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Prayer Update—Cella Olive

Below is a post-operation update from our beloved sister, Celestine Olive of Lancaster, CA, US.


Good news! I had a seven-week, follow-up appointment on June 8 with the Kaiser neurosurgeon. The x-rays showed the C3/C4 spinal fusion looks clean with signs of fusing already beginning, and the surgeon was pleased with the outcome. After wearing a neck collar for five weeks, I’m happy to now be planning for physical therapy for the painful, tight, and weakened muscles in the shoulders and neck. There is still no improvement of the tingling and pain in my right hand, but the doctor tells me to give it time! I’m truly looking forward to getting out and about again.

Thanks everybody for the many ways you have expressed your thoughts and prayers and loving concern! I appreciate all of you!

Cella

Pentecost—Glendora, CA, US

Pentecost 2022 was uniquely meaningful for GCI Glendora in a few ways. First, it was very special to have our worship team play and sing together for the first time since March 2020! Because of this, Pentecost was another “historical moment” in the life of our congregation. Including a pianist, a bassist, a drummer, and two vocalists, our worship team had a blast practicing together again after over two years. It was a refreshing and uplifting experience for our congregation to have live music again as we worshiped together.

We were pleasantly surprised to have more people attend in person on Pentecost than even on Easter. During the service, a few members recited a litany called “A Prayer for Pentecost,” adapted from a couple passages in Acts 1-2. This litany helped illustrate Christ’s great promise of the Holy Spirit and to receive him with hope and thanksgiving. I gave the main message, emphasizing that each of us is more powerful than we dare to realize. What we believe about ourselves has very real and powerful ramifications in every aspect of our lives. As the Church of Christ, we must choose to believe the truth of who we are in Christ, believe what he says about us, and through the Holy Spirit represent the kingdom of God.

After the worship service we proceeded with our monthly potluck, with outdoor seating, on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. Last year, GCI Glendora celebrated Pentecost by also celebrating three high school graduations. This Pentecost, we celebrated two graduates: Gian from high school and Ava Rae from elementary school. The pastoral team prayed over the graduates during the potluck.

Finally, our Love Avenue Champion, Marianne Maninang, facilitated a raffle. She gave away five prizes relating to the themes of the last two sermons. We’ve found that since we started up our potlucks again last fall, having a raffle or games during the potluck is a fun way to get everyone involved, whether they’re a guest or a longtime member.

We praise God for seeing us through so much change and difficulty during this pandemic. We continually look to him as we seek to love God, love others, and serve the world—starting with our neighborhood.

Jillian Morrison
Associate Pastor, Glendora, CA, US

 

Neighborhood Camp—Jacksonville, FL, US

On June 9-11, we hosted our second annual neighborhood youth camp. The day camp took place at our church-owned facility that provided a nice, outdoor playing field and a basketball and volleyball court. We chose the name Grace Camp, and our stated purpose is: “To enjoy life together in the grace and love of God through fun, friendships, and faith in Jesus.” Our chapel theme was “Jesus’ Words are Good News.”

Campers ages six through 17 enjoyed a safe, fun, and inspirational time together. Participation increased to 25 campers this year from 18 last year. Eleven campers were first-time participants, over half of whom came from the nearby neighborhoods. Our volunteer staff of 20+ adults worked hard and did a great job. Each day began at 9:00 a.m. and ended around 7:00 p.m. The campers and staff returned to their homes each night.

We provided the campers breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals. In addition to a daily chapel worship service, activities included: arts and crafts, water balloon battle, volleyball, basketball, block party, a Christian movie, dance lessons and dance, dodge ball, and a talent show. The camp also included offsite outings to the zoo and to a water park. The weather was good, although hot, and no activities were rained out—for which we’re thankful to the Lord!

On the last day, we ended with a very nice dinner for everyone, including the families of the campers. At least two of the families who came expressed their intention to worship with us in the near future. As we connect more with our neighbors around the church facility, we want them to know that we care about them and their children and are here for them. We would be pleased to be a part of their lives along their path of discipleship with Jesus. In any case, we have already succeeded in showing them the love of Christ and the joy that comes through serving him!

Visit our Facebook page to view more photos.
Watch a video slideshow of our camp: Grace Camp 2022

Marty and Yvonne Davey

Marty Davey
Pastor, Jacksonville, FL, US

Death of Sonny Parsons

Our beloved brother, Sonny Parsons, died on May 12, 2022. He pastored the GC Big Sandy congregation for 13 years and was a current member in his retirement. His memorial service on May 22 in Big Sandy was attended by many whose lives were deeply impacted by his kindness and service. He will be deeply missed.

Frank “Sonny” Parsons grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and has a long history of community service. He went to Provine High School, where he met his wife, Jane. They enjoyed more than fifty years of marriage before Jane passed away in 2017.

As an Eagle Scout, the Boy Scout organization was important to him. Sonny helped found one of the first camps for children with intellectual disabilities in Mississippi. He attended Mississippi State University and Ambassador University and served many years as a school administrator and educator.

He believed we should never stop learning, growing, and serving. Sonny served on the Big Sandy City Council, was the mayor of Big Sandy for three terms, and served on the Volunteer Fire Department. He was a loving, peaceful, kind man, and a loving husband and father. Above all, Sonny loved our Lord and Savior.

Cards and notes may be sent to his daughter:
Amy Peeples
420 VZCR 4503
Ben Wheeler, TX 75754

Visit here to read more about Sonny’s full life of service.

