GCI Update

Celebrating Black history and marriage

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

joeandtammyThis week let me draw your attention to two celebrations coming next month: Black History Month and National Marriage Week. Though not part of the historic Christian calendar, these celebrations do highlight two important issues.

In the U.S., February is celebrated as Black History Month. First proposed in 1920, it became an official national celebration in 1970. The purpose is to draw attention to the significant contributions made by African Americans in the fields of art, literature, science and industry.

Though many of GCI’s U.S. churches acknowledge Black History Month, some have asked, why single out this one group? What about other minorities—haven’t their contributions also been neglected? That’s a fair question, but the fact that we have a nationally recognized celebration of Black history shows the progress our society has made in race relations.

My friend, Curtis May tells of indignities and humiliations he experienced growing up in the segregated South. I remember attending one of our congregations as late as the mid-60s, where African-American members were seated in a separate section of the hall. Though that practice seems unthinkable now, it still astonishes me that so many of us—black and white—accepted it as “God’s way.” It shows just how much we can be influenced by the trends and opinions of the world around us—both for good and bad. For an interview with Curtis about Black History Month, go to www.gci.org/history/bhmonth.

Thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, America has become a more just society in matters of racial equality. Though we’re far from perfect, our national acknowledgement of Black History Month shows that we have come a long way, though it should also remind us that we still need further progress as a nation, as a church and as individuals.

Jesus accepts everyone, just as the old hymn reminds us: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black or white, they’re all precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” These lyrics would make a good focus for a discussion with your congregation during Black History Month. They also can inform celebrations of other cultures and ethnicities. For additional resources for Black History Month celebrations, go to:

National Marriage Week Celebration

This year, the U.S. celebration of National Marriage Week will occur on February 7-14 (for information go to www.nationalmarriageweekusa.org/). Other countries have similar celebrations at other times.

Though we’ve seen progress in race relations in the U.S., I’m saddened to note that in the Western world, the institution of marriage is severely threatened. Increasingly, committed marriage relationships are viewed as optional—one of several possibilities for people choosing to live together. National Marriage Week celebrates traditional marriage, noting that marriage yields better results in combating poverty, in child-rearing, and in producing happier, healthier and longer lives.

In the insightful and sobering report, “Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from Social Science,” a group of family scholars summarized findings from the social sciences concerning divorce, cohabitation and marriage in the U.S. The lead author, W. Bradford Wilcox, who directs the National Marriage Project, wrote this:

Family instability is on the rise for American children as a whole. This is mainly because more couples are having children in cohabiting unions, which are very unstable. This report also indicates that children in cohabiting households are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems—drug use, depression, and dropping out of high school—compared to children in intact, married families. [A summary of the report is available at www.familyministries.org/files/MarriageMatters_final.pdf. To order the full report, go to http://www.amppubgroup.com/subject/social-science/why-marriage-matters-third-edition-twenty-six-conclusions-from-the-social-sciences/.]

Family instability affects older people too. Divorce among those age 50 and over is at the highest level on record. A National Center for Family and Marriage Research study reports that in 1990 only one in ten people 50 or older got divorced. By 2009 it was one in four. If that pace of increase holds, in 2030 the number of over-50 divorces will top 800,000 (The Gray Divorce Revolution, 11/13).

That these trends are taking their toll in our society is no surprise, for the traditional marriage relationship is God’s design. We don’t have to join the debates raging about the alternatives, but we can show, by example, that traditional marriage is what God intends. Here is an area where Christians should be shining lights in a world that has lost its way.

As pastors and ministry leaders, we have an important role in helping married couples grow stronger in their relationships. As we all know, marriages (including our own) are under constant attack. Oftentimes the worst attacks come simply through neglect. It’s what we “pour into” our marriage that makes it a success. The greatest source of this “in-pouring” is the grace of God both in creation (creating the institution of marriage itself) and in redemption (with God’s gifts of forbearance, forgiveness, unconditional love and positive, hopeful regard toward one’s spouse). The ultimate foundation for all human relationships is the reality that in Jesus Christ our Triune God has entered into a relationship of covenant love with all humanity, declaring that he will never leave or forsake us. He never will divorce us.

We come to know more and more profoundly the meaning and nature of God’s covenant love in Christ as we live out that love in all our relationships, including in marriage and with people across racial boundaries. Doing so enables us to know and experience more deeply God’s ever-faithful covenant love that not only strengthens relationships but restores seemingly dead relationships back to life. This is the resurrection power of Jesus’ own love and life.

Though we’ve made progress in race relations, the decline in traditional marriage values is a sober reminder that we live in a broken and fallen world. It is a world that desperately needs the moral guidance, healing touch and sure hope that God provides.

