GCI Update

Hurricane Harvey

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Rockport, Texas, on August 25, devastating many coastal communities. Now a tropical storm, Harvey continues dumping huge amounts of rain (over 50 inches in some areas), with much of Houston under water and other parts of southeastern Texas along with southwestern Louisiana still in harm’s way (click here for an update).

I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and property in Texas. Thankfully, as reported by GCI Regional Pastor Mike Rasmussen, all our members survived, though some sustained property damage as noted in the reports below from two of our pastors in the affected areas.

Some pastors have asked how their congregations can help. As a denomination, we stand ready to assist our affected members through the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. At the end of this letter is an explanation of how congregations can help replenish the fund. There are, of course, thousands of people in the affected communities who are in dire need. I encourage you to help in any way you can. In the days ahead, I’m sure our members in those areas will be looking at ways to help, and we’ll let you know if others can join with them. In the meantime, I know we’ll join together in praying for all who are overwhelmed and especially for those who remain in harm’s way, including emergency workers and volunteers.

—Joseph Tkach

From Pastor Rodney Schuler

Rodney Schuler

Rodney, who pastors GCI’s congregation in San Antonio, TX, reports that Mary Bell, a 90 year-old GCI member who lives in Rockport, TX, is safe. Though Rockport is where Harvey made landfall, Mary is thanking God that her home suffered only minor damage (some shingles and siding torn off). Mentioning the damage to other homes in her neighborhood, Mary said, “I would never think of complaining!” Though still without power and water, her friends and family are taking care of her.

Rodney also reports that the city of Victoria, TX, was also in Harvey’s path. One GCI member there, Aaron Migl, was awakened around 4 am with a sound “like the roof being taken off with a jack hammer.” The roar lasted almost all day, with branches and shingles flying everywhere. Victoria was badly damaged and is without water, electricity and sewer. Thankfully, our members there are safe and already starting to repair the damage to their homes.

Hurricane damage in Rockport

From Pastor Mark Mounts

Mark Mounts

Mark, who pastors GCI’s congregation in Houston, TX, reports that, so far as he has been able to learn, only one GCI member family in Houston had to evacuate their home due to the terrible flooding. He also reports that one of our elders is in an area hotel, unable to return home for several days. Thankfully she has food and shelter. Such stories are numerous with thousands of people stranded due to the flooding.

According to Mark, during the worst of the storm, it rained in Houston at the rate of 5-9 inches an hour. He commented that in his 20 years living close to the Gulf coast, he has never experienced anything like that. He is thanking God that his own home remains dry, though a levee 15 miles from his home has been breached. According to Mark, though thousands of people in the Houston area are still waiting to be rescued from the flood waters, neighbors are helping neighbors and people all over the country are praying for the people of Houston. As Mark says, “we worship a powerful and loving God, and he is ultimately in charge, no matter what.” Mark thanks everyone for their prayers and says he will keep us updated.

Floodwaters in Houston

GCI Disaster Relief Fund

The GCI Disaster Relief Fund was established to help provide members in disaster areas with emergency needs such as food, water, medicine, clothing, temporary housing, home and/or church hall repairs, temporary local pastoral salary expenses and other emergency needs. Monies received into the Fund that are not immediately needed will remain in the Fund to be allocated in future disasters. In previous years, money from the Fund was used to help members recover from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, storms and flooding in Bangladesh, an earthquake and tsunami in the Solomon Islands, typhoons in the Philippines and an earthquake in Haiti.

If your congregation would like to donate to the Fund, your treasurer can set up a one-time or monthly donation through the GCI-Online system (http://online.gci.org) by logging in and clicking on Donate under the Manage tab.

If your congregation prefers to send a check, make it out to Grace Communion International, indicating on the memo line that the donation is for the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The donation should be sent to:

GCI Disaster Relief Fund
Grace Communion International
P.O Box 5005
Glendora, California 91740

Philippines update

Here links to reports on recent events in GCI-Philippines:

  1. GCI Mindanao leaders meet: http://gci.ph/gci-mindanao-leaders-meeting-at-cagayan-de-oro/
  2. Outreach: helping those who grieve: http://gci.ph/helping-those-who-grieve-using-ehs/
  3. Outreach: helping fire victims: http://gci.ph/gci-brethren-extends-help-to-fire-victims-at-barangay-old-capitol-site/

SEP Silver Meadows

In July, the staff of SEP Silver Meadows in Western Canada welcomed 51 campers to a week of sporting, camping and interactive activities, while exploring the theme, The Journey – A Lifelong Adventure with Jesus. Each day after breakfast, the camp band led worship followed by a chapel message from a different speaker each day. The theme song for the camp (played whenever it was time to gather in the main hall) was, “Never Been a Moment,” by Micah Tyler. As the campers explored the journey with Jesus, the refrain from the song came to life: “There’s never been a moment… that I was not loved by you…!” Here’s a video from the camp:

On YouTube at https://youtu.be/TffjHZ9yX2Y.

