GCI Update

Thanks to our pastors and elders

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

So far this year I’ve attended seven regional conferences in the US, an international conference (for Spanish-speaking elders) in Bogotá, Colombia, and just recently I returned from a ministerial conference in the UK. When I add to these trips my other travels in the US and abroad, I must say how blessed I am to meet so many GCI pastors, elders and other members. It’s not only a thrill to get to know them, I’m blessed to call them friends.

North American churches set aside October for showing honor, thanks and appreciation to their clergy and their families. In GCI, our clergy are our elders, and most of these men and women serve as pastors—some lead pastors, others associate or assistant pastors. As we enter October, I want to share how much I appreciate each of our pastors and elders. Their faithful, heartfelt service to God’s beloved sons and daughters is something I thank God for as I pray for a small group of them by name each day.


What a journey we’ve been on in GCI over the last 20+ years! Most of you serving as pastors have travelled most, if not all, that distance, and I must say how elated I am for your willingness to follow where God has led our fellowship. Along the way, most of you encountered significant losses in attendance and income in the congregations you pastored. Yet, you remained faithful to our Lord’s call to ministry. Some of you struggled at first to understand our changes, yet you persevered through many hours of prayer and Bible study and came to see the amazing triune nature of God who loves you and loves every person you serve. Through all the changes we’ve encountered in GCI, you continued to equip the saints for their work of ministry. For that, I give you my sincere thanks.

I also thank you for all the meals you’ve missed because you were on the phone, or had to run out the door to visit someone at the hospital. I thank you for the many nights your sleep was cut short because of a phone call. I thank you for the many times you gave up personal plans in order to fit a wedding into your schedule, or to officiate at a funeral. I thank you for the numerous evenings you spent at a church function, a ministry meeting, or to visit someone rather than being at home. I thank you for continuing to study and take classes and attend training sessions so you can be more effective in pastoring your congregation. I thank you for the hours you have spent on your knees or on a walk, praying to God on behalf of your members, for our fellowship, and for the advance of God’s kingdom.

I also thank the wives whose husbands serve as pastors. Thanks for your faithful, selfless service in the often-challenging role of pastor’s wife (thanks also to the men whose wives are pastors). As a source of encouragement to pastors’ wives, I recommend an NAE podcast featuring Kay Warren, who with her husband Rick, founded Saddleback Church. You’ll find the podcast at http://nae.net/warrenpodcast/.

To all our elders, I extend heartfelt appreciation for learning how the work of an elder should be done, and then being faithful to God’s call to that important office of service in the body of Christ. Ultimately, all thanks goes to God for his mercy and grace that disciplines us, but I want to thank you for being submissive to the Spirit’s lead as you have devoted your life to joining Jesus in his ministry.

Pastors, let me encourage you to not let your church responsibilities become greater than your responsibilities at home to your spouse, children, grandchildren, and other family members. Please set aside one day a week to be free from phone calls and other church-related interruptions. You need this time for your own physical and spiritual renewal. I also encourage you to go on vacation with your family and leave behind the textbooks, turn off the cell phone, not check your email, and just be present with your family and friends. Your congregation will be fine without you for a week or two.

For all of you reading this letter who are blessed to be loved and served by one of our pastors, I encourage you to take time this month to show them your thanks. Send a card or other small gift of appreciation to encourage and affirm them. He or she needs you as much as you need them.

Praising God for the good work of our pastors and elders,

Joseph Tkach

Papua New Guinea

This report on recent developments in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is from John McLean who serves as National Director and Mission Developer for GCI-Australia.


Australia looks after the pastoral care and development of GCI’s congregation at Mt. Wilhelm in the remote highlands of PNG. Mark Latham and Rod Dean (pastor of our congregation in Sydney, Australia) recently completed a trip there to assist with development of congregational leaders and to help out with local community development, including working with the many children in the community.

