Pastor Tom Melear

The short video below looks at the ministry of Tom Melear who pastors GCI’s Las Vegas, NV, congregation while working full-time as a hospice chaplain and grief counselor. On October 1, 2017, Tom was on duty when victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting began arriving at area hospitals. He was able to participate with Jesus in helping many who were going through terrible trauma.

On YouTube at https://youtu.be/S8hMGV7B40E.

What about “the problem of evil”?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy Tkach
Joseph and Tammy Tkach

People turn away from belief in God for many reasons, but one of the most prevalent is “the problem of evil”—what theologian Peter Kreeft calls “the greatest test of faith, the greatest temptation to unbelief.”

Agnostics and atheists often use the problem of evil as their go-to argument to either doubt or deny the existence of God. Their claim is that the co-existence of evil and God is either unlikely (agnostics) or impossible (atheists). This line of reasoning goes back as far as the Greek philosopher Epicurus (c. 300 BC), who made the following statement that, in the late 1700s, was picked up and popularized by Scottish philosopher David Hume:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

"David
David Hume
(public domain)
epicurus
Epicurus
(public domain)

Epicurus, and Hume after him, were painting a less-than-godly picture of God. I don’t have room here for a comprehensive reply (what theologians call a theodicy), but I do want to point out that this line of reasoning doesn’t come close to being a knock-down argument against the existence of a good God. As pointed out by many Christian apologists, the existence of evil in the world, rather than disproving God’s existence, proves just the opposite, as I’ll now explain.

Evil necessitates goodness

The observation that evil is an objective feature within our world is a double-edged sword that cuts agnostics and atheists much more deeply than it cuts theists. To argue that the presence of evil in the world disproves the existence of God, one must affirm that evil actually exists. It follows that there must be an absolute standard of goodness that defines evil as being evil. One simply cannot form a logical concept of evil without appealing to an ultimate standard of goodness. This leads to a huge dilemma in that it raises the question of the source of this standard. Said another way, if evil is the opposite of good, how do we determine what is good? And where does that understanding come from?

We are told in the book of Genesis that the world was created good, not evil. Yet, Genesis also tells of the fall of humankind—a fall caused by evil and resulting in evil. Because of evil, this world is not the best it can be. Thus the problem of evil points to a departure from the way things ought to be. If things are not the way they ought to be, then there must be a way they should be. If there is a way they should be, there must be a transcendent design, plan, and purpose for the way it should be, and if so, there must be a transcendent being (God) who authored that plan. If there is no God, then there is no way things ought to be, and hence there is no evil. All this might sound a bit confusing, but it’s not. It’s a carefully constructed line of logic.

Injustice necessitates justice

C.S. Lewis championed this logic. In Mere Christianity, he shares how he had been an atheist, due largely to the presence of evil, cruelty and injustice in the world. However, the more he pondered his atheism, the more he saw clearly that the concept of injustice was dependent on an absolute concept of justice. Justice necessitates a just Someone who is beyond humanity and has the authority to shape created reality and promulgate the rules that define justice within that reality. Moreover, he came to see that the origin of evil is not God the Creator, but the creatures, who falling into the temptation to distrust God, chose to sin.

cs-lewis_at_desk
C.S. Lewis (source)

Lewis came to see that if humans were the source of what is good and evil, they could not be objective since they were subject to change. Further, he deduced that one group of humans may pronounce verdicts on others as to what is right and wrong, but then the other group would impose their own version of right and wrong. Then the question would have to be asked as to what authority stands behind these competing versions of right and wrong? Where is the objective standard when what is unacceptable in one culture is deemed permissible in another? We see this dilemma at work throughout the world, often (unfortunately) in the name of religion and other ideologies.

The bottom line is this: if no ultimate creator and moral lawgiver exists, there can be no objective standard of goodness. And if there is no objective standard of goodness, how can anyone discover this to be the case? Lewis made this point with an illustration: “If there were no light in the universe, and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known that it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”

Our personal and good God overcomes evil

Only if there is a personal and good God who is opposed to evil does it make sense to lodge a complaint against evil or make an appeal to have something done about it. Were there no such God, there would be no one to appeal to and no basis for thinking that what we call good and evil is anything more than our personal preference (which we would label “good”) being in conflict with someone else’s personal preference (which we would label “evil”). In that case, there would be no such thing as objective evil, and thus nothing really to complain about, and certainly no one to complain to. Things would simply be the way they are, call them what you like.