Please continue to remind those you serve of God’s faithful covenant love and then that the most powerful impact we make as Christians is by our examples of sharing that love. May we all “go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society.” By our examples, may we “provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God” (Philippians 2:15 The Message).

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach

Clifton Charles

Clifton Charles
Clifton and Pearl Charles

Clifton Charles is a regional pastor who also pastors two GCI congregations in Trinidad and Tobago and one in Barbados. Clifton grew up in poverty. He notes that at age 13, following the death of his father, his meals consisted mainly of bread or breadfruit and there was no money to buy schoolbooks. According to Clifton, this “taught me to be resourceful and resilient.”

Clifton feels that these hardships shaped him into the pastor he is today. “Many influences brought me to where I am today. Among the more significant, apart from my surrender to the Lord, are (1) the fine role models of my diligent and outgoing parents who had a great work ethic and were always helping people; (2) the blessing of a keen mind so that learning was easy for me—as a result, all of my education, up to my PhD, was scholarshipped; (3) my divinely chosen wife, Pearl, who is my excellent ministry partner; and (4) many extremely supportive members and leaders in the congregations where we have served.”

Clifton and Pearl have been married for 40 years. “She is my best friend and personal assistant and travels with me most of the time. We have no children. However, one of our members told me that we have children who are even older than we are!”

Clifton became interested in WCG/GCI at age 19. “HWA’s description of his repentance—when he came to see himself as a ‘hunk of junk’ and told God if he could do anything with his life he could have it—grabbed my attention. I was at that point that I realized God was leading me to repentance. One night at age 19 or 20 I went into my room, knelt down and told God that I realized what he wanted me to do but I needed his help. Then I asked him to bring me to the point where I saw myself as a ‘hunk of junk’ and turned my life over to him so that he could do with me as he pleased. That began my surrender to Jesus and my walk with him.”

In 1978, Clifton was ordained an elder and started pastoring GCI churches part-time. “I became a full-time pastor in 1984. This meant resigning from my full-time job at the planning division of the ministry of agriculture in Trinidad & Tobago. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed full-time ministry. To this day, I have never been bored or burned out.”

When asked what he enjoys most about pastoring, Clifton said it is his relationships with God and people. “What I enjoy most is helping people catch God’s vision and mission for them and seeing them transformed by God as they surrender to the Lordship of Christ at new levels in their personal lives. I also enjoy helping develop new generations of leaders, as leadership development is one of my hobbies. Finally, I also enjoy marriage ministry, which is another hobby that God is blessing wonderfully.”

Speaking about GCI, Clifton said, “I enjoy most the freedom we have in Christ to help move people to God’s agenda. I did not anticipate that our transition to a focus on being missional disciples of Jesus would take as long as it did. By God’s grace, it had become my own focus by July 1995. But the wait has been worth it, for God is producing good fruit in our midst. I now feel free to serve disciples of Jesus both in GCI as well as the wider body of Christ in Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago. I currently serve on several national and regional boards of various Christian organizations.”

Clifton transitioned to part-time employment with GCI in 2000 and began teaching economics at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. “At present I teach microeconomics to second year students (about 150 each year) and international economic integration to final year students (about 20 each year). This teaching gives me opportunity to enjoy serving young people and to be on mission on the university campus.”

Clifton’s passion is “making disciples of Jesus and helping them to reproduce more disciples of Jesus.” He said he doesn’t focus on most memorable moments because he doesn’t spend a lot of time looking back. “I live in the present with my eyes on the future. As a result, memories are quickly overshadowed by present realities and future developments.”

Martinique 50th anniversary

This update is from Kernani Cheny, a pastor in GCI’s congregation on the island of Martinique.

Martinique groupMartinique groupIn late 2013 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our GCI church in Martinique with a four-day gathering titled “Victorious through Grace.” On this the occasion of our “jubilee,” we were reminded of the victorious grace we have received through Jesus.

Pastor Kernani

Guest speakers included Cris and Mary Vidal from Dominica, Ruddy Mills from Saint Lucia and myself, Kernani Cheny. The speakers addressed such topics as how changing your behavior doesn’t give victory, the benefits of trials, our identity in Christ, the death of the old nature, why we sin, overcoming temptation, and the person of our great loving Father. Through these times of instruction, the Lord revealed himself in a wonderful way.

Martinque singing groupIn a wonderful time of worship on Saturday, we focused on giving thanks for our journey as a congregation. About 200 people attended.

Sunday was outreach day. One group repaired and repainted the home of an elderly woman (see picture below). Another group focused on evangelism—talking with people in the neighborhood and distributing leaflets. We then came together for a delicious barbecue prepared by our wonderful cooking team.

