GCI Update

Prayer for the nations

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Joe and Tammy TkachThis Monday, three people died and nearly 200 were injured by bombs detonated near the finish line of the famed Boston Marathon. Dishon Mills, who is planting a GCI church in nearby Randolph, Massachusetts and works near the location of the bomb blasts, wrote this on his Facebook page:

It was a tragic day for our city. I work six doors from the site of the first explosion. My family and I were going to go down to my job to watch the race, but I was tired from traveling so we stayed home. Not only that, for the first time in at least five years, no one from my staff was in the building watching the Marathon. Otherwise, we would have been right in the center of the devastation. Some will ask, “Where was God when bombs ripped through the Boston Marathon?” My reply is that he was working through the first responders who worked to minimize the casualties. He was working through the police who found additional explosive devices before they detonated. He was working to keep me, my family and my colleagues safe on a terrible day. I am confident that this same God will comfort the families of the victims and help my city heal from this tragedy.

Dishon’s heartfelt words remind me that we are called to join with Jesus in his concern for suffering people near and far. I was also reminded of this when I visited our Stratford and Cromwell, Connecticut churches pastored by Larry Wooldridge. One of the opening prayers included intercession for the people of North Korea and the surrounding region, asking God that peace and cooler heads prevail. This prayer reflected the apostle Paul’s admonition to intercede for all people everywhere by praying for the leaders of their governments (1 Timothy 2:1-4). I hope we’ll all take this admonition to heart. Though we no longer examine current events searching for “where we are in prophecy” clues, world events should still be a concern of ours and a focus for our prayers.

When disasters, like the recent floods in Mozambique, directly affect our members, we naturally respond with prayer. But what about the people in the Korean peninsula? Though we don’t have many members there and though most commentators expect things to return to normal (if “normal” is a word that can be used to describe anything about North Korea!), I still feel that we should join in prayer for the people of both South and North Korea and for their leaders. The same can be said for people in many parts of our world, who suffer through troubles like those shown in the cartoon below.

North Korea has become one of the strangest countries on earth. If it was not for the fact that they are developing nuclear weapons, we could dismiss them as a comic sideshow on the world scene. They live in isolation, obsessed with an incredible personality cult around their leaders. Their first President, Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, is still considered the Head of State. Nebuchadnezzar, who liked to be addressed as “O King, live forever,” could have learned from the North Korean propaganda machine. Kim Jong-il, his son, and now his grandson Kim Jong-un, are worshiped almost as gods in North Korea’s peculiar blend of communism and state idolatry.

One of the strategies of war is to dehumanize your enemy. My father, who fought in the Pacific during World War II, was told that there was no word for “love” in the Japanese language. That is nonsense, of course, but if you can demonize your enemies in this way, it makes it easier to destroy them. The seventeen million people of North Korea are fed a steady diet of hate propaganda, designed to prepare every man, woman and child to be ready to fight to the death to defend their homeland against “the American aggressors and their South Korean puppets.” We must not allow ourselves to return the hate. Let’s remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

You’re familiar with the old written law, “Love your friend,” and its unwritten companion, “Hate your enemy.” I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty (Matthew 5:43-45 The Message).

When I see the news reports of North Koreans rallying in massive displays of adoration for their leader, I identify with Paul’s feelings on his visit to Athens. “The longer Paul waited in Athens for Silas and Timothy, the angrier he got—all those idols! The city was a junkyard of idols” (Acts 17:16). As I see them marching in lockstep in endless military parades, I have to remind myself that each one of those sadly deluded people are nevertheless children of God. I try to see them as he sees them—not as depersonalized automatons, but as individuals whom he loves, sending his own eternal Son to save them from sin, death and the power of evil deceit.

Christianity is thriving in South Korea, but North Korea is officially atheist, and ruthlessly suppresses all religion except their state idolatry. A small and incredibly courageous underground church exists there, but it is safe to say that outside of that there is hardly any “knowledge of God.” It has not always been that way. Did you know that about a hundred years ago, North Korea was once one of the world’s most fruitful fields for Christian missions? There was a massive revival, and for a time, Pyongyang was known as “The Jerusalem of the East.”

God has not written off North Korea and neither should we. I was glad to hear our congregation’s prayer last weekend. Let’s not just pray about North Korea. Let’s remember to pray for them—a sadly confused and deceived people who nevertheless are included in God’s great purpose for humankind.

With love, in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach

Karl Reinagel

Carla and Karl

“I love having a front row seat to watch how God is working in the lives of many people,” said District Pastor, Karl Reinagel, who pastors the GCI congregation in St. Louis, Missouri.

