GCI Update

Conferences in Africa

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joe Tkach and Tammy TkachAs I write, Tammy and I are in South Africa, where we have the joy of participating in two conferences with GCI brothers and sisters from various parts of the world. The first conference, now complete, was the International Mission Developers’ Conference in Johannesburg. The second, still in session, is the Pan-African Conference in Bela-Bela, north of Pretoria (see the map below). In this Weekly Update letter I’ll give you a brief report on each one.

Pan-African Conference

Bela-BelaIn this conference, hosted by Kalengule Kaoma and co-hosted by Tim Maguire, 70+ elders and other congregational leaders representing GCI churches in Africa are meeting with our Mission Developers and members of our home office team.

This is my first opportunity to meet several of our African church leaders. I’m humbled by their enthusiasm for the gospel and their love for our GCI church family. They traveled here from Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Sadly, some African leaders were unable to attend the conference. Leaders from The Congo, Nigeria and Uganda could not obtain visas. Illness and other difficulties prevented the attendance of leaders from Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Reunion, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania and Togo. Our prayers are with them and we hope to see them in the future.

Conf Pan African group
Participants in the Pan-African Conference
Mozambique leaders.
Leaders from Mozambique with Joe and Tammy Tkach
Leaders from Zambia with the Tkachs.
Leaders from Zambia with Joe and Tammy

International Mission Developers (MD) Conference

Prior to the Pan-African Conference, our International Mission Developers met for four days with several GCI national leaders (Anthony and Jane Gachanja from Kenya, Gavin Henderson from the UK, and Emmanuel and Margaret Okai from Ghana), and members of our home office team (Charles Albrecht, Gary Deddo, Rick Shallenberger, Nathan Smith, Greg and Susan Williams, Tammy and I). During the conference, which was hosted by Tim Maguire, each MD gave a report concerning the region they serve. I’ve provided excerpts of their reports below.

MD conference participants
MD conference participants
Charles Albrecht, Jane, Joseph Tkach and Anthony.
Charles Albrecht (at left), Jane Gachanja, Joseph Tkach and Anthony Gachanja
  • John McLean, representing Australia, reported that churches that formerly preached what they were against, now share the inclusiveness of Christ. In a nation where helping others is part of the culture, our churches follow suit by reaching out to their communities, finding ways to help. They realize that if they want a seat at the community table, they must be actively involved within the community.
  • Robert and Tonia McKinney, representing the Caribbean (standing in for Charles and Carmen Fleming, who were unable to attend for health reasons), shared that they are looking for more ways to equip the next generation. They also are training existing pastors and ministry leaders by offering ACCM classes throughout the Caribbean.
  • Tim Maguire, representing the southern part of Africa, noted that he too is focused on training younger people for ministry. He shared that two younger men have recently been ordained and another has been approved. The “church under the tree” we’ve told you about is now meeting in a tent. That congregation consists of about 80% youth—they get excited when older people join!
Tim Maguire (in patterned church) coordinated a game-drive outing.
Tim Maguire (in patterned shirt) coordinating a group outing
  • James and Shirley Henderson, representing Europe and the UK, talked about the challenge of being a Christian in Europe where believers are seen as suspect or archaic. Though this presents a challenge to our churches, they are excited about being part of GCI, and are reaching out within their communities. Much of the congregational ministry is conducted by volunteers, so James asked us to pray for these volunteers and for ideas on how to train and promote volunteerism.
Eugene Guzon (at left) and Gary Moore
  • Eugene and Lulu Guzon, representing the Philippines, said that because of the relational nature of the Philippine people, evangelizing is more natural and people come to church because of those relationships. The latest trend is that people are coming to GCI because they find the message encouraging and positive—we have become known as a place to escape legalism. Over the last year, 150 members and three churches were added.
  • Hector and Paulina Barrera, representing South America, are focused on discipleship. They have started a one-year training program to teach the Bible and theology to new leaders. Evangelical churches are growing in South America, and Hector and his team want to have leadership ready for that growth. Hector and Paulina will host next year’s MD Conference in Bogotá, Colombia.
Kalengule Kaoma presenting
  • Kalengule and Nsama Kaoma, representing eastern and western parts of Africa, talked about working with youth camps and with youth and children’s ministries to identify potential new pastoral leaders. Kalengule also told about his Pastor’s Basket project where he gives volunteer or partially compensated pastors seed money to invest in helping sustain their families. Some grow vegetables, others bake bread or other products to sell.
  • Gary and Wendy Moore, representing Canada, talked about how an influx of immigrants into Canada (most are Christians) are having a positive impact in Canadian churches. Many of our GCI congregations in Canada have partnered with our congregations in Africa. Their contributions have made a tremendous impact on the growth in these African congregations. Wendy shared a devotional suggesting the difference between Christians and non-Christians is not about behavior, church affiliation or adherence to a moral code, but about our attitude of gratitude. As Wendy said, “The big story is that God has created, man has fallen, God has redeemed and will bring redemption to completion. For that we are eternally grateful.”
Hendersons (at right) with Matthews and Gary Deddo.
Ruth and Rod Matthews (at left), Gary Deddo, James and Shirley Henderson
  • Rod and Ruth Matthews, representing southern Asia and the South Pacific, gave daily updates on the impact of the recent devastating earthquake in Nepal. Our ministry partner in Nepal, along with his family and the 16 orphans in his home, were not harmed, but the infrastructure in that nation will take years to rebuild. We’ve sent money from our GCI Disaster Relief Fund to help. Rod mentioned two young teachers in Myanmar who recently contacted us and are excited about translating GCI literature into their local dialects.
  • Greg and Susan Williams, representing the United States and Mexico, shared stories from the U.S. about how God has built things seemingly ex nihilo (out of nothing). Greg’s prayer is that God, who can do anything, will continue building up GCI by allowing the impact of his love to move us forward. Susan gave updates concerning Grace Communion Seminary and answered questions about classes and degree programs. She said, “Visiting South Africa has been a remarkable experience that I will not forget. The beautiful smiles and generous hospitality were vivid reminders of the bond we share in Christ. Our joyful fellowship demonstrated the messages of Christ’s love given by several conference speakers.”
Gary Deddo
Gary Deddo

