GCI Update

Help in Times of Disaster

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

The year 2020 will be remembered as the year the world faced a pandemic that stopped much of the economy, sent people to “shelter in place” in their homes and churches revised the way they get together for worship. It will also be remembered for several natural disasters—fires, earthquakes, severe drought and volcanic eruptions. Some wonder if we’ve reached “the end of time”; others understand these cataclysmic events have always been with us. The Bible is transparent in letting us know that trials, persecution, plagues, famines and weather events are a part of our fallen world. Notice the words of Jesus:

And the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (Matthew 7:25 NRSV)

Over the years we have experienced many natural disasters with our extended family around the world. Some have asked what our GCI Disaster Relief fund is for and how we have used it. The purpose of this letter isn’t to solicit donations, but to inform and to show our appreciation.

Since the inception of the Disaster Relief fund in 2005, over $800,000 has been distributed to provide relief to the GCI family from the effects of hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, drought, and Ebola, just to name a few.

In just the last couple years, donations have helped the GCI family in the following disasters:

  • Hurricane Dorian – Bahamas
  • Taal Volcano – Philippines
  • Cyclone Idia – Mozambique
  • Flooding – Nepal
  • Hurricane Maria – Dominica
  • Hurricane Harvey – Houston, TX

Because many have given to this fund before a disaster has struck, we have been able to quickly send aid as soon as needs are made known. We want to thank the congregations who have contributed and allowed us to provide aid in times of need.

The Disaster Relief fund is never meant to cover all costs related to any emergency; rather, it is designed to provide help where we can, and perhaps where other help is not available. It is our practice to have those affected by natural disasters seek the help provided from government and other relief agencies because we do not have the capacity to cover the extent of long-term needs or complete rebuilding, in some instances. Your superintendent, national or regional leader can help lead you to resources available.

Being able to provide financial relief in the event of a natural disaster is just one of the ways that we live up to the word “international” in our denominational name Grace Communion International. It is a blessing to be a global family connected and able to display our compassion and love in times of disaster.

Again, a special thanks to all of the congregations that have contributed. You are much appreciated.

Keeping you informed,

Greg Williams

P.S. I want to be clear that the bulk of our offerings and donations are meant for the work of sharing the gospel through the life and ministries of our local churches. So, please understand that this letter is not meant as a solicitation for the Disaster Relief Fund.

2020 Healthy Church Photo Contest

Did you miss your chance to submit photos to last year’s contest? This year, we are accepting photos of GCI events and services from 2015 through 2020. So, collect your throwback photos, or snap some new shots, and submit them to enter our 2020 Healthy Church Photo Contest.
Individual prizes include up to $150 in GCI Spreadshirt Web Store credit. Contest ends November 15.
For more information go to: https://resources.gci.org/photocontest

Pastor Appreciation

The GCI Home Office works to serve our dedicated pastors, who shine brightly in their neighborhoods. Here are some words of appreciation from a few of our Denominational Leaders.


Eugene (and Lulu) Guzon
Superintendent, GCI Asia

Thank God for our Pastoral teams! In the last 20 years, our local churches, and our districts in the Philippines has been led almost totally by our lay pastoral teams. They continue to serve our congregations nationwide with selfless dedication and humility.  We thank you, dear pastoral teams – our front liners of the faith, for responding to God’s call to serve our 70 congregations and about 30 fellowship groups towards our journey of becoming healthy churches.

We are grateful for your participation in worship, making disciples, and for reaching out to your communities demonstrating God’s love for them in many untiring ways. We are grateful to you for continuing to serve even in the face of many challenges and limited resources, yet abundant in faith and love for our great Triune God.  Many of you continue to serve even in your senior years and some, even up to their last breath.  I am blessed to have you all as friends and beloved co-workers in God’s work. I pray that God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit renew your strength, sustain your passion, and refresh you always to live out and share the good news of Jesus Christ. May he bless you, your families and your communities exceedingly, abundantly.  We need you; we love you and appreciate you all! On behalf of the churches and communities you care for, and the greater GCI family, we affectionately commend you all before God!

Isaiah 41:10 TPT

“10 Do not yield to fear, for I am always near. Never turn your gaze from me,[a] for I am your faithful God. I will infuse you with my strength and help you in every situation.[bI will hold you firmly with my victorious right hand.”


Wong Mein Kong
Regional Director, GCI Malaysia

October is Pastors Appreciation Month, and I am reminded of the privilege of working with you and your pastoral teams to participate with our Lord Jesus in his mission to the world.

