GCI Update

Gospel Engagement

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

The National Association of Evangelicals in the US is a body of evangelical denominations, organizations, schools, churches, and individuals. There are 40 denominations that represent 45,000 churches across America. The NAE works to connect and represent evangelicals with a desire to be an influence for good.

In early December, Susan and I attended the two-day executive meeting where denominational leaders meet with the NAE President for an open forum. We sit in an informal circle and we discuss whatever topics the various leaders bring up.

The meetings informed and inspired me on several levels. Many of the denominational leaders identify themselves with the role of being the chief executive and spiritual leader for their organization, and this is a specific job that only a few people hold. So, it is a marvelous opportunity to be able to discuss how each of us approaches our day-to-day work, the challenges we face and the trends we are seeing. The comradery we share and the noticeable love for Christ and his church are palpable.

I am also inspired by the magnificent work of planting and growing churches that are being accomplished by several movements. City-wide campaigns to tangibly share the love of Christ and the message of the gospel are taking place in Omaha, NE, Austin, TX, and Fort Wayne, IN. The stories were inspiring and humbling. In representation of GCI I stated my amazement of these wonderful efforts and then shared that we are making a humble effort to engage the one-square-mile neighborhood where our church meeting halls are located. I was affirmed by several leaders that this may seem small, but you must start from where you are.

It is a good place to start – wherever it is that God has placed us to meet and worship and share his love with others. I pray that our 900 churches around the world are getting started in this endeavor to know your one-square-mile neighborhood and the neighbors who live there (if you are a rural church the area would expand beyond a mile). Our challenge is getting to know the rhythms and activities of our neighborhoods, and to discover the connecting points. There are many ways to connect to life in the neighborhood — a weekend farmer’s market or a community Facebook page — the question is how do we then connect the neighbors back to the life of the church? Maybe it’s a free hamburger at a fun day in our parking lot? Maybe it is a seat in one of the member’s homes at a small group meeting? Whatever the connection is, it must be about the relationship and valuing each person in that one square mile as a beloved child of God. This is the gospel engagement we are aiming for.

In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells us we are the light of the world and a city built on a hill cannot be hidden. As a church, we want to be reflecting the light of Jesus to the neighborhoods we inhabit. This is how we share God’s love and life with others. If the church is being the body of Christ, it will be known, and it will continually aspire to be an influence for good as the love of Jesus is freely shared. In essence, GCI needs a big debut to spread the life and love of Jesus that we all possess and want others to experience as well. Share the story of your debut and let’s celebrate together.

Praying over the one square mile,

Greg Williams

Prayers for The Philippines: Taal Volcano Eruption

“Distant view of Taal Volcano Island from a restaurant in Tagaytay, Cavite,” by Patrick Roque, is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Some have asked about the status of the Taal Volcano eruption near Tagaytay City. Tagaytay is one of those favorite vacation and convention places near Manila, due to its cooler climate, its scenic view of the volcano and the lake around it. Many of our GCI leaders’ conferences are held in Tagaytay City. After about 43 years of calm and occasional slight activity, Taal volcano suddenly erupted and has spewed thick volcanic ash thousands of meters to the sky.

Because of the north direction of the wind at that time, its huge amount of ashfall spread to a wide area affecting about 4 million students and about 4000 schools in the surrounding provinces including Metro Manila, affecting about P600 million pesos ( about US $ 12 million) to crops and so much more in terms of dislocations of thousands of people who now live in scores of evacuation centers, and business disruptions in the surrounding areas especially Tagaytay City. The spewing of the ashes also included lighting at the crater, and about 200 earthquakes since Monday, ranging from intensity 1.5 to 5, that have caused huge cracks on some houses and roads.

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, this is indicative that the volcano is preparing for a dangerous explosion that can devastate the surrounding areas. Due to this threat, the government has declared the whole province of Batangas in a state of calamity, and has advised people in areas within 14 kilometers to move to safer places.

We are coordinating with the pastors and some members in those areas. We have learned that there is one family in Talisay who had to evacuate to safer grounds in Santo Tomas, Batangas. Except for the messy roads and ashfalls in their houses, the members near Tagaytay are safe and hoping that the ash coming from the volcano will not lead to related respiratory and skin diseases. Nevertheless, here is an interesting update today from Pastor Pol Makahiya, one of the pastors in an adjacent city.