“The Child in the Midst” was the theme of the talks Mark and Rod presented at the “study center” set up at Mt. Wilhelm. Instead of the expected 18-22 children in attendance, there were 66! Mt. Wilhelm is a church with an exciting future. The young people there have ambitions to become doctors, nurses, primary and high school teachers, office managers, lawyers, business persons, even ministers.

Children at the study center
Students at the local high school

Mark visited the local high school to give classes and offer words of encouragement to the 122 year-12 students. The lack of support these young people receive concerning their future is disheartening. This made the contrast with the opportunities at our study center more stark. Mark also visited the local technical college to see what opportunities were there for young people.

Other activities on the trip included resourcing the local ministry and teaching on such subjects as worship, computer skills, public speaking, the GenMin “Celebrate the Grip” curriculum, the way God has worked with women in very different circumstances, the importance of Shalom, using the image of “the little child in the midst,” and women’s and men’s ministry. The team also held counselling sessions to learn about the needs of the community.

Rod Dean delivering ministry resource materials

On the way to and from Mt. Wilhelm the team purchased supplies for the congregation, the study center and an area orphanage. Rod stated, “We are very grateful for the on-going support for these trips that make such purchases possible.”

Mt. Wilhelm is an isolated and challenging destination, and the work done there over the years has been outstanding. A huge thank you goes to Mark and Rod for their dedication, commitment to and loving care for our brothers and sisters in PNG. Please continue to pray for our members there.

Seniors serving kids

This update is from Gabriel Ojih who pastors Pathway of Grace, GCI’s congregation in Mesquite, Texas (in the Dallas metro area).

Four of our senior-aged members are using part of their retirement time to benefit young people in their community by helping elementary school students who are challenged in reading (due to English being their second language and certain mental health issues).

Once a week for the past two school years, Leo Burnett, Dick Rutter, Mike Read and Jack Zvorak have been visiting the Larry G. Smith Elementary School, across the street from where our congregation meets. The time is spent reading one-on-one with individual students who need to improve their reading. The seniors patiently help with pronunciation and comprehension, encouraging and supporting them in their efforts to overcome their reading obstacles.

Leo Burnett (left) with Chief Internal Auditor Mike Singleton and one of the Roaring Readers

As Mike remarks, “It is also a wonderful opportunity to positively impact the lives of these young people—speaking love and encouragement into their lives.”

The school sees Pathway’s volunteers as an integral part of their Roaring Readers program. Recently, the program received a $1000 donation from the district’s chief internal auditor. The school requested a representative from Pathway to be on hand as they received the donation and Leo was happy to oblige.

October Equipper

The October issue of Equipper is now online. It has seven articles (linked below), with most addressing the theme of developing the leaders in our congregations. Current and past issues of Equipper are always available at http://equipper.gci.org.

From Greg: Invest in the development of your leaders
Greg Williams urges pastors and ministry leaders to plan now to invest in the development of established and new congregational leaders in 2017.

Jesus with his disciples

Mentoring young leaders
Michael Rasmussen draws from his experience in discussing ways to mentor young (emerging) leaders.

Developing a new pastor: It began with a question
PD Kurts tells the story of how he helped a young leader hear God’s call to pastoral ministry.

Using ministry descriptions in developing your ministry leaders
Heber Ticas tells about how ministry descriptions have been helpful in developing the ministry leaders in his congregation.

Building the leaders around you
We summarize an article and offer a video that show how you can utilize Jesus’ methods in building the leaders in your church.

Sermon video: Safe and Sound
This month we share a video about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It provides a good basis for a sermon.

Kids Korner: What about Halloween?
This month we address the topic of Halloween. What’s the best way to approach this holiday in Children’s Church?

Death of Marilyn Canup

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Marilyn Canup, a graduate and employee of Ambassador College, and a long-time member of GCI’s congregation in Big Sandy, Texas. 

