Death of Neil Earle’s father

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of George W. Earle, father of GCI-USA pastor and GCS instructor Neil Earle. Here are excerpts from an article that Neil wrote in his father’s honor. It appeared in “Anglican Life”—a magazine of the Anglican church in Labrador, Newfoundland, Canada.

George Earle
George Earle

George W. Earle was my father. So this I know: He was in his glory on the open water. He began to build boats in the 1980s to the tune of one a year which led to him and his best friend, Eph Laing, plying the waters around Carbonear and Bristol’s Hope in search of the wily cod. He began his working life as a stationer on the Labrador coast with his father Thomas J. Earle who has the distinction of being buried nearest the steps on the south entrance to St. James Anglican [church]. Yes, close to the action!

George would recall many stories of small-town life and the impact of being part of that Anglican parish. At St. James Anglican he came early under the tutelage of the near-legendary cleric, Canon E. E. Rusted, who was spoken of in respectful terms when I was growing up. Once, when praying with Dad a few years ago, he confessed that, even though not a regular attendee, he recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed every night before he went to bed.

George came into his own as a fisherman. In 1949 he jigged the largest codfish ever caught by hook and line… it measured 5’ 11 ½” and weighed 157 pounds. He had the picture to prove it and distributed copies to most people he met in later years. No wonder. The record stood for 50 years.

George had spurts of church attendance in the 1950s but for complicated reasons began to drift away from regular meetings. Yet the St. James drama team and the Roman Catholic neighbors at St. Clare’s School had no hesitation for enlisting him in their many “Christmas Concerts” in the 1950s, a staple of the decades before “Entertainment Tonight.” One of my father’s prized possessions was a certificate from the local Catholic prelate thanking him for his artistic services in the 1940s and 1950s.

The tributes that poured in to celebrate my father’s life as mayor, honorary fireman, Lion’s Club executive secretary, hospital board member in October, 2014 rightly cited his contributions to the town—a “Carbonear legend,” he was called—but his quiet Anglicanism obviously shaped his early life and lived on till the end of his days. An Anglican in deed.

Cards may be sent to:

Neil Earle
1643 Calle Coronado
Duarte, CA 91010-2575

Fall youth camps

Here are reports on GCI youth camps recently held in Mexico and Oklahoma.

Mexico

This report is from GCI Generations Ministries national coordinator Anthony Mullins, who with his wife Elizabeth visited GCI’s youth camp in Mexico to assist in equipping camp leaders.

mx camp3 baptismWhat an inspiring time my wife Elizabeth and I recently had with 35 brothers and sisters (pictured below) at the annual GCI Mexico camp near Monterrey! We witnessed four young adults (Jose Louis Lujano, Naoko Gonzalez, Anahi Tabares and Daniel Garcia) step up and share the gospel through the chapel messages using GenMin curriculum; we shared the joy when Daniel Garcia, an emerging leader, was baptized under a magnificent waterfall (see picture at right), and we rejoiced to see three sisters from the outreach mission in Guadalajara blossom with bright smiles as they felt the inclusion of the entire group! There were many beautiful stories to behold, and it was encouraging to see new leaders being developed.

Mexico camp Hayde Romo, Elizabeth, Anthony, Samuel Mercado and Natanael CruzDuring sessions I facilitated with camp leaders, we imagined the future possibilities together through “What If?” questions. What if they planted multiple camps throughout Mexico? What if the young adult leaders met more than once a year, and invited GCI pastors to discuss how they can intentionally be on mission in their communities? What if this national camp became an outreach mission instead of exclusively serving GCI kids? Mexican camp leaders Samuel & Hayde Mercado and pastor Natanael Cruz (pictured with me and my wife Elizabeth in the picture at right) are planning to strategize in the upcoming year about how to make the camp more missional and outward in its focus.

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Oklahoma

This report is from Joe Brannen, one of the leaders of CrossWalk—the Generations Ministries camp held near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Hunger gamesWe conducted our 26th session of CrossWalk in November with 33 senior campers, 30 junior campers, 9 mini campers and 55 staff members. There were 13 new campers and 4 new staff. Eight campers were unchurched.

Our theme, Hunger Games, was based on the movie series with the same name. As campers arrived Friday afternoon they were greeted by costumed staff members who set the theme by inviting everyone to share in games that helped them feel included. Then campers were “reaped” into eight “districts” to train for upcoming events related to the “economy” designated for each district.

Saturday began with private devotions, chapel and activities, followed in the afternoon with Hunger Games. The games began as each district raced to retrieve a bag filled with assignments for 13 activities that would challenge them physically and mentally. Most importantly, the activities brought unity to each district—it was amazing to see how they pulled together!

That night there was a banquet followed by a time of powerful, Spirit-filled worship led by the CrossWalk praise band made up of young adults. Following worship, campers gathered for a social in the dining hall, which was beautifully decorated in the camp theme.

