Mohan Jayasekera

Mohan and Nihara

Mohan Jayasekera is the pastor of GCI’s congregation in Perth, Australia and the director for GCI in Sri Lanka.

Mohan was born and raised in Sri Lanka and has been married to Nihara for nearly 40 years. They have three daughters, Shehana (married to Peter Edalere), Niranga (married to Milinda Warakaulle) and Nilakshi (married to Shehan Alwis). They also have one son, Rukshan, who is single. All of their children are actively involved in GCI. They also have three grandchildren, Tyana, Taryk and Keara.

Mohan grew up in a large but close family near Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. His father was an attorney, as well as a civil and structural engineer who headed up the Public Works Department of the government of Sri Lanka. “My dad was a wonderful and committed Christian in a mostly non-Christian environment.” Sri Lanka is officially a Buddhist country. Mohan’s grandmother was Dutch so Mohan was reared in the Dutch Reformed tradition of Christianity.

Because of Mohan’s father’s success, Mohan was able to attend one of the best schools in Colombo, Sri Lanka. His father “encouraged us to do our best in the classroom as well as the sports field, but to never forget who we were.” That encouragement paid off as Mohan and his brothers succeeded in the classroom as well as in the sports field, especially in cricket.

While a teenager, Mohan’s father sent him to study in the UK and it was there he heard the World Tomorrow program. “I was drawn through this contact to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and the authority of scripture in my life and I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and began my personal walk with God as a member of the WCG in 1966/1967.”

When Mohan returned to Sri Lanka, his father became “quite concerned with one of his sons being religiously odd.” The Jayasekera family was well known in the little island of Ceylon and it wasn’t long before many knew of Mohan’s beliefs. Mohan had always done well in cricket and he was soon playing for the Sri Lanka team. When he told the team he would not play on the Sabbath many fans and spectators who knew of his commitment became concerned about their team. During an important final for Mohan’s cricket club, a section of the crowd who weren’t at all pleased that Mohan was not going to play in a final match began to chant. “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – have got a hold on our Mohan.” Mohan says he felt like crawling into a hole in the ground.

Mohan’s father talked to him quite a bit about “this odd sect” he had become part of, but he always made it clear his relationship with his son was more important than differences in beliefs. He tried to talk Mohan out of going to Ambassador College, but when he saw how committed Mohan was, he gave him his full blessing and told Mohan he would always be there for him.

Mohan, who always had a close and loving relationship with his father, said his dad was really his mentor. “He loved his family and friends… he loved his Lord and the church he grew up in…. He loved his country and was a friend and servant to all.”

Mohan began serving the church (then WCG) in Sri Lanka in1969 with Richard Frankel who lived in England and who looked after the work in Asia. Speaking of Richard, Mohan said, “He was one who modeled love to family and service to the church and taught me servant leadership by example.” Mohan’s work with UTA French Airlines often took him to London and he had no baggage restrictions. So he was able to transport mail and magazines and tithes and offerings back and forth between Sri Lanka and the London office. Mohan also helped organize the festivals in Asia.

Mohan began pastoring the church in Sri Lanka in 1977 after being ordained an elder. At this time he was the Inflight Services Operations Manager and later Regional Administrative Manager for UTA French Airlines. This position opened some doors and enabled Mohan to get some things done for the church. The church in Sri Lanka was officially registered in early 1978. “This was/is no easy task in a country hostile to Christianity – subtly and sometimes openly.”

In 1982 Mohan was hired to serve as pastor of the church in India and Sri Lanka and was also responsible for visiting Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives. “We had established a church office in Colombo in 1981 and were mailing literature to all these countries. Radio Ceylon and Radio Maldives both broadcast the World Tomorrow on short wave and the mail came to the office in Colombo.” Mohan visited these countries many times over the space of a few years. “I shall never forget going to Kabul, Afghanistan to visit two people there in 1983 during the days of the Russian occupation. It was a time when English-educated people there were looking for any opportunity to get out and I felt that the people I met were hoping we could help them do so!”

Mohan said he learned a great deal from visiting so many places in these countries. “The greatest lesson I have learnt and one which I try to follow is what Jesus taught when he said that he was sending us like ‘lambs among wolves’ and directed us to ‘be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.’ Someone in Asia once told me several years ago that many good-intentioned Christians actually turn Jesus’ instructions around and become wise as doves and harmless as serpents in their mission efforts. Sadly, in my years working in Asia I have seen many examples of this.”

When he was first hired, Mohan was told to try to visit all the members in India at least once a year. He did his best. “I have been to many remote places in India travelling in many interesting ways (including on the roof of trains and bullock carts) and sleeping in areas so remote that the only place to sleep would be an ashrams (places where people go to live separately from the rest of society and practice the Hindu religion) to get to see the members.”