Karl spent his early years on a 40-acre Christmas tree farm in Eden, New York. “I sold trees as a boy of 8 or 9 when dad was at work. We stopped running that business after embracing WCG teachings against Christmas. Oddly enough the last time we had a Christmas tree in the house is one of the acts that my mom and sisters remember most fondly of me. I barely remember it, but it always comes up at family reunions. I helped them by cutting, hauling and standing up a tree in the living room after it was forbidden by Dad. I don’t think I got the memo on that one – at least my conscience was not developed enough to have a crisis. I just saw my mom and sisters struggling with something that was important to them and needing a strong hand from an older brother.”

Karl first became aware of WCG in the late ’60s through The World Tomorrow radio program, The Plain Truth magazine and especially the Correspondence Course. “Dad asked me to read the Correspondence Course and scriptures as he typed every word. We began attending church, along with two of my brothers, in the early ’70s following a public Bible lecture series in Buffalo, New York. We had no idea there was a congregation in the area until then.”

Karl’s parents divorced when he was about 12 and Karl became “chief cook and bottle washer of the bachelor pad with dad and two brothers.” In late 1974, they moved to central Tennessee where his father remarried and began a mixed family of “yours, mine and ours.” Karl graduated from high school in 1977 and went off to University of Tennessee-Knoxville to study accounting.

Karl was baptized right after high school and started participating in the local Spokesman Club while attending college. “It was a pretty scary adventure for me. I usually enjoyed my astronomy class at 7:50 a.m. except Wednesday mornings when I began to anxiously anticipate my assignment at club that evening” His passion for pastoral ministry started developing and Karl transferred to Ambassador College in 1979. “Events in WCG and in my home church area led me to attend AC. I wanted to learn to be more helpful to the church in a troubled time.”

It was in college that Karl met his wife, Carla Abbey. They were married August 8, 1982. Karl and Carla have three children and two grandchildren. Jon is married to (another) Carla and they have two children, Kyran (3) and Jariel (six months). Their other two children are Kneight (who currently lives in Chicago) and Krissy, who will graduate from high school in 2014.

After graduating from AC in 1982, Karl began working in the Mail Processing Department of WCG. “I was hired to serve those responding to The World Tomorrow program and The Plain Truth magazine. At the same time I started serving members of our local Auditorium PM congregation in various capacities alongside a whole bunch of outstanding men and women over the years.”

Karl worked in various departments of Mail Processing for a number of years overseeing office staff and working with volunteer phone operators for the WATS line. In 1995 he transferred to Church Administration to assist Richard Rice. Karl calls that time, “the year all heaven broke loose in the church.”

Richard Rice was a mentor to Karl for many years. “Richard Rice helped me grow as a Christian in many ways during my years in Pasadena and helped me to navigate through various rough patches of ministry as a new pastor who faced sticky situations I had no idea how to approach. I especially treasure the hours we spent travelling to and from the Los Angeles airport as he and his wife Ginny made many trips across the country to encourage pastors and congregations. This gave me the opportunity to learn how to graciously and lovingly deal with many of the difficult circumstances ministers face.”

In the mid-90s Karl became aware of the importance of identifying spiritual gifts. “I realized shepherding was one of my strongest gifts. It became apparent that my position in Pasadena would soon be phased out and I was sure I would serve in pastoral ministry when that happened. Unfortunately in the spring of 1996 when ‘my number came up’ with another wave of massive layoffs, they were also cutting back the already depleted field ministry. That was heartbreaking, but it gave me the chance to gain some useful experience serving the congregation in Olean, New York, while I sought work in the area. Pastor George Hart was most encouraging at the time in ministering to me as well as giving me opportunities to serve others. In July I was hired to replace a transferring minister in Wausau, Wisconsin.”

Since that time, Karl and his wife Carla have served congregations in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska before finally settling in St. Louis. “Carla is very supportive of me in my ministry, but her ministry priority has been on providing a stable home and rearing godly children. She serves the church by filling in where needed as she is able and encouraging the body of Christ through art.”

When asked about his most memorable moments as a pastor, Karl said he’s had three. “It is more as a parent than as a pastor, so maybe it doesn’t even count but it is the baptism of each of my children. Carla and I have been blessed beyond words to express just what it means that each of our children loves Jesus and serves him according to their gifts, abilities and opportunities.“

A couple of interesting things about Karl that others may not know: “Several years ago we installed a wood burning stove on the hearth and have used it for our primary heat ever since. It gives me lots of good exercise splitting, stacking and hauling wood most of the year and the radiant heat is hard to beat. Carla and I have also begun to make homemade wine and are trying our hand at hard apple cider.  We have little success to date, but we eagerly await next year’s apple harvest so we can test modifications to our recipe.”