You all serve Christ in unique circumstances in Asia, often challenging and difficult. Your dedication, loyalty, and humility towards the people under your care would surely be seen and felt by them, and most importantly, by our Lord himself.

It is a joy to see you and other leaders in the Asian region working together in unity and harmony. I am touched and edified by your friendship and exemplary servant leadership. The motto from GCI Home Office of “High Challenge, High Support, Grace Always” is something we can aim for.

I can find no more fitting words of encouragement and motivation than those of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2: 19-20: “For what is our hope or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.”

May God’s blessings be upon you in participating with Christ’s ministry.


Daphne Sidney PortraitDaphne Sidney
Superintendent, GCI Australasia

What a year 2020 has been!  A difficult one for everyone – members and Pastors alike. Pastors have had to forego their usual spot at the pulpit and instead speak into tiny cameras and quickly acquire all kinds of zooming skills.  There was no theology course to prepare them for Pastoring Pandemically…

Ministry has taken on new ways of serving, via zoom, telephone calls, masked and socially distanced visits depending on the regulations of the area.  And maintain vigilance in keeping up with the latest Covid announcements and requirements.

One outstanding thing I have noticed with our Pastors is their deep desire to serve their churches and keep connected with the members, no matter what the circumstances hold!  Their love for their congregations overflows through their conversations and activities they are able to undertake.

Eugene Peterson draws an analogy of members being like hikers who walk through the high country and come across magnificent views.[1]   Along the way of course there are valleys and fatigue and hunger set it.  The Pastor is likened to the one who brings refreshment and recovery in the spiritual environment.  The weekly services can be likened to refreshment stops providing spiritual nourishment, “bread from heaven” and refreshing waters to help rejuvenate and inspire the hikers to continue their journey through the week.  The Pastor is also there to provide comfort and preside over funerals when a loved one passes, or anoint and pray for the sick, and compassionately work with the hurting and broken-hearted.   The Pastor is a joyful part of the celebrations of life, conducting weddings, baptisms, the blessing of children – such an integral part of the life and journey of members.

J.B. London who was known as a ‘Pastor to Pastors’ preached his final sermon, aptly entitled – “Pastors Are People Too”[2]  Interesting that he preached this message at the end of his years, most likely with the loss of his youthful energies and the dawning and acceptance of his human frailties and mortality.  These beg a deeper connection with life and loved ones and are often very productive years.  That’s one thing I have noticed with our retired Pastors – they just keep on serving!  Their wisdom and experience is a great blessing to those they are mentoring and serving.

And yes, pastors are people too — they have feet of clay, believe it or not, and they do get tired and sometimes grumpy…well, just a little.  It’s always an encouragement to know that Jesus in His humanity grew weary in His travels, sitting beside the well for shade and refreshing water (John 4:6,7).  Pastors too need to have that time – time out to sit at the well, time to drink in deeply of the living waters so that they are renewed. It is out of the ‘deep well’ of the life of Jesus Christ in them, that they serve. Their work is a participation in the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   As shepherds, they point people to the Good Shepherd, the ultimate source of spiritual nourishment and life. What a joy and responsibility they carry.  Thank you for your prayers for them.  The greatest gift you can gift a Pastor with, is yourself.  And that’s one thing I have noticed with our members — loving and faithful members who show up regularly, who participate in the life of the church – who support and pray for the church and the generations to come — what a blessing you are to your Pastor.  Thank you!

As October is Pastor Appreciation Month, most of all, thank you for your prayers for our pastors and their families.  Perhaps you would like to find some practical ways to express appreciation for your Pastors as well.  A card or note of encouragement always goes a long way, or any other creative ideas you may think of. I would like to conclude with Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica:  Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.  Live in peace with each other  [I Thess 5:12-13].

[1] E. Peterson:  Five Stones for Pastoral Work, Grand Rapids Michigan 1980

[2] www.Christianitytoday.com/news/2018/0ctoberdied-h-v-london-focus-on-famiy


Michael D. Rasmussen,
Superintendent, North America & Caribbean

Words cannot express my deep appreciation for all of you! You are amazingly resilient servants of our Lord! This year has been difficult to say the least and yet you have all maintained great attitudes and stayed focused on how you can join Jesus in being the Church. You have been creative in how you have stayed connected to your members and your neighbors, even though we have had to physically distance most of the year. I can’t imaging working alongside a more dedicated group of servant leaders. Please know that in the darkest of times, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are often making the greatest transformation of hearts and minds. We are not alone or without the great love and guidance of the One who makes a way where there seems to be no way. Please know that you are loved and valued, not just by the leadership of the denomination, but by our Lord and Savior Himself.

