GCI Update

Compelled by Love Conference in Africa

Greg & Susan Williams

 

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

It is with great pleasure that I report to you about the excellent conferences that took place in Aruka, South Africa and Chongwe, Zambia. Susan and I were accompanied by Superintendent Kalengule Kaoma (KK) for these outstanding meetings. How sweet it was to spend quality time ministering with KK!

KK & family

My heart had been longing to meet with our African leadership since the 2020 and 2021 conferences were postponed due to Covid-19. This long season reminded me of the apostle Paul when he was often delayed due to various hardships, and he sent letters to churches that he longed to be with in person. There is nothing that can replace being together and sharing life-on-life experiences.

Left to right: Anthony Gachanja, Greg, Susan, Kalengule Kaoma, Takalani Musekwa, Gardner Kunje, Emmanuel Okai

Takalani Musekwa, Regional Director (RD) of South Africa, and his wife Margaret (pictured right) hosted the conference in Aruka over the Palm Sunday weekend. Aruka is a retreat property (formerly named Linga Longa) owned and operated by GCI South Africa. The flow of presentations, followed by table discussions and then group debriefs, made for a wonderful sharing and learning environment. It is also noteworthy that I was able to share lunch with the South African Board of Directors. These faithful volunteers are much needed stewards of our ministries and serve as wise advisors to our ministry directors in their respective countries. GCI is filled with such good, service-oriented people.

Zintle Ncokazi

The praise and worship throughout the trip was amazing and inspirational. The African members express their joy through beautiful voices, passionate smiles, and the movement of dance. When I worship with them, I feel like we are joining the heavenly host at the throne room in a deeply meaningful way.

 

Here’s a story I hope will encourage you, as it did me. On my first night in South Africa, I awoke at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t fall back to sleep. As I prayed and thought about the upcoming presentations, a praise song ran through my head. I kept thinking about the concept of rising up like an eagle and being overwhelmed by the power of his love. I couldn’t quite put all the words together in my head, but it moved me. I was thrilled when, on the first day of worship, the praise band had chosen “The Power of His Love” as one of the worship selections. I sensed the Holy Spirit winking at me and confirming that these meetings were meant to be.

Gardner Kunje, Regional Director of Central Africa, along with KK hosted the conference in Chongwe over Holy Week. We stayed true to the Worship Calendar and highlighted the events from Maundy Thursday through Resurrection Sunday. We even held a foot-washing ceremony. This had not been done in several years, and it was a joy to participate out of the freedom we have in Jesus. And happy were we as we did it.

I cannot recount all the highlights as they were so numerous. Major themes that stood out were unity in purpose and movement toward Healthy Church, especially as it relates to making new disciples.

There were many wonderful conversations about how we are actively working together to become a healthier church, and all the conference participants were eager learners. A specific point that stuck out is when we acknowledged how our mission statement—“Living and Sharing the Gospel”—is just as relevant today as when we came up with it many years back. However, we noticed that while our members are quite good at living out the gospel in their private lives, we have not been quite as good at sharing the gospel with others. Hence the emphasis on being compelled by love (the love of Jesus).

One of the presentations in Zambia by Takalani struck a strong chord. He referenced the apostle Paul in Romans 10:1.

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them (Israel) is that they may be saved. (NRSVA)

For Israel to know Jesus and to be saved was a burning desire that Paul held closely. Do we share a burning desire for our people group (be it family, neighbors, or co-workers)? Effectively sharing the gospel begins with our broken-heartedness for those who don’t yet know Jesus. Maybe we could begin our days by asking the Lord of the Harvest to guide us to people in our sphere of influence who he is preparing and drawing? I think he will honor such a prayer. Let’s see what happens.

The spirit of goodwill and unity of purpose was palpable. An example of this unity of purpose came from West Africa Regional Director, Emmanuel Okai. He gave an outstanding presentation called “Building a Farm System.” He spoke from his 70-years of life experience about how we can invite others in and effectively walk with them around the apprenticeship square so they can be prepared for ministry. He reiterated the need for us to be like John the Baptist, willing to personally decrease so others can increase. Then he ended the talk with the inspiring thought of how the ones coming after us can be like Elisha succeeding Elijah and be given a “double portion” of the Spirit. What a bright future that paints!

In a personal conversation with Emmanuel, he said if all of us keep doing these same methods and practices over a long stretch of time, imagine what an amazing transformation there could be in our church. I resolutely stated, “Yes! And what if this is true in all six global regions around the world?” The two of us shared an invigorating notion that caused goose bumps. What if?

I must recognize KK and his RDs as they have been casting a vision for Africa they call Vision 2025. They began this in 2020 and are now weaving in our global three-year plan, which fits quite nicely. Well done!

On a long journey in the same direction,
Greg Williams

PS
Stay tuned for more about our trip to Africa in the next Update issue.

Emmanuel Okai Honored

Let us share in the joy of Emmanuel Okai of Accra, Ghana, for celebrating his 70th birthday!

