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Phil Hopwood

Phillip Hopwood, GCI Australia pastor in Hobart, Tasmania was born and raised in Launceston, Tasmania. Phil said he had a “simple but positive upbringing attending church and Sunday school and Scouts every week. We had no Scout leader for several years, so my dad and those of us who were older ran the troop, which provided lots of leadership experience, fun and adventure.” When Phil was 16, his father was killed in a tragic accident while on a Scout activity.

Motorbikes were a highlight of Phil’s young adult life. “At one stage I had 13 motorbikes in various stages of repair, including Harley Davidsons and Triumphs. I entered a 1938 Harley with a sidecar in a race to help get sidecar racing re-established in Tasmania around 1970—lots of fun!”

Phil was brought up Methodist, “but was looking for answers about God at a time when most churches were liberal and the God is Dead movement was at its peak.” In 1965 he heard The World Tomorrow program and became interested. “I sought help regarding conscientious objection status from the church during the Vietnam War, and ended up with my first visit from a WCG minister.” This led to Phil attending church services in 1971 and being baptized a few months later “in a very cold river near Launceston. It was so cold my lungs partially collapsed, which gave a heightened sense of meaning even as I was under the water.”

Phil spent 1972-3 in the UK and Europe working and travelling. “I thought it might be the last chance to see Europe before the end time!” Phil made his base near the Ambassador College campus in Bricket Wood so he was able to attend services and Bible studies there regularly.

Returning to Tasmania in 1973, Phil attended and served in WCG local churches in northern Tasmania during the rest of the 70’s before going to Ambassador College in Pasadena in 1980-83. “My college years were among the best of my life. At one point I was head usher at the Auditorium and I loved attending the concerts. It was a great feeling having the keys to such a magnificent building in my pocket.” During his senior year of college, Phil worked in Personal Correspondence answering letters, which he calls “a great experience.”

After college, Phil was hired as a ministerial trainee in Vancouver, BC, Canada. “I spent 7 years pastoring in Alberta before returning with a family to Newcastle, NSW in late 1991 and then home to pastor the three Tasmanian churches in 1997.”

Phil shares that one of his toughest times was going through a divorce. “It was a very difficult experience to find a way through. I was helped greatly by close friends and family.” He says that it can be challenging being a single pastor especially in a small island state with limited social opportunities. “Thankfully God is merciful and gracious.”

What Phil enjoys most about being a pastor is the camaraderie and “having friends around the world who share a common theology and Christian journey. I enjoy the fellowship of members and fellow pastors.” Phil said he loves to watch people learn and grow in their understanding of what it means to be free, to live in peace, to be loved and to be embraced by the Father. “Preparing sermons and teaching about who God is, and who we are because of who he is” is something Phil holds dear to his heart. One of the highlights of his year is the annual Tasmanian church camp where “we spend a week in a beautiful seaside location studying through one of the books of the Bible.”

At the present time, Phil pastors part time due to limited local income. To supplement his income, he runs a small computer business and serves as a lecturer/evaluator for Ambassador College of Christian Ministry (ACCM). Phil sums up his life by saying, “what a journey it has been!”

Phil’s passion is engaging with others and sharing good theology. “I love the heart and wisdom of Karl Barth’s writings, as well as many others. I share my sermons on line, and recently helped put together the new GCI Australia website (at http://www.gci.org.au) to share more of the gospel with our increasingly secular nation. I believe it is important that we continue to use our denominational gifts of teaching and publishing to spread the gospel through modern media.”

When asked about his most memorable moment, Phil said, “I relish the time of helping members through the changes in the 90’s, including engaging with many locally who were personally emotionally impacted. I also enjoyed developing and overseeing the internet forums to help answer people’s questions, with help from Ted Johnston and technical help from Bret Miller.”

Phil said he feels closest to God “when reading a profound scripture or inspiring statement from a theologian, particularly if I am sitting outdoors in a sunny and inspiring location.”

Craig Minke

Debbie and Craig Minke

Craig Minke is one of GCI’s newest pastors. After serving as an elder for several years, he was asked to pastor the Vancouver, BC, Canada church when Roy Page retired. Craig and his wife Debbie (Burbach) met at Ambassador College. They have been married for 25 years and have three children: Natasha, 20; Bryce, 18; and Brent, 16.

