Larry Hinkle retires

Longtime GCI pastor and district leader Dr. Larry Hinkle recently retired from GCI employment. To be near their son and daughter, Larry and his wife Joan have relocated from Florida to Morganton, NC. Upon arrival there, GCI’s Hickory, NC, congregation held a party to honor the couple. Larry continues to direct the spiritual renewal ministry, Odyssey in Christ, and to teach a course in spiritual formation at Grace Communion Seminary. Pictured below (left to right) are Larry, Joan and Hickory congregation members thanking Larry and Joan for their many years of service to GCI.

Cards may be sent to:

Larry and Joan Hinkle
309 New Orleans Blvd.
Morganton, NC 2865

Pastoral Residents

A group of five GCI-USA Pastoral Residents, one Ministry Intern and five Regional and Lead Pastors gathered recently in Cincinnati, OH, for a Pastoral Residents’ training conference. Following the theme “Preparing to be a Pastor,” the training began with a study of John 13:1-17 that looked at the humility and other-centered ministry of Jesus with his disciples in the Upper Room. The “go-and-do-likewise” interactive study set the tone for the three days of training.

(Left to right) Intern: Gordon Herrmann (Cincinnati, OH, west); Pastoral Residents: David Borum (Eugene, OR), Elizabeth Mullins (Hickory, NC), Jillian Carranto Morrison (Glendora, CA), Cara Garrity (Boston, MA) and Patrick Quinn (Cincinnati, OH, west). Ceeja Malmkar, Pastoral Resident in Oklahoma City, OK, was unable to attend.

Additional training sessions addressed these topics: Mentoring Matters, Loving Your Neighbor, the Spiritual Practice of “Go,” Ministry Action Plans, and Healthy Church. As the conference ended, the participants joined the Sunday worship service of Christ Fellowship Church to honor and celebrate the generosity of the congregation that hosted the conference.

Here are comments from those who attended:

  • “I liked the intentional focus on what it means to be a pastor.”
  • “I was encouraged by the honesty and transparency of all involved. I also enjoyed getting to know one another better and seeing the humility and wisdom of the other pastoral residents.”
  • “Seeing the depth of wisdom, maturity and commitment in these mostly-young people was inspiring. I can’t wait to see how God continues to work in their lives!”

GCI’s U.S. Pastoral Resident Program is coordinated by Anthony Mullins. The next gathering is being planned for June 23-25, 2019 at GCI’s International Home Office in Charlotte, NC. The Pastoral Residents and Interns are currently meeting twice-a-month by video chat to work through the CORE curriculum provided by GiANT Worldwide.

July Equipper

Here the articles and sermons (for August) in the recently published July issue of GCI Equipper:

From Greg: Mind the Gap
Greg Williams urges GCI leaders to take action to close the gaps between what we say we value and what we actually do.

Prayer Guide: July 2018
Here are topics from our GCI family to pray about each day in July.

On Leadership: Power Test
Rick Shallenberger examines a primary source of a leader’s influence.

God’s Answer to Suffering
Gary Deddo addresses the question: Why does God allow us to suffer?

Kid’s Korner: We Believe
Lance McKinnon reviews GCI’s new tool for discipling kids.

RCL sermons for August 2018
Here are the Revised Common Lectionary-synced sermons for August:
– Sermon for August 5, 2018
Sermon for August 12, 2018
Sermon for August 19, 2018
– Sermon for August 26, 2018

Death of Ken Swisher

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of longtime GCI pastor, Ken Swisher.

Ken Swisher

Several days before his death at age 89, Ken addressed members and guests at a party celebrating the 65th anniversary of GCI’s Big Sandy, TX, congregation (Ken had served as the congregation’s sixth pastor many years ago and, in retirement, had served the congregation as an elder for the last several years). In his remarks, Ken mentioned that he was ready to go and be with his Lord and Savior. He died at home on July 19. His funeral was held on July 22 with retired GCI Pastor Kelly Barfield officiating.

Born in 1928 in Tuscola, IL, Ken served honorably in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He then served WCG/GCI as a pastor for over 40 years, caring for congregations in Texas and other locations across the country. Ken loved riding motorcycles, target shooting, studying theology, donating his handyman and tinkering talents to those in need, and spending time with his family.