“Sir, I just had a courtesy call with the Mayor this morning and asked how we can serve the evacuees. I was referred to the command center. I talked with the head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) and we were given access to the evacuation centers, especially the schools. At this time, there are about 7,000 individuals in 10 evacuation centers here in Santo Tomas, Batangas, and 6 of which are in the schools.

A few hours later, he sent another text. “I was able to preach to about 37 evacuees in 2 rooms. I am already exhausted. Sharp dust particles are widespread. I just arrived home, but so encouraging, because the people are so thirsty for God’s word.” He said tonight, January 15, that he will be back tomorrow, with one more servant leader to minister to those in the evacuation centers.

Please pray for the continued safety of the members and people who were traumatized and dislocated by this eruption. So much mess to clean up, and so many people and animals who need help. There is a great need for restoration. We also pray for safety and guidance upon our servant leaders reaching out in those areas like Pastor Pol. In the midst of this chaos, we also pray for God’s word to bring comfort, healing, and even new life to those who will listen and believe.

Eugene Guzon,
GCI Philippines National Director and Asia Superintendent

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GCI Disaster Relief Fund

If your congregation has a heart to help members impacted by major disasters like the one in The Phillipines, consider donating to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The Fund helps 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 this Fund has been 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 out of local church funds, you  may do so at www.gci.org/go/chdonate

Individuals who wish to donate may do so at www.gci.org/disasterrelief

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. Send the donation to:

GCI Disaster Relief Fund
Grace Communion International
3120 Whitehall Park Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28273

Prayers for Australia: Bushfire Crisis

A coastal Australian landscape image depicting large smoke clouds billowing on the horizon.
“Bushfire in the distance, from lookout at Angourie,” by Tatters, is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

We appreciate the love and concern of our brothers and sisters around the globe. Please direct your prayers toward rainfall. We desperately need rain to help extinguish the flames completely, pray for the safety of members in fire-affected areas, and prayers for the communities who have suffered the loss of homes and businesses, for long-term recovery.

Please see the following email, which John McLean, Superintendent of Australasia, sent to all our members in relation to the fires in Australia:

The whole world has seen the pictures and read reports of the current devastating fires around Australia. The vision has been apocalyptic, the scale a national tragedy. With extremely hot, dry conditions, and lethal winds, the destruction has been, and is continuing to be, of a scale that is overwhelmingly disastrous. The physics alone are amazing, with fires developing their own weather systems. The sheer size of the area of land burned is staggering. Survivors describe hearing the sound of the roar coming from the bush made by the approaching flames. Heavy smoke has blanketed huge areas, making the air quality dangerous, and even going as far as New Zealand.

It’s not just a national disaster, but an incredibly personal and community one. We are saddened by the deaths directly caused by the fires. Early on as the fires broke out, two of our members perished in fires in northern NSW. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones. And those who have lost houses, all their possessions and mementos, stock, farm machinery, fences…you name it. There has been a tremendous loss of wildlife and forests, too.

In the midst of all this, the outstanding and sacrificial service of the fire brigades and volunteers has been heroic. Sometimes we can only stand in awe and respect of the job they do and how they do it. These times of crises bring out the very best, and sometimes the worst, in human beings. And they remind us of the things that really matter in life: love, relationships, communion, and the hope we have in Jesus.

It’s a time for prayer, and support of those in desperate need any way we can. I have received personal messages from Joe and Tammy Tkach, Mike Feazell, Randy Bloom, Mat Morgan, Gavin Henderson and others, including a congregation in the USA, and ACCM students from Africa and the Caribbean. These messages expressed shock at the scale of devastation and assured us of their prayers for all concerned.

As I am writing this now, we are beginning to experience some refreshing rainfall – so we are truly most grateful. We hope and pray the rains will fall in the much-needed areas.