Craig grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. “Our family was not that well off. Until I was 12, we had no electricity, no TV, no running water and no furnace. Our house was a farmhouse, heated by a big pot-bellied stove in the middle, which was loaded with logs and coal.” Craig’s family farmed grain and raised cattle. Craig says his job was “to watch the cattle when we let them out so they would not get into the neighbor’s grain fields.”

Craig, along with his mother (who is legally blind) and his two sisters, started attending WCG in 1970, when Craig was 12 years old. “We got picked up on our farm by another family and then drove 100 miles to where the church was meeting.” After high school, Craig attended Ambassador College, first in Big Sandy, Texas, then in Pasadena, California. After graduating, he spent a year living in Europe before taking a job with the WCG Vancouver office working in media.

That job lasted 15 years until the denomination switched from a media focus. At that time his job became redundant. “I have switched jobs a few times and through those times God has taken care of us. About three years ago, I started my own company and I am doing this in conjunction with my duties as a bivocational pastor.”

Craig looks at his life as preparation for being a pastor. “I have always felt that to whom much is given much is also expected. I truly feel we were given some great opportunities at Ambassador College, working with the teens at the summer camps, as well as travel and local church events. Serving in the pastoral function is just an opportunity to be able to give something back to the many who invested in my early years.”

When asked what he enjoys most about being a pastor, Craig said, “I enjoy working with people—seeing people grow and change. I enjoy the interaction that takes place. I have always enjoyed the organizing aspect or the administrative aspect and also am a person that likes a good challenge and stepping out into new territory.”

One of the things Craig loves best about GCI is being part of a worldwide family. “No matter where you go in the world, you have friends and a family that treats you like their own. I enjoy the spiritual community and the time spent in fellowship.”

Over the years, Craig has been passionate about working with youth in church and at summer camp. “It is my passion that I can use my gifts to serve, to water and plant that others may learn of the tremendous hope we have been given. God does the calling and my passion is that I can be one of the tools he uses to help our church grow.”

When asked when he feels closest to God, Craig says it’s when he is outdoors. “I enjoy camping trips where you can take three weeks with no schedule and no pressing needs. The beauty of the creation around us loudly proclaims God’s power, might and majesty, along with his kindness and compassion. A break from the busy schedule gives me lots of time to meditate and reflect on things. Often it seems we are much too busy to be able to have quiet, unrushed time for reflection. There are times we need to slow down more, by skipping a meal, taking the night off, getting away for a quiet weekend, so we have time to pursue the important things.”

Don Marson

Don and Anne Marie Marson

Don Marson has been serving as the pastor of GCI’s church in Anchorage, Alaska since 2008. He has been Married to Anne Marie for 49 years and together they have three children (Andrew, Bradley and Lynn) and seven grandchildren.

Don knows the blessings of being a senior citizen in Anchorage. “Every year we’re given dozens of delectable, fresh-caught salmon.” One of Don’s hobbies is to marinade, smoke, vacuum-seal and then to share these delectable fish with others.

Don grew up in Seattle, Washington and graduated from high school in 1955. He served in the U.S. Air Force, including a year in Africa. It was back in Seattle in 1959 that his older brother introduced Don to the Radio Church of God. Knowing Don had a fascination with science fiction; Don’s brother gave him the booklet, 1975 in Prophecy. The booklet piqued Don’s interest. “I then began to study the Bible and became a Christian and WCG member. Don was baptized in August 1960 by Jim Friddle, Seattle’s pastor.

Due to a series of job changes, Don moved his family from Seattle to Portland, Oregon in the 1970s and then up to Anchorage in 1984. Don retired in 2004; at least he thought he did. He was serving as an associate pastor in Anchorage when he and Anne Marie were asked to attend the new pastors’ training at the GCI home office in Glendora, California. This was in 2006.

The conference changed Don in a powerful way. “I experienced what I believe was a second conversion, evidenced by the Holy Spirit’s work in my life since.” Don said he and Anne Marie were curious as to why they were asked to go to the conference. After all, Anchorage had a pastor. But it all made sense in 2008 when the Anchorage pastor resigned and Don was installed as senior pastor.