Ken was preceded in death by his wife Beverly Jean Battles Swisher. He is survived by two sons (Kenneth Swisher and Timothy Swisher), four daughters (Regina Montgomery, Loretta Hearn, Ruth Klock and Kathryn Vine); 14 grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren.

Cards to the Swisher family may be sent to:

Kenneth & Janalee Swisher
12131 CR 1206
Tyler, Texas 75703

Open for ministry!

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Greg and Susan Williams

The move of our Home Office from Glendora, CA, to Charlotte, NC, was quite a challenge. Not only were there hundreds of boxes to pack and unpack, there was the challenge of getting the staff members who moved from California to North Carolina situated in their new homes. There was also the challenge of filling some key staff positions. Thankfully, those tasks are now complete, and I’m pleased to report that GCI’s International Home Office is open for ministry!

Open House

To celebrate, we recently held an open house at the Home Office. It was attended by local GCI members and other guests. Here are some pictures (click to enlarge):

Welcome to our new home!

New Media Team

Michelle

As noted by Joseph Tkach in his March 14 Update letter, several Glendora Home Office employees did not relocate to Charlotte. As a result, we needed to fill several Home Office staff positions. A primary need involved staffing the GCI Media team. In Glendora, that team was competently directed since 2010 by Nathan Smith. But having recently become a father, and with all four of the grandparents located on the West coast, Nathan decided not to relocate to Charlotte. We are grateful for his service, including his willingness over the last several months to share his knowledge and expertise in preparing our new GCI Media Director, Michelle Fleming.

Michelle, the daughter of one of GCI’s mission directors, has been a Home Office employee for several months. She is bright, quickly learns new skills, and has the management acumen needed to tackle the challenge of producing media content on behalf of our global GCI family. Most importantly, Michelle is a GCI elder with a passion for how the Spirit is shaping us as a fellowship. I’m confident that her passion will shine brightly in the new and creative media productions to come from the newly formed GCI Media team, which now includes Joe Brannen and Charlotte Rakestraw. For an article about the Media team, click here, but first let me brag a bit on the newest team members:

Charlotte
Joe

Joe Brannen, a GCI elder, is our Digital Content Developer. Joe does a magnificent job telling the GCI story in videos, photographs and other media because he and his young family have lived the story at home and through ministry in GCI congregations and camps. Charlotte Rakestraw, the daughter of a GCI pastor in Florida, is our Social Media and Correspondence Coordinator. Having discovered a passion for graphic design as a teen, she majored in that area of study in college, and has worked as a designer for ten years. Charlotte now uses her considerable graphic design talent to tell the GCI story using 21st century technology.

I’m thrilled that this talented Media team is now in place in our Home Office. I’m blessed to have their offices adjacent to mine. Their infectious energy keeps me excited to come to work every day!

Come visit us. We’re open for ministry!
Greg Williams, GCI Vice President

Mission trip

Crossing Borders, a GCI GenMin chartered mission organization, recently completed its 25th trip to Mexico (they conduct two each year). Crossing Borders’ director Lee Berger submitted the following remembrances and pictures from the most recent trip.

We continue to see that our mission trips are all about relationship—relationships our missionaries from all over the country have with one another, relationships with our Mexican ministry partners, and relationships with the people we are blessed to serve in Mexico. As shown in the pictures below (click to enlarge), our recent trip included all sorts of service activities involving about a dozen of our ministry partners. Each partner has their own unique set of challenges—ministry on the border in Mexico is very demanding! Over the years, these partners have come to trust us as supporters of their ministries and as encouragers of them personally.

Here are some of the activities our 17 missionaries were involved with during this 25th mission trip:

  • One of our partners, Pastor Pedro, is facing a deadline to make payments for the land on which his church building sits. He and his wife are working hard to expand the size of the building while paying off the land debt. We were able to provide some monetary help.
  • We supported another ministry partner family by providing two meals and playing with their three boys all day. We spent time listening attentively to their needs and stories, laughed and prayed, painted the exterior of their house, rebuilt a storage shed, repaired their broken computer (by which they homeschool their children), and strengthened friendships and ministry bonds.
  • We visited a family for whom we built a small house several years ago.
  • We distributed bags of socks and toiletry items to homeless people.
  • We visited some partner churches where we shared messages about godly unity and thankfulness. We also conducted a four-station Vacation Bible School.
  • We visited a senior citizen’s home and had some of the residents up dancing to lively praise songs.
  • We sponsored a group lunch with personal gifts for each ministry partner.
  • We conducted a Fiesta at a children’s home, complete with a new water slip-and-slide that we brought with us, water-blaster tubes, two meals, lively Uno card games, various craft projects, soccer, breaking a piñata filled with candy, and more.

