GCI Update

What causes war?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

joeandtammyI’m sure you’ve heard it said that most wars have been caused by religion. This statement has been repeated so often that few question its validity. But even cursory research shows that it is not true. For example, one researcher evaluated a list of wars published in Wikipedia and found that only 14 of the 126 wars listed were started for religious reasons. Another examined the horrific murders perpetrated by dictators during the 20th century and found that few if any of these despots were motivated by religion (for an illustrative chart go to https://update.gci.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/religious-wars.jpg). [1]


Of course, religion has been the root cause in some wars and a contributing factor in others. But claiming that religion is the cause of most wars is simply wrong. Making such a claim is often part of an effort to disparage religion in general and Christianity in particular. Thankfully, some authors are more careful with the facts. Note what anthropologist Scott Atran wrote in “God and the Ivory Tower” in FP magazine:

The chief complaint against religion—that it is history’s prime instigator of inter-group conflict—does not withstand scrutiny. Religious issues motivate only a small minority of recorded wars. The Encyclopedia of Wars surveyed 1,763 violent conflicts across history; only 123 (7 percent) were religious. A BBC-sponsored “God and War” audit, which evaluated major conflicts over 3,500 years and rated them on a 0-to-5 scale for religious motivation (Punic Wars = 0, Crusades = 5), found that more than 60 percent had no religious motivation. Less than 7 percent earned a rating greater than 3. There was little religious motivation for the internecine Russian and Chinese conflicts or the world wars responsible for history’s most lethal century of international bloodshed.

Note also what Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod wrote in the Encyclopedia of Wars:

Wars have always arisen, and arise today, from territorial disputes, military rivalries, conflicts of ethnicity and strivings for commercial and economic advantage, and they have always depended on, and depend on today, pride, prejudice, coercion, envy, cupidity, competitiveness, and a sense of injustice. But for much of the world before the 17th century, these “reasons” for war were explained and justified, at least for the participants, by religion.

Note that what Phillips and Axelrod conclude from their study of history lines up with what we find in the New Testament concerning the root cause of war:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (James 4:1-3, ESV).

These human tendencies war against the “great commandments” of the Law of Moses to love God and to love people (Matthew 22:36-40), and against the command of Jesus: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34, ESV). As Christians, we seek Jesus’ own love and his peace, not war. Jesus said this to his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27, ESV). In his writings, Paul exhorted Christians to live Jesus’ way of love and peace: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, ESV). “Always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1Thessalonians 5:15, ESV).

Sadly, love and peace have been rejected by many, and war has resulted. People (including Christians) are not perfect and they make mistakes and have fought in battles and wars that they should have avoided. But, it is far from the truth that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, has been the root cause of most wars. Christianity preaches and lives the message of love and peace, and whenever it fails, it knows it must seek forgiveness and turn back to seeking after justice and reconciliation and making peace. Let us be ambassadors of God’s love and peace in this war-torn world.

Sharing with you the life and ministry of the Prince of Peace,
Joseph Tkach

P.S. If you would like to read more about this topic, here are two helpful books:


[1] Chart downloaded from imgur (http://i.imgur.com/eyUnc.jpg[/IMG]). The chart summarizes information posted at http://popten.net/2010/05/top-ten-most-evil-dictators-of-all-time-in-order-of-kill-count/.

Bharat Naker

Bharat and Urvashi
Bharat and Urvashi

Bharat Naker, pastor of GCI’s congregation in Adelaide, Australia, seemingly has been everywhere. He was born to Indian parents in Tanzania, Africa. “I lived in Tanzania for ten years, in India for two (at age 5 and 11), then at age 12 to 24 in London as part of the East African Indian diaspora. Due to family and church moves, I’ve lived on five continents, in six countries and in eight cities.”

Bharat says he had an enjoyable care-free upbringing, “playing in the streets late into the evening—marbles, cricket, hide & seek—in tropical Dar-es-Salaam.” Bharat was raised a Hindu. “My mother was very devout. I was the last born of seven children. She brought me up with stories from the Hindu scriptures. We would often sit in the evenings listening to and discussing these stories.”