Karl enjoys the “amazing journey” of GCI. “The variety and breadth of friendships over the years is wonderful with friends and acquaintances literally throughout the country and all over the world.” As a pastor, Karl says, “I want to see people growing into maturity in Christ: discovering God’s love for them and responding to it, finding their spiritual gifts and passion and taking their place as active members of the body of Christ.”

Karl says he feels closest to God “in those quiet mornings before anyone else gets up just watching the birds and other wildlife interact with one another and enjoying the native garden Carla and Krissy have planted in the backyard—our sanctuary. Also, sitting by the fire in the middle of a cold winter’s night meditating and praying while reloading the stove. Oddly enough there are more public times as well, such as standing with a couple during their wedding ceremony and feeling for those brief moments that God has included me with them inside a special circle of his love. Or when I am privileged to participate with Jesus as he comforts mourners before and during a funeral service as we reflect upon the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the deceased and the survivors.”

Baptisms and ordination

GCI’s congregation in Hazard, Kentucky recently experienced the joy of baptizing nine people (pictured below). The baptism ceremony was officiated by GCI elder Hasadore Hall (far right in the picture). Following the ceremony, the group of about 70 shared food and fellowship.


The Hazard congregation also recently celebrated the ordination of Mark Beverly as a GCI elder. The ceremony (pictured below) was officiated by GCI elders Hasadore Hall, Mike Stewart and Wayne Blair. The congregation is thankful to God for these developments.

Mark's Ordination

Converge East

“I think it was one of the happiest, most positive conferences I have ever attended in the church. It showed that the concept of the various generations represented in our church working together is not just a nice idea. It really is happening.”

This was John Halford’s observation after attending Converge East, where about 100 men and women from GCI Generations Ministries (GenMin) camps, mission events and administration gathered last weekend near Columbus, Ohio. Also participating were GCI youth ministry leaders from Canada as well as other guests.

Converge East

Converge is the annual summit of GenMin’s leaders, held this year in two locations: Southern California (last February—click here for a report) and recently in Ohio. The purpose of Converge is to gather for inspiration, encouragement and instruction. Participants worshiped, shared meals and fellowship, and participated in discussions about various aspects of GenMin camp and mission event ministries.

Presenters in Ohio included Dan Rogers, Gary Deddo, Cathy Deddo, John Halford, Anthony Mullins, Ted Johnston, Greg Williams, Jeff Broadnax, Anne Stapleton and Mark Stapleton. Moving testimonies were given by participants representing GenMin’s cross-generational ministry focus. Here, from Stephen Symonds, is a montage of pictures and video clips from Converge East:


Ordination of

An event highlight was the ordination of Dustin Lampe as a GCI elder (see picture above). Dustin was hired recently to serve as assistant pastor in the GCI Cincinnati, West congregation where Rick Shallenberger is senior pastor. Dustin recently completed a Master of Arts degree in Christian Ministry at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. Dustin learned about GCI from Friends professor Dr. Chris Kettler, who has appeared on GCI’s You’re Included program discussing Trinitarian theology.

Converge East was coordinated by GCI Columbus pastor Jeff Broadnax, who also serves as GenMin camps coach for the eastern United States. Converge West was coordinated by GCI San Diego pastor Mark Stapleton and his wife Anne who serve together as GenMin camps coach for the western United States. For more about the ministries that GenMin provides in service to GCI congregations, click here.

Thai mission

Thai_TeachersDecerel Pilarca, an English teacher and GCI missionary in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand together with a fellow Filipina teacher, accompanied three Thai teachers from her school to visit the Philippines for the first time last March. The group had dinner with GCI Philippines national director Eugene Guzon (see picture at right).

The visitors were hosted by the GCI Philippines missions community team represented by Mina Gonzales who also served as tour guide. While in the Philippines, the group explored the possibility of establishing a student exchange program between their school and a partner high school in the Philippines. Through the program, Thai students would stay in the Philippines for a month while being hosted by Filipino families. In turn, an equal number of Filipino high school students would travel to Thailand and stay with Thai families.

The group also met with GCI Philippine leaders in Baguio City and Manila. After visiting her parents in Mindanao, Ms. Pilarca will return to Thailand to continue teaching in Chiang Rai. The Philippine missions team hopes to organize a short-term mission trip to Thailand within the year. Those interested in participating may contact the GCI Philippines national office.