Martinique house repairOur four days of celebration were filled with renewal and deep fellowship. We now look eagerly toward our future in Jesus. Like the apostle Paul, we want to “run the race” filled with gratitude and embracing our Lord’s victorious grace. I ended the event quoting a Creole poet: “Sé l’espri ko ki mèt ko,” meaning “Your spirit is the one who controls your being.”

May the seed planted in this event bear more and more fruit in ways that glorify God.

SEP South Africa

This update is from Tim Maguire, GCI South Africa director and Southern Africa mission developer.

SEP banner

SEP4The Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) that took place in South Africa last December was a resounding success. I wish each of you could have experienced the nine days of “vibe and buzz” as Christ was uplifted, proclaimed and lived in accordance with the camp theme, “It’s Time!”

SEP1It’s humbling to experience young men and women being led into a knowledge of and relationship with God. Our total numbers were a lot more than we had anticipated. We had about 66 preteens, 85 teens, 26 young adults (age 19 to 25) and about 60 staff members.

Our aim in all we did was to develop individuals emotionally, physically and spiritually. Christ was at the center of every activity. My thanks to all who sacrificed to make this camp possible—especially the amazing staff who volunteered their time and talent.

SEP3 group

Evaluating outreach events

110EvalEvent_244571739It’s good to evaluate our church events—thinking about their effectiveness. A post at ChurchLeaders.com provides 20 questions (reproduced below) to ask in evaluating outreach events. Perhaps you can think of other questions to add to the list. Feel free to share them using the “add a comment” tool below.

  1. How was networking with other Great Commission Christians evident?
  2. How was the gospel proclaimed at this event?
  3. How did this event demonstrate creativity and boldness?
  4. If I were to do this again, what would I do differently?
  5. What did I expect to happen as a result of this event?
  6. How will this event empower participants to advance the Kingdom of God in their area?
  7. What are the systems for accountability in this event?
  8. What are the theological/scriptural foundations for this event?
  9. How do you measure excellence for this event? Did it meet your expectations?
  10. Did I do my best?
  11. How was the purpose and value of this event communicated?
  12. Is there a more cost-effective way to do the ministry or event? Could it have been done using less money or resources without compromising quality?
  13. How did this event include participation by all our constituents (Christian, non-Christian)?
  14. How were the diversity of cultures, traditions and values reflected in this meeting?
  15. How did this event serve to identify, call out and equip new leadership?
  16. What needs to happen now as a result of this event? What new questions should we be asking?
  17. How was spiritual transformation encouraged in this event?
  18. How did this event utilize the spiritual gifts of the participants and leaders?
  19. How did this event provide opportunities for people to connect with God?
  20. How was prayer a part of the planning for this event?

George Affeldt

The family and congregation of long-time GCI pastor George Affeldt request your prayers for George, who currently pastors GCI’s church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

George Affeldt
George Affeldt

Last week, George fell and his wife, Jacki, could not get him up, so she called 911. He was transported to the hospital, where a CT scan revealed a kidney stone lodged between his kidney and bladder, causing serious infection.

George has been in ICU for several days. He is stable, though there is concern about his kidneys. The doctors found kidney cysts and stones. Though they are not ruling out dialysis, they are hoping his kidneys will function on their own.

It is anticipated that George will be in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Please keep him, his family and his congregation in your prayers.

Cards may be sent to:

George and Jacki Affeldt
508 North Marquette Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD  57110-5736

Pastor’s son commissioned

Paul David  Jimmy
P.D. and Jimmy Kurts

We are pleased to announce that Jimmy Kurts, son of GCI pastor Paul David (P.D.) Kurts and grandson of retired GCI pastor Paul Kurts, was commissioned on January 19 as the teen ministry leader of GCI’s congregation that meets in Hickory, North Carolina. Below is a short video of the commissioning ceremony.

View on YouTube at http://youtu.be/V7nYbuEmaus

New pastor installed

ordinationWe are pleased to announce that Daniel Espinoza was ordained an elder and installed as pastor of the GCI congregation in Colorado Springs, Colorado on January 19. The ordination prayer is shown at right.

This special service was led by Mark McCulley, senior pastor of GCI’s Denver, North church and former pastor of the Colorado Springs congregation (Mark is standing at the center of the back row in the picture below. Daniel is second from left).

Several of Daniel’s family and friends attended the special service. Members of the congregation (where Daniel has grown up) have warmly embraced his pastoral leadership.

Congratulations to both Daniel and his Colorado Springs congregation. It’s wonderful to see the passing of the baton of leadership to the younger generation.

ordination group