CrossWalk was a wonderful example of God’s inclusive love—a message that was emphasized in camp chapels and other gatherings. We were powerfully reminded that God, in his grace, includes us all—in Christ, all are loved, forgiven and accepted. Chapel speakers used the Hunger Games theme to expose lies to the contrary.

Church Planting Networks

CPLFSeveral leaders from GCI-USA recently attended a meeting in Dallas, Texas of the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship (CPLF). These meetings are hosted twice a year by LifeWay to advance church planting in North America and beyond.

Here are excerpts from a meeting report by LifeWay leader and meeting host, Ed Stetzer:

What could happen if we gathered together a large room full of the most significant and influential church planting leaders in the country? That was the question I asked myself a few years ago. It occurred to me that leaders who lead church planting efforts at the denominational and network level do not have a peer learning community. There is not a safe place for them to gather together, learn from one another, be friends with each other, and seek ways to see the gospel advanced as churches are planted.

Our topic for [the recent gathering] was Church Planting Networks. We wanted to understand what made the most effective networks function so well. What systems were in place to help them prosper? What theologies and ideologies undergirded their success? How was their leadership structured and what vision did they share? These and a number of other questions were answered by some of the great church planting leaders of our day.

CPLFPresenters included several leaders with extensive experience in leading church planting networks: Dave Fergusen (at right in the picture with host Ed Stetzer), Matt Chandler, James MacDonald and Bob Roberts. GCI participants were GCI Church Multiplication Ministries coordinator Heber Ticas; and GCI-USA regional pastors Randy Bloom, Mike Rasmussen and Ted Johnston.

church planting network diagramThe CPLF meeting was of particular significance for GCI in that we are actively forming church planting networks in the United States. As shown in the diagram at right, these networks are made up of several GCI churches that partner to support church planting within their area and beyond through providing prayer, encouragement, financial support, assessment, coaching and training.

To learn more about GCI’s church planting networks, click here, and watch this video:

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/8bD_FaBbh2g.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

joeandtammyThis week most of us in the U.S. will celebrate Thanksgiving. This annual holiday isn’t unique to us here—many other countries have Thanksgiving celebrations. Though rituals and customs differ, the reason is pretty much the same—to give thanks to God. In the U.S., Thanksgiving Day rituals include a turkey dinner with all the trimmings—according to the National Turkey Federation, 95% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

Before or after the Thanksgiving meal, many gather around the TV to watch football. Football on Thanksgiving is a tradition that dates back to 1876 when the first intercollegiate football championship was held on Thanksgiving Day. One reporter called Thanksgiving “a holiday granted by the State and the Nation to see a game of football.” Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. is also known for parades. Many communities hold parades and more than 46 million people watch the most famous of them all—Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City, which began in 1924.

The true purpose of Thanksgiving, of course, is to give thanks to God. These days, we don’t praise him for the fall harvest as much as people did in times past and as much as many do in other parts of the world today. But we do praise God for our families, friends and the many other blessings we’ve received over the past year. From pre-meal prayers to laughing with family, to providing meals to the homeless, Thanksgiving is truly a celebration of praise and thanks.

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Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts (picture from Wikipedia Commons)

Each year during Thanksgiving I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the church at Philippi: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Thanksgiving reminds us that we have many reasons to rejoice. When families gather at the Thanksgiving table, the question is often asked, “What are you thankful for?” Then each person shares their answer. When it’s my turn, I look around the table to see the many reasons for which I am thankful. And it’s all because of the One who loves us, as T.F. Torrance notes so eloquently in The Mediation of Christ:

God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualized his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior (p. 94).

Amen and Happy Thanksgiving!
Joseph Tkach

Tammy Tkach (left) and Senior Pulley
Tammy Tkach (left) and Senior Pulley

PS: Tammy and I recently participated in the 40th anniversary of our congregation in Bermuda. It was a joy to be with this delightful church family pastored by Cecil Pulley and his wife Senior. The celebration was held at their church building (pictured below). During the week they rent part of the building to a day care operation and the parking lot to a neighboring grocery store. Please join me in extending congratulations to the Bermuda church for 40 years of faithful service.

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Joseph Tkach (center) and Cecil Pulley (right)

Hilary Irusta

Hilary IrustaHillary Irusta serves as a pastoral resident in GCI’s Greensboro, North Carolina church, which is pastored by her father, Joel Irusta.

Hillary felt God’s presence and involvement in her life at age five. “My family was in a terrible car accident. Hit from behind on the freeway by an eighteen-wheeler, we rolled back over front six times across all lanes of traffic. An EMS team saw the accident and told us afterwards that they were positive everyone inside would be dead. All four of us walked away with minor injuries. I slipped out of my seat belt, and told my father that an angel had held on to me and stood me up once it was over. The experience instilled in me a sense of God’s active, loving involvement in my life and in the lives of those I loved as well as a deeply ingrained sense of purpose for life.”

