GCI Update
Connecting Members & Friends of GCI
Header Banner

Nepal update

This update is from Rod Matthews, GCI mission director in Southern Asia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

Deben and Manju Sam

We are privileged to walk together in the ministry of Jesus Christ with the Himalayan Gospel Church based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Led by Deben Sam with his wife Manju, this church is a growing network of about 20 congregations. On March 24, Rick Shallenberger and Danny Richardson from Cincinnati, USA, Mohan Jayasekera from Perth, Australia, and my wife Ruth and I joined them in worship as part of our visit to strengthen our on-going relationship and discuss how we might further assist in the work of the gospel in Nepal in the year ahead.

Deben’s main congregation of about 70 people meets in a rented building once used as a carpet factory. We were led in worship by Pastor Joseph. The main message was given by Mohan in English, translated into Nepali by the pastor, one of only a few in the group who is bilingual. A group of very competent young people provided the music for our worship in song. We were impressed to see members arriving with bags of various vegetables and fruits from their gardens, which they put on a table at the front of the hall to be distributed amongst the poorer and needy members who have no land to utilize.

About two years ago, Deben leased some farmland on the outskirts of Kathmandu to grow vegetables and small crops to provide for the poor of his congregation and to generate income for the church. Several of the poorer member families live on site, working the fields. The farm is producing well. Deben tapped the expertise of his brother (who is studying agriculture) to educate the farmers through classes and manual labor. Under Deben’s leadership, the farm has become very profitable by breeding pigs and fish.

In Nepal there are vast numbers of very poor people – many work in slave-labor conditions in brickyards around Kathmandu, in quarrying gravel from river beds, or in other low-paying tasks such as sweeping streets. Deben and his wife have hearts of compassion for the poor and a deep concern for their circumstances and needs. With help from their extended family, they look after 14 orphans in their home in Kathmandu. These young girls and boys, who come mainly from rural areas, now have a secure future of Christian love, education and development.

Several years ago, some of Deben’s church members who worked in a brickyard were prevented from attending church when the brickyard owner penalized them for being Christian and required them to work seven days a week. This prompted Deben to propose that, together, we demonstrate the love of God in a very practical way by opening a medical clinic near many of the brickyards to offer free health care to the poor with particular emphasis on the needs of small children and nursing mothers.

The pharmacist and Raju, Deben’s brother-in-law, serving at the clinic

None can afford medical care or medicines provided by the hospitals in the city; so the clinic is open each weekday afternoon with a pharmacist present to dispense free medicine. One afternoon a week a doctor is on duty to deal with more complex issues. This medical service is in much demand and Deben has proposed that we consider extending the operating hours to five full days each week. That means we have to double the hours for which the pharmacist is employed and cover the cost of the additional medicines needed. He does not plan to increase the doctor’s hours at this stage. So we are evaluating this and hope to be able to meet the additional costs so we can give him the go ahead in the near future. To date the Cincinnati congregation in the USA has been generously supporting about 80% of the costs of the clinic on an on-going basis.

Deben’s compassion for his own people, his own rural background and his gift of evangelism, has drawn him to start congregations in some very remote villages. His most recent trip to a village in the far northwest of the country started with an 8-hour bus trip to a regional city, then an hour-long flight in a small plane, culminating in a 4-day walk over a high mountain. How does he interest the people in the gospel message when he gets there? He shows the Jesus film in Nepali. But there is no electricity, so he and his travelling companions carry the projector and a generator on their backs. The people are amazed at the movie and, invariably, some commit their lives to Christ. And so a congregation is born. This is followed up with further communication and biblical educational material to aid them in their journey of discipleship and, if feasible, an annual visit from Deben and his support team during the summer months.

GCI has been involved in funding the translation and printing of our literature in Nepali, the distribution of Nepali Bibles, and the reconstruction work of several rural church buildings and homes after a severe earthquake in eastern Nepal last year. This year, we need to reprint our Nepali translation of Basic Christian Teachings. It is in high demand from pastors of other churches after they learn about it.

As we reported in an earlier issue of Weekly Update, Deben was attacked by a mob a few weeks ago while on an evangelistic mission trip. The mob accused Deben of bringing “cultural and religious pollution” into their society. We offered to help Deben with his medical expenses. He gratefully declined, indicating that he could manage on his own. However he heard that the wife and eldest son of one of his pastors in a remote village in northwest Nepal had been badly injured when lightning struck their home. The local doctor referred them to a distant hospital, which they cannot afford. Deben said he felt a personal responsibility to help. So yesterday we sent Deben some money for that purpose. We also asked Deben to let the family know that hundreds of friends from the Body of Christ around the world are praying for their speedy recovery.