Camp activities included water skiing, wakeboarding, wall climbing, paintball, archery and a beach day. Campers also enjoyed Scottish Highland games where teams challenged each other in cabre tossing, hammer throwing, kilt racing and haggis eating. They also enjoyed an evening dance with the theme “Origins: Where You Originated,” which aligned with “The Journey” camp theme. The last day of camp began with brunch, followed by a volleyball tournament and the final chapel. An offering was received, which raised over $3,000 to assist other SEP camps in South Africa and Canada. Saturday afternoon was spent on the beach with canoeing, skiing/wakeboarding/tubing, swimming, snacking and just hanging out. The highlight of the afternoon (and camp) was the baptism of two young men who have been long-time camp attendees. That evening there was a graduation ceremony and a closing Praise & Worship session with lots of flag and t-shirt signing.

What should we count?

Reposted below is a helpful Facebook post from Brad Brisco of The Missional Church Network.

Brad Brisco

When it comes to “keeping score,” churches in North America have typically focused on three metrics: buildings, budgets and butts. While there is nothing inherently wrong with counting these things, we do need to ask if keeping score of how big our buildings are, how much money people give, and how many people show up when we meet is the best indicator of how a church is doing. The fact is, these three metrics give us little real sense of the influence a church is having on its community. There is absolutely no correlation between the number of people who show up for an event and the difference those people are having where they live. The same is true with how much money people give to the church and how large a church’s buildings are. The reason we “count” those three things is because they are easy to count.

Counting (quantitative) and measuring (qualitative)

While we often use the language of “counting” and “measuring” interchangeably, there is actually a difference between the two. It is important to make the distinction because the church has largely been in the counting business, which has negatively influenced the way we think about the nature of the church and limited our impact in the world. We need to move to measuring more and counting less. Let’s make the distinction this way:

Counting is giving attention to numbers. When counting, the question to be answered is: “How many?” It is quantitative. Conversations about “How many?” are most frequently conversations about resources but can also be about activities. Conversations about resources, in a time of limited resources, are commonly conversations about sufficiency, “Do we have enough?” or, “How can we get more?” Examples could include finances or people. We ask questions like, “Do we have enough money for that mission?” or “Do we have enough volunteers for that ministry?” A quantitative question about activities might be, “How many Bible studies were conducted?”

Measuring is giving attention to change. When measuring, the question is not about “How many?” but rather about “How far?” Conversations about “How far?” are frequently about the change that can be measured over a particular time, as in, “How far have we come over the past year?” Measuring is about qualitative change. Has the quality of something changed over time? In other words, has something gotten better, or worse, since the last time we measured?

I hesitate to be too prescriptive in giving suggestions for what your church could count and measure because contexts are different. But here are a few suggestions that will hopefully crack open your imagination for metrics that fit your community more specifically.


In light of the fact that the church is a missionary entity—we are the sent, missionary people of God—one of the things we should count are missionary behaviors. For example:

How many neighbors have I gotten to know by name in the past month? How many coworkers have I gotten to know on a deeper level? How many significant conversations have I had in my favorite Third Place? How many people have I had in my home this past month? How many meals have I shared with people outside my church family this week? How many times this week have I intentionally been a blessing to someone?

Not only does counting the right things give us a better indication of a church’s engagement in the community, and ultimately its impact, but it also illustrates to the congregation what is important. The reality is what gets measured gets done and what gets measured gets repeated. When we count the things suggested in the above list, people know what is valued; they, therefore, know the target for which they need to be aiming.


While all of the suggestions listed above can certainly help a church begin to move in the right direction, these questions are still activities. They are more about “inputs” rather than “outcomes.” Unfortunately, most often in the non-profit church world, we stop with inputs.

What do we mean by a “measurable” that is outcome-based? First, they are primarily about change. If we can describe the change that we desire to see or make, then we can also have conversations about whether we are moving toward that change over time. Measuring relates not so much to what is, but rather what could be. It is more about possibilities.

Second, the best questions associated with measuring ask both about change and about time. For example, we might ask, “How have the test scores changed over the past six months in the elementary school where the church provides tutors?”

In the context of the church, measuring is about determining transformational change (discipleship) in both people and in the neighborhoods where we live. Ask yourself, “What changes would you like to see in the lives of the people, but also in the life of your community?” That is an outcome. But then ask the follow-up question, “What will it take to get to that place?” Then begin to ask measurement questions toward that change. “How will we know if we are making progress in the right direction?” “What will we measure to determine transformational change?”

Measuring is definitely more difficult than counting, but in almost every case, it is essential if we are serious about making a difference.

Don and Sue Lawson

Please pray for retired GCI pastor and district superintendent Don Lawson and his wife Sue.

Don and Sue

Sue, who is in a nursing home, continues to battle Alzheimer’s disease and Don continues his battle with a blood disorder.

On August 19, Don’s adult children noticed that their father was acting confused. They called an ambulance and it was determined that Don had suffered a minor stroke. After a few days in the hospital, Don was released with doctors saying his prognosis for recovery is good. Though feeling weak, Don has fully recovered his speech.

Cards may be sent to:

Don Lawson
82383 Stradivari
Indio, CA 92203


You are invited to EngageGCI, a worship event coming this fall to Wisconsin Dells, WI. Christian conference and family retreat rolled into one, EngageGCI focuses on faith, family, friendship and fellowship, with activities for all ages. Workshops and plenary sessions will explore the biblical concept of neighbor: What does it mean to be a neighbor? How can we connect with and care for our neighbors in meaningful ways? For additional information and to register, go to https://www.engagegci.org/.