Scripture: God’s Gift, part 2

This article is part two of a six-part series by Gary Deddo on interpreting Scripture. Click here for part one.

In the first article in this series, we considered how Scripture is a gift of the living and speaking God. But this gift is not one that becomes separated from the giver. By the Spirit God spoke through the prophets and then the apostles. But God continues to speak by the same Spirit through those God-breathed written words. In fact if God fell mute, and ceased to actively communicate to us in and through those written words, we would not have a true and authoritative word from God by which he makes himself known. But the living and speaking God of the Bible does not remain at a deistic distance, winding up his Bible and then sending it out to mechanistically convey information about God.

The very nature of God is to communicate himself, making himself known, so that we might communicate with him as his children and so share in holy loving communion.

One further point, made in part one of this series, confirms all this. God’s personal act of communication is in and through his Son, the Living Word. The whole of the written words of the prophets and apostles direct our attention to the Living Word, Jesus the incarnate Son of God. This Jesus is God’s own self-communication, his own self-revelation to us. Jesus does not give us words from God, he is himself God’s Word to us. He expresses the very character of God as a speaking and communicating God. To hear Jesus is to hear God himself speaking to us, directly, in person, face-to-face.

So Jesus is at the center of the written word, Scripture. But he is behind all the words, the whole of the Bible, as its source, as the speech of God to us. He is the original Word and the final Word of God, the Alpha and Omega. In other words, by the incarnation of the Word of God the author of the written word of God has come into the play, he has shown up in the person of Jesus. And as the author, Jesus himself indicates that he is at the center and behind it all. So when the Pharisees attempt to use Scripture (and their interpretation of it against Jesus), he confronts them and says: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40, NRSV throughout). Jesus has to tell them that he is the author [Lord] of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5) and that they are in no place to judge him by their pre-understanding of the Sabbath. When the author of Scripture shows up, we have to stop interpreting Jesus in terms of our pre-understandings of Scripture and interpret the written words in terms of Jesus, the Living Word.

Through his interaction with the men on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection, Jesus instructs us how to approach the written word of God. To help these disciples understand who he was and what he had gone through, this is what he did: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:27). A bit later he explained to them: “’These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45).

The written word of God is to be interpreted in the light of the Living Word, for the purpose of the written word is to direct us to the Living Word so that we might know who God is and what he has done for us. When we approach all of Scripture with Jesus himself as the interpretive key to it all, then we hear the word of God as it was meant to be heard. Thomas F. Torrance used to explain it this way: It’s like reading a murder-mystery for the second time. The first time we’re looking for clues as to “who-done-it.” But not everything is clear. Some things make sense others don’t. Some things seem significant, others seem trivial. But in a well-crafted murder mystery there will be plenty of clues—so many clues that when it finally is revealed who committed the crime, we are somewhat surprised but also satisfied that it makes sense. We say, “Yes there were clues all along. We just didn’t know which ones to pay attention to and didn’t see how they ‘added up.'”

Now, what would happen if we were to read the murder mystery for a second time? Now knowing “who-done-it,” those early clues would not be irrelevant. Rather we would see how truly significant they were. We would be able to sort out the irrelevant clues from the meaningful ones. Those clues would stand out as even more extraordinary. “No wonder suspect A said X. No wonder suspect B did Y.” We would see what they mean; how they point to who committed the crime. We would end up valuing those clues as foreshadowings even more than on the first reading.

And that’s much what it’s like when properly reading the Bible. Knowing it all leads to what God has done in Jesus Christ, we don’t set that recognition aside. Rather we interpret the whole of the written word in terms of its center, the Living Word of God. In that way, the whole of Scripture is properly interpreted; the gift of God is properly received.

Another way to say all this is that the Bible itself tells us whose Scripture this is. We know who the author is. We know where the Bible came from. It is not anonymous. So another analogy would be that reading the Bible is like reading a letter from someone you know and who knows you, not like getting junk mail from someone you don’t know and who doesn’t know or care about you. Reading these two types of mail are entirely different experiences, aren’t they? Sometimes when I’ve gotten letters (or emails) from those I know well, as I read what they wrote, I can almost hear their voices. I know just how they’d say it. It sounds “just like them.” Reading the Bible should be like that. The more we get to know the heart, mind, purpose and attitudes of Jesus, the more we’ll hear his voice throughout all of Scripture and see how it points to him the Son, and to his mission as the self-revelation of the Father and the Spirit.