Africa update

This update is from Kalengule Kaoma, mission director for Central Africa.


The Zambia-based pastors’ wives hosted a Pastors’ Wives Retreat for the region that includes Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For the first time, the women received a visitor from Nairobi, Kenya. Anne Kimani, wife of East Africa Area Pastor Kimani Ndungu, attended. With her counterparts, Anne shared insights on prayer and being a participant in the ministry of Christ.


While in Angola I conducted a two-day leadership seminar. The church has made a remarkable turn towards Christ-centeredness, growing in their understanding of the new covenant. With a lot of enthusiasm and positive outlook, we discussed the future of GCI in Angola. “We are just waiting for registration. When we are registered, we will go to many regions of Angola and share the gospel with other people,” assured Oliveira Kitambala, National Director for Angola. Fragoso Lunji and Andre Kaliale from Luanda Kilometro and Estalagon church areas respectively echoed positive sentiments. Fragoso emphasized: “We have many opportunities to share God’s word with other people. What we have in Grace Communion is too good to keep to ourselves.” In Luanda, two of Oliveira’s pastors invited me to speak in their well-attended congregations. Oliveira is networking with clergy in his community.

Part of the Angola leadership team. Oliveira Kitambala is third from left.


Pictured below are the leaders from Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe who met recently in Harare for their annual leadership conference. Gordon Green, Regional Pastor for Natal, South Africa attended as a resource person. Among other topics, Gordon encouraged leaders to Cultivate People Skills in Leadership.


Kimani Ndungu, Area Pastor for East Africa; Anthony Gachanja, National Director for Kenya; and I traveled to Kisii to meet pastor Javan and his team, who have expressed interest to be part of Grace Communion International. We are watching this developing story.


William and Jessica Othieno, pastor of Tororo, Uganda, congregation

There is a surge of interest in GCI here, particularly from three groups of children age five to sixteen. Most live with grandparents who are not able to feed or clothe them well. These children carry sad memories of losing their parents to HIV/AIDs. Often I ask Jesus to show me what he is doing in the lives of these seemingly hopeless children. We are telling them that Jesus loves them. What a joy to see them smile!


Charles and Comfort Akuwoah, pastor of Kumasi congregation, hosted me in their home. In a Bible Study with 22 attendees, I pointed out that each of us matter to God. We are very close to his heart because God has included us in his circle of love.


Immigration officers at the border welcomed Pastor Alfred Ablordeppey and me. Seeing Pastor Daniel Yovo again brought joy to my heart. I recalled my few French words of salutations and greeted him. Over the weekend we attended leaders’ workshops and church services. We shared communion and tasty meals. God is building close-knit communities among us.


Before our Saturday morning leaders’ training session, we went to the river for a baptism ceremony. Herbert and Jane decided to go through baptism.

Besides leadership training, we spent time with the youth and general membership in Bible Studies. Eagerness shown by members to learn God’s word made me want to spend more time with God’s children in Benin.

Pastoral intern summit

This update is from Carrie Smith, a GCI pastoral intern in the San Diego, CA, area.

On Friday, April 13, GCI pastoral interns, pastors and guests gathered in the hills of Flat Rock, NC (near Hendersonville) at the Bonclarken Retreat Center. This summit was the first of its kind, gathering interns and pastors from across the U.S. for a time of sharing and processing concerning GCI’s Pastoral Internship Program. Seven GCI-U.S. pastoral interns were in attendance: Skyeler Lewkowicz, Jason Frantz (who was ordained as an elder on April 8), Hilary Irusta, Aaron Armstrong, Joe Lamb, Stephen Dobritch and Carrie Smith. Also present were several supervising pastors and/or mentors.

God used our time together to help us remember where we started, embrace where we are, and look ahead to where he is leading. As interns embarking on new adventures, we wanted to know what to expect in pastoral ministry. We wanted to ask others who have gone before us what they did, learning from their successes and mistakes. The weekend was packed with stories of hope, encouragement and affirmation as we worked together to figure out where the intern program is headed.

During one session, interns and supervising pastors broke into two groups to discuss the internship program to date. When we came together to debrief, we found that both groups had been led by the Spirit to recognize the same challenges, areas needing improvement and areas of success. We all felt God’s presence as we laughed, talked, prayed, worshipped and even hiked together during the weekend.