Don may have retired from his previous employment in 2004, but he is anything but retired in ministry. “I regularly participate with other local evangelicals in an Anchorage Evangelical Pastors Fellowship, encouraging and praying together. In addition, I enjoy breakfasting with similar ‘Old Geezer Pastors,’ weekly at a nearby restaurant. And, my wife and I are involved in volunteer work with the Anchorage Love, INC (In the Name of Christ) organization, serving neighbors in need. Love, INC is one of the missions that our congregation supports along with the Bengali Evangelical Association.”

Don said he loves serving and leading “our small, harmonious congregation together in Jesus’ love, peace and joy.” Further he loves the community he serves, with “its unique people and fantastically beautiful State of Alaska.”

When asked what Don enjoys about being part of GCI, he said, “The realistic and absolute assurance that God is peacefully, faithfully and lovingly leading me and others along his positive journey towards eternal life with full conviction of assured, promised salvation.” This ties in with his passion “to faithfully follow God with firm conviction wherever he leads, and encouraging others as well.”

Don then listed some of his small congregation’s blessings—already in 2012 they have had one baptism, two new members join and the commissioning of a new ministry leader. “Praise God and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit,” Don said.

Don’s most memorable moments as a pastor have to do with receiving God’s affirmation. “I frequently experience the unplanned alignment of my sermon with the message of a Speaking of Life video or a worship song presented in the church service that day. Things like this reassure me that God is leading, and that’s exciting, to say the least!”

Don and Anne Marie feel blessed to be serving God’s beloved in Alaska. He loves his job, his community, his congregation, his beautiful state, and his relationship with God. Don said he feels closest to God while in the Word and in prayer. “In particular, when studying carefully and being deeply inspired by his Word from various sources. He is so real, so encouraging and gentle.”

David Gibbs

Alberta and David Gibbs

David Gibbs, pastor of GCI’s Birmingham, England church and his wife, Alberta, attended the same school as they grew up. David was a year ahead and in the same class as Alberta’s sister. But Alberta won his heart and in November 2011 they celebrated their 25th anniversary.

David and Alberta have a passion for children. Not only do they have two children, Sarah and Michael, but also for the past five years, they have served as Foster Carers (Parents) looking after very young children until the children are adopted or go back to their birth parents. They’ve had their share of tragedies along the way. “Some of the hardest times in our lives were suffering four miscarriages, two before Sarah was born, and two more before Michael.”

Though both of David’s parents are Jamaican, David was born and raised in the same town he now serves as pastor. Still, his Jamaican heritage was a major influence in his life, often encouraged by his grandparents. “One of my rich experiences growing up was having my paternal grandparents live with us for many years.”

David did well in school, but preferred sports to study. He did well enough to go through college and to this day David still loves to learn. And he has always enjoyed reading.

David’s family started attending WCG when he was about 13 years old. The family had attended a Baptist church and several Pentecostal churches. “Then my Dad started to search and was given some WCG booklets to read, and the rest is history some 37 years later.” David considers his WCG background as a teenager a major influence in his life. “Through my church experience, I have had the opportunity to travel and attend Ambassador College, making friends from all around the world.”

David was ordained shortly after GCI’s doctrinal changes took place. “Because of my college experience, natural leadership abilities and support of the congregation I was ordained an elder. Now I serve as one of three members of the pastoral council.” David is thankful for this council. For many years he carried the responsibility for the congregation pretty much alone. “I am grateful that we now have a council to look after our local church affairs.”

When asked what he enjoys most about being a pastor, David said, “I enjoy helping people. I enjoy preaching. I enjoy good fellowship—mutually encouraging each other with the good news. I enjoy the privilege of people opening their heart to you, and not just within my own congregation.”

David loves being a part of GCI. He has served on the UK board of trustees for a period of time and he loves “the connectedness of people all around the world.” Because of the years in Ambassador College, David and Alberta feel like the United States is their second home. And they love Africa. “We have a close affinity with Malawi especially since Alberta went on a mission project there in 2010 to teach in a school. My best friend was the person who encouraged her to go.”

Working on a gospel radio show was one of David’s most memorable experiences. “I was greatly encouraged by the comments of many listeners who stated what a difference it made. One person said that when I preach it is like my voice and the word blend together. It is so humbling that God has blessed me with so much and given me the opportunity to touch so many lives.” David was also nominated as pastor of the year because of his community work. “I didn’t win,” he adds.

David’s passion is that people know God. “As I draw older my view of a number of things has changed but my constant prayer remains that we will find favor with God and man. Everything we do is influenced by our faith and eagerness to see others do well, whether part of our church community or not, especially to have a relationship with Jesus.”