Marilyn Canup
Marilyn Canup

Marilyn was born on March 1, 1941 to Arta and Susie Russell, and grew up in Angelina County, Texas. She attended Ambassador College in California where she graduated in 1963. When Ambassador opened its Big Sandy campus, she journeyed back to Texas to work as the college’s first campus librarian. She loved bookkeeping and worked in that field for many years. After retiring, she continued that passion, serving as treasurer for the GCI congregation in Big Sandy (New Beginnings Fellowship). She also served in the congregation’s ministries to young adults and Silver Ambassadors.

Marilyn served the Big Sandy community as a member and officer of the Big Sandy Ministerial Alliance, treasurer of the Agape House Ministries (overseen by the Alliance), and as a volunteer at the Big Sandy City Hall. Marilyn was chosen as Big Sandy Woman of the Year in 2014.

Marilyn with her husband Dwayne and some of their grandchildren

Marilyn is survived by her husband of 49 years, Dwayne Canup; their children Leron Canup (Amy) and Shana Curd (Paul); five grandchildren; her sister Judith Omasta (wife of GCI elder Larry Omasta); and her brother-in-law, GCI pastor Tom Pickett. Marilyn was preceded in death by her sister Adrienne Pickett (Tom’s wife); nephew Andrew Pickett (Tom and Adrienne’s son); and her brother Thad Russell.

A celebration of life/memorial service will be held at 2:00pm on  October 7 at McWhorter Funeral Home in Gilmer, Texas. A potluck meal will follow at New Beginnings Fellowship Church in Big Sandy.

Cards may be sent to:

Dwayne Canup
PO Box 777
Big Sandy, TX 75755

Robert Browne II

Prayer is requested for GCI-Liberia National Director Robert Browne II. He was admitted to JFK Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, where he was found to be developing heart failure. His body blood volume had fallen to a dangerously low level, and he required five pints of blood.

Hurricane Matthew

[Updated 10/6]

Prayer is requested for those recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew, and those still in the path of this powerful storm as it slowly travels north.

According to Charles Fleming, GCI Mission Developer for the Caribbean, our members in St Lucia and St Vincent escaped the hurricane with minimal damage. Jamaica had some flooding, but as one member there said, “We are rejoicing.” We are awaiting news about our members in Haiti, which suffered significant damage. The big concern now is for the Bahamas and the East Coast of the US where evacuations have begun. For an update on the hurricane, click here.



Texarkana’s 50th

New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, GCI’s congregation in Texarkana, Arkansas, will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Sunday, October 16. They will have a special service that day, followed by a catered lunch. We invite you to attend—email Pastor Jerome Ellard (at JeromeHelen2002@aol.com) for time and location. If you’d like to express your congratulations for this milestone, email Jerome or send cards and notes to:

New Beginnings Christian Fellowship
PO Box 1312
Texarkana, TX 75501

2017 GCI Denominational Conference

We invite you to join us for the 2017 GCI Denominational Conference in Orlando, Florida, on August 2-6, 2017. The conference is open to all GCI members and their families and friends—all are welcome, and we urge pastors, elders, treasurers, and ministry leaders to participate in this triennial conference that gathers GCI leaders and members from around the world.

With the theme, We are GCI, the conference will be held at beautiful Lake Buena Vista Hilton hotel in Orlando (pictured above—it’s next door to Disney World). The conference schedule will include plenary sessions and workshops, with blocks of free time to socialize (including sharing dinner on or off-site in small groups—there will be no conference group dinners).

Note to lead pastors, fellowship group facilitators, pastoral team coordinators, pastoral residents and interns: Please plan to arrive at the conference in time for a special meeting of pastoral leaders that will begin at 1:00 PM on August 1.

Note to families: This conference will be particularly family-friendly, with special tracks for children and teens (allowing parents to attend all conference sessions while others care for their children).

Registration is now open! To register, click here (login required).

Here is a chart with conference costs (and if your congregation has extra funds and can help others attend, we encourage you to do so):