GCI Update

Going to hell in a handbasket?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Joe Tkach and Tammy TkachWhile watching the news as a young lad with my grandfather, he would often respond to reports of disturbing events with the complaint, “The world is going to hell in a handbasket!” When I was a teen and young adult, I would often hear my dad voice the same thing. What’s amusing is that when I encounter distressing news today, I often hear their words in my “mind’s ear.” But I try to remember that there is usually more to the news than what the media is reporting. Sadly, they often report partial information or in other ways distort reality.

handbasket cartoon (paid)
Used with permission.

A prime example of that distortion is the frequency with which the media give “front stage” to those referred to as “angry atheists.” We hear from them so often that you would think their viewpoints are held by the majority and their contentions are based on proven fact. The reality is there are relatively few of them and if pressed, some would admit that they are not sure of their positions. Their arguments are not airtight.

I think what often happens is that these atheists, angry about certain world events, wrongly conclude that what they perceive as a lack of intervention from God proves he does not exist. Some also reason that the presence of evil in the world proves that God, who is supposed to be a deity of love, cannot possibly exist. Others reason that if there is a God, he must be a judgmental despot and they refuse to believe in that sort of deity.

Though atheists and agnostics (those who believe we can’t know whether or not God exists) formerly dominated the field of philosophy, the situation has changed over the last 20 years. Our friend and theologian Alan Torrance commented that when he studied philosophy, “You could count the number of Christian philosophers on one mutilated hand.” But now, as noted by Quentin Smith, former chief editor of the journal Philo, philosophy has become de-secularized. Today, 25 to 33% of philosophers are theists, and the majority of those are evangelical Christians. There are now about 4,500 members in the Society of Christian Philosophers.

When watching the news, many of us, understandably, get those “The world is going to hell in a handbasket” feelings. But we must be mindful that such feelings may be the result of incomplete or otherwise faulty information, including bad reporting. We must be careful to align our feelings with the often hidden reality of the presence of God’s kingdom. Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom of God is present and those who trust him enter in, even now. In his kingdom parables in Mark 4:26-29 and Matthew 13:33, Jesus said that the kingdom starts small, but grows large. It’s here now, though its fullness is yet to come.

Jesus leading
Painting by Liz Lemon Swindle used with permission.

Our faith in the present and future reality of the kingdom is not about feelings based on what we see in the world and certainly not on what is reported in the media. Our faith is in Jesus and his kingdom rule. The stunning, though often hidden reality, is that Jesus saved, redeemed and reconciled the world through his death, resurrection, ascension and outpouring of the Spirit nearly 2000 years ago—events that inaugurated the kingdom. And now the presence of the kingdom in the person of Jesus is experienced as we trust and obey him.

Understanding the reality of Jesus and his kingdom comes only through the revelation that Jesus is and gives. He is the truth; his rule is the kingdom. And he, and thus his kingdom, is with us all the time. He never forsakes or leaves us. Present with us through the Holy Spirit, Jesus leads us, guides us and walks beside us—even when we are not aware of it. So the next time it feels like the world truly is going to hell in a handbasket, or like you are in that basket yourself (because you’ve messed up or because you face insurmountable obstacles), remember this:

Noah was a drunk, Abraham was too old, Isaac was a daydreamer, Jacob was a liar, Leah was ugly, Joseph was abused, Moses had a stuttering problem, Gideon was afraid, Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer, Rahab was a prostitute, Jeremiah and Timothy were too young, David had an affair and was a murderer, Elijah was suicidal, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran from God, Naomi was a widow, Job went bankrupt, John the Baptist ate bugs, Peter denied Christ, the disciples fell asleep while praying, Martha worried about everything, the Samaritan woman was divorced (more than once), Zaccheus was too small, Paul was too religious, Timothy had an ulcer… and Lazarus was dead! (p. 15, Naked Before God: Out of Darkness Unto Light, A.B. See, Jr., Tate Publishing, 2011).

Despite such circumstances, God can use you to your full potential. Note what the apostle Paul wrote:

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us (2 Corinthians 4:6-7, NRSV).

Whenever I get those “to hell in a handbasket” feelings, I remind myself that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). If there is a handbasket, it’s the one we are in with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Enjoying kingdom life with Jesus,
Joseph Tkach

P.S. One of the blessings God showers on us is the joy of music. You might enjoy the music video at http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=FcLF5wopyjo with Andre Rieu directing a large ensemble of musicians and singers (including singing nuns) in a creative (sometimes humorous) performance of a song made popular many years ago by Petula Clark.

Philippine leaders graduate

asdecsgradsFive leaders from GCI’s church in the south part of Manila, Philippines, recently graduated from the Asian School of Development and Cross-Cultural Studies (ASDECS). Receiving masters of transformational leadership (MLT) degrees were Eric Absalon, Adriano Ducay Sr., Romansito Guerrero, Ardel Magararu and Nomer Venus. Athos Parane received a diploma in tranformational leadership.

