GCI Update

Amazing trust

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Joe Tkach and Tammy TkachAs a child, there were many things I wanted to be “when I grew up”—but a trapeze flyer was not one of them! I recall watching these artists at work and being both fascinated and frightened. I’d hold my breath as they’d let go of the trapeze bar, soar through the air and be caught (hopefully) by a fellow artist. I wasn’t sure I would be able to trust anyone enough to take that leap of faith!

Miguel and Juan Vazquez were among the best trapeze flyers in the business. In 1982 they made history in Tucson, Arizona, when 17-year-old Miguel landed the first quadruple somersault on the flying trapeze (watch him do it on another occasion at http://youtu.be/qFEB7yFGgYE). This was a stunning accomplishment, not only because no one else had done it before, but because most experts thought it impossible. Miguel got a lot of praise, but the true hero was the catcher, Miguel’s brother, Juan.

Used with permission from The Last Great Circus Flyer website.
From The Last Circus Flyer website.
Juan Vazquez on the catch bar in 2009. Used with permission from The Last Great Circus Flyer website.

Here is how Juan described the event in the book, The Greatest Trick:

Hanging upside down, I am swinging toward [Miguel] as he is hurtling toward me at 75 miles per hour. Now I’m reaching for him; my hands are straining toward his, his hands are straining toward mine. I have him! Our hands are locked and holding!

Even the most expert trapeze flyer is unable to pull out of a quadruple spin and grab the bar on their own. The catcher must grab the arms of the spinning acrobat, pull them in and then not drop them. Who would you trust to do that for you?

Fortunately, most of us will never be called upon to fly from a trapeze bar hoping that our partner will catch us. But we all will face situations in life where we must reach out in trust—and such trust doesn’t develop overnight. Miguel learned to completely trust Juan over years of working together.

Trust seems to develop in two ways: 1) Directly, through a relationship that involves trusting a person over a period of time. 2) Indirectly, through watching another person trust someone, and then, through that example, learning to trust that someone yourself. Both methods apply in learning to trust God.

Here are people of faith in the Bible who we can learn from:

  • Noah believed God’s plan for him to build an ark.
  • Abraham believed God’s covenantal promise to bless everyone through him.
  • Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about the final resting place of his bones.
  • Moses’ parents hid him for three months.
  • Moses encountered God in the burning bush and led his people out of captivity.
  • Joshua followed God’s plan to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
  • The disciples left their respective jobs and followed Jesus.
  • Paul went on his various missionary journeys.
  • And, as the author of Hebrews writes:

I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground (Hebrews 11:32-38).

The Spirit enables us to learn to have faith in God through these examples of amazing trust. As we read the stories of faith in the Bible, we learn that God was, is and always will be faithful to us. No matter what Israel did, God remained faithful to his people and to the covenant he made with them. The Lord was also faithful in his mercy and love and faithful to his plan to send his Son to be the Redeemer, Reconciler and Savior not only of Israel, but of all people, everywhere and in all times. Reflecting on these examples, we learn to trust God as we grow in our own relationship of faith with him.

In Jesus, God has given us the perfect brother to work alongside: “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11). We trust Jesus because he is always with us and for us. Whether stumbling through the routine of daily challenges, or facing unexpected crises that feel like flying through the air doing quadruple somersaults, we know that Jesus is there to catch us—every time. Hear his words of reassurance:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).

We are secure in Jesus! We can trust him completely to always catch us, no matter how many “somersaults” life brings our way.

Trusting Jesus with you,
Joseph Tkach

P.S. We recently posted at www.gci.org/media/conference2014 video and audio recordings of the plenary presentations given at the 2014 U.S. regional conferences. I encourage you to watch them if you were not able to attend one of the conferences and to share them with others. They unpack our conference theme of GCnext: sharing Jesus’ faith, love & hope.

Update from Asia and the Pacific

This update is from Rod Matthews, GCI mission developer in South Asia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

India: SEP Hyderabad

Rock climbingOur church in Hyderabad, India conducted Summer Educational Program (SEP) 2014 in May with 40 campers age 10 to 15 and 8 staff members. Most of the campers were from Faust School and friends of children in our church. The three days of the camp were packed with activity, including rock climbing (pictured at right). Each day also included a Bible study and value education. The children were taught stories that illustrate God’s love and how he makes it possible for us to live in relationship with him.

CleanupPastor Dan Zachariah taught the children how to journal their thoughts—reflecting on how they spent each day. Campers were taught public speaking and had opportunity to deliver speeches.

The importance of community service and being environmentally conscious were made known to the children who surprised us by picking up garbage and taking care of cleaning jobs that people usually don’t like to do in the community (see picture at left).

New Zealand: National Pastoral Conference

(Report from Dennis Richards, GCI-New Zealand national pastoral coordinator)

NZ conferencePastoral team members from GCI-New Zealand plus invited guests from around the Pacific gathered for a conference in Wellington, New Zealand in July. The 28 participants enjoyed fellowship and being reminded of the scope and diversity of the work in their portion of “the field.”