A highlight of the weekend was affirming one another by pointing out how we see God revealed in each one. It was a weekend of living out the reality that is described in our Trinitarian theology – relationships with one another in the communion of our triune God.

One of the main themes emerging from the weekend was each person’s need for a Paul, Barnabas and Timothy. We all need someone to walk alongside us and keep us accountable by challenging us (a Paul), someone we can be honest and open with, who will listen without judging us (a Barnabas) and someone who we are walking alongside and encouraging along their journey (a Timothy). Everyone’s journey is different, but we still need to have the help and support of others beside us along the way.

Speaking as an intern, I am humbled to share this part of my story with so many Pauls and Barnabases, and I look forward to reaching out to my Timothys as so many have done for me.

Note: for additional information about the GCI U.S. Pastoral Internship Program, go to http://mindev.gci.org/internships.htm.


Mexico conference

Greg Williams, Dan Rogers and Lorenzo Arroyo

This update is from Lorenzo Arroyo, who works in U.S. Church Administration and Development and assists with mission development in GCI Mexico.

On April 6-8, 73 of our Mexican pastors, leaders and youth attended the National Pastors and Leaders Equipping Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. Instructors were Dan Rogers, Greg Williams and Lorenzo Arroyo of GCI U.S. Church Administration and Development.

Conference topics for pastoral leaders included missional church, discipleship pathway and leadership development. The teens and young adults took part in Journey with the Master – a Generations Ministries leadership training program conducted by Greg Williams and Samuel Mercado (see picture below). The youth devoured this material, with many writing out their responses during discussion periods (something Greg had never seen before!). The youth also made plans for a New Year’s weekend camp by the beach.

On Domingo de Pascua (Easter Sunday), 108 attended worship services. Dan Rogers preached on the Resurrection of Christ, covering 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. The conference then concluded with communion and a parting meal.

The conference was clearly a turning point for GCI’s Mexican pastors, leaders and youth. It helped them understand and embrace the concept of being missionaries in their own backyard, that is, engaging others by cultivating intentional relationships, sharing the gospel, and discipling new believers to maturity and reproduction. Most came to a clearer understanding of what it means to be a missional church, and are determined to take on a new paradigm in participating on mission with Jesus.

During the conference, three Mexican leaders were commissioned as senior pastors, two as associate pastors, and one as a commissioned pastor, respectively as follows: Ruben Ramirez, Arnold Trigg, Rigoberto Pantoja, Luis Soto, Humberto Perez and Mario Saenz. Most of these leaders had been serving in these roles for years.

Also, new Articles of Religious Association were ratified by the assembly of pastors, per the requirement of the Mexican government. Newly elected Association officers are as follows: Alfredo Mercado, main pastor; Ruben Ramirez, secretary; and Luis Soto, treasurer. We are grateful to Alfredo Mercado and the Guadalajara congregation for their generosity in hosting this event, offering us genuine hospitality (and lots of traditional Mexican food!). Also, we are grateful to the Seattle-Bellevue, WA and San Fernando, CA, churches for giving generous donations to make conferences like this possible.

Women’s retreat in Texas

This update is from Janalee Swisher.

New Covenant Fellowship, the GCI congregation in Tyler, TX, hosted their annual Women For Christ Retreat. Women from Big Sandy, Hawkins, and Dallas, TX attended.

Colleen Bailey, Vera Gibbs, Debbie Wood and Sheila Graham

The retreat theme was Rejoice and Blossom as a Rose. Presentations included Seven Steps Toward Growing a Rose by Debbie Wood, A Rose Candle for Her Majesty by Colleen Bailey, The Rose of Sharon by Sheila Graham, and The Prickly Rose of Thanks-Living by Vera Gibbs.

The day also included lunch, worship through singing, prayer and testimonials.


Bangladesh update

This update is from Rod Matthews, GCI mission director in Southern Asia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

The first GCI-sponsored conference ever held in Bangladesh brought Bengali church members and visitors into contact with GCI personnel from five other countries. Held in the capital city of Dhaka, in a facility belonging to the Baptist church, 165 people heard speakers from GCI and local churches. About 80 members and gospel workers from GCI’s mission arm in Bangladesh, the Bengali Evangelical Association (BEA), travelled to Dhaka from the mission center in the village of Sathsimulia, some for the first time.

