Pastor and family in Les Mis

GCI district and church pastor Paul David (PD) Kurts, his wife Emma Lee and their son Jimmy recently appeared in a community theater production of the musical, Les Miserables. PD said that doing so was “one of the best experiences of my life.”

Pictured below (clockwise from upper left) are: Emma Lee, PD (looking appropriately ‘miserable’), Jimmy and a back-stage pix with Emma Lee at right and PD next to her.

PD

Larry Van Landuyt

Jerry and Judy Van Landuyt
Larry and Judy Van Landuyt

Larry Van Landuyt pastors two GCI congregations in California: North Valley Christian Fellowship in Chico, and GCI in Redding. He was born in Grenada, Mississippi, where his father was in the Army, preparing to leave for Europe during World War II. Referring to himself as “an army brat,” Larry and his family moved frequently: “To Oregon, South Carolina, Maryland, New Mexico and Alaska. Then my father finished his military career at Fort Ord, California.”

Larry’s formative years were spent on one of America’s first rocket bases—White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico (later renamed White Sands Missile Range). “Along with rockets and rattlesnakes, my older brother and I spent many hours exploring the desert around the base on our bicycles and hiking the nearby Organ Mountains that lay between the base and the town of Las Cruces.”

Larry’s family has been part of GCI for a long time. “My mother’s family began listening to Herbert Armstrong when he was broadcasting from Portland, Oregon, in the 1930s or 40s. My maternal great aunt was baptized in the mid- to late 40s. Her sister, my grandmother, was baptized sometime later. Then my mother became a member of the Radio Church of God at a spring festival in Big Sandy in 1953 or 54. Her older brother and younger sister also became members. I first attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Big Sandy with my mother about this same time; I was 10 or 11. We never lived in a church area, however, so our contact with the church was only through the radio broadcast, The Plain Truth magazine, the Bible Correspondence Course and the many doctrinal booklets.”

While living in Fort Ord, Larry’s dad traveled to Fresno on Saturdays to attend church. “There he met Herman Hoeh and obtained provisional permission for me to finish high school at Imperial in Pasadena. I attended my senior year there, worked on the college grounds crew that summer and entered Ambassador College in the fall of 1960.”

Larry met his wife-to-be, Judy Olsen, the summer before attending college. “She had graduated from high school and had come to Pasadena from Michigan with her brother Morgan, who was attending Ambassador at the time. We both entered Ambassador College the following fall. We had no interest in each other before or during college. We began dating in summer 1965, a year after my graduation. She had left college after her junior year to pay down her college debt by working full-time in the church’s co-worker department. We were married in Ambassador’s lower gardens on January 2, 1966, mid-way through her senior year of college. Judy always says, “It was a God thing.” I’m sure she’s right; it’s lasted over 48 years. We have four daughters: Chantel, Sheila (deceased), Sharina and Christine, and six grandchildren: Gina, Alexander, Kayla, Dacota Jade (DJ), Nikko and Asher. They range in age from 18 months to 25 years, and in location from the house next door to Christchurch, New Zealand.”

Larry worked as an elementary teacher in Imperial Schools from 1963 until it closed in the mid-70s, and again when it reopened until its final closing in the early ’90s. “God’s love and power are undeniable considering he took a youngster who didn’t like school and wasn’t a particularly gifted student and used him for over five decades to teach children and adults of all ages the value of learning and the joy of God’s righteousness.” When Imperial closed for the second time, Larry was given the opportunity to answer letters in the church’s personal correspondence department. This job helped fulfill one of Larry’s passions, “studying and learning from human history—especially biblical history, which reveals God’s wondrous purpose for his human creation.”

Larry didn’t plan on being a pastor. “I was ordained in a surprise (to me) ceremony in Pasadena on May 14, 1994. About a year later, as headquarters began drastically downsizing, I was offered pastoral training in the Los Angeles church serving under Curtis May in preparation for being given a field assignment. In the summer of 1996, we were assigned to pastor the Chico and Redding congregations, where we continue to serve.”

Of Judy’s involvement in ministry, Larry says she is “2/3 of the ministry of Jesus in which we have had the privilege to participate. She is accompanist, soloist, befriender, consoler, prayer partner, wife, mother, grandmother, refreshment maker, master potluck cook, children’s ministry leader and faithful supporter of the one who does little more than prepare, preach and pray.”

