Pastor Calvin Simon was installed. Also on Sunday we were joined by members from the former sister church in Richmond in a meaningful worship service. On a personal note, I was deeply moved when one of the lead event organizers told the congregation that I was one of the main reasons he stayed in the church. I visited his mom several times when he was 10 years old. Now he is a pillar in the church!

The Virginia Beach congregation is eager to go forward with a new senior pastor, and reach out into the community with renewed excitement and purpose.


Transformational Church

This update is from Stuart Mahan, senior pastor of the GCI congregation in Toledo, OH.

I was blessed last year in February to become the pastor of Grace Family Fellowship, the GCI congregation in Toledo, OH. My story is somewhat unique, in that I had been a bricklayer for 23 years with “on the job training” as the congregation’s youth ministry leader. Recently I was selected to become the new senior pastor following the retirement of our pastor, Larry Brown.

As part of the process of being hired as the new senior pastor, I was given a pastoral assessment by Church Administration and Development (CAD). Based on the assessment, CAD recommended that I lead our congregation in utilizing CAD’s Transformational Church consulting services. I was unsure what this was but signed us up. The initial step was to lead the congregation through a Transformational Church Assessment, using an online survey instrument that has about 80 questions pertaining to all aspects of our local church (worship, leadership, community involvement and other vital areas of church life).

Following completion of the survey, we held a Discovery Retreat. This all-day event was facilitated by our Transformational Church consultant, who in our case was Ted Johnston from CAD. Ted helped us unpack all the information gathered in the survey. Following the retreat, Ted took what we had learned together in the assessment and retreat and prepared an Action Plan for our congregation. This plan is proving invaluable for me as a new pastor. It summarizes what we learned about our strengths and weaknesses and offers guidance as to the direction we need to be moving as a congregation.

Pastors are to be leaders, helping the congregation see where God is working and encouraging them to join him there. But this can be difficult to do when even the pastor is unsure as to what direction the church needs to be moving. The Action Plan has become a blueprint for building the future of our congregation. After spending 23 years in the construction trades, this approach fits me perfectly. As an inexperienced pastor, I now know what I need to focus on and in what direction to proceed.

As a result of the Transformational Church process, we now have in place a new Mission/Vision Statement. We also have a new leadership team and advisory team in operation. All are aware of where we want to go and what our mission in Toledo is. The feeling of confidence and direction has been encouraging not only to the leadership, but to the whole congregation as well. There is a sense of purpose in everything we do. We have goals and know what we are aiming for.

We may not have all the answers, but then God does not always give the complete lay of the land. That is where the adventure comes into play, and having the faith and knowledge that it is God’s work, not ours.

I would encourage any pastor who may feel the need for an updated “blueprint” to check into CAD’s Transformational Church consulting services It was one of the wisest instructions given to me, and I am thankful for it.

To learn more about CAD’s Transformational Church consulting services, go to http://mindev.gci.org/services.htm (look in the right-hand column), or telephone the CAD office.

Marriage ministry

Current cultural trends and legal changes in marriage, families, relationships and sexual behavior raise new questions and challenges in pastoral ministry. The National Association of Evangelicals recently published a position paper that addresses this topic. Here is an excerpt:

As evangelical Protestant pastors who are committed to the Bible as our rule of faith and practice, we seek guidance in dealing with these challenges. The following list of principles is to build a framework for making decisions in pastoral ministry.

You can read the full letter at www.nae.net/images/content/Pastoral_Letter_on_Marriage_Relationships_Ministry_04-17-12.pdf


Amber (Schnippert) Patrick

A few weeks ago we passed along a request for prayer for Amber sent in by her father and GCI legal counsel,  Bernie Schnippert (click here for original request). Latest tests show Amber has not responded to treatment and is in much pain. We ask for your continued prayers.

Cards may be sent to:

Amber Patrick
2322 Oakhaven Drive
Duarte, CA 91010