Conference presentations centered on the theme, “GCI’s part in Aotearoa New Zealand,” celebrating the bicentenary of the first preaching of the gospel in New Zealand on Christmas Day 1814, and the establishing of a mission outpost. Samuel Marsden, an English missionary resident in Australia, had been invited by Ruatara, a chief of the area. Marsden preached from Luke 2:10, “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy….” The GCI conference rehearsed this history as a backdrop to discussing GCI’s place in spreading the gospel within New Zealand and elsewhere today.

The weekend began with an address from Joe Tepania, a local kaumatua (elder and leader) who reflected on life and progress, Christian and otherwise, seen from a Maori perspective. Fundamentally important is to know and value one’s roots (whakapapa: historical and cultural connections that define us) yet pioneer new paths as a gift (koha: gift of the heart, in good faith) to those around, and who follow after. His thought-provoking talk laid a beautiful platform for what followed.

Rex Morgan (Auckland), then reviewed Christianity’s history in New Zealand. Early evangelism, mostly Maori passing the message amongst themselves, resulted in around half of all Maori becoming Christian within about 40 years. War and blood feuds became rare, agriculture flourished and living standards rose. Sadly, land-hungry settlers fomented the great land wars of the 1860s with subsequent disenfranchisement and disillusioning of Maori causing a great many to abandon the Christian faith.

NZ conference2During the afternoon of the first day, everyone joined the Wellington congregation in worship services. Rod Matthews (Australia) gave the sermon, drawn from the story of Jesus meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). This extended the weekend’s theme, confirming that God uses the most unlikely evangelists and methods to further the work of the gospel.

Louis Smith (Wellington) began Sunday’s sessions with a thoughtful reflection on the transformation necessary in Peter’s life before he could preach to Cornelius’ household (Acts 10), and the adjustment challenges that must have caused for both Jews and Gentiles. Next, Dennis Richards (Palmerston North) provided a visual presentation of results from a “Core Values Audit” and discussed several of the implications for future directions. David Wong (Auckland) then summarized and wrapped up some of the threads of the weekend’s discussions, emphasizing how individual spiritual health and maturity is essential to GCI’s part in the New Zealand mission field. The afternoon finished with Rod Matthews leading in communion.

It was a joyous and thought-provoking weekend of discussion and interaction. Much remains to be done, however. Please pray that appropriate and timely initiatives will emerge, so that we in this land will better understand and fulfill “GCI’s Part in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Myanmar: Discipleship Course goes to the printer

Van Thawm Lian has completed the translation and editing of our basic 10-lesson course in Christian beliefs, called Discipleship 101 on our website. It was Van’s goal to print 2000 copies–enough to meet the expected demand from pastors and Christian church leaders in northern Myanmar. Our New Zealand church board provided NZ$2,000 to meet this goal. We are grateful that we’ve been able to achieve another target in creating tools to assist the spread of the gospel and the making of disciples of Jesus Christ in Myanmar.

As with so many projects in which we are involved in the Asia/Pacific area, we are sowing seeds where we may not see the results immediately, but others will harvest in due course after God gives the growth and the Holy Spirit touches the hearts and minds of people across this fertile land where the majority have grown up in the Buddhist religion.

17 baptisms in Tipp City, Ohio church

baptism2CrossRoads Christian Fellowship, the GCI church that meets and ministers in Tipp City, Ohio, is pastored by a team of elders led by senior pastor Jim Valekis. The team includes associate pastor Becky Valekis (Jim’s wife), who coordinates discipleship programs. For over 10 years, CrossRoads has emphasized evangelism as the win segment of its win-build-equip-multiply disciple-making pathway. Their evangelistic efforts have been of two types: person-to-person connection, and community outreach and engagement events.

CrossRoads’ faithful, persistent and creative efforts to share in what Jesus is doing in the community have born significant fruit, seen in a “Down to the River to Pray” baptism service held on August 24 at which 17 people of various ages were baptized—15 are residents from the surrounding community who are new to GCI, and 2 are children of long-time GCI members. The service was packed with family and guests, with one deciding at the event to come forward for baptism. Another person who was moved by the service has been baptized since.


Reflecting on the day, pastor Jim commented:

We have a lot of work ahead to help these new converts learn to live out their new transformed lives in Christ. Many are from badly broken situations, so it will be a challenge to help them learn to follow the Spirit into the true freedom that is theirs in Christ. This weekend is the culmination of years of hard work in which “sweet inspiration” often was followed by “sweet exhaustion.” But it’s been worth it—we’ve been shown that even though Jesus does it all for us, he wants us to do it with him. His grace “works!” And what a joy it has been to see so many lives transformed by Christ! It’s such a blessing to be enabled by the Spirit to enter with our Lord into the joy of his harvest.