Mr. Okai, who is the GCI Regional Director of West Africa, turned 70 in January and was honored with a birthday celebration. Many friends, family, church members, and neighbors attended, and they all shared great food, cake, and laughter.

He was presented with a framed citation that reads, “In honor of Mr. & Mrs. Okai,” and includes this quote from Johannes A. Gaertner:

To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.

Mr. Okai, we are very grateful to you and your wife, Margaret, for your many years of faithful servanthood!

 

 

 

Floriade Expo—The Netherlands

The Tiny Church

Floriade Expo 2022 is the world horticultural exhibition in Almere, The Netherlands, April 14 – October 9. It is the seventh Floriade in the Netherlands and the 23rd edition of the AIPH world horticultural exhibition.

Working Together Towards a Common Goal

At the Floriade 2022, in our pavilion of Fruitful City, we point out the greatness of creation, which is expressed in our slogan: Attention to God’s Creation and Care for Each Other. We strive for this by realizing the construction of a Tiny Church (max 40 persons capacity), a garden with biblical plants and shrubs and crops and medicinal herbs, and a garden with 12 works of art about the fruit(s) of the Spirit. In the garden are several walking routes with questions about creation, nature, and sustainability.

“Joy”

That was the challenge we heard in 2016 when about 20 denominations of Evangelical Contact gathered in Almere to think about the question: do we as churches want to be present at the Floriade 2022? The answer was a clear, “Yes!” 2022 seemed far away then, now it’s here! Because I had just lost my job at ING in October 2016 and went into early retirement, I raised my hand to volunteer to participate in the group of 5 people, which later became a board with a foundation form. On the board, I represent the evangelical movement, next to the Protestant and Catholic denominations, and we started working together under the guidance of the Spirit.

My areas of responsibility are the contacts and communication with the artists who made the statues, and the landscape gardener for the construction of the garden. Administratively, I contribute as vice-chairman. I have volunteered to coordinate various presentations and lectures that will take place from various churches on the Tiny Church site over the next 6 months, which is consistent with my past restaurant work experience. We have had setbacks over time. For example, a building permit was not granted, and we came to a standstill. Then it was brought to the Lord in prayer, together with the City Prayer group of Almere. And that gave the breakthrough!

“Patience”

It’s been a special experience to be involved in such a project, to be interviewed on mainly Christian radio and TV and newspapers. Most of all, I discovered that I could make a meaningful contribution to such a project, and trust in God to participate, and that my contribution is appreciated. My eyes have been opened to the creativity of the minds of the artists, and I got to know Christians from many different Christian organizations such as the Protestant Church, Green Churches, Platform church and art, Inspiration Gardens at churches and cloisters, Enough to Live. These Christians show an inspiration for creation and sustainability and caring for creation as God commanded Adam and Eve—and all of us. (Revelation 11;18, Genesis 2:15,4-8)

The pursuit of sustainability is set out in presentations at our location. Our Tiny Church is turning with the sun and has solar panels on the roof, so we are independent of electricity supply. Our saying is, “We are turning towards the sun.” Someone asked if we are sun worshippers. Our answer was: No, we turn toward the Son of righteousness, Jesus Christ. We follow the true light. We didn’t receive any more comments after that!

The Tiny Church, the garden, and the statues were completed for the opening on April 13, when our King Willem-Alexander was a guest. On Easter Monday, various speakers from various churches were represented. Hans de Moei, the GCI National Director of the Netherlands, also attended.

Drone overview during construction

Our main goal is pointing the visitors of our garden installation to spiritual sustainability—that they need the fruit of the Spirit, like love, meekness, self-control, patience, kindness, joy etc.

An estimate of 200 visitors per day will visit Fruitful City and can admire creation and reflect on what spiritual properties a new neighborhood needs to be able to interact well as fellow human beings (Galatians 5 fruit of the Spirit and 1 Corinthians 13). We’re hopeful our visitors will realize that we must look up to the God of creation for those needs—hence, the sloping roof of our Tiny Church!

There is a feeling that permeates the Fruitful City: we are not ashamed of God and Christ and proclaim that He is our Creator! Genesis says that God planted a garden with beautiful trees and plants. He just called that to life in a moment, I imagine. And we toiled for years to accomplish the Tiny Church and garden and statues! That’s something that keeps you humble, knowing His blessing is undeniably indispensable.

Check it out: Floriade Expo Fruitful City

By Frans Danenberg
Vice-chairman of Fruitful City, pastor of Grace Communion, and member of the National pastoral team Netherlands & Flanders (Dutch area)

 

Snowball Extravaganza—GC Kenockee, MI, US

As The Snow Flies in GC Kenockee!

What do you get when you combine laughs, snowballs, victories, pizza, giggles, and a trophy?

You get a Snowball Extravaganza!

GC Kenockee held a Cross-Generation event (part of the Faith Avenue) to mark the passing of our Michigan winter and to celebrate our youth/adult connections. What better way than to host an indoor snowball competition (cotton snowballs) between the youth and the adults?