“In such travels the presence of God was so real to me on so many occasions, as I do not speak any Indian languages. The boldness and willingness that I was most certainly blessed with through the Holy Spirit on numerous occasions to be with God’s people – simple folk who are indeed the salt of the earth – gave a very deep sense of inexpressible feelings of joy to me.”

Mohan talks about one relationship he had with William and Maria Ouderland. William was a leader of the Dutch resistance movement in WWII and a highly decorated freedom fighter in the Bangladeshi war of independence. He was manager of the Bata shoe company in Dhaka during the Bangladeshi struggle for independence and nationhood. “People like the Ouderlands and so many others I have the privilege to serve in Western Australia and Asia (Pakistan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka), are truly wonderful examples of Christianity and remind me of those described in Hebrews 11:37-39. I so enjoy this part of my pastoral ministry.”

When asked what he loves about GCI today, Mohan said, “I have been so invigorated by growing in understanding of what God has opened our eyes through the Holy Spirit to see. I am passionate in presenting the message of how good the Father is in including us and giving us full rights of sonship through Jesus and sharing with the brethren the joy of salvation. Recently I have been blessed to be invited to teach classes in September at the Colombo Theological Seminary and the Calvary Church Seminary in Sri Lanka.” Mohan appreciates our prayers.

Becky Deuel

Becky Deuel, co-pastor of the Appleton, Wisconsin congregation, is a long-time GCI member. “I started attending the Radio Church of God in 1959 in the little white church on 8th Street in Eugene, Oregon. Raymond Cole was the pastor.” Becky and her family lived out in the country and she says it was not unusual that the only time she wore shoes during the summer was when she went to church.

By the time Becky was six years old, she determined to go to Ambassador College, which she did in 1971. After graduation from Ambassador, Becky moved to Georgia and got married. “Fifteen years and three children later, we moved to Wisconsin for a better job opportunity for my husband.” Becky is now employed at Point Beach Nuclear Plant as a Human Resources Consultant. She said her job in personnel development has proved to be a good fit for her responsibility as a pastor.

Becky has been married to Steve for eight years and between them they have four adult children, but no grandchildren – yet! She and Steve love to travel and to scuba dive. They make a special trip each year on their anniversary, often to a place where they can dive. They’ve been to Hawaii, California, Bonaire, the Caymans, Spain, Australia, and most recently, on an Alaskan cruise.

Becky became a member of the Appleton pastoral team in January 2002 (she serves as co-pastor with Steve Cole). “I have felt so welcomed as a female pastor and have been given incredible opportunities.” In addition to pastoring, Becky serves on the chaplain teams at GCI’s Northern Light camp in Minnesota and Heartland SEP camp in Illinois.

When asked about her passion, Becky said pastoring is a fulfillment of her passion of “sharing the love that the Father, Son and Spirit have for all of their beloved creation,”… sharing “how much he wants to have a relationship with all of us.” Becky also loves putting sermons together and presenting the message. One of her most memorable moments as a pastor was performing her oldest son’s wedding ceremony.

Becky gives credit to her mentoring and training from GCI district superintendent Dave Fiedler (now retired) and current district pastoral leader Doug Johannsen. “He and his wife Betty are amazing at modeling how to share the love of the Father, Son and Spirit.”

Becky, who is finishing her master’s degree at Grace Communion Seminary, is excited about the future of GCI. “I love the inclusion factor of Trinitarian theology… I am so looking forward to where we are going in the future… Being part of this denomination gives lots of opportunity for networking and travel – whether it is to a pastor conference, a GenMin Summit, a Church Multiplication Summit or training… It is great fun.”

William Mankhomwa

William and Chrissy Mankhomwa

William Mankhomwa, a Research and Test Development Officer for the Malawi Africa National Examinations Board (MANEB), serves as co-pastor of the GCI Blantyre, Malawi congregation with Fadrick Nihaka. He also helps serve the four satellite churches within 200 kilometers of Blantyre, Malawi.

William will have been married to his wife Chrissy for 30 years this September. They have two adult children, T. Isaiah and Marah Anne Chrissy.

William grew up in a typical African village, living in huts surrounded by bushes and cornfields. His parents separated when he was five years old and his grandmother, who had a great influence on his faith, raised him. She was a devout Presbyterian who traveled to many congregations bringing instruction to women.

After about two years as a Seventh-day Adventist, William became interested in GCI in 1981 and contacted the office in Kenya. In 1983, he went to England to study. “I was fully integrated into the church under David and Nancy Silcox, participating in all church activities… and visiting with members’ families. I was baptized on April 8, 1984 by Mr. Silcox.”

In 1996, William was ordained an elder and started assisting pastor Gardner Kunje in Malawi. The church needed more personnel in ministry and William was asked to help where needed. He loves preaching and leading worship, and “seeing people accept Jesus Christ and committing their lives to him.” It’s not past William to spend hours answering questions and talking with someone who wants to know about Jesus.

