The article below is from Ross Jutsum of State of the Heart Ministries. Ross met recently with Joseph Tkach and shared the following report. Ross then wrote it down at Joe’s request.
In 2016, I had the pleasure of visiting GCI congregations in 21 U.S. states, in Dubai, the United Kingdom and Canada. Two of the most memorable visits were to small churches, some of which GCI-USA classifies as “fellowship groups.”
In late October, I was invited to serve in the delightful Abundant Grace fellowship group in Rockford, Illinois. It’s served by Pastor Luci Cramer and her husband Carl, and hosted in the home of my friends Mike and Kathleen Hembree. After worshiping and fellowshipping in this intimate setting with eight brothers and sisters, we began preparing an evening meal to be served to over 200 men, women and children that Sunday evening at Rockford Rescue Mission. Various local churches volunteer to prepare the meal and provide a worship service one Sunday evening each year to enable the staff to have an evening with their families.
I was blessed with the opportunity to lead a 40 minute time of worship and praise with these delightful folks. Then, during dinner, I played background music, consisting mostly of favorite songs of those in attendance. There was a wonderful spirit of gratitude and joy on the part of those being served, but even more, the handful of dear brothers and sisters who did the serving!
Fort Myers, Florida
The week before Christmas I was invited to Fort Myers, Florida, where the small GCI congregation there, named Abundant Grace Fellowship, is served by a pastoral team made up of Hugh Steiginga, Sarah Faulkner and Bonnie McQueary.
On the Friday afternoon, I was privileged to give a Christmas program at the Shady Oaks Retirement Home where one of the church’s members resides. Due to requests by the residents, the program ran almost two hours instead of the planned one hour! On Saturday, I shared a similar program at Brookdale Senior Living, where another member lives. At both venues, our small but precious GCI group was having a major impact—regularly bringing joy, hope and comfort to these seniors in their twilight years.
On the Sunday in downtown North Fort Myers, we geared up to lead a Christmas worship service at the church, followed by serving several dozen (mostly homeless) folks a delicious lunch, and then joining in a lively singalong of well-known Christmas carols. The providing of a meal and a safe place is something our Fort Myers group does not only on every Sunday but also at noon on Wednesdays. Talk about making a difference in the local community!
I was moved by the incredible dedication of this small group of members and grateful to be included in these priceless opportunities to be “His hands, and lips and eyes.” Once again, I was filled with pride to belong to this Grace Communion family of believers who live out the Romans 12 admonition regarding worshipping God with our very lives!