Here are comments from others concerning the baptism service:

  • It was more than amazing! Being led by God and by every person at CrossRoads has made my life so fulfilled! I hope we all touched someone at the service so that they may let God lead them too!
  • I shed more than a few tears at the service. I have been so, so blessed to be part of an amazing movement at CrossRoads of bringing people to Jesus Christ. I had no idea that when my wife and I walked through the church doors that Halloween night several years ago, just how much our lives would change. Yesterday, almost my entire family was there. My wife, my mother, father, sister, all four of my children and all four grandchildren. A grandson and two of my children, who have struggled to resist God and have struggled through so many things in their lives, accepted Christ as their Savior and were baptized. Now they will begin to see what wonderful changes are about to occur in their lives.
  • I want to thank each of you for your prayer and, of course, your service that made for a wonderful Celebration Sunday! I thank God for you all! It was truly a wonderful, joyous and humbling day! Glory to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!
  • The thought that struck me at the service was that even though God sends the message, the message doesn’t always get received, or if the message is received, the feet are sometimes too timid to move. What I saw on display this weekend, however, was something far different. The message WAS received and the feet took off running. You can lead followers and help them grow, however you can develop leaders and grow explosively. What I am seeing at CrossRoads Church are leaders developing leaders through Christ and the results speak for themselves!
  • Big things are upon us—I pray that we stay close to God and to each other so we can take this movement where God wants it to go!

Below is a short video that recaps pastor Jim’s sermon of introduction to the baptism service (given at church) followed by scenes from the baptism service itself, held at a nearby river. We welcome these new believers into the body of Christ and celebrate with CrossRoads this fruit of their faithful labor in the Lord.

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/h0D11vOwItk. Thanks to James Egbert for granting use of the music sound track.

Evangelism resources

Here are helpful resources related to the topic of evangelism (involving ministries of cultivating, planting and reaping) in and through the local church. To celebrate the fruit of this work in one of our congregations, click here.

Taking care of new developmentIdentifying evangelistic gifts

In a post on the Exponential website, church planter Beau Crosetto writes this:

If we are going to activate evangelistic people in our ministry, then we have to know what they look like! Sometimes this can be pretty easy if they are highly gifted and are more developed. But if they are a young person, it may not be as clear from the surface. What do you look for to identify those people with the Ephesians 4 gift of evangelism (part of the five-fold gifts) in your church? Here are six indicators I often consider…

To read Beau’s article, click here. Though it is written from the perspective of a church plant, it applies directly to established churches as well.

Tools that help

In a post on The Exchange Blog, entitled “Strategic Evangelism,” Ed Stetzer lists several tools that are useful in helping members share in the Holy Spirit’s work of evangelism. To read Ed’s post, click here. For related resources produced by GCI, click on these links:

John Halford

This update on John Halford’s request for prayer is from his daughter Becki Halford Brown.

John Halford
John in better times–we pray he will return to full health soon.

I wish I could give you all a little more of an uplifting update regarding my dad. He is still very weak, hardly eating at all and sleeps a lot of the day.

We (and he) were hoping for a little more progress by now. However, we have been told that his condition is normal—the chemo and radiation he has gone through really takes a toll on the body. Still, it is heartbreaking to see him in a lot of pain and tired all of the time.

Though Dad has been given permission to eat anything he wants now, he says everything tastes like dry cardboard and is hard to get down. His body aches all the time, especially around his shoulders. Although he stays positive and tries to smile, he really is miserable. He so badly wants his life back and to be visiting with his friends. One short visit wipes him out for the rest of the day.

We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for my dad’s healing and recovery and for some rest for my mom. She is dad’s full time nurse and is very tired too. Cancer is a truly horrible disease that affects the entire family.

Cards may be sent to:

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

Death of Woody Corsi

We were saddened to learn that GCI-Oregon elder Woody Corsi died on September 2.

Cards may be sent to:

Elaine Corsi
7205 SE Villa St. 
Hillsboro, OR 97123

Persecuted Christians

As we pray for persecuted Christians around the world, our prayers can be informed by a letter sent recently by Evangelical Christian leaders (including NAE President Leith Anderson) to U.S. President Barak Obama, encouraging him to strengthen actions to protect religious minorities in the region (particularly Northern Iraq) that is being severely impacted by the terror inflicted by radical Islamists seeking, by force, to establish an Islamic State. To read the letter, click here.

Rand Holm

HOLM RandRand Holm, GCI pastor in Southern California requests prayer. He will be having surgery on September 10 to replace his right hip joint.

Cards may be sent to:

Rand Holm
599 Rio Grande Circle
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360-1555

Thérèse Cayer

Please pray for Thérèse Cayer, wife of GCI-Canada elder Denis Cayer. The couple serves the Trois Rivieres and Quebec City congregations.

Thérèse saw her doctor recently and she was diagnosed with cancer in the membrane covering her left lung and adjoining structures. The cancer is inoperable and incurable. The only thing that can be done to extend her life is to undergo chemotherapy. She will be having further tests to see if the cancer has spread and she’ll have a drain tube installed to empty liquid from her lung. She is not having any pain, though she understands that she is facing a mighty battle. She has chosen to let God lead, and desires to continue for now on the preaching teams in both congregations.

Cards may be sent to:

Thérèse and Denis Cayer
19450 Boulevard Becancour
Becancour, QC G9H 1B4