When asked what he enjoys most about being a pastor, Larry said it is “being able to share the joy of God’s grace and love, the really Good News with others whom God is calling.” About being part of GCI, Larry said he enjoys “the sincere bond of fellowship and love among the members and the leadership of the denomination. I also deeply appreciate all the varied opportunities I have been privileged to be a part of in the 60+ years that the Spirit has been leading us through RCG, WCG and now GCI.”

Larry says his most memorable moment as a pastor was “when God opened my eyes, mind and heart to see the joy and peace of his new covenant life of freedom in Jesus Christ, and then having the opportunity to share that joy with others.”

Asked when he feels closest to God, Larry said, “It’s when I’m far away from the accomplishments of humans and surrounded by the beauty and majesty of God’s marvelous creation.”

Ninfa Rigatuso

Prayer is requested for Ninfa Rigatuso, widow of Montreal (English) congregation elder Tony Rigatuso who died recently, having served faithfully for many years as an elder in the Montreal English congregation. Ninfa has been feeling bad for about two months and entered the hospital about three weeks ago. It appears that she is suffering with hepatitis C and bladder cancer. The severity of these conditions is not yet known. Please pray for Ninfa and for her adult children Sandra and Carmello.

Cards may be sent to:

Ninfa Rigatuso
103-8600 Raymond Pelletier
Montreal, QC H2M 2W7
CANADA

GenMin camps completed

Generations Ministries (GenMin) reports the successful completion of three of its summer camps. For information about GenMin camps coming later this year, click here.

Heart O’ Texas

Heart O Texas 3As is the case for most of GenMin’s camps this year, the theme for Heart O’ Texas Camp conducted recently in the Dallas area was “Super Heroes.”  A highlight of the weekend camp was a day at Hawaiian Falls water park (pictured at right) enjoyed by the 16 campers and 17 staff members. The group ate lunch and shared a chapel service at the water park. Other camp activities included “In It to Win It” games that enabled campers to practice teamwork and trust and to develop courage.

Each camper was given a mask and cape to help them feel even more super hero-like. Many wore their capes for the game activities. Both nights included gathering around an indoor “campfire” for chapel and a fireside chat. Aaron Wiley and camp director Scott Herridge led the services, helping campers focus on the attributes of the true Super Hero, Jesus Christ.

Heart O Texas 2On Sunday, camp participants led the worship service at GCI’s Dallas North church where the camp was held. A group of campers provided the worship music (see them rehearsing at right), shared camp stories, lessons and favorite moments.

Camp wrapped up after the service with a meal shared by camp participants and the host congregation.

Mountaintop

mountaintop 2This GenMin camp in Georgia also utilized the Super Hero theme. The theme was enthusiastically embraced, and some of the congregations represented are now using it in church services back home (if you would like a copy of the Super Hero curriculum, click here). Several of the 74 campers noted that the theme gave them a better understanding of Jesus.

Some of this year’s 54 staff members commented on encouraging trends. One noted that, “We are seeing the kids grow from year to year, and that makes the work we do even more fulfilling. We are blessed to be a partner in this ministry. Camp this year was God-inspired and fantastic.” Another noted the encouraging progress seen in an increasing number of campers becoming staff members, fulfilling one of GenMin’s primary goals—the multiplication of young ministers within GCI.

SEP Florida

SEP FloridaGenMin’s camp in Florida, known as SEP Florida, took place at beautiful Camp Shalom in Orange Springs, Florida in June. This year there were 20 staff volunteers, 24 elementary school age campers and 20 senior campers. Activities included swimming, canoeing, arts & crafts, dancing, basketball, volleyball, kickball, drama, campfire, boating and chapel services (Michelle Davey is pictured at right, giving a chapel presentation).

Camp participants included several first-time campers, making up about 20% of the group. Several of the campers from Miami and Jacksonville, Florida were either unchurched or new to church, giving great opportunity for evangelism. One camper shared his intention to be baptized after camp back home.