The arduous bus trip of nearly eight hours did not lessen the thrill of mixing with international visitors and guest speakers, and hearing local denominational leaders extol the work of BEA in Bangladesh and the heart that GCI Bangladesh National Director, John Biswas, has for his people and the gospel.

International English speakers included John and Naomi Biswas, Rick Shallenberger, Roger Lippross, Robin and Arline Connelly (all from the U.S.), Mohan Jayasekera from Australia, Dan Zachariah and Joe D’Costa from India, Geoff Sole from the UK and my wife, Ruth and me (Rod Matthews). Our messages were competently translated into Bengali by Peter Mazumder, General Secretary of the Bible Students Fellowship of Bangladesh, who donated his time for the two days of meetings.

The strong focus of the meetings was God’s love for all people. Summaries in Bengali of each message were handed out to each participant. Because only a few participants could speak any English, and none of the visitors could speak any Bengali, we found communication frustrating. We all long for the day when we will understand one another perfectly.

On Sunday, March 18, the local people headed home by bus, and we set off in two vans to drive 280 kilometers south to visit the BEA mission center in Sathsimulia, and to participate in a public meeting and festival in the nearby village of Nagirpal the next day. The trip to the city of Barisal where we were staying the night needs to be experienced as words do not do adequately describe the trip. Getting out of the city of Dhaka took a long time due to the traffic congestion. But finally the traffic thinned out (relatively speaking) and we could see the flat countryside of brilliant green fields of young rice, the rich yellow of wheat ready for harvest, peppered with the giant chimney stacks of brickyards where the very poor slave away making bricks from the mud of the rice paddies to serve the building boom of the ever-growing cities.

After several hours, we crossed the wide and gentle (at this time of year) Padma River in one of many old but faithful vehicle ferries which chug back and forwards 24 hours a day. The crossing is about 180 kilometers from the mouth of a vast river system that starts in India as the Ganges, and drains much of the southern side of the Himalayas. This is the main road to the southwest and there are no other crossings for many miles, so literally hundreds of buses, trucks and smaller vehicles are lined up waiting for a ferry. Our driver, who seemed to have gained his skills in former days in Formula 1 racing, bypassed the line with impressive and breath-taking skill in a cloud of powdery dust and got us onto the first ferry that arrived after we did.

After the night in the regional city of Barisal, we were off early for the hour’s drive to Sathsimulia and a visit to the BEA mission center. Narrow roads became narrow lanes and finally the van could go no farther so we had to stop in Sathsimulia village and walk the last kilometer or so to our mission center. A hundred people met us at the gate and welcomed us with garlands and clouds of rose petals.

We briefly saw the layout of the mission center from which the gospel goes out through BEA in this part of southern Bangladesh. Shown below are two prominent structures in the compound.

The blue two-story building houses educational activities and church meetings. Its construction was funded by our Canadian churches. The white three-story building is a flood-resistant cyclone shelter named after the late Dr. Herman Hoeh. Nearby is a new chapel that will soon be dedicated. We also saw the new and strengthened walls, which had been rebuilt with help from the Sydney, Australia congregation after being destroyed by a mob of misguided militants several years ago.

We then moved to the nearby village of Nagirpal where hundreds of people were waiting under a large tent for the day-long festival. It started with a morning service attended by over 600 people including many from surrounding villages, some of whom were not Christian. It was held in the grounds of a local church. Then a wonderful meal was served to everyone who came, funded by GCI/BEA, with families sitting in long lines on the mats covering the ground under the awnings of the tent, savoring the generosity of God made available through the gifts of people far away in the USA. All during the afternoon and evening, the crowd was enthralled with musical presentations – songs and dances – celebrating and explaining the gospel. It is an especially effective way to present the good news for those who are illiterate. We heard that eventually over 2,500 attended the festivities which went on until four in the morning.

What a delightful day of relief, encouragement and inspiration in contrast to the toil of working under the sun in the rice fields to sustain their families. Here we are reaching with the gospel message into the lives of hundreds of people living in remote rural villages with few facilities and limited schooling for their children, where they see the love and generosity of God, where everyone is welcomed regardless of their religion or social caste, and where the literate are given a free Bengali Bible, for some the only book they own (see picture below).

From BEA’s mission center, nurse’s aides are trained to go into the community to bring education and medical assistance to the poorest people in the villages, gospel workers are trained to bring the good news to anyone interested in listening, goats are distributed to needy families to raise and breed to help them to reach self-sufficiency and raise the nutrition levels in the family. Schools have been started to give the children an education not otherwise possible in the remote rural areas, and a better future in a world rushing away from them.