When asked when he feels closest to God, David said, “When I’m reminded of God’s great love for me and the whole of humanity, I’m encouraged. I mess up on a regular basis but I am forgiven. When I look at God’s people each week and realize that he has called me to pastor them and others outside of the flock, I am in awe and am grateful.”

George Affeldt

Pastor George Affeldt

George Affeldt, pastor of GCI’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota church, attended his first GCI church service in 1949 when he went with his father to Pasadena to tour the campus, which then consisted of the library building. The Affeldts lived on a five-acre “farm” nine miles west of Lancaster, California. “As our family grew, Dad would add another room. Our home was always under construction. At one time Dad stacked two double beds together and all of us six kids would sleep three on top and three on the bottom. It was no fun sleeping in the middle.”

George’s father continued to attend services off and on and George would often go along. Services would sometime last for hours. “During services there were three or four children who would attend ‘Sabbath School’ for maybe half an hour and then spend the rest of the time playing on the tennis courts that were between Mayfair and the Library.”

Those tennis courts were also used for meals on the annual festivals. George remembers when he was allowed to serve desserts and a deacon told him if he was going to serve he had to have an armband. “I held out my arm and he slipped on the armband. After it was all over I took off the armband and it read, ‘Assistant Deaconess.’ I still have it in my box of GCI treasures.”

George joined the Marine Corps in 1954 and served until 1958. During his last year as a Marine, he started listening to Herbert Armstrong again. “I would go out to my car and listen and for awhile another Marine listened with me.” It was during this time that George was dating Jackie, his future wife, who also listened to the program. “Jackie really was interested but she didn’t agree with ‘my Dad’s church.’ I never told her who HWA was until after we were married.”

Wedding of George and Jackie’s daughter, Jennifer, to Michael Giddens

George and Jackie have been married for 54 years and have three children and four grandchildren. While George loves what he does, he laments the impact the moves had on his family. “When you get moved around, you don’t really ever become rooted.”

After being discharged from the Marine Corps, George and Jackie moved back to Lancaster, where the first two of their children, Jo Ann and Steven, were born. George, who had learned carpentry skills from his father, went to work for Crown City Lumber in Pasadena, just across the street from Ambassador College.

The College eventually purchased the lumber company, which later became the press building. The lumber company owners asked George if he was interested in building offices for them across the street from the campus. He took the job and that was where he was working when Bill Rapp, the foreman of the Ambassador College cabinet shop, asked him to come to work for the College.

“I took the job even though it was only paying about half what I was earning at the lumber company. I looked at it as a calling from God. To turn it down would have been like telling God no. So in January 1964 I became a cabinet maker.” The first cabinet George built was for Dr. Herman Hoeh’s kitchen. When Dr. Hoeh saw the cabinet he said, “Almost semi-professional.” George still isn’t sure what he meant by that.

George was ordained an elder in 1972. It was then he started working with the youth — a job he loved. In 1973 he was sent to college for a year, then in 1974 sent to pastor the Elkhart and Michigan City, Indiana congregations. Two years later, their third child Jennifer (pictured above) was born. George also has pastored in Sioux Falls, Yankton and Watertown, South Dakota; and in Huntingdon and Indiana, Pennsylvania. George retired from full-time employment in 1999 and now serves as a part-time pastor in a small GCI congregation in Sioux Falls.

George is working on a book, telling the stories of his life. “I have often urged our senior members to write a story of their life because when they die their story is gone forever. Some have said it is like a library burned down.” George is calling his story, “I Can’t Believe It.”

“That is so true. I only have a high school education and my grades weren’t that great, but I am thankful for the opportunities God has given me. In a sermon I have given several times, ‘Can You See God Working In Your Life?,’ I mention that many times it isn’t until we look back that we can see how much God was involved in our lives. It’s hard to believe that I am where I am.”

George has always had a passion for working with the youth. So when asked what he enjoys most about being a pastor, it was no surprise to have him say it was looking back and seeing the fruits from the young people he mentored and spent time with. “The privilege of being a part of people’s lives, burying, marrying and seeing the Holy Spirit at work in the people that were in the congregations I pastored. I guess it would all come down to people and the memories I have of them, most good but some sad. But it is all about people.”