NAE Mourns Recent US Tragedies

As a member of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), and we join them as the body of Christ, praying for those affected by the loss of life and asking God to help us pursue sustained efforts towards love and justice. Click the link below to read the full statement by the NAE.

Are there specific ways your church is comforting your neighbors at this difficult time? Write to us about it: update@gci.org

Final Celebration—Orlando, FL, US

Recently the congregation I attended in Orlando closed. The reasons for closing congregations are many and varied. Yet one thing is true: their closure is often a time of sadness. Yet it can also be a time to celebrate Jesus by focusing on the God who raised it up and was at work in the congregation over many years.

Steve and Carol Schantz

Pastor Steve Schantz decided to make it a celebration, so I asked him to tell me the specific things he had in mind when framing the service as a time of celebration.

“We had three things in view as we planned a celebratory worship service together,” Pastor Steve replied. “First, we sought to honor all the ways God has blessed this part of the body of Christ during our time together. Second, we wanted to provide a time of fellowship and food together. Third, we sought to provide the opportunity to stay connected though no longer meeting together regularly. The printed programs had room to write a note or share an address or phone number, and my wife and I added a handwritten note to each one.”

We certainly experienced a time of celebration. It was a time of worship as we reviewed some of the collective and individual ministries where the Holy Spirit worked in and through the congregation. It was a time of fellowship as invitations were sent to people who were no longer attending the church. More than seventy people showed up. The catered meal that followed the service was a time of joyful reconnecting, reminiscing, and rejoicing in ways God has been at work in people’s lives.

Ruth Haley Barton has said that God is so faithful that any little space we open up to him, he fills with his presence. And he certainly did just that. One of our members asked if her great granddaughter could be blessed during the service. God blessed us by allowing profound ministry to happen at our closing service. A new life was formally welcomed into the family of God.

The juxtaposition of closure and new life made me think of Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, which affirms that human experience is framed by lifecycles. We were reminded that even churches have a lifecycle in which closure can be a reality, but God’s work through his people does not come to an end. That which looks like death can lead to new birth. That which is uprooted can be replanted. A season of mourning can turn into a time of laughter and dancing.

Maybe another way of saying that is to remember that God does not allow anything to happen in our lives that he cannot redeem. With that in mind, there is no better way to face life’s varied circumstances, including the closure of a church, than Paul’s encouragement:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col. 3: 17

By Charles Fleming, Southeast Regional Support Team

David Beckner’s Retirement

Join us in honoring David Beckner, who retired in April after 15 years as a part-time GCI employee. David served as the pastor of GC Snellville, GA.

A retirement celebration will be held Saturday, July 30 at Living Hope Christian Fellowship in Atlanta, GA. If you would like to attend, please email Phil Doele for more information. phil.doele@gci.org.

Cards may be sent to:
David & Gayle Beckner
15 Magnolia Walk
Covington, GA 30016-1153

Congratulations, David and Gayle! We are very grateful to you both for your many years of faithful service.

We wanted you to hear from David, in his own words.


I am married to the greatest female on earth, Gayle Grimes Beckner. We were married on April 1, 1984—thirty-eight years of a wonderful relationship.

I have been a member of GCI since 1973, baptized in Kingsport, TN, the same year. I was always involved in the activities of the church—everything from Spokesman Club, to ushering, to teaching children’s classes. The thought of ever doing more was never a serious consideration for me until I was ordained a deacon by Earl Williams in 1991.

I became an elder in 1999 and began giving sermons at that time. Public speaking had never been easy for me, but the years in Spokesman Club certainly helped. This ordination put me closer to becoming a pastor, although the possibility had not taken root. When our current pastor stepped down, I believed the Home Office would find someone to take his place.

In 2005, our pastor Howard Shadoan invited Gayle and me to lunch. You guessed it! He asked me to consider my calling and proposed that he mentor me for the next two years until his retirement. For some reason, I immediately said yes without even telling him to give me time to pray and think about it. Maybe I was more ready than I realized—God’s timing is always perfect.

The thing I enjoyed most about pastoring was preaching directly from God’s word. I would have never imagined this years ago. I also enjoyed interacting with people in small groups.

My main concern was meeting the needs of people in my church. I worried whether I was really fulfilling that role. I lost many a night’s sleep thinking about this. Eventually, I reached a point where I had to acknowledge that I was limiting God’s role in people’s life in my ministry. God deals with people effectively whether we as pastors do or not. We need to do our part, but God will do his work despite of what we as pastors do or think. When a pastor realizes this, a lot can be taken off his back and mind.

I have deeply appreciated and enjoyed my time in GCI and will forever treasure the relationships I have developed over the years.

In Him,
David Beckner

Eula Doele Graduates

Eula’s proud parents are Esther Carlisle Doele and Phil Doele, the pastor of GC Snellville, Georgia, U.S.

Let us share in the joy of Eula Brigitte Doele’s accomplishment! On Sunday, May 15, 2022, she received her high school diploma from The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia.

Eula will be attending Yale University this fall. Her intended major is Ethics, Politics, and Economics.

Eula’s older sister, Christianna (guest host of GC Podcast), preceded her at The Westminster Schools. As Eula enters her undergraduate program, we know Christianna will be cheering her on from Georgetown University, where she is studying Foreign Affairs. Prayers would be appreciated for Esther and Phil as they transition to an empty nest. (This is a term used in the U.S. to describe when children move away from home.)

Eula, all who know you have seen your heart for those who experience injustice. May the God of Light guide your steps as you bear the triune image of love to a hurting world. Congratulations!