This is the ministry of the Living Jesus Christ, who has invited us into all he is doing there. This is your church responding to that invitation. It is not an easy place to reach, but you would be humbled and moved and inspired by what God is doing in the deep south of Bangladesh, and thrilled by our involvement.

Now that many of these people have seen and met GCI members from far away for the first time, they know they are part of something far greater than what they see there. They know hundreds of people around the world care for them and regularly express this in their prayers to our Great Creator.

We have seen the results of the ministry of Jesus Christ in rural Bangladesh. Add that to the countless similar stories from other countries, and it speaks to the truth that (with thanks to the words of hymn-writers, Don Moen and Debbie Graafsma), “We stand in the midst of a multitude, of those from every tribe and tongue; we are your people redeemed by your blood and rescued from death by your love. ….By the blood of Christ we stand, every tongue, every tribe, every people, every land, giving glory, giving honor, giving praise unto the Lamb of God.”

Latin America update

This update is from Hector Barrero, GCI missions director for Latin America.

About 60 people from El Salvador and Honduras gathered April 5-7 for their annual seminar at the Agricultural Center of Comayagua, a city two hour’s drive from Tegucigalpa the capital of Honduras.

Five main lectures were presented: Started in heaven; The Vicarious Work of Jesus; Participants by His Spirit; A Church that Reflects the Grace of God; and Avoiding Pitfalls in Ministry.

Marco Antonio Mejia, GCI pastor in San Pedro Sula brought to the seminar three young people that started as children in his congregation and now actively serve with other youths. It was a positive and productive seminar that got us closer as brothers and sisters.

We have started monthly video conferences (using Skype) where leaders from different areas in Latin America gather online to discuss different aspects of their congregations, personal experiences and other subjects of mutual interest. This has proven to be a very positive way to edify each other.

Canada update

This update is from GCI Canada director Gary Moore.

I recently had a most enjoyable visit with the Thunder Bay and Winnipeg congregations. I found my time with them most uplifting. It was great to see Chris and Emma Linke again, and I enjoyed a meal with Alan and Carolyn Redmond and Maurice and Lorraine Yurkiw.

Recently, my wife Wendy attended the 10th anniversary of the replanting of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Abbotsford. About 165 attended a time of inspiring worship and fellowship. Here are some pictures:

Haiti update

The following update is from GCI’s pastor in Haiti, Joseph Franklin.

In the past six months, Haiti has been experiencing a high level of criminality and there is a threat of civil war. Some uniformed people calling themselves members of the old army, carrying heavy weapons, are massed in old barracks belonging to the former national army. People are upset and express it loudly. The authorities declare those bands illegal and instructed the police to disband them, but there seems to be conflict in the chain of command because the police refused the order. Our assurance is that Jesus is at work. This is what gives us the strength we need for keeping on mission. We are not on the front line, but Jesus is.

On a daily basis, the news reports killings by the dozens. Fear, mistrust and suspicion are the norm all over this country. We are watchful – that is the least we can do. However, we cannot close our eyes to a situation that becomes out of control day-by-day. We pray and ask our spiritual family around the world to join with us.

Recently, one of the teachers in our school left the office with his paycheck and went straight to the nearby bank to cash it. As he left there and walked two blocks to find a taxi, two young thugs stopped him and took away the money while people looked on. We are taking special precautions at the school to keep the 150 children in the school and their parents safe.

We are grateful for the assistance we have received for the school. We have received help from GCI churches in Martinique, the U.S. and Bermuda. This assistance has enabled us to restore the school building to the condition needed to serve our population much earlier than we could on our own.

Several of our scattered members were able to be with us this year for services on Maundy Thursday and Easter. Several slept in our church building during the week.

Fountain of Life Broadcast

This update is from Todd Crouch, who pastors Fountain of Life Church, the GCI congregation in Washington, PA.

I heard recently from RKP Radio in Washington, PA that our congregation’s Fountain of Life Broadcast program is reaching locally, nationally and internationally. We have listeners from as far away as India, the Philippines and the Czech Republic, in addition to stateside listeners in Ohio, Texas, Virginia and other states.

Most of our listeners catch the broadcast online, though it can be heard on local radio as well. I was told that this sort of widespread distribution, which has taken us one year to achieve, typically takes at least two.

Fountain of Life Broadcast can be heard on RKP Radio 1710 & 1670 AM or online at www.rkpradio.com Tuesday and Thursday at 2:00 PM.