GCI Update

Our true worth

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach

Years ago, the McDonalds corporation conducted an advertising campaign that declared in no uncertain terms, YOU DESERVE A BREAK TODAY! We’ve all seen ads like that—ones proclaiming that we deserve to own or consume a particular product. Many companies use this marketing approach to get us to buy their coffee, hamburgers, hair products, even toilet tissue. It’s not that I’m against buying nice things—recently I bought a dark chocolate, caramel and peanut-covered apple. Tammy and I definitely enjoyed it! But let me ask you this: Is our worth as human beings really about the things we own and the products we consume?


Advertising campaigns like the one described above are designed to get us to view ourselves more highly than we ought so that we’ll reward ourselves by buying the advertiser’s product. Sadly, that scheme works because our fallen humanity is subject to flattery (Psalm 5:9 NKJV; Romans 16:18 NKJV). We see that in the case of Adam and Eve (our first representatives), who rejected God’s good purposes for humanity. The distortion of human nature resulted, though God did not give up on us. He went to work advancing his purpose to bring many sons and daughters to glory (Hebrews 2:10). In doing so, God does not give us a slick sales pitch appealing to our distorted sense of self-worth. Rather, he invites us to trust in and follow his Son, the second Adam, who took on himself our fallen human nature and restored it to what God intended so that in him and by his Spirit, God’s eternal purpose for us would be realized (Ephesians 1:3-14).

Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus gave humanity a worth that far exceeds what we could ever deserve, earn or even imagine. The apostle Paul put it this way: “Yea doubtless… I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8, KJV). Paul knew that a living, deep relationship with God through Christ has infinite worth—inestimable value—compared to what any finite source could possibly provide. He reached that conclusion by examining his own spiritual heritage, no doubt recalling the words of Psalm 8: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?’” (Psalm 8:4).

Crucifixion (after Rembrandt) by Bonnat
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Have you ever wondered why God came in the person of Jesus the way he did? Couldn’t he have come with angelic hosts displaying power and glory? Couldn’t he have come as a talking animal, or like a Marvel Comics superhero? But as we know, Jesus came in the humblest manner—a helpless infant. His plan was to be put to death in a horrible manner. He did this because he was mindful of us. I cannot help but be encouraged when I remind myself of the amazing truth that though he did not need us, he came anyway. We have nothing to give him except honor, love and appreciation.

Since God does not need us, it prompts the question of our worth. In crass material terms, we’re worth relatively little. The value of the chemicals that compose our body is about $160.00. If we were to sell the bone marrow, DNA and organs in our body, the price might go up to millions of dollars. But that price does not begin to compare to our true worth. In Jesus, we have inestimable worth as new creations. Jesus is the source of that worth—the worth of a life lived in relationship with God. The triune God brought us into existence from nothing in order that we would be eternally in perfect holy and loving relationship with him. That relationship is a union and communion in which we freely and gladly receive all God gives us. In return, we entrust to him all we are and have.

Christian thinkers over the centuries have expressed the glory of this relationship of love in various ways: Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “This infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.” C.S. Lewis said that, “No one who has experienced [the joy of knowing God] would ever exchange it for all the happiness in the world.” He also said that we humans were made to “run on God.”

God created all that is (including us) because, as the apostle John put it, “God is love” (1 John 4:8b). God’s love is the supreme reality—the basis of all created reality. His love is of infinite value and it is his redeeming and transforming love expressed toward us that gives us our true worth.

Dear friends, let us never lose sight of the reality of God’s love for us. When we have pain, whether physical or emotional, let us remember that God loves us, and will, in his timing, take all pain away. When we have sorrow, loss and grieving, let us remember that God loves us and will, one day, wipe away all tears.

Let me conclude with an analogy that I hope and pray resonates with you. When my children were young, they asked me why I love them. My answer was not that they were good kids who were good looking (which they were, and still are). It was not that they were honor roll students (which they were). Instead, my answer was that I loved them BECAUSE THEY WERE MINE! That is no mere marketing slogan—it speaks to the core reason of why God loves us: We belong to him, and that makes us more valuable than we can possibly imagine. Let us never forget that!