“One of my most memorable moments was when I received a note while I was in a foremen’s meeting that I was to go up to Mr. Meredith’s office. You didn’t get called up to his office for some small reason. When I got there, Jackie was there with several leading men and I was ordained. That moment was one I will never forget.”

George says he feels close to God in prayer and study, but his favorite moments are “the closeness I feel when God uses me, when God puts thoughts in me that I never thought of. When I’m giving a sermon and God speaks through me. When you finish a sermon and you know that God used you. You are humbled and you never want that feeling to leave, but it does. Here am I, send me, send me.”

Thomas Friedrich

Thom and Marlene Friedrich

Thom Friedrich is the pastor of Sonlight Christian Fellowship, GCI’s congregation in Loudon, New Hampshire. Thom and his wife Marlene have been married for 29 years. They have two adult children, Ian and Emily. “We do look forward to having grandchildren someday, but there are none yet, which is just as well since neither of our children is married!”

Thom grew up on a 65-acre homestead in Candia, New Hampshire where his parents still live. Thom says he had a fairly typical upbringing, but as the youngest of five children, “I was able to learn from the mistakes of my older siblings (well, mostly).”

Thom said he initially didn’t have much interest in school and was held back in fourth grade. This proved to be a blessing. “I ended up with a teacher named Mrs. Heart who, in keeping with her name, taught me to have a love for learning.” That love led Thom to focus on theatrical arts in high school, which might seem an unusual path to prepare for where he is today, but Thom said it helped form him. “In high school, I involved myself in Chorus and Drama, excelling in both. I totally enjoyed performing in front of an audience! Perhaps that is why I took to preaching so well.”

Thom joined the Coast Guard where he spent four years. It’s also where he met Marlene. Following his military service, Thom tried a couple different vocations, the second of which led him to his knees in frustration as he sought God’s help. Soon after this prayer, Thom said, “I was hired by a small manufacturing firm where I learned drafting and design, which is still the vocation I enjoy to this day.”

It was around this time that Thom and Marlene were seeking answers about God. “Marlene far more earnestly than myself,” Thom points out. “So when I saw a pile of Plain Truth magazines at a local pizza shop, I grabbed up a copy, knowing that Marlene would be interested.” That was the beginning for Marlene. She started sending for literature and reading everything she received. “I was a bit less zealous,” Thom said, “but I could not help but be influenced by her zeal. Then one day as I was trying to read and understand a piece of literature from WCG, I prayed that God would help me make sense of it. I was blown away by his immediate answer to that prayer. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Thom and Marlene joined GCI in the spring of 1987 and Thom joined Spokesman’s Club soon afterwards. This training also proved helpful. “As soon as I graduated from club, I was asked to provide sermons about once every other month.” The frequency in sermons increased as the changes took place within the denomination. “Our local congregation began making greater use of those who had reasonably good speaking ability.”

Thom had already been serving as the worship coordinator for the congregation for about five years when he was commissioned as the congregation’s Assistant Pastor on October 5, 2002. “The following spring, our Senior Pastor Ron Stoddart transferred to Utah, leaving me in charge. Although I cannot say I have ever felt called to this position, I certainly recognize that I have been gifted for the task.”

Thom enjoys pastoring and said, “The greatest part of being a pastor is the opportunity to clearly convey the gospel to those who desire better understanding.” And Thom, like most good teachers, enjoys learning as well. His most memorable moment as a pastor was “when I came to understand the great love of God and the power of Trinitarian theology in reaching the lost.”

Understanding and sharing our teachings on Trinitarian theology is what Thom enjoys most about being part of GCI. He feels our understanding is on the cutting edge of a spiritual and teaching revival. “The insights currently being shared have invigorated my desire to learn and grow as a child of the Father.”

Thom has never given up his love of the arts. “I love to write poetry when I have opportunity, not the award-winning type, but the kind that makes people smile. I recently had the great privilege of writing a poem for my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary.” He is also passionate about music. “I have a love for music that fills me to bursting. If it were possible, I could spend every waking hour singing, whistling, humming. Unfortunately, jobs that allow this are few and far between.

This love of music ties in with Thom’s relationship with God. When asked when he feels closest to his Papa/Father, Thom said, “When I am singing his praises. Many times I have found myself bursting into worship as I look up at a star-filled sky. To think that the God who created all that still has time for me–awesome!”

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.