Because of his love for his country and his Lord, William has used his education to help others. “I have translated some of the GCI literature into the local language and distributed it to the church.” William loves being a pastor and loves preparing messages. His pastoral passion is “to help people know who they really are in Christ… watching the Holy Spirit bring new revelation to a person and watch that person grow in Christ.”

William lists two events as highlights in his ministry. One was when a fellow pastor who was struggling with understanding the changes came back from a conference in Zimbabwe a new man. “He said it was as if a mask had been pulled off his face.” William still gets a thrill recalling that transformation. His second highlight was a church service in January 2012 when visitor Rick Shallenberger preached in Malawi. “The service was recorded by our national television, then aired on subsequent weeks. It was inspiring to receive complimentary remarks from relatives and friends across the country who watched the service and said how much they enjoyed it.”

When asked what he likes most about GCI, William said, “The brotherly love we have; it feels real and unfeigned. We are truly connected and truly one.” He loves GCI’s sound doctrine and focus on Christian living. “I’m so glad we have learnt the humility and simplicity that is in Christ.” William loves to learn and loves to spend time with God. “Every moment of my life I seem to feel there is someone beside me. He said he would never leave us nor forsake us.”

Bonny McQueary

Together with Hugh Steiginga and Sarah Faulkner, Bonny McQueary serves on the pastoral team at Abundant Grace Fellowship, GCI’s congregation in Fort Myers, Florida. Bonny grew up in Ohio. Her parents were hard working and dedicated to children. They kept 13 foster children during Bonny’s childhood and inspired Bonny to take two foster children of her own. She then adopted one of them, her son Jon, who now lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her daughter and son-in-law, Mindy and Mike Lockard, serve in a GCI congregation in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Bonny joined GCI in 1968 after listening to radio programs with Garner Ted Armstrong talking about evolution. The program was on at 11 PM and Bonny would often break out laughing and wake up her husband. “I’m a sucker for a good sense of humor.” Not only does she have a great sense of humor, Bonny also considers herself both a positive person and an extrovert. Those who know her would agree that she has a zeal for life and is always looking forward in hope.

Following her divorce, Bonny moved to Florida for a fresh start. Over the years, she became a leader in the Fort Myers church. She has the distinction of being the second woman to be ordained within GCI as an elder. “This means as #2 I have to try harder!” Bonny says. “The changes in the church gave me the opportunity.”

Bonny, who loves serving as a pastor, said, “I really enjoy our church mission of feeding the homeless. We feed them twice a week, on Sundays after services and on Wednesday for lunch.” She loves the challenge of helping produce good, quality and healthy meals without the use of an on-site kitchen. One of the highlights of the mission is how many people Bonny gets to meet and serve.

One person she met led to an experience that ranks as one of her most memorable as a pastor. Receiving a call from a stranded young man, Bonny and her daughter Mindy, who was visiting at the time, went to see this young man to find out how they could help. “The young man had AIDS and was dying. He came to Fort Myers hoping to reconcile with his family in the area.” Unfortunately, the man’s family rejected him – wouldn’t even see him. The Fort Myers congregation arranged for the young man’s bus trip home. When all was arranged, Bonny gave him a hug. “The fact that I hugged him overwhelmed him and brought tears to his eyes… he wasn’t used to being treated with love.”

Two of Bonny’s passion are intercessory prayer and taking care of the elderly. She loves her quiet time with God where she visualizes being in a safe place with Christ. It is in this safe place that she spends time praying for others and spending some quiet time with God.

When asked if one person influenced her above others in a positive way, Bonny said, “Mother Teresa. I would love to have a tenth of her unselfishness, dedication and patience.” From her life of service, it seems that Bonny’s wish has come true.

Pastor Don Hussell

Alice and Don Hussell

Don Hussell, GCI Senior Pastor in Ripley, West Virginia, lives 300 yards from where he was born, on the farm his parents built. He was an only child who learned early how to play by himself and how to work hard. “I am part of the Boomer generation and we breathe work. I don’t think about it, it just happens.” His primary responsibility at an early age was to carry water to his home from the spring on the other side of the hill. He never looked forward to washday, saying, “Mom used way too much water.”

Married to his wife, Alice, for 47 years this November, Don and Alice have one son, one grandson, two granddaughters and one great granddaughter. Don gives much of the credit for his ministry to his wife Alice. “I would not be who I am today without her full support.”

When asked how he became a GCI pastor, Don shared that he simply moved through the process. He first served as a deacon and then became a youth pastor for about six years, conducting large youth events on his farm. In 2004 he became the senior pastor – a feat he claims was the result of “12 long difficult years of misery” in Spokesman Club, which helped him overcome his fear of speaking. “God knew what he was doing because fear was actually keeping me in bondage of being used by God.” In 2003, Don was leading a small group in a small town and they decided they wanted to be a church. Don was asked to be the pastor in 2004.