Bharat says that David Nunn, one of his teachers in London, introduced him at an early age to the Bible in a religious education class. Though that didn’t have a significant impact on him at the time, things changed at age 14:“I was looking through a Reader’s Digest for free postage stamp offers and came across an ad for the free Plain Truth magazine. I thought, ‘why not—what harm could it do?'” Bharat started reading church literature and at age 16 converted to Christianity. “At age 21 I started attending WCG/GCI at the Indian YMCA in London.”

In September 1982, Bharat married Urvashi, also the youngest child in a large family. Their two families were interconnected from several generations in India and Africa. “We both come from religious and business families and have siblings spread over four continents.” Urvashi’s brother lives in Toronto and is married to Bharat’s sister. “We went to Switzerland for our honeymoon, followed by a week-long church festival in Bonndorf, Germany. John Halford was there that year and he strongly encouraged us, as newly-wed young Indians from the UK, to apply for college and see what God’s will would be. So we ended up in Pasadena, California, before our first anniversary.”

Bharat and Urvashi (“Katie”) attended Ambassador College from 1983-1986 and he was hired in 1986 by Joseph Tkach Sr. as a trainee serving with Abner Washington in Los Angeles. In 1987 he was ordained and sent to India where he served until 1990, then to Sydney, Australia, and then in 1992 to Sri Lanka, and then in 1997 to Adelaide, Australia, where he lives today. Bharat has been employed in ministry part-time since 1999.

The Nakers have been married for 32 years and have two sons. “Sawan, 24, is a law graduate. And Sajan, 22, is studying hotel management. Sawan was born in London, Sajan in Sydney.”

Of Urvashi, Bharat says, “I would not be in ministry without her—quite literally. When I joined the church, interracial marriage was not an option. God provided a person known to me, of my own background, who came along to church and upon marriage opened the opportunity for us to go to college and hence into ministry. We have ministered together, except possibly in preaching—though she’s my best source of feedback in that area!”

Bharat said what he enjoys most about being a pastor is “learning and then teaching as I learn and grow. Also loving and being loved.” When asked about GCI, he said, “One way or another, our belief system (though having changed and grown radically) has always allowed room for people to ultimately come to God, sooner or later. This has been critical for me, as most of my family, including my beloved mother and father, did not (as far as I know) come to know Christ as believers in this lifetime.”

His most memorable moment as a pastor involved baptism. “The first baptism I performed on my own was in India for a wonderful man who had been born so small that I could carry him in my arms and had to baptize him in a large round plastic bin (we were in a hotel without bath tubs).”

Because of local church size and finances, Bharat went part time. ”I now run my own small business importing jute shopping bags from India and selling them in Australia and elsewhere as opportunity permits. Not quite tent-making, more like bag-making.” Being in business gives Bharat opportunity to feed his passion, which is “connecting with people, connecting people to others, hopefully making a difference as Christ works in and through me.”

An example of this connectivity happened last June when Bharat was visiting London where met up with David Nunn, his school teacher from 40 years ago (see the mention of David above). David learned for the first time of Bharat’s Christian journey and was most pleased. David has produced seven DVDs about the Holy Land that sell in some of the same religious stores in Australia where Bharat sells his jute bags!

Bharat says he feels closest to God “at various times in various ways. It may be singing in a congregation or singing on my own to a Bollywood romantic song adapted in my mind and heart for personal worship expression, or when preparing a message where a clearer insight is gained or when reflecting on creation or simply on seeing people going around in crowded places, praying in the knowledge that the Lord loves us all.”

Canadian youth camps

This update is from Gary Moore, director of GCI-Canada and his wife Wendy.

We just returned yesterday evening from a wonderful week at SEP Silver Meadows near Edmonton. There were programs for teens, a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for preteens, and an apprentice program for young adults. Counting staff, we had a “village” of about 100 people sharing faith, fellowship and the blessings of life. Those serving in the kitchen did a great job feeding us, and the entire staff served as a harmonious team. Our goal was to point the young people to Jesus Christ, and we genuinely sought to participate in his work in each precious young life with which we were privileged to interact. Clay and Gillian Houghton served as co-directors of camp for the first time and did a splendid job.