God willing, we will head back to Mexico on December 7-10, 2018 to distribute Christmas gifts. For information, go to www.cbmission.org, or contact Lee Berger at 903-746-4463 or by email at lee.berger@gci.org.

Reaching out

Here are reports on two community outreach events conducted by GCI-USA congregations.

Derby, Kansas: Community Fun Night

GCI’s Derby congregation (located near Wichita), recently held a community “Grilling and Games” fun night. Held on the church lawn, this was the first outside-the-building outreach event for the congregation in its new location. In addition to festive street signs, the congregation promoted the event with a Facebook ad linked to their website where families could sign up for a free gift-card drawing. About 30 non-member guests attended, most coming due to personal invitation. The guests joined members for food and yard games, with a few also touring the church building. The congregation plans to conduct a Back 2 School outreach event in August followed by a Backpack Blessing worship service.

Mesquite, Texas: Community Care Fair

GCI’s congregation in the East Dallas area recently held a Community Care Fair. About 200 people from the community benefited from the event, which included a free “yard sale,” blood drive, job fair, bounce houses, refreshments and prayer booth. Members joined with beneficiaries of the congregation’s weekly food distribution ministry to set up the event, barbecue food, sort seven pallets of clothing, help guests take their new treasures to their cars, and clean up. The event was funded with contributions from community businesses. It was an inspiring time of participating with Jesus in his compassion for the community!

New GCI Media Team

We are pleased to introduce the newly formed GCI Media team:

L to R: Joe Brannen, Michelle Fleming and Charlotte Rakestraw

Led by Media Director Michelle Fleming, the Media team was filled out recently when Joe Brannen (from Dallas, TX) and Charlotte Rakestraw (from Tallahassee, FL) joined the GCI Home Office staff in Charlotte, NC. Joe serves as Digital Content Developer, and Charlotte serves as Social Media and Correspondence Coordinator. The team works closely with GCI’s publications editors and authors (including Ted Johnston, Rick Shallenberger, Gary Deddo and Michael Morrison), GCI information technology, and various consultants in producing GCI’s denominational media (publications, websites, videos and social media).

Here are profiles of the three GCI Media team members (click each image to enlarge):

Outreach in Rochester

GCI members Lloyd and Mary Elwell, leaders in GCI’s congregation in Rochester, NY, founded a ministry in January this year that they call Hidden Pearls. Its mission is to reach out to cognitively-delayed people and their families in the area surrounding their church building, to help them comprehend the gospel and to provide pathways for them to be included in all aspects of Church life.

According to the Elwells (pictured at right), “Our thinking was to reach out to and disciple both the cognitively-delayed and their families.” In ministering to this focus group, Mary and Lloyd emphasize all aspects of Christian life based on personal experience—their youngest son is cognitively-delayed and Mary is involved professionally with the cognitively-delayed. Their oldest son also brings to the ministry the perspective of a sibling.

At first, the Elwells envisioned that their focus group would come to their church. They prepared brochures and began passing them out to agencies and other contacts in the community. In January they started to hold meetings but found it difficult to get participants to the church. Scheduling of staff and availability of transportation was a problem, so they changed their strategy. After receiving permission, they began holding the meetings at a group home that serves this focus group. Now they have a small group with all six housemates in the home participating (they are pictured below participating in one of the small group meeting learning activities).

Each meeting has a “remember phrase” that sums up the main theme of the lesson. During the meeting there are discussions, questions are answered, and there is lots of fun and a snack. One participant has closed the meeting with prayer on several occasions. Often the group home staff sits in and helps. Several have commented on the small group to staff at other group homes. The Elwells hope to see the number of small groups serving this focus community multiply.