A highlight of the MD conference was a presentation from Gary Deddo entitled “Jesus Christ: Spirituality, Eschatology, and the Kingdom of God.” Gary noted that in the Christian life, hope is as important as faith and love. Our hope is in Jesus and his kingdom. We live now with the first-fruits (the down-payment) of the kingdom—having the inheritance, yet waiting in hope and with patience for the day when the glory of our Lord’s reconciling victory over death and evil will be fully revealed. The Father, Son and Spirit will bring to completion all that God has begun both in us and throughout the entire universe down through history. Living now in that hope (along with faith and love), we provide a living sign of the kingdom’s coming fullness and of Jesus’ present rule and reign in every area of life—in every relationship, including our primary relationship of worship with the Father, Son and Spirit.

Enjoying our international connectivity,
Joseph Tkach

Big Sandy: family outreach

For several years, New Beginnings Christian Fellowship (GCI’s congregation in Big Sandy, Texas), has conducted a Wednesday evening “family activity night” that reaches out to the children and their families in the community. This outreach was recently highlighted in an article by reporter Linda Baggett, published in “The Big Sandy and Hawkins Journal.” The article is reproduced below.

Big Sandy article

New Beginnings Christian Fellowship is known for being active in the Big Sandy community, sharing their building, their time and their powerful love of God. Last Wednesday night was no different except along with the fifty young folks and thirty adults there were special guests in attendance. New Beginnings is part of the Grace Communion International group of churches. Visiting from their offices in Glendora, CA was Greg Williams, Director of Church Administration and Development for the U.S., Heber Ticas with Church Planting and from Oklahoma City Regional Pastor Mike Rasmussen. These gentlemen came to see for themselves just what was going on in our small town and they were not disappointed.