SEP baptismsOne of the highlights of camp occurred Friday afternoon when four baptisms were conducted on the shores of Lake Nakamun. One woman came from the Edmonton church (she had several children in the VBS program); two were teen campers and one was a staff member. The group is pictured at left.

Another highlight was on Tuesday when pastor Bob Millman arranged for the seniors adults from the Edmonton church to visit the camp, joining the campers for lunch. These folks have been dedicated supporters of the camp for years and it was a pleasure having them join us.

Special thanks to pastors Leigh Smithson, Amy Pena, Steve Posiak and Bob Millman for their spiritual leadership and dedicated service during the week. They each made a unique contribution and the camp was blessed by their presence.

Our prayers are now with Camp Connections in eastern Canada. It’s in session July 20-29.


Participants in recent U.S. regional conferences were blessed to witness the ordination of Jan Taylor (pictured below left) who serves as an assistant pastor in the Nashville, Tennessee church; and Terry Lambert (pictured below center) who pastors the Abilene, Texas church. On July 13, GCI-Africa mission developer Kalengule Kaoma joined with several African pastors in ordaining Frederick Dwamena who serves the GCI congregation in Atwima-Koforidua in Ghana (Frederick is pictured below right with his wife Joyce). Congratulations to these three servants of Jesus and to their families and congregations.

Taylor ordinationLambert ordinationAfrican ordination

Crossing Borders: missionaries of encouragement

This update is from Lee Berger, director of Crossing Borders, a GenMin mission trip ministry.

Fourteen international missionaries spent eight days sharing God’s love and the gospel with hundreds of people in Mexico June 21-29. For a few “old-timers” of Crossing Borders, this was the 17th trip to Mexico. For others, this was their first experience with international mission work. These missionaries came from Alaska, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin—ages from teen to 80+. We all enjoyed working together to provide encouragement and resources to our Mexican ministry partners as we assisted in the ministry they provide on an ongoing basis to the people in their community, church and children’s home.

Crossing Borders missionaries with their adopted family

CB pallette houseEconomic challenges, political instability, criminal elements and other factors create very tough living conditions for many in Mexico. The good news is that these factors often lead people to seek stability and personal peace in spiritual foundations. It’s exciting for Crossing Borders missionaries to be able to share the hope of the gospel with these lovely people.

In the end, no matter what country or problem, it comes down to this: Jesus is the answer.

Throughout our years of mission trips, we have found that the main benefit we provide to our Mexican ministry partners is encouragement. They struggle with limited resources, unhelpful government, overwhelming social problems and satanic darkness. The apostle Paul sent Timothy on a mission of encouragement (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3) and we seek to emulate the same principle. By coming alongside our ministry partners, we give them a physical, mental and spiritual boost. As a result, they are rejuvenated, excited and thankful. And while we provide encouragement to them, we find that God provides encouragement and inspiration back to us through our partners.

Here are examples of our ministry activity on this trip, all in partnership with our Mexican friends:

  • We gave testimonies, led in songs and served meals to over 200 mostly homeless people in an outdoor “Church in the Park” setting. We also handed out hot meals, bags filled with socks, toiletries, caps and T-shirts.
Praying with refugees
Praying with refugees
  • We interacted with women and children refugees streaming across the border from Central American countries. We heard their amazing tales of travel danger, fed them, gave them Bibles and prayed for them.
  • We treated a family we “adopted” two years ago to a half-day of recreation at a park and a swim outing.
  • We purchased items for, packed and distributed 50 bags of food items for needy families. This was done as an outreach of a church to their unchurched neighbors, in an environment of singing Christian songs, hearing a Bible message, laughing and having fun. As a result, five people made a public commitment to follow Jesus.
  • We provided lunch and fellowship to thank and honor the leaders of a church we have worked with for several years.
  • We helped two ministry partners by contributing manual labor in the hot sun to clear brush and trash from properties they recently acquired for their ministry work.
  • We conducted Vacation Bible School programs for over 50 children in a very poor neighborhood. In doing so, we helped a local pastor train his emerging leaders.
Visiting children's home
Visiting children’s home
  • We visited two children’s homes where we played with the children, did crafts, performed in costume a “superhero” skit with a Jesus-centered message, fed the kids hot meals, fixed homes and purchased household supplies. The hugs, laughs and happy faces of the kids melted our hearts.