Rejoicing in our true worth as God’s beloved,
Joseph Tkach, GCI President

Elizabeth Mullins

Here is a profile highlighting the life and ministry of Elizabeth Mullins, one of our GCI Pastoral Residents (click on the image to enlarge):

Rod Matthews retires

As noted by John McLean, GCI Mission Developer for Australia,

2018 is truly a year of transitions, reminding us that change is an inevitable part of life and a continuing reality of our walk of faith and Christian journey.

After 45 years of committed service to our denomination in both ministry and administration, Rod Matthews has retired from GCI employment. In a GCI-Australia Pastors’ Conference last month, attended by GCI President Joseph Tkach and Vice President Greg Williams, Rod and his wife Ruth were honored for their many years of service. According to John,

Ruth and Rod (at right) being honored with a gift.

We thanked God for Rod and Ruth, and their many years of service, and prayed for God’s continued blessing into the future. Rod has served in different capacities in different countries, including Australia, the USA, the Philippines, New Zealand, India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, The Solomon Islands, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and travelled into Nepal and Bangladesh. And probably more besides!

I know you will join us here in Australia in congratulating Rod and Ruth for their considerable labors of love, endurance and hope—their ministry in Jesus Christ through all the ups and downs of our collective journey. Please join us in praying for God’s blessing on them as they retire. Rod will continue on the New Zealand Board for some months. And a further denominational farewell-retirement celebration will be held for Rod and Ruth and other retiring Mission Developers at an upcoming conference in Charlotte to be held in October of this year.

Cards may be sent to the Matthews at:

Rod and Ruth Matthews
PO Box 402
Varsity Lakes, QLD 4227

GCI Philippines

Here are links to reports on recent developments in GCI-Philippines:

Pastor honored

One of the ways GCI Pastor Jeffrey Broadnax reaches out to the community nearby his congregation’s place of meeting is by serving as a chaplain to the Grove City, OH, police force. Pastor Jeff (second from left in the picture below) was recently honored for his service as a police chaplain by being one of two people given the Hometown Hero Award for the greater Columbus, OH, area. A local radio station and Credit Union took nominations for the honor from community  members and the Assistant Fire Chief for the City of Columbus nominated those who were given the award. Congratulations Jeff!

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.

Death of a 102 year old GCI member

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Worley Berisford of Zanesville, OH. One of GCI’s oldest members, Worley died peacefully at age 102. Born in 1916 in West Virginia, Worley married Virginia (Ginny) Kurtzman in 1941. Virginia survives him.

Worley and Ginny

A veteran of the U.S. Army, Worley served in six World War II campaigns as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. He was a school teacher for 80 years, not fully retiring until 91. He had a great passion for music; his favorite pastime was playing his fiddle while his wife accompanied on the piano. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and also a long-time member of GCI’s Cambridge, OH, congregation where he served as a worship leader and sermon speaker. Worley loved the Lord Jesus Christ with all his heart.

Cards may be sent to:

Virginia Berisford
c/o the Wood Haven Care Center
1020 Taylor St.
Zanesville, OH, 43701

EngageGCI 2018

Join us on September 27-30 for EngageGCI 2018—four days of family-friendly, gospel-centered worship and fun in the Wisconsin Dells! Hosted by GCI’s North-Central Region, EngageGCI is a worship event, Christian conference, and family retreat rolled into one. The conference will be held at the Chula Vista Resort and Water Park in Wisconsin Dells, WI, which provides a range of amenities including fine and casual dining, a large indoor water park, and a scenic outdoor riverwalk.

For more information and to register, go to engagegci.org.

Recent ordinations

Congratulations to the following men and women who recently were ordained to serve as elders within Grace Communion International:

  • Gordon Brown, London, United Kingdom
  • Davina Winn, Richmond, Virginia (see picture below)
  • Susan Williams, Home Office, Charlotte, NC (see picture below)
  • Maxcine Nesbitt, Freeport, Bahamas
  • Daphne Sidney, Australia
  • Anthony Walton, Los Angeles, CA
  • Brent Meranda, Cincinnati (East), OH
Davina Winn being ordained (her husband Bill at right)
Susan Williams being ordained (her husband Greg behind her)