God bless,
Daphne Sidney, Church Administration GCI-Australia

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GCI Disaster Relief Fund

If your congregation has a heart to help members impacted by major disasters like the one in Australia, consider donating to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The Fund helps 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 this Fund has been 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 out of local church funds, you  may do so at www.gci.org/go/chdonate

Individuals who wish to donate may do so at www.gci.org/disasterrelief

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. Send the donation to:

GCI Disaster Relief Fund
Grace Communion International
3120 Whitehall Park Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28273

Parents Afternoon Out Outreach

GC Derby, in Derby, Kansas, held a Parent Afternoon Out on December 15, 2019. Our goal was to share God’s love with the children by providing a fun afternoon of activities and to be a blessing to their parents by giving them an opportunity to have an afternoon break from their normal routine. Though the weather was freezing rain and snow, eight students and one mom came to participate.  Thirteen GC Derby members, who all had current background checks, stayed after church services and our monthly potluck meal to host the fun.

The children were divided into two groups with a leader who stayed with them and made sure they got to participate in all the activities.  We had four activity stations, two on the main level and two in the basement.  The stations were cookie decorating, card making, a scavenger hunt for items located in the landscaped village around the train set and a “Joy to the World” coloring wheel craft where the events leading up to Christ’s birth were colored while the story was read to the children.  We all joined together for a snack break, an obstacle course and the final event in the sanctuary to watch a video:  Legend of the Candy Cane – The Candymaker’s gift.

It was a wonderful afternoon of interaction and fun for everyone that attended. We know many were praying for us before and during this event, we appreciated it very much. We had a joy-filled time being God’s instruments of peace and love.

May we all see clearly in 2020,
Pastor Kirk Hayden, GC Derby

 

Big Sandy Commissions Venue Champions

We are thankful for our husband and wife worship team of George and Sarah Strub. They led us with songs of praise, including “Hosanna,” “Beautiful One,” a lively favorite, “Everywhere I Go,” and ended with the Newsboys version of “Forever Reign.” They pointed us to Jesus, and the joy he is for us and in us.

Pastor Jerome’s message “The Discipline of Celebration” followed that theme. God is filled with the joy that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share (Luke 3:21-22). Jesus wants us to share in their joy (John 17:5-8, 13, 20-24). In John 15:11, Jesus says about us: “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” 

When joy overflows, you have a Celebration! We were created for life, the Life of God, filling us and spilling out in joyous celebration! In Genesis we are told that all that God created was GOOD, and is given to us to enjoy. Jesus came in our flesh, and he enjoyed a good celebration and the good things of his creation. His first miracle was turning water into fine wine so that a wedding party could continue! As he said, I came that they [us!] may have life, and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10)

We celebrated the abundant sharing of his life with our monthly Communion service, and followed that with the commissioning of our Love Venue Champion Rick Peterson, our Hope Venue Champion George Strub, and our Faith Venue Champion Sarah Strub. We then celebrated their commissioning with cake and punch, looking forward to how we can become an even greater and healthier expression of the body of Christ here in Big Sandy, celebrating and sharing him!

Jerome Ellard
Pastor, Grace Communion Big Sandy

Mission and Miracles

On the Crossing Borders mission trip in December 2019 (our 28th trip into Mexico), Chaplain Steve Solari encouraged all the attendees to look for miracles from God on the trip.  Maybe not always sea-parting, disease-curing, raise-from-the-dead type miracles—but miracles nonetheless.  Over the 72 hours we were together on the trip, God was actively working in our lives, in the lives of those we served, in circumstances and events all around us.

The families to which Crossing Borders gives shoebox gifts are extremely financially poor and live in desperate conditions.  Whether there will be food for the next meal is always a concern, having no electricity or running water is normal, and corruption and violence is a common occurrence.  But when we see the bright smile of a child as he or she receives a simple shoebox gift, we know that smile is a miracle from God.

Many of our mission trip attendees do not speak Spanish, and most of those we serve do not speak English.  But we find miraculous bonds of communication in facial expressions, hand motions, hugs and the heartfelt desire to share God’s love. It is amazing how well we can convey our thoughts and understand others despite the language differences.

Here’s one miracle story:  A lady from a church in Texas had material in her closet that she hadn’t used, and several weeks prior to the trip she decided to send it to one of the pastor’s wives in Mexico.  On Saturday the Crossing Borders team delivered the fabric and on Sunday the pastor’s wife in Mexico offered for one of the seamstresses in her church to look at the fabric and see if she could use it.

