The following report is from Mohan Jayasekara, GCI director in Sri Lanka.
I am amazed at what God has done through the work of GCI in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a tiny island with a population as large as that of Australia. It has seen the end of a bitter separatist terrorist war that plagued the island for over 25 years only two years ago. It is not an easy place to be a Christian and engage in Christian ministry. Here, GCI is registered both as a church (WCG, being changed to GCI) and as a school (Worldwide Educational Institute).
GCI has been serving Sri Lanka over the years in many meaningful ways. Though we are small, God has been with us and has graciously led and enabled us to live out our trinitarian, incarnational theology. A key moment was our response to the Boxing Day tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka in 2004. We did not simply hand out money but actively participated alongside other Christian and non-religious organizations to deliver relief and participate in reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.
I recently returned from a challenging, yet fruitful trip to Sri Lanka. Some months ago we became aware that the Registrar of Companies was holding up our certificate to re-register as a church. Our bank account was frozen toward the middle of August because of this delay. So my first order of business was to make a visit to the Registrar with my brother Ajit who happened to know him personally. On our first visit he told us the re-registration had been approved but could not be released due to “instructions from above.” We learned that re-registration certificates for churches are released only on instruction from the Minister for Religious Affairs. That evening Ajit and I spoke to the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce (we had both played cricket with him for St. Thomas). To cut a long story short, we had our certificate in short order! During the time I was there, we filled preliminary forms to change our name to “Grace Communion International (Pvt) Limited.”
The Calvary Church Seminary began operations in our building this month. Tissa Weerasinghe invited me to help. I shared teaching resources with them for graduate classes. They asked to put our Tamil and Sinhala translation of the “Discipleship” book and the English, Sinhala and Tamil translations of “God revealed in Jesus Christ” booklet in their bookshop at their Colombo headquarters. Also, I was invited to speak at their Colombo headquarters church with about 750 in attendance. Later that day I had an inspiring gathering with 12 GCI members in Nugegoda (a suburb of Colombo) in my daughter Niranga’s home. This group meets once in two weeks for study, prayer and fellowship.
Also on this trip we visited 11 refugees from Pakistan being cared for by the Foursquare Gospel Church Pastor in Moratuwa (south of Colombo). We spent time praying with them and encouraging them. I also spent time at the Colombo Theological Seminary on the invitation of Professor Vinodh Gunasekera lecturing to the class “Foundations for Faith” and “Introduction to Doctrine.” These two classes are the ones for which the GCI book on discipleship is a required text.
I am humbled and amazed at the favor shown our denomination, including these invitations to participate in meaningful ways in what God is doing in Sri Lanka through the greater body of Christ. Thanks and glory be to God for the calling to this ministry and the gift of participating in his work.
Kayla Shallenberger and Carrie Smith, two young GCI members from the United States, are on an extended mission trip in Malawi, Africa. They are teaching at a school in Blantyre, which is operated by the GCI church there. You can follow their progress on Kayla’s blog and Carrie’s FaceBook page.
The highlight of this year’s Irish Autumn Harvest Festival (held Sept. 11-17), was the ordination of two members of GCI’s churches in Ireland. James Henderson (director for GCI in the UK) was accompanied by Anthony Goudie and Irish Deacons and Deaconesses in ordaining James Joseph (Joe) Casey as an elder (first picture) and Alando (Alan) Bata as a deacon (second picture).
Joe has been a deacon in the Limerick Congregation in the south of Ireland for a number of years. He is also an active member of their pastoral council. Alan and his wife Fe are Filipino members of the Dublin Congregation. Alan recently became an Irish citizen.
In the ordination ceremony, James Henderson (at right in both pictures) spoke briefly about ordination and the roles of deacon and elder as outlined in Scripture. Both men were asked if they would accept their respective roles, to which they agreed. After prayer both men were anointed with oil as a reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and hands laid on them as a symbol of separation to serve. The members of the Irish churches (along with some visiting festival guests) were delighted with these ordinations, and wished both Alan and Joe a blessed and fruitful future in service to their respective congregations.
SEP UK was held for two weeks this August in the stunning environment of Loch Lomond, Scotland. Despite torrential rains, the nearly 100 campers displayed a relentless positive energy. Almost a third of the campers had never been to SEP before. For the first time in recent memory, there was a surplus of staff applications.
Sixteen camp activities included archery, riflery and sailing. New this year was a community outreach project undertaken by the trainee staff. The team refurbished the garden areas of the school in the local village, Milton of Buchannan – this was greatly appreciated by the people in the local community some of whom visited SEP for the first time. Many commented that they had often wondered what happened at the camp by the Loch but had never before had the opportunity to come and find out.
Christian Living classes addressed questions about human life. The final worship service of camp brought everything back to the personal and God’s desire to be involved in each individual’s life. A clear presentation of this universal message was augmented by a moving and impactful ‘cardboard testimony’ from about 30 members of staff. On one side the staff members held up a brief statement of their life before God’s involvement in their lives and then flipped it over to describe in a few words how their lives have been transformed. On the last evening of camp everyone enjoyed a wonderful final banquet.
This report is from Hector Barrero, GCI mission developer in South America.