Lorraine Wilson

Lorraine and Warren
Lorraine and Warren

Warren D. Wilson, pastor of GCI’s congregations in Summersville and Mineral Wells, West Virginia, requests prayer for his wife Lorraine. Recently, she had a large nodule removed from her thyroid. The pathology report showed the presence of follicular thyroid cancer. She is scheduled to have the rest of her thyroid gland removed on July 24. That will be followed by treatment with radioactive iodine to kill any remaining thyroid cancer cells. Warren reports that he and Lorraine are experiencing peace, trusting in the mercy and healing of our Lord and Savior.

Cards may be sent to:

Lorraine Wilson
220 Waverly Way
Clarksburg, WV 26301

John Halford

Here from his daughter Becki (Halford) Brown, is an update concerning John Halford who is battling esophageal cancer. This update is an edited version of what Becki posted on Facebook. John had a PET scan on June 24 and Becki reports here on the positive outcome.

halford-gcitThe results of Dad’s scan have just come in. I can hardly see as I am typing through happy tears. The oncologist said that the tumor in his esophagus has shrunk to less than half its original size and there is no cancer that is showing up anywhere else in his body! This means that they can do surgery to remove the tumor. I am so thankful for all of your thoughts and prayers, for all of the many emails, phone calls, cards and the overwhelming comfort that you all have given us.

Dad’s surgery will be within the next two weeks as long as the surgeon feels he is strong enough to proceed. Please continue to pray for him.

Cards may be sent to:

John & Pat Halford
5836 South State Road 129
Versailles, IN 47042

Mike Rasmussen

Rasmussen
Mike and Juli, following Mike’s surgery

Mike and Juli Rasmussen send their thanks for the prayers for Mike, who serves as a GCI pastor, camp director and associate regional pastor. Mike and Juli live and minister in the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma area.

On June 19, Mike successfully underwent cancer surgery. He now is recovering at home, awaiting lab results, which will indicate if the cancer has spread beyond his prostate gland, now removed.

Cards may be sent to:

Mike and Juli Rasmussen
12012 Surrey Ln
Yukon, OK 73099-8139

Adrienne Pickett

This prayer request is from Tom Pickett who pastors GCI’s congregation in the Fort Worth, Texas area.

Adrienne and Tom
Adrienne and Tom

I had to call 911 last Thursday night for my wife Adrienne. She was having a hard time breathing and was dehydrated. The paramedics took her to the ER at Harris Hospital in downtown Fort Worth. She was put on an oxygen machine and connected to a saline bag to rehydrate her. Within minutes she began to look better and soon was looking like she felt good and was at peace. She was then monitored over the weekend to see where her cardiologist wants to go from here. Adrienne has suffered for a number of years with the results of congestive heart failure and this recent incident seems to be a result. Your prayers are much appreciated.

Cards may be sent to:

Adrienne Pickett
1206 Sproles Drive
Benbrook, Texas 76126-3332

Bowling Green’s 46th

Grace Communion Bowling Green, the GCI congregation meeting in Bowling Green, Kentucky, recently celebrated its 46th anniversary. The celebration was held during the weekly worship service and included honoring five member couples married for over 50 years. Member Brenda Maxie offered an inspiring testimonial concerning how she came to know and trust Jesus in prison and then became a GCI member. The celebration included a catered meal. Here are some pictures:

Kentucky

The Big Bang

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

joeandtammyA recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article quoted a poll showing that 51% of Americans do not believe the universe began all by itself, from nothing, with a “big bang.” What surprised me most about the article was its honesty in explaining why so many disbelieve the big bang theory, which is the prevailing model in cosmology to explain the beginning of the universe. The WSJ article said this:

The culprits might be “scientific atheists,” a small but vocal group of thinkers who employ science to claim that there is no God. Some argue that the universe came into existence all on its own. In particular, physicist Lawrence M. Krauss’s 2012 book A Universe from Nothing insists that the big bang occurred within a complete emptiness, and thus there is no need for a “God.” But the key assumption of Mr. Krauss’s conjecture is flawed and at odds with modern cosmology. The big bang did not occur in “nothing.” It had to be spawned in some kind of pre-existent medium, known by physicists as “quantum foam,” though we don’t know exactly what it is. [1]

Though, as noted in the article, the theory assumes that something did pre-exist the big bang, Krauss and other scientific atheists don’t want to leave room for God in their thinking. That viewpoint reminds me of the old Billy Preston song, “Nothing from Nothing” [leaves nothing]—an idea far more consistent with current big bang theory than any atheistic interpretation!