Speaking with Mr. Williams, he said they were here to celebrate what New Beginnings has been doing for almost twelve years with the family activity night and serving the kids. Sonny Parsons, lead pastor for many years, recently retired and new pastor, Jerome Ellard, is continuing the ministry. Mr. Williams said they had heard so many good stories about God’s work being done here, they wanted to come to family night. He said we shouldn’t have two separate “lives” – our normal, secular life and our church life – and the way we see it is that it’s all God, everything we do. There’s no separation between the sacred and the secular; ministry is not just standing up and preaching a sermon. It’s being out in the community, interacting with neighbors, stepping up during a crisis. It’s opening the doors for the young people, giving them somewhere to go, a hot meal, letting them know they’re loved and letting them experience what the love of Christ is all about. We would like to see all of our churches look like New Beginnings and be a centerpiece in the community. Pastor Sonny has truly been ahead of his time in this ministry. He’s a humble man and has a servant’s heart. If you’re going to be first you need to be willing to be last and be servant to all. They’ve set a high standard and we’re thrilled to be here.

Mr. Ticas said they were also here to support Pastor Jerome and wife, Helen, and the Big Sandy congregation; to see what they could do to better equip them in serving not only the congregation but the community. The inclusive nature of what’s happening here, including the kids as one family, giving them a safe space, letting them develop…that’s Jesus-like. Pastor Jerome is continuing this ministry and is a blessing. Mr. Rasmussen echoed that their visit was to celebrate with New Beginnings how they were helping the young people, bringing families together and working in the community.

Pastor Sonny sat quietly listening, blushing at times, then said, “God did this. We know it wasn’t us. It’s the dynamic of being a team. Years ago Jane shared that the word TEAM stands for “together everyone accomplishes much.” We try to emphasize to all who come that everyone is a minister. A church will have a pastor, but everyone has a chance to minister. The kids who come, all kids, just want someone to listen to them and here they will get God’s answer.”

It was a pleasure visiting with these gentlemen. It’s a shame they couldn’t have stayed longer, a month or two, maybe a year. Then they could have shared in our wonderful community of faith and experienced the recent Good Friday service or Easter Sunrise where eight different congregations came together. Or maybe the “Honor Our Heroes” evening, blessing of the school, the Community-wide Thanksgiving service and Christmas Walk. We may meet in different buildings, at different times and sing different hymns and songs, but no one will deny that we serve the same loving and mighty God!

To view the original article, click here and here.

NYC: prayer breakfast outreach

Two of GCI’s congregations in New York City recently teamed up to hold a “Feed Your Mind, Body, and Soul” prayer breakfast as an outreach to the Queens community nearby the meeting place of GCI’s congregation in Queens. About 100 people attended with about 25% of these being visitors.


NYC 1The event was organized by the women’s ministries of GCI’s Queens and Manhattan congregations. The event focused on community prayer and community health. A breakfast was served featuring healthy food choices prepared by members. Prayers for healing, wellness and stress management were offered. Medical professionals from the congregations provided free blood pressure screening.

NYC 4The guest speaker at the event was Dr. John Clarke, Administrative Medical Director and Medical Review Officer for ConEdison, and a member of the Queens congregation. His presentation, “Taking Care of God’s Temple, Your Body,” focused on healthy living and longevity in terms of our walk with Christ.

John Newsom, the lead pastor of both congregations, provided a brief message about the role in our lives of praying together. “God invites us into his inner life through his prayer and our prayer in the Spirit,” he said. Other members gave moving testimonies on the role of prayer in healing and transformation in their lives. Young members led worship. At the conclusion of the event, all those present joined hands in singing “I Need You to Survive,” symbolizing the divine foundation of unity that praying together brings.


Ministry coach training

Experienced ministry coaches and other ministers (pictured below, left) who are interested in becoming ministry coaches, met recently in Columbus, Ohio, to participate in ministry coach training provided by GCI-USA Church Administration and Development. Participants included six ministers (below, right) who will continue to pursue certification as GCI-USA ministry coaches.

Coach Training new trainees Coach Training 1

During the training, Anthony Mullins, ministry coach program coordinator, taught these sessions:

  • Coaching the Person, Not the Problem
  • Coaching Models
  • Ask, Don’t Tell: The Art of Asking Powerful Questions
  • Measurable Outcomes, Action Steps and Small Victories

Regional Pastor Randy Bloom, who launched coach training several years ago, taught a session on listening skills. Pastor David Howe, who is a certified life coach, taught sessions on the intake process and preparing memorandums of understanding. Pastors Sam Butler and Becky Deuel then shared practical lessons learned through their experience as ministry coaches.