From September 14 to 16, Paulina and I visited the Santiago de Chile Congregation. It is a group of about 25 people. They always have been a very loving congregation that functions as a big family. Little by little, the Holy Spirit has been transforming them to grasp the love of God in a deeper way. We were surprised by seeing their progress in the understanding and practice of the grace of God. This group meets at Thomas and Miryam Keller’s home. We spent long hours with them sharing a great variety of topics and solidifying our friendship.
We met on Thursday afternoon with the whole group and spent a wonderful time which ended with singing of hymns and praises with all joy.
Thomas Keller, the leader of the group, is a board member of the Chilean-North American Professional Institute in Santiago, which prepares students to become bilingual technicians in business administration. His wife Miryam also teaches at the same Institute. The Kellers graduated from Ambassador in 1994. They have three children: Karina and the twins, Samuel and Kenneth.
The group manifested their gratitude for our visit and their desire for more frequent visits like this one. They also send their regards and we gave them loving regards on your behalf.
From there we went to Buenos Aires where we met Charles and Carmen Fleming to visit the Ezeiza congregation. They are a very loving and united group. Saturday afternoon I made a presentation about what our God and Lord is doing in our congregations in Latin America; then we all made a summary of what God is doing there among them. It was an exercise that motivated them to resonate with the kind of congregation they want to be. On Sunday, Carmen and Paulina presented topics of spiritual edification and I presented one on Romans 5. For lunch we altogether enjoyed the traditional “asado Argentino” prepared by the members. All of them send you their loving regards.
This report was filed by Hector Barrero, GCI mission developer in South America.
Last Saturday September 24 at the Bogota congregation we had 46 couples celebrating San Valentine day – which is celebrated this month in Colombia. These couples are the result of about 3 years working to help couples better their marriages. We enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared by a group of ladies of the congregation. We also enjoyed funny and edifying activities. Many gifts were presented and there was lots of celebration plus a short meditation on what are the benefits of being married.
Then Sunday, during church services, we also celebrated that God considers us His friends, as He did with Abraham, and Jesus did with his disciples. It was a day to celebrate friendship. Members of the spokesman club presented testimonies of good friendships in their own lives. It really was a day of much celebration.
This report was filed by Kalengule Kaoma, GCI mission developer in Africa.
I recently visited Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo where 26 ministry leaders attended a one day leadership seminar on September 10. Delegates came from three GCI congregations in Katanga Province: Lubumbashi, Kawama, and Kolwezi. All three congregations are in good spiritual health.
On Sunday September 11, a special guest attended our Lubumbashi congregation. One and a half month old baby girl Mongenu Kazaka attended a GCI service for the first time. Accompanied by her parents, grandparents and siblings, the baby willingly participated in her “blessing of a child” ceremony. She was deep in sleep, but woke up at the end of the ceremony when we clapped to welcome her.
After the blessing, another ceremony took center stage; the ordination to the office of elder of Justin-Richard Tshibasu. To show acceptance, joy, and approval of the occasion, selected representatives from the congregations went forward with ululations and sprinkled white baby powder on the new elder, his wife and the officiating elder.
We are pleased to announce that the Bengali Evangelical Association recently celebrated its 25th anniversary year of mission work in the villages of Bangladesh.
On Sunday September 18, John and Naomi Biswas met together with friends of BEA for an evening of praise, prayer, celebration, fellowship, and dinner at the Elks Lodge in Duarte, California.
This was a milestone event with 130 guests who heard from the keynote speaker Pastor Neil Earle, and the Mayor of Duarte who welcomed all and congratulated BEA on behalf of the city.
The various GCI churches in the area were also well represented by their pastors who gave special prayers and comments. Praise music was provided by the band from Bermie Dizon’s New Life Fellowship church, and a Bengali group, all friends of BEA, who accompanied themselves on their traditional instruments. Dr. Tkach, who was in Australia at the time, sent a congratulatory letter that was read to the guests.
Over 60 members from all parts of Italy and guest speaker John Halford gathered in the beautiful town of Ferrara (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) from August 25 through 28 to celebrate their annual Festival. Because of Italy’s unique geography, and economic hard times, it is hard for the members to see each other very often. This makes our Annual Festival a very special occasion.
Activities included daily worship services, prayer meetings, a worship evening, a bike tour around the walls of the city and a boat trip on the sea with dinner on board. An International Festival of Street Musicians (the biggest worldwide) which took place at the same time in Ferrara provided lots of free quality entertainment.
This year’s overall theme was “Our Identity in Christ.” Messages included encouragement to be aware of our spiritual identity, letting Christ live fully in us, putting to death the old self, and other topics such as prayer and unity in Christ. One of the highlights was the baptism of the wife of one of our leading members in Italy. The festival concluded with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
Following the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the International Graduate School of Leadership (IGSL) and Grace Communion International, Philippines (GCI), the first class of IGSL’s Master of Arts (in Organizational Leadership) was started in Cebu City for some 24 leaders and members of GCI churches coming from Samar, Leyte, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Cebu provinces. The sessions were held at the Christ for All Nations church in Talisay City, Cebu on August 26 to 30.
The first class, Theology 1 (Salvation Theology), which focused on Trinitarian, Christ-centered theology was well-received. Sessions were interspersed with a lot of questions which revolved mostly around the distinctives of Trinitarian theology and how to apply them in practical pastoral work and ministry.