Are you encountering personal setbacks and struggles? Perhaps it’s a health issue, unemployment, or a family crisis. If so, you’re not alone. Pastor Ron Edmondson, facing his own struggles, learned to, as he says, “lead with a limp.” He shares his experience and insights in an encouraging article at ChurchLeaders.com, titled 5 Ways to Lead When You’re Limping. Click here to read it.
We were saddened to learn of the recent death of GCI pastor Andrew Teng who formerly pastored the Quezon City, Philippines church. Here are messages about this beloved pastor from people who knew him well over the years:
From Bermie Dizon (GCI-USA Pastor)
We were all so blessed to have pastor Andrew Teng in our lives. He lived a life that brought glory to God’s name. He was a great friend, brother, pastor, dad, husband…a precious child of God. We will miss you Andrew. We pray blessings and comfort to your loved ones, your wife Gladys and your daughters Phoebe Teng and Fair Teng.
From Bidz Dela Cruz (GCI-USA member)
Following his retirement Pastor Teng moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida where he and is wife Gladys lived with their daughter Fair. When Andrew encountered a problem with his vision, the family decided to bring him back to the Philippines for treatment. A few weeks ago, his doctors discovered that Andrew had liver cancer, but it was too late to treat it. Pastor Teng passed away beside his loving family in his homeland a few days ago. He is survived by his two daughters Fair and Phoebe, and his wife Gladys who also is battling cancer.
From Rex S. Pena (GCI-Philippines Area Superintendent)
I first met Andrew when I was 11 years old. He gave the Bible study for the Y.O.U. group back in 1977. I remember thinking how tall he was. Through the years, I heard many of his sermons. When I returned to the Philippines from Ambassador College, we worked together in our youth camps. Back in 1995, there were five of us who climbed Mt. Makulot to do an inspection for the SEP mountaineering activity. He served almost every year at camp under my watch. We then briefly served together in our Quezon City church—he was senior pastor and I was the associate pastor. I was there when he gave his final sermon before moving to the U.S.
We all prayed for his healing when he returned to the Philippines and was in an out of the hospital. I kept my worries at bay when I read of his being rushed to the hospital several days ago. And then I got the message that he had passed. Thank you Pastor Andrew for your life which you humbly dedicated in service to God who has called you home. You will be sorely missed by everyone who knew you.
From Eugene Guzon (GCI-Philippines director)
It is never easy to lose a good friend, and when it happens you feel that a part of you is gone too. I had the chance to say my final goodbye to Andrew when I visited his wake last Friday. He fought the good fight, after months of different health challenges which started with losing his eyesight after what seemed to be an easy, quite common cataract surgery. Then he was diagnosed with malignant cysts in his liver and then suffered from stomach ulcers.
I can just imagine the pain, stress and difficulties Andrew and his family went through. Adding to the challenge were the health concerns of Gladys, his wife, as she too battled cancer and went through the regimen of treatments and the difficult road to recovery. Yet in our visits to them, we saw two strong pillars of the faith, both inspiring testimonies of lives in full trust and surrender to the will of our God as they participated in His work.
Andrew embraced his Savior and relied on his strength unto the end. He ran a full race and finished strong. We prayed for healing and relief. And God answered our prayers the best way possible for them. As for Andrew, his frail body is no longer in the grip of pain.
In 2010, Andrew together with wife Gladys received recognition for their 25 years of service in the church from Dr. Joseph Tkach. And even after his retirement in 2012 until the time of his death, Andrew always had the heart of a pastor, making people feel that they are God’s beloved children. God continues to bless each one of us with an incredibly meaningful life story in him, a race that was meant to be fought and won, and made more sweet by the power of God’s love at work in all circumstances. Pastor Andrew claimed that reality, the same blessing that is for all of us as well and something we can share as well.
We remember Gladys and their daughters Fair and Phoebe as they go through life without their beloved Andrew. They need our prayers, love and encouragement. We thank everyone who prayed for them, visited them, stayed beside them and helped them in many different ways.
Congratulations to GCI’s Victoria, B.C. (Canada) congregation—they recently celebrated their 50th anniversary as a church! Over 50 people attended the celebration church service and about 60 shared the meal that followed. During the celebration, Pastor Jack Kost (who with his wife Betty has pastored the congregation for the last 21 years) read greetings from former pastors. Here are pictures:
Kalengule Kaoma, one of GCI’s mission developers in Africa, reports on recent developments in the African nations of Togo and Tanzania.
Developments in Togo
In February, members of GCI’s Lome congregation in Togo planted a church in the town of Kpodzi Apéyémé about 35 miles from Lome. The congregation is named Porte Divine (Divine Gate). Its attendance averages about 90 people, including Agbagnons Kossi, the senior chief who oversees seven villages in the area.
Another project of the Lome congregation is the Social Medical Center, a health center in the Lome area that provides medical services to women and young children. It’s part of GCI Togo’s contribution to national development. To be ready for its opening in September 2016, the facility’s pharmacy, laboratory, treatment and doctors’ consultation rooms need to be completed and fundraising is underway.
While visiting Lome, Kalengule participated in the baptism of six new members held at the Lome Worship Center.
Developments in Tanzania
Kalengule has been in contact since 2009 with representatives of 20 Sabbatarian churches in Tanzania with a combined attendance of about 800 people. Over the intervening years, these congregations have experienced a grace-awakening similar to ours. As a result, they recently decided to affiliate with us, taking on the GCI name.