Don loves being a pastor and loves preparing messages. His pastoral passion is “to help people know who they really are in Christ… watching the Holy Spirit bring new revelation to a person and watching that person grow in Christ.”

Many of Don’s most memorable moments deal with the youth, “taking them to events and watching them come to a place in their lives to believe the gospel and accept Jesus as Lord… to be there when a youth you have been working with comes to that place and says, ‘Jesus is Lord, and from this day he is my Lord.’”

A highlight in Don’s ministry was going to Uganda and helping a pastor build an orphanage. Don invited the pastor to his congregation and the pastor shared a dream of building an orphanage and said he needed $21,000 to build three buildings for the orphanage. “I just felt led to get up in front of our small church of 25 and say I think we need to help this pastor fulfill what God has called him to do,” Don shared. His small church raised more than $50,000 for the orphanage. Sometime later, Don visited the orphanage in Uganda. He has many stories of his trip there that he loves to share with those who ask.

When asked when he feels closest to God, Don responded, “When the opportunity comes that I can tell people about the true God who loves them more than they think… it is at this time that I reflect on what God has done in my life.”

Don’s interest with GCI started in 1980 through The Plain Truth magazine. He has loved the journey Jesus has taken him on. “Being part of the whole process of the transformation… living in legalism, and watching God work with us in that, then being part of the process of transformation… to me it is the reality of following Jesus… we just follow where he leads us by the Holy Spirit.”

Leslie Howard’s book published

Leslie Howard

Leslie K. Howard has had her first book published. Leslie is a ministry leader at 24/7 Community Church, a GCI congregation in Newark, New Jersey, which is pastored by her husband, Frank Howard.

Leslie’s book, which is titled Sisters with S.A.S.S. (Saved, Anointed, Smart and Successful Women of God), examines lives of both biblical and contemporary women who when presented with challenges faced them boldly, courageously and faithfully. These ladies experienced victory by the divine hand of God. Readers find inspiration for their personal journey while delving into the lives of women such as Jochebed, Abigail and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Each account is followed by a narrative from the author’s life. Discussion questions are provided for either personal or group studies.

Leslie’s book is available at Amazon.com and from her online store.

GCI members in the heart of San Francisco

San Francisco Community Fellowship (SFCC), is a dynamic GCI congregation in the heart of San Francisco, CA, near the top of Mission Street. The congregation’s motto is, “Bridging a multi-cultural community to Jesus Christ.”

With persistence and patience, SFCC has been doing just that – reaching out with God’s love and life to the surrounding community. The result is a growing church fellowship that is wonderfully cross-cultural (representing several ethnic groups) and cross-generational.

Ted Johnston, media coordinator for GCI Church Administration and Development, USA, interviewed several of SFCC’s members. The video below provides excerpts from some of these interviews, highlighting comments concerning why the members appreciate their church home.

http://youtu.be/nArSOSaNYFg
(Theme music by GCI member James Egbert)

Dr. John McKenna

Dr. John McKenna is doctrinal advisor to Grace Communion International and a Grace Communion Seminary faculty member. In the video below, John tells his story about writing poetry, and shares a short new poem that he wrote in response to a service on the tenth anniversary of 9-11.

Alisha Austin

Alisha Austin

In this occasional feature of GCI Weekly Update, we will profile some of our GCI members. This time we meet Alisha Austin, a young member in our Queens, NY congregation. In addition to her ministry within the congregation, Alisha is busily preparing for a career. Here is what she writes about herself:

I am a recent graduate of Nyack College where I studied English and Cross-Cultural Studies. My program included studying works by Wallace Stevens and Virginia Woolf, and wrestling with topics such as determining whether a country requires aid or development.

My undergraduate degree program intensified my great passion for writing and non-profit work. I am currently designing a Master’s degree program that will allow me to study how writing, whether in the form of literature (such as novels or poems), journalism or social media (such as Facebook), can be both a mirror of and a window for social change. I plan to complete this program at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

Besides being a person who loves writing and reading, I also enjoy volunteering, and running. So far, my volunteer opportunities have included working with a ministry for the homeless, a women’s outreach group and a coffee and tea festival. I ran college level cross country and currently give five mile and longer tours to runners from around the world. So far I have had the opportunity to run with people from France, South Africa, Germany, Canada, Minnesota, Louisiana and Ohio.

Some of my goals in life include being a college professor, traveling around the world, participating in marathons, triathlons, and being a writer and photographer for National Geographic. Besides that, I’ve been thinking about writing a significant literary piece.

I think learning and exploring are two things that will always be a part of my life; I think it is a vital part of the human experience.

God bless you Alisha! We’re excited about your future in our Lord’s service to humanity.