When reading and trying to understand Scripture out of the center of knowing whose scripture it is, another aspect of a proper approach becomes apparent. The primary purpose of all of Scripture is to reveal to us who this God is. That is, central to the message of all the biblical writers is to convey to us the nature, character, purpose and attitudes of our Creator and Redeemer God. They want us above all to know not just that some kind of god exists, but which God in particular and what this God is like. And they want their hearers to know who God is because the God they know wants to be known and is working though them to accomplish just that.

But the revelation that God is accomplishing is not just aimed at a kind of abstract, impersonal information. It is knowledge that reveals a God who has created us for relationship, communication and holy love. Knowing this God involves interaction of faith, trust, praise, adoration, worship and so fellowship and communion, which includes our following in his ways; that is, our obedience. And this interaction is not just a “knowing about” but a knowing in a sense similar to how we hear of Adam “knowing” Eve and so conceiving a child. By God’s acts of revelation, we come to know deeply who this God really is. Love for this God, the worship of this God, trust or faith in this God are our responses to who this God is. True knowledge of God that is accurate and faithful leads to true worship and living trust in God.

Throughout the Old Testament, the most often and widely repeated description of God’s nature and character is his “steadfast love.” In the Psalms alone, the Lord’s steadfast love is highlighted nearly 120 times. Psalm 136 uniquely proclaims God’s steadfast love in the refrain of all its 26 verses. An expanded but slightly more comprehensive description found across the Old Testament echoes what the Lord revealed of himself to Moses: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” The Old Testament prophets constantly held out to their hearers the nature and character of God, the only one worthy of their faithfulness and worship. However, the fullness of what God’s steadfast love means does not come into full view until we see it embodied and lived out in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus with his promise to return.

Jesus himself made inquiring about and knowing who he was of paramount importance. His teachings and actions are designed to raise the question: “Who then is this?” His parables prompted his hearers to inquire more deeply. And of course, Jesus even confronts his own disciples with this question at two levels: “Who do people say that I am?” and then even more pointedly “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:27, 29 ). Jesus himself makes the question of Who central. We must do the same if we are to hear the Word of God (Living and so written) as it was meant to be heard.

What is disclosed in Jesus and preserved for us in the responses of the apostles and their writings is that God is not just graciously loving towards us, but is Father, Son and Holy Spirit who have their being in triune holy loving from all eternity, before there ever was a creation. Jesus is who he is in his eternal relationship of holy love to the Father and eternal Spirit. That is the deepest level of God’s self-revelation, where we discover who God is in God’s inner and eternal triune life.

So we should approach our Bible study with our primary goal being listening and learning from Scripture who our triune God is as revealed to us in Jesus Christ. We can then rightly interpret Scripture out of that center. This approach means that other questions we might like to ask first, or about which we might be anxious, will be secondary. For Scripture, with Jesus at the center, not only provides us with certain answers, it tells us what the right questions are! So the questions of What?, Where?, When?, Why? or How? must be made relative to the question of Who? For it is the key to all these other questions.

We now have laid out the basic orientation for our understanding of Scripture and how best to approach it. We will consider some further implications for listening to the Word of God in our next installment.

Death of Robert Bragg

We were saddened to learn that former GCI pastor Robert Bragg died early today (April 17). He was 80 years old and had been suffering from age-related ailments for the past few years.

Bob was preceded in death by his wife Shelby, who died in 2010 (after 53 years of marriage) and his youngest son Reginald, who died in 2012. Bob is survived by his sons Scott and Stuart. Please remember the family in your prayers.

Cards may be sent to Bob’s sons at:

Scott Bragg
1119 Moser Drive
Danielsville, PA 18038
Stuart Bragg
410 West 51st Street
Apartment 104
New York, NY 10019

LaVerne Wyatt-Paige

As reported last week, LaVerne is in serious condition. Here is an update from district pastor Glen Weber.

LaVerne was doing a bit better and was more conscious late last week. Saturday she enjoyed a visit with some friends who visited from Southern California. However, after a period of time she suffered a seizure and had to be taken from hospice to the hospital. She is now stabilized and if all goes well with some tests, she will have a feeding tube inserted into her stomach.

If she is gaining strength by next weekend, she and Mike will fly to Cleveland so that LaVerne can be cared for by family members who are nurses.

Please pray for the family and also for our Phoenix congregation where LaVerne’s husband Michael is the senior pastor.

Cards may be sent to:

Michael Wyatt-Paige
1928 E Highland Ave #104 PMB 200
Phoenix, AZ 85016-4626