Rebirth in NYC

Please pray for our return to Sunday School and personal community outreach with a renewed emphasis on families in the neighborhood.  Under the lead of the Spirit, we are offering our congregation as a place of hope and renewal in what will be tough days ahead for our city, physically and spiritually.

With increased unemployment and local budget deficits affecting city services, our community is dealing with issues such as soaring depression, food needs, and potential evictions.  In order to be a better presence in our home community, we held our annual Back to School event (outdoors with COVID precautions) on September 13.

As we are returning to our normal worship routines, we were proud to have had our first live Blessing of a Newly Born on September 20.  Her name is Icardi Ermene Elizabeth JR.  She was born during our first Zoom service of the COVID crisis on March 15 when the pandemic was nearing the worst in the city and hospitals were frantic. She is a symbol of our own rebirth!

John Newsom
Pastor, New Life in Christ
Queens, New York

Prayers for John Biswas

Naomi and John Biswas

On October 4, John Biswas was taken into the hospital for a gall bladder operation and survived a heart attack during the operation.

The doctors say they may let him home in a few days if he is well enough. The heart situation will be dealt with later. He was happy to hear everybody’s encouraging words, which I relayed to him one by one. He is very grateful for your prayers for him and his family. He is a tough Bengali.

Praise the Lord,
Roger Lippross

 

 

Death of Frank Espinoza

Frank Espinoza died quietly, taking his last breath just after 7 pm on Tuesday, October 13, 2020.  He was a former employee of WCG, an elder, and a long-time dedicated church member. On September 2, he was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer, which had spread to his lungs. He was in a senior care facility over the last month and a half. Gratefully, he was able to be with his wife, Carmen, in that facility during his last days. Carmen has been battling Parkinson’s disease for some time and remains in the care facility.  Please pray for her health and comfort and for peace and comfort for the entire family.  There was a memorial service for Frank Espinoza at his home GCI church in Lemon Grove, CA on October 24.

You can send cards of sympathy and encouragement to Frank and Carmen’s son at the address below:

Brett Espinoza
13308 Entreken Ave.
San Diego, CA 92129

GCI Refugee Churches in Kenya

Over the weekend I led a team of three to visit our refugee churches in Kakuma-Turkana, Kenya. We had a leaders meeting on Saturday and three worship services in three churches on Sunday. It was a big eye-opener to my ministry colleagues Pastor Nzuki and Dr. Kahaki. 

Blessings,

Anthony Gachanga
Regional Director for East Africa

Rejoicing in the Lord

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4

I have heard it again and again – rejoice!  Repeated endlessly by worship leaders, preachers and sympathizers in exhortations, devotionals, sermons – “rejoice” I am told, even if I don’t feel like it.  I am tempted to think, is this some kind of denial?  How can I rejoice when trials, sorrow, and hardships stare me in the face?  Especially now, with the pandemic having claimed the lives of two dear church members, and the “new normal” seeming so abnormal!

Then again, how can I not take Paul’s words to the Philippian church seriously?  Does he have an important point to make?  My reflections led me to the following thoughts.  First, the sorrow and hardships I might experience are not a verdict that God does not love me. On the contrary, his love is never diminished, no matter what I am going through.  Nothing, yes, nothing changes God’s love for me.  That itself is a reason to rejoice!

Second, I am to rejoice “in the Lord”!  In a fallen world, hardships dampen the spirits but “in Christ” there is an inexplicable joy.  Where is my focus – to temporary situations or to everlasting victory in Jesus?  My focus could become my idol.  Sadness and sorrow of the temporary are lousy idols to be worshipping!  I might as well trade it for the “joy of the Lord”! And finally, Jesus meets me in every one of my hardships.  In his incarnation he understands every one of those gut-wrenching feelings I experience. His presence imparts comfort and provides strength to cope.

Rejoice, indeed, in the grace of Christ. There is every reason to!

Prayer: Lord, I may not understand everything that happens around me, but help me know your grace. While you give me strength to cope, grant me to experience and express your joy in every circumstance. Amen.

 

 

By Danny Zachariah

Meet Nicole Cullman

“My calling is to lead. I believe that God has given me the ability to understand the full value of leadership. To not just guide and rally others, but to listen and project optimism so that all voices are heard and everyone reaches far beyond expectations in meeting a goal. I want to be this, for my church.” Check out this month’s GCI Profile to get to know Nicole Cullman, GCNext Leader in Grove City, OH. To read her full profile, click the image below.