The prize? Mostly bragging rights but also a trophy and plaque that we hope to compete for each year, much like the Stanley Cup. Naturally as the anticipation grew each week, there was a build up to the event that included some good-natured jiving (can we say mild trash talking?). The youth were encouraged to invite friends and neighbors, which also made it feel like an outreach event for our Love Avenue.

Judges were assigned to count the number of hits that landed on opponents with the winning team having the least number of hits. It was a time to be a little crazy but all in good fun!

The winners you ask? The youth won the day this time, but the adults are already talking a comeback for next year. So, the buildup begins early, which goes to show just how much fun was had by all. Disappointments and ‘wounds’ were consoled by a pizza party that followed the Snowball Extravaganza.

The idea for this event was the result of our youth receiving second place in their age group for last year’s ‘Healthy Church Challenge’. The prize money from that challenge was used to cover expenses.

Our youth have begun to plan with the Faith Avenue Champion the next cross-generation event coming soon. But for now, we say so long winter, hello spring, and congratulations to our GC Kenockee youth!

By Kathy Forsyth, Faith Avenue Champion and
Grant Forsyth, Kenockee Pastor

 

GCI Buzz—Focus Neighborhood

This month’s GCI Buzz explains a focus neighborhood and provides examples and steps to mapping your own focus neighborhood. #gcibuzz

Check out the full PDF here:

Church & MTC Virtual Tour—Surrey Hills, OK, US

Enjoy this virtual tour of the GC Surrey Hills church and Ministry Training Center (MTC) that was dedicated on January 29, 2022. Click the links above to watch the dedication ceremony.

This is the first established MTC in GCI. But we have  initiatives for more MTCs in the works.  See the link below for more information about MTCs, and check out this GCI Buzz about Ministry Training Centers.

Ministry Training Centers

 

Death of Carmon McCulley

Carmon “Mac” McCulley, father of Denver North pastor Mark McCulley, died on March 1, 2022 aged 99. He was born on a farm in central Tennessee in 1923, the first of four children. He moved to Nashville before being drafted into the Army where he served in the Signal Corps toward the end of WWII in Okinawa. After the war, Carmon and his new wife Doris settled in Wichita, KS where they raised seven children. He worked as a mail handler for the railroad, then as a machinist, including at the Coleman Company for many years. After retiring, he volunteered at a local hospital, and developed friendships with several of the doctors serving there. He and his family were pioneer members of WCG in Wichita, and Carmon was an avid student of the Bible all his life.

Doris died in 1975, and Carmon remarried, later saying he felt blessed to have been married to two great loves. His second wife, Sue, passed in 2019. He leaves seven children: Carma Ellen Aschenbrenner, Brenda  Williams, Timothy McCulley, Mark McCulley, Paul McCulley, Laurie McCulley, and Leah David. His graveside service in Wichita was attended by many old friends and admirers, his seven children, several of his 16 grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren.

Cards may be sent to:
Mark and Joanne McCulley
9246 Ingalls St
Westminster, CO 80031

Devotional—New Life

Luke 24:13-35

On the same day the empty tomb was discovered, two disciples are walking and discussing Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Jesus joins them. When they do not recognize him, they share with Jesus, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:21).”

They were blind to the beautiful and powerful truth of the risen Christ walking alongside them.

As we continue in our journey with Jesus into Eastertide, we will have “But we had hoped” moments. As experienced on the road to Emmaus, we will find that Jesus will continue to reveal truth about himself and prove to be faithful to us.

During Easter we celebrate new life in Christ – it is not merely a day but a season in the worship calendar that continues through Pentecost. As a practice to help us notice the transformation Christ is offering us, create two columns to journal through this time.

In your first column list your “We had hoped” moments. Think of longings and expectations that you have experienced, both for yourself personally and for your experiences in Christian community. Is there a something you have had to leave behind? Is there an unmet longing you are hoping he will fulfill?

In the second column, share your “buds of new life.” Here, list the new life that Jesus is birthing in your life this Easter season. How do you see his hand in your life personally? Perhaps it’s a new habit, an opportunity to start a new relationship (or an entirely new chapter in an old one), new hopes, new dreams. What desires for Christian community is Jesus forming in your heart?

Prayer:

Jesus, you are faithful to your word, even when circumstances blind us to the reality of your presence with us.

In your perfect love for us, you conquered death and rose from the grave. The resurrection was not just an event, but an invitation to be raised into new life with you.

Our lives are being shaped and transformed by your presence and power, O Risen Christ. This Eastertide help us to process the beauty of life that follows death. Amen.

By Michelle Fleming
GCI Elder & Communications Director

 

GCI Prayer Guide—May 2022

“Prayer is an act of love.”—Madeliene L’Engle

Join us in prayer this month as we express our hope, needs, and trust. Click the link below to download and print the May Prayer Guide, and check out what’s happening in our fellowships around the world.