Hillary grew up in Archdale, North Carolina, “in the backyard of Greensboro and High Point. What brought me here today is a loving and supportive family, a strong will and independent spirit, an open mind and a hospitable heart, a strong ethical center, a willingness to question and struggle, a longing for adventure, friends who challenge and embrace me, communities that nurture me, acquaintances that challenge me, and God’s grace and compassion to vivify, sustain and call me onto the path of transformation.”

Growing up in GCI, Hillary became aware of the GCI Intern Program just as she was graduating from college. “I was preparing for my Master of Divinity studies and discerning ways to follow a calling into ministry. The door was open and the opportunity was surrounded by peace and excitement.” Hillary interned with her father, pastor Joel Irusta. She noted that the success of the program was largely due to “a congregation that believed in me, supported me, nurtured me and affirmed my calling.” After the internship was over, Hillary was ordained an elder. “I was installed as associate pastor at Centered Church, Greensboro, North Carolina, on March 17, 2013 (St. Patrick’s Day) after interning there since January 2011.”

After earning her Master of Divinity degree, Hillary had the opportunity to take some time off. “I had the chance of a lifetime to travel to Kona, Hawaii, this past summer! I snorkeled with sea turtles, hiked a volcano and explored the rich history and culture of the island of Hawaii.”

“Learning to be patient with persons and systems,” was Hillary’s greatest challenge during her internship. What she enjoyed the most was, “inviting everyone to God’s table and retelling the story of Christ’s life, death and resurrection every week during Communion.” This ties in with what she loves most about GCI: “The emphasis on God’s grace.”

Hillary’s passion is knowing her calling. “I’m called into the heart of the Beloved, to live a life pursuing wholeness for myself, neighbors and creation while equipping the church for acts of radical hospitality, justice and compassion in the world.”

Hillary says her most memorable moment was “baptizing my good friend’s newborn baby a couple weeks after my ordination.”

When asked what advice she would give to someone considering GCI’s Intern Program, Hillary said this: “Spend serious time discerning your calling, reflecting on your story and the things that give you life. Listen for God’s guidance and expand your theological, biblical and cultural understanding to discover hidden aspects of your calling and new possibilities for ministry.”

Experiencing the Trinity retreat

Thirty-one GCI members from the U.S., the Caribbean and the Philippines gathered recently at St. Stephen’s Retreat and Conference Center in Titusville, Florida for an Odyssey in Christ, Experiencing the Trinity spiritual renewal retreat.

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Charles Fleming

GCI Caribbean regional director, Charles Fleming (shown addressing the group at left) observed that God seemed to touch everyone in transformative ways during the retreat. GCI pastor Bonny McQueary said: “What an awesome weekend experience. I basked in God’s love, I had answered prayer, I lost the weight of some personal guilt, I was affirmed, I learned something positive about myself, and I met some new Christian friends.” Beth Harris, who heads up a para-church prayer ministry devoted to the struggle against human trafficking commented: “I have never witnessed a day of Pentecost before this retreat. All who attended were filled or filled anew and I’m sure the news will spread abroad since several countries were represented.”

According to Odyssey in Christ director Larry Hinkle (at the center of the picture below), the retreat “focused on helping participants experientially know our Triune God better (Ephesians 1:17). Through spiritually formative activities and loving fellowship, participants were shown how to create sacred spaces in their lives that help them connect with God in ways that can lead to lasting spiritual fruit for living and sharing the gospel.”

Rey

Death of Melvin Brady

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Melvin Brady, father-in-law of retired GCI vice-president Mike Feazell and father of Mike’s wife Victoria Feazell. In reflecting on Mel’s passing, Mike made these comments:

BradyDespite life’s sometime painful twists and turns, I never heard Mel speak bitterly, angrily or cruelly about anyone. He chose to live a life of believing the best and hoping for the best. If you looked for Mel, you’d most likely find him lending someone a helping hand, or coming or going from doing so. After the death of Victoria’s mom, Barbara, Mel was richly blessed to meet the former Amy Miller and share the next 19 joyous years with her at his side. Amy is a strong and capable woman and is surrounded by a large and loving family as she travels this rocky and winding road of grief. Victoria and I are so grateful for the happiness she brought Mel for so many years.

Cards may be sent to Victoria and Mike at this address:

Mike and Victoria Feazell
c/o Grace Communion International
P.O. Box 5005
Glendora, CA 91740-0730
 

UK conference

Joseph and Tammy Tkach, together with Gary and Cathy Deddo recently participated in a GCI-UK denominational conference in England. Below are pictures from the conference and a church service that followed in Watford, England.

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Conference audience
Watford Service 1Nov-Cathy Deddo speaking.5
Cathy Deddo addresses the conference
Watford Service 1Nov-Tammy meets Ryan
Tammy Tkach (right) greets members at church