In 2010 we began a relationship with ten other Sabbatarian congregations in Tanzania. They have a combined attendance of about 260 people. These congregations also have chosen to affiliate with us, joining hands in preaching the gospel in southwest Kenya and the Mara region of Tanzania. Here are some of their leaders:
We’ve just completed the fourth of seven 2016 US regional conferences with the theme, Renewal: building on the foundation of Jesus. Jesus said he would build his church (Matthew 16:18), and he continues to do just that. Though some say Christianity is declining and dying, the opposite is true. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the world’s Christian population is projected to grow from 2.2 billion in 2010 to 2.9 billion by 2050, meaning that nearly one in three people on earth will be Christian by mid-century. What excites me is that some of that growth will occur within our fellowship, Grace Communion International.
The wide spectrum of Christianity has three main branches: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant. The Protestant branch, of which we are part, has multiple denominations, with some self-identifying as evangelicals. When asked, I explain that GCI is part of the evangelical community. Some ask what it means to be evangelical. Let me explain.
The term evangelical comes from the Greek word euangelion, which is used in the New Testament to refer to the good news (gospel). Evangelicals focus on proclaiming the good news about the salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ. An emphasis on the person and work of Jesus is thus essential, as is an emphasis on the importance of the Bible. Evangelicals are a vibrant, diverse group devoted to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelical believers are found in many denominations and churches, bringing together Reformed, Holiness, Anabaptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, and other traditions.
When I say GCI is evangelical, I mean that in a theological sense. This is important to note because the term evangelical is often used in a sociological sense to refer to a large and diverse social-political grouping. Journalists often use the term in describing groups at the fringe of evangelicalism.
As most of you know, GCI became a member denomination of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1997. I currently serve on its Board of Directors. The NAE was founded in 1942 and has grown to include more than 40 denominations, as well as universities, para-church ministries, publishers and independent churches. Knowing that the definition of evangelical has been confused (even misused), the NAE initiated a study in partnership with Lifeway Research to refine the definition of what it means to be evangelical. The result determined that an evangelical is identified by strong agreement with the following four statements:
The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.
Though some who are part of the current Trinitarian renewal movement might word these statements somewhat differently, it should be noted that both Karl Barth and T.F. Torrance were happy to use the word “evangelical” in its theological sense.
In 1997, Don Argue, NAE president at the time, announced WCG’s (now GCI’s) acceptance into membership with this statement: “We see the dramatic changes that have occurred among our friends as God’s continuing efforts to bring renewal and revival for His glory.” This was a moment of qualitative growth for GCI and our growth (qualitative and quantitative) has continued.
In 2007 GCI had about 36,000 members worldwide (most in the US). Today we have nearly that many outside the US alone. While we have been staying even in numbers in the West (USA, Canada, Australia and UK), we have been on a growth spurt in Asia and Africa. In the West, though we have gained members and planted new churches, that growth has been offset by the number of people who have died or discontinued attending for a number of reasons, including relocating to areas where there are no GCI congregations.
In previous Weekly Update letters I’ve highlighted GCI’s rapid growth in Mozambique. Many of you have joined me in celebrating what the Holy Spirit is doing there. We are also celebrating wonderful growth in Togo and Tanzania where dozens of churches are joining us and new churches are being planted (click here to read a report from Kalengule Kaoma). There are other developments in the works that I hope to be able to share with you soon. By God’s grace, GCI is moving forward!
Please keep Kalengule and his family in prayer. He travels to some hard-to-get-to places. Also pray for our other mission developers as they continue to follow where the Spirit leads in spreading the good news in far-flung parts of the world. Living and sharing the gospel is our motto and mission, and that is what being evangelical is all about.
Celebrating what God is doing in and through us,
Please pray for Debbie Young, wife of Charles Young who pastors one of GCI’s congregations in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. Debbie was recently taken to the hospital experiencing shortness of breath and other symptoms. It was determined that she had experienced a mild heart attack. Fortunately there does not seem to be any damage to the heart. Debbie also is suffering with polymyalgia rheumatica, which causes a great deal of pain. She has recently been tested and is awaiting the results and treatment recommendations.
Cards may be sent to:
Charles and Debbie Young 6290 Ponderosa Ct
College Park, GA 30349-4038
Would you like to join us for a week’s holiday on the beautiful island of Cyprus? GCI is holding a spiritual retreat there February 18-26, 2017. The retreat will involve Bible studies, worship services, prayer, meditation, outings, and, of course, hopefully some winter sunshine! Come for a minimum of four days, or for as many days as you like, or arrive early and leave late at the same pre-set rates.
The retreat will be held at the Athena Beach Hotel in Paphos (pictured above). The B&B rate for a standard room is 31 Euros (~$35) per night, per person in the room. Each person will also need to arrange for and pay for their travel.
At this point we need to gather the names of those who may be interested in attending so that we can get a count to assess the feasibility of conducting this retreat. If you are interested in participating, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Once the possible numbers are more clear, further announcements will be made.
Thanks for your prayers for GCI Pastor William Condley (click here for the earlier prayer request). William’s son David sent this update:
Dad’s surgery went well, though he continues to be on a ventilator and sedated. He is having heart rhythm problems that may require a pacemaker if things don’t improve. Overall he is doing well, just waiting on his lungs to catch hold. Mom is doing well, and we are switching out taking care of her.
Please continue to pray for both William and his wife Ednita. Cards may be sent to:
William and Ednita Condley 153 S. Main Street Atkins, AR 72823-8235