At the graduation ceremony, Dr. Paul Mohan Raj, director of accreditation of the International Council of Higher Education, noted how Jesus’ leadership transformed society through its inclusivity. Dr. David Lim, president and CEO of ASDECS, challenged graduates to “dare to make a difference” in the family and society by being agents for change and transformation. The program ended with a benediction from Dr. Reynaldo Taniajura (at left in the picture), GCI Philippines missions director and program director for the MTL degree program at ASDECS.

NYC Journey with the Master

This update is from Anthony Mullins, national coordinator for Generations Ministries.

Journey 1Recently I had the opportunity to be in New York City to join with 65 participants at New Heights Outpost—a streamlined version of GenMin’s Journey With the Master program (highlighted in the video below). The gathering was held at Wagner College (pictured at right) in Staten Island. Five GCI churches were represented: Manhattan and Queens, New York; Newark and Garwood, New Jersey; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a wonderful day of sharing and learning.

Journey 3One of the highlights of the day was a circle of prayer where those over 30 prayed for those under 30. I believe everyone sensed a unifying spirit of helping the up-and-coming generation while the younger ones voiced their need and desire to have older mentors and faithful examples of Christian living. There was a beautiful “togetherness.”

One of the sessions called for small group interaction and it was great to see young adults and teens being encouraged to be the small group leaders and presenters. Special thanks to Pastor John Newsom (Queens and Manhattan, NY) for organizing the event and working hard behind the scenes.

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/w3s8vsKAzqw. To learn more about Journey with the Master, go to http://www.generationsministries.org/leader-development.html.

Vetting ministry opportunities

Churches and ministries often have more opportunities for ministry than they have time and resources to handle. Thus an appropriate vetting process is needed to decide which opportunities are best. Jim Baker of Sacred Structures offers help in an article titled, “The Ten Most Important Criteria for Vetting New Ministries.” Read it online at http://sacredstructures.org/methods/vetting/.

Nsama Kaoma

Kaoma and Kalengule
Nsama and Kalengule

Please pray for Nsama Kaoma, wife of Kalengule Kaoma, GCI mission developer in Africa. Nsama’s heart problems have returned. Her heart is enlarged and currently is working at less than 50% capacity. Doctors are concerned and have ordered bed rest. This puts a strain on Kalengule who spends a lot of time traveling throughout Africa. In August he has  pastoral leadership meetings scheduled in several countries and was planning to be away from home for several weeks. It is a difficult time for the family.

Cards may be sent to:

Nsama Kaoma
PO Box 50117
Lusaka, Zambia

Charles Shelton

Prayer is requested for Charles Shelton, a GCI elder in London, Kentucky. Two years ago Charles was diagnosed and treated for follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The cancer went into remission, but tests in June showed that it had returned in three areas.

In September Charles will have a PET scan to determine the growth rate and type of cancer so that a program of treatment can be determined.

Cards may be sent to:

Charles & Gracie Shelton
2674 Climax Rd.
Orlando, KY 40460-8939

Linda Holladay

Prayer is requested for Linda Holladay, wife of Charles Holladay who pastors GCI’s congregation in Bloomington, Minnesota. Linda has a spot on her eye that has been diagnosed as melanoma. It is small, was caught early and is treatable with radiation. The procedure is involved and difficult and she is likely to lose much of her vision in that eye. Thankfully the doctor at Mayo Clinic has done this treatment hundreds of times. The procedure will be conducted the week of July 21.

Cards may be sent to:

Linda & Charles Holladay
111 S Willow St
Belle Plaine, MN 56011-1706

Halford grandson born

Phillip Halford, a longtime GCI-UK employee (now semi-retired) is pleased to announce an addition to the Halford family. A grandson, Ryan Anthony, was born on June 17, weighing in at 8 pounds 12 ounces (big fella!). The mother, baby and father are doing well. The grandparents are over the moon! Phillip is the brother of John Halford who assists with the writing and editing of this and other GCI publications.

Grandpa and baby Ryan
Grandpa Phillip and baby Ryan

Don Engle

Alix and Don Engle
Alix and Don Engle

Don Engle, pastor of Grace Fellowship, GCI’s congregation in Wichita, Kansas, was born in Abilene, Kansas, famous for being the home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. “He lived a short walk from my mother’s childhood home, and as a young girl she was acquainted with Ike’s parents.” Don’s father died at the age of 24, leaving Don’s mother with three small children. “My mother remarried a year or so later and we moved to Big Sandy, Texas, to be near what we thought at the time was ‘the one true church.’ I attended Imperial School in Big Sandy for all twelve grades.” Don said he remembers many of the Ambassador College construction projects and often volunteered for work parties. “I especially remember helping to clear the land for Lake Loma. I do not remember a time when I was not a part of WCG/GCI.”