Crossing Borders is being used by God to help encourage and train some of our Mexican GCI youth and young adults in outreach, leadership and other ministry skills. On our winter 2013 trip, four of them joined us and, on this summer trip, Samuel Mercado (a key Mexican youth leader from Guadalajara) joined us. We are hopeful that many more Mexican youth and adults can participate in future Crossing Borders trips.

God calls us all to be encouragers—far from home or in our own communities. Many reading this have been encouragers of Crossing Borders missions. For that, we thank you.

Additions to GCI.org

MinDevEmblemCAD-USA wishes to draw your attention to new content on the GCI website (www.gci.org/). CAD recently closed the Ministry Development website and moved much of its content to GCI.org under the “Church Development” tab. On the Church Development Resources page (gci.org/churchdevelopment) you’ll find links to resources that equip churches for sharing with Jesus in his continuing ministry. New to the list of resources are two CAD ministries:

CAD also has posted a curriculum that links to a wide array of resources useful for mentoring church workers and leaders. The curriculum has three parts:

  • Ministry Foundations (helping your protégé share in Jesus’ heart for God and for people) (gci.org/foundations)
  • Ministry Competency (helping your protégé share in Jesus’ missional knowledge and skill) (gci.org/competency)
  • Ministry Strategy (helping your protégé share in Jesus’ disciple-making focus) (gci.org/strategy)

For assistance with any of these CAD resources, feel free to contact CAD communications coordinator Ted Johnston at Ted.Johnston@gci.org.

Al Neumann

Rose Neumann requests prayers for her husband, Al, an elder in our Glendora, California church. Al underwent surgery on July 14 to amputate his right leg below the knee due to complications from type 1 diabetes, which he has had since age eight. Please pray for healing and relief from pain and also for help with the hard work of physical therapy to come.

Cards may be sent to:

Al and Rose Neumann
1205 W. Cypress Ave., Trlr 26
San Dimas, CA 91773-3514

Keep your passwords safe!

This announcement is from Bret Miller, manager of information technology at GCI headquarters. 

hackedPerhaps you know someone who has had an online account hacked. Maybe you’ve been hacked yourself. In most cases, hackers manage to get in using your own password. That’s what happened to me when my accounts were hacked. I had protected them with a one-word password that my wife and I were sharing. That’s a very bad idea!

Simple one-word passwords are easy to crack using dictionaries of commonly-used passwords. It might take longer if your word isn’t common, but it’s still a bad idea. I knew it was, but hey, who’d want to hack me? Thankfully, the hackers only intent was to send a link to a malware-infected website to my mailing lists (my apologies to them!).

There’s a story circulating about a guy in the Midwest who had his bank account drained. He thought he was protected—his password included letters, numbers and symbols. But he used the same password on all his online accounts. That made it easier to remember, but the online newsletter he subscribed to didn’t need as much security as his bank. So the hackers managed to get into the newsletter’s server and got the passwords for all subscribers. Then they used those passwords to try to get entry to bank accounts. They hacked this poor guy’s bank account and drained it.

The best practice is to use a different, long and complicated password for each online account. But how do you remember all those passwords? That’s where a password manager comes in. It will generate a strong password, then remember it for you the next time you need it. I have 421 online accounts in my password manager. It would be a nightmare to try to remember all those on my own. But how do you know if your passwords are securely stored on your computer in a password manager? All good password managers encrypt the data using a master password that you assign.

Several password managers synchronize passwords to multiple devices. How can you be sure those passwords aren’t being stolen during synchronization? Again, the passwords are encrypted before they leave your computer and the master password is never stored. Thus the data is inaccessible by anyone who doesn’t know the master password, including the company who makes the password manager. Therefore, it’s vital not to forget your master password!

Which password manager is best? I use and recommend LastPass because it works well for me. It’s free to use on computers, but costs $12/year to use on mobile devices. KeePass is recommended frequently because it’s also free, though I don’t find it works as well as LastPass in Firefox and Chrome, it doesn’t automatically sync, and it requires more knowledge to use. RoboForm has been around a long time and is well-recommended, but not free. Click here for a recent PC Magazine article rating password managers.