The lady was overwhelmed to find fabric in the box that matched their church’s décor.  The week prior (during Mexico’s National Day of Prayer), the lady felt God telling her to make cushions for the church altar because the ladies were using their jackets to kneel on.  She told the Lord she didn’t know where she would get the supplies, but if he provided, she would make the cushions.  Not only was the box of fabric a perfect match to the church décor, but it was exactly the size she had prayed for as well.  This lady had no idea that the fabric was already on its way to Mexico before she even prayed the prayer!  In Matthew 6:8 Jesus tells us that “Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

At our first event of the weekend, we were blessed to share the event with two other ministries:  A Bible-based youth teaching program and an orphanage with a busload of children.  Our Crossing Borders team was able to perform a drama about the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, we led in joyful singing, we prepared and fed everyone a hot lunch, we visited with and encouraged several ministry partners, and we distributed shoebox gifts to all the children.  There was also a preaching service (by a Mexican pastor) and a call for salvation decisions.  A miracle took place in the lives of several young people when they surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ, and we were able to pray for these young converts.

I could tell about other miracles on the trip, such as how we somehow managed to pack 1200 shoebox gifts into our vans; it didn’t look possible.  Or how our three vans were the last vehicles to cross the bridge coming back into the U.S. one night  before the authorities closed the bridge for some reason.

Those of us on the mission trip got to see and hear God’s miracles.  But many of you reading this report contributed shoebox gifts and/or were praying for the trip.  With your support, our attendees were able to participate with the Father, Son and Spirit as our amazing God showered his blessings on everyone involved.  Thank you for your prayerful support of Crossing Borders missions!  May we all continue to recognize and give thanks for the miracles God performs every day in our life.

Our next mission trip is scheduled for June 20-28, 2020.  Info at www.cbmission.org or call 903-746-4463.

In Him,
Lee Berger, Crossing Borders Mission Director

 

GCI Carama Church Hall Entrance Ceremony

Dear Members around the World

Warm greetings from GCI Burundi, in Jesus name. I hope this report finds you well. The purpose of this report is to let you know our joy as we gave thanks to the Almighty God for providing us an acceptable church hall in Bujumbura-Carama as recommended by the Burundi Government.

Secondly, we extend our gratitude to all who prayed for us around the world, and especially to GCI France for its donation, which helped us construct the church hall. I can’t begin to express the depth of my gratitude. You did wonderful work and we shall not forget this good partnership. May God bless you so much.

Thanks again for your regular prayers to GCI Burundi. We are a young church ministry, and in Burundi while there are many ripe for the harvest, we need just as many willing servants. Your continuous partnership will help the church of God in Burundi to grow in many ways.

I strongly invite those who are able to travel to visit GCI Burundi many times. May God bless you.

Yours in Christ’s service,
Dr. Eugene Sibomana
GCI Burundi Legal Representative
Whatsapp number: +257 75 928 899

 

 

Break my heart for what breaks Yours…

Psalm 51 (whole Psalm, but specifically verse 17):

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

It’s 2020—a new year with new hopes, plans and dreams. It’s a new year with the same everyday hurts, struggles and brokenness. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to live with the brokenness we have experienced, or even caused, in our everyday worlds, which often leaves us feeling separate or far from our Father. Thankfully, God knew we would need to be reminded of his presence with us in all things – sharing Jesus and the Holy Spirit with us as well as providing faithful reminders through Scripture.

David shared this psalm after Nathan came to him about his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. Talk about brokenness caused and experienced in life! Yet even David is able to remember and share God’s presence with him! David’s psalm shows us God is ready, willing and able to bring goodness from our mess. God reaches out to us to participate with him, in the midst of our brokenness, to shine his light, goodness, and love into the world.

How does God do that? I think it is the same way an artist creates stained glass windows. He takes the broken pieces of our lives and puts them together to create something beautiful that becomes magnificent when his light shines through it for all to see. This year, may you find new meaning in your brokenness and experience God’s life-giving presence even in the most overwhelming of circumstances.

Prayer: Lord, may my brokenness no longer hinder me from joining you in your mission of love. Help me see the beauty in my brokenness that I might shine your light for all those around me to see and share. Amen!

 

By Carrie Osborne
Associate Pastor
Chillicothe, Ohio