In 1968, Don applied to attend Ambassador College in Bricket Wood, England. “I loved the international flavor of that campus and thoroughly enjoyed my four years there. For some reason, I had a special affinity with the Brits. I traveled through many countries in Europe, including Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Greece.” Don said he was always interested in going into pastoral ministry but hadn’t been encouraged to do so in college. “Shortly before graduating in 1972, I was shocked to hear announced in a student assembly that I was being sent to be a ministerial assistant in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I have now been in pastoral ministry for over 40 years and have pastored churches in Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, New Zealand, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas.”

At the beginning of Don’s junior year in college he met Alexandra. “Alix had just arrived on campus as a freshman from New Zealand. People often say love at first sight is nonsense. Not in my case! The moment I laid eyes on her I had a strange feeling that I may have encountered the love of my life. I was the second guy on campus to ask her for a date. How I remember that date! I was bragging about living on an 80-acre property when Alix quietly informed me that she had grown up on a 5,000-acre sheep and cattle station on the east coast of New Zealand. Although I grew up in Texas, the land of cattle drives, it wasn’t until a trip to New Zealand shortly after we were married that I was able to experience such a thing.”

Don and Alix recently celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary. “We have three amazing children: Jeannine, Chad and Jonathan. Jeannine attended Ambassador College in Big Sandy and is married to Nate who works for Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. They have five children: Jack, Alexa, Erica, Ahna and Emmy. Chad, who now lives in Thailand, also has lived in Iraq, Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea. His children, Madyson, Sydney and Nikolae, live in Texas. Jonathan, an accomplished flutist, is the associate director for admissions for Mannes School of Music in New York City.”

Don said one of the most memorable moments of his ministry occurred while he and Alix were attending the ministerial refresher program in Pasadena, California, in 1979. “Joseph Tkach Sr. approached us one evening during dinner and told us, ‘You’re being transferred, guess where?’ I had a feeling it was not going to be a short distance away. I will never forget the look in my wife’s eyes. Four months later we were moving to New Zealand where we spent 10 of the best years of our lives.”

Don has always loved the fellowship he finds in GCI. “We have a special spiritual bond because of our unique journey. We have the dearest of friends who are truly like family to us—scattered across the globe though we may be. How we wish we could gather them all up and bring them within a close radius. Maybe one day that will be the reality. I also enjoy the fact that, as a denomination, we are willing to learn new things and continually refine our theology—to think outside the box a bit from time to time, without completely departing from orthodoxy. The truth about God and our existence is indeed a life-long quest.”

Though Don enjoys being a pastor, he still reflects on the discouragement he faced as we went through our denominational changes. “The only theology I knew came from growing up in WCG. My wife, however, was raised Presbyterian, spending seven years attending an Anglican boarding school, so the changes were much easier for her and she was a huge help to me as I struggled to understand. With her encouragement, in 1996 I attended a pastors’ conference at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Presenting were a number of internationally known evangelical authors and speakers, including Warren Wiersbe. I well remember him expressing concern for the many pastors in attendance who were considering quitting ministry. He implored us to think long and hard before making such a decision. It was as if God was speaking to me personally and it was a major turning point for me. I soon entered a Master’s degree program in Pastoral Ministry through Moody Seminary, which I completed in 2006.”

Alix is not only Don’s encourager, he says he would not be where he is today without her and likes to brag about her a bit. “Alix has an intriguing blend of no-nonsense and playfulness that is a perfect balance for my largely sanguine nature. Having her by my side through the years has been invaluable. She is always willing to help in any way that she can and often says her purpose in life is to make me look good! She has excellent computer skills and has, for many years, organized the PowerPoint presentations for our worship services. She also has great editorial skills and was an enormous help in my securing a second Master’s degree through Grace Communion Seminary, especially with the recent completion of my master’s thesis, “Peace When Facing Death.” We both have enormous appreciation for our time serving in pastoral ministry within WCG/GCI for all these years.”

Don says his passion stems from our understanding of Incarnational Trinitarian Theology. “My passion is helping people know that they are truly loved and accepted by God, no matter what their failings may be. There is a huge deficit in this area, even among those who have attended church all their lives. Recently, I completed a year’s residency at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, earning four units of Clinical Pastoral Education and presently, along with pastoring the Wichita, Kansas congregation, I am working part-time as the chaplain in the inpatient unit at Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice. I find it particularly fulfilling to work with patients and families as they experience end of life. It is such a potent time to reach people with a spirit of hope. Often this is when I feel God’s presence the most. After retiring from pastoral ministry in August 2015, I hope to work full-time as a hospice chaplain. I have a feeling my best years of ministry are still ahead.”

Don motorcyle

Don also enjoys guitars and motorcycles. “I love playing guitar and plan to spend a lot more time learning how to play well. My collection includes Fender, Gibson, Takamine and Ovation guitars. Just recently, with the help of my son Chad, I acquired a 2005 Triumph America motorcycle. I’ve been taking riding lessons and look forward to long rides on quiet country roads where I can enjoy the blessing and freedom of God and his creation.”