Each participant was given a copy of the book The COACH Model for Christian Leaders by Keith E. Webb. Ongoing coach training will include online webinars, five hours of practice coaching through triads, and an exit interview.

Church revitalization

GCI’s Church Administration and Development (CAD) team has multiple responsibilities in serving our U.S. churches. The team operates with a three-fold, forward-looking focus: starting new churches (church planting), helping raise up a new generation of leaders, and helping established churches revitalize. When it comes to church revitalization, though there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach, there are common, significant leadership challenges. Those challenges are helpfully addressed in a recent blog post from Ed Stetzer of LifeWay at www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/april/leadership-challenges-in-church-revitalization.html.

If your congregation would like assistance (consulting and training) related to church revitalization, you are encouraged to contact your regional pastor. Also note the relevant services provided by CAD in the catalog at www.gci.org/CAD_Services. Those services include Transformational Church consulting, which utilizes the church revitalization process and principles illustrated in this diagram:

Transformational Loop

Vanuatu cyclone

In March, we asked for prayer for our members in Vanuatu who were impacted by tropical cyclone Pam. Here is an update from GCI Mission Developer Rod Matthews.

On March 13, tropical cyclone Pam, a category 5 storm (the highest rating), hit the island nation of Vanuatu. The government estimated that about 166,000 people were affected (about half the population) with perhaps 65,000 in need of temporary shelter. GCI has a couple of members in Port Vila, the capital, and a congregation on the island of Malekula.

Fijian pastor, Isei Colati, had already planned a trip to Vanuatu to help our members there celebrate Holy Week. The timing proved ideal so he could check on the members and provide encouragement and material assistance. In his report to me, Isei noted that his visit was “very inspiring and uplifting, especially when we realized that the members had been affected one way or another.”

Before he left Fiji, Isei purchased vegetable seeds for the members to plant “so that they can get some quick cash and have some help in their food supply, realizing that most of the crops would have been damaged or destroyed.” He also purchased medical supplies to assist in countering diseases that normally come after hurricanes. Isei reported that though damage to Port Vila was severe, our members were not badly affected.

roof repairSeveral of our members came together in the town of Rory where our church facility is located to help repair the building’s roof and do general cleanup (see picture at left). During that time they held a series of church services and Bible studies. At times, attendance reached 55 people. Isei reported that “their desire for biblical knowledge and answers to questions interrupted the repairs on the roof of the building!”

baptismEvery evening, the members prepared food for dinner and supper following Bible Study and distributed used clothing (brought from Fiji) to those in need. According to Isei, they “experienced the truth of Psalm 133: ‘How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.'”

During the trip Isei conducted the annual Lord’s Supper commemoration service and three baptisms (pictured at right).

Thanks to all who offered to go to Vanuatu to assist in rebuilding the homes of our members. I’m grateful to report that they are well cared for and outside assistance is not needed at this time.

Women’s retreat in October

GCI women and their female friends are invited to attend a fall women’s retreat sponsored by the GCI congregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The retreat will be held on October 9-11, 2015 at the St. Bernard Abbey Retreat and Conference Center (www.stbernardretreat.com/) in Cullman, Alabama (north of Birmingham).

bedThe retreat theme is “Eyes Fixed on Jesus,” based on Hebrews 12:2. Retreat gatherings will explore many topics, looking for ways to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” Guest speakers will be GCI leaders Tammy Tkach, Ginny Rice, Pat Halford, Becki Brown and Barbara Dahlgren. Music will be provided by Ann Hartmann (http://annhartmann.com/) and Mary Jo Leaver (Music to the Eyes ministry).

The retreat costs $125/person (double occupancy), which includes registration, two nights’ lodging and four meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday). Rooms have two twin beds (see picture). If you prefer a private room, the cost is $185. For additional information and to register, email retreat coordinator Ruth Miller at ruth.miller@gci.org.