God the Father by Conegliano (1515). (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
God the Father by Conegliano (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Only by believing in a personal and good God do we have grounds to object to evil, and Someone to appeal to for its eradication. Having the conviction that there is a real problem of evil and hoping that evil will, one day, be undone and everything put right, serves as a good reason to believe that a personal and good God exists.

Though evil lingers, God is with us and we have hope

Evil exists—the evidence is all over the news. We’ve experienced evil and know its destruction. But we also know that God did not leave us in our fallen state. As I pointed out in a Weekly Update article a couple of weeks ago, God was not surprised by the fall. He did not need to revert to a plan B, for he had already set in motion his one plan to overcome evil, and that plan is Jesus Christ and the atonement. Through Christ, God overcame evil by his authentic love, and he had his plan in place from the foundation of the world. In the cross and resurrection of Jesus we see that evil will not have the last word. Evil has no future because of what God, in Christ, has done.

Do you yearn for a God who confirms that there is evil, who graciously takes responsibility for it, who is committed to doing something about it, and who will make everything right in the end? If so, I’ve got good news for you—that’s exactly who the God revealed in Jesus Christ is.

Though we live in a time Paul calls “the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), God has not abandoned you, nor left you without hope. [1] God reassures us all that he is with us, having broken through to us in the here-and-now, and therefore giving us the blessing of experiencing the “firstfruits” (Romans 8:23) of the “age to come” (Luke 18:30)—a “deposit” (Ephesians 1:13-14) of the goodness of God’s rule and reign as it will be in the fullness of his kingdom.

Today, by God’s grace, we embody through our life together in the church, the signs of God’s kingdom. The triune God, living in us, enables us to taste, even now, the relationships he originally designed for us to enjoy in communion with God and one another—true life never-ending and without evil. Yes, we have our struggles on this side of glory, yet we are comforted knowing that God is with us—his love lives in us at all times through Christ—by his Word and Spirit. As Scripture assures, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Grateful to our good God who has overcome evil,
Joseph Tkach

[1] For another Weekly Update letter on the hope that is ours despite the presence of evil in the world, click here.

July 27, 2011

 

From the President

New Weekly Update format, completion of annual external audit

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We are deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic death of Wong Tian Yu, son of our Malaysian national leader, Wong Mein Kong and his wife Chew Yeng. Mein Kong wrote on Friday, July 23:

I am writing this through the pain, grief and numbness from news that my son Tian Yu died this evening, July 22, in a plane crash while flying one of his students in Philippines. They are still searching for his body in the crash.

I will be flying to Manila tomorrow to meet up with my wife, Chew Yeng, and our daughter, Xiao Qing. They happened to be in Manila for Qing’s business trip this past week. Last Saturday, when Yeng arrived in Clark airport Tian was there to meet her. He took her on a flight Sunday morning and later accompanied her to Manila so she could stay with Qing. Yesterday (Thursday), Tian came to visit them in the hotel in Manila and stayed till this morning when he went back to his flight school to work. Then this evening the school called the hotel with the tragic news.

Please pray the Lord will give our family the strength as we go through this trying period.

Thank you for your love and concern and prayers.

Eugene Guzon wrote a beautiful tribute to Tian Yu for the GCI-Philippines website. Click here for his tribute. I hope you will take a moment to read it. Please join us in praying for the Wong family.

New Weekly Update format

This week we’ve launched our completely redesigned Weekly Update. Over the past year, our IT department has worked with the President’s Office and Church Administration to bring the Weekly Update into a cleaner, warmer and we certainly hope a more useful format.

Each new edition of the Update will include a cover message from me and have links along the left column to news from around the world, announcements, questions and answers, information from Church Administration and Development, prayer requests and updates, and other features. To read any of these, you can simply click on the links that interest you. In this way, the Weekly Update is designed to serve