Image courtesy of Rhys Taylor, Cardiff University
Image courtesy of Rhys Taylor, Cardiff University

The idea of the big bang was first conceived in 1927 by Roman Catholic priest Georges Lemaître, who also was an astronomer and physicist. Up to that time, the accepted theory was that the universe had always existed in a “steady state” and that matter was eternal. Lemaître theoretically deduced the expansion of the universe and proposed that it was launched from a “primeval atom.” He rejected the steady-state theory because he believed the story in the first chapter of Genesis of a beginning and searched for a way to prove it scientifically. He did so using a complex mathematical proof based on Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

What’s ironic is that Einstein did not accept the big bang theory when it was proposed in 1927. In 1916, in what he referred to later as “the biggest mistake of my life,” Einstein altered his equations to fit the accepted idea of a steady-state universe. But in 1929, Edwin Hubble’s astronomical observations proved Lemaître correct about an expanding universe and Einstein and many other scientists came to accept the big bang theory.

The big bang theory continued to gain scientific credibility as it was used to predict certain phenomena later proven to be actual. Though the theory is now widely accepted, it is unable to explain the origin of the “bang” itself and the origin of the laws of physics necessitated by it. Still, it’s not difficult to visualize the expansion (called “inflation”) of the universe from a single point. Physicist Alan Guth conjectured this explanation:

During the universe’s first 10-35 of a second, a period of extremely rapid, exponential inflation occurred, expanding the universe by a factor of at least 1026. It would be the equivalent of taking a pea and expanding it to the size of our solar system in a time less than a millionth of a blink of an eye.

The big bang accounts for the uniformity in the universe of microwave background radiation. This phenomenon was discovered in the mid 1960s by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson at Bell Labs using ultra-sensitive cryogenic microwave receivers. P. J. E. Peebles of Princeton then identified this radiation as the residual energy of the big bang. These discoveries changed humanity’s understanding of our universe.

Though big bang theory does not specify what kicked off the big bang itself, the nature of the event points to a pre-existing, intelligent agent. According to Berkeley’s George Smoot, the big bang was a “finely orchestrated event,” not a chaotic explosion. Astronomer Eric Carlson describes it as “incredibly, highly ordered…just the opposite of a chaotic event.” Had the expansion rate at the beginning been faster or slower—by a mere 1 part in 1060—life would not have been possible.

As you will recall, Albert Einstein discovered that energy does not disappear, but changes into matter. This means that everything comes from the energy/material of the big bang—the universe has a material/energy oneness. However, there is no hint of consciousness in that material—no reason to think that the big bang orchestrated and ordered itself. That leaves open the question, what (or who) did? Physicist and science writer Paul Davies comments:

What is the source of those ingenious laws that enable a universe to pop into being from nothing? …There is no compelling need for a supernatural being or prime mover to start the universe off. But when it comes to the laws that explain the big bang, we are in murkier waters.

Though Davies’ questions bring him close to the truth, he does not connect the dots as we do. Big bang theory seems to fit well with our faith in the God the Bible tells us created all that is, which would include the laws and conditions that led to the big bang. Though our faith in God does not rest on scientific theory, the big bang theory does seem to offer clues as to the ultimate source of all that has come into being. As Paul wrote, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

God has revealed himself to us in his actions in history. Those actions include creation as well as what God did to reveal himself to certain individuals and to the people of Israel. But, by far, the most complete revelation came when the God of all creation entered time and space in the person of Jesus Christ, thus providing for us his self-revelation. In that revelation we hear and see God as Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of all history—from beginning to end. “For from him and through him and for him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

History had a beginning by the agency of the Triune God and it will culminate in the return of Jesus, the Creator, Savior, High Priest, Sage, King of kings, Judge and Elder Brother of the human race. The big bang was simply the beginning of an unfolding story (“his-story,” which through Jesus becomes ours) leading to the time when God creates “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1), in which his people will live eternally in a loving and joyful relationship with him through their eternal Mediator, Jesus Christ.

Always looking forward,
Joseph Tkach signature

 

 

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[1] “In the Beginning, There Was an Atom,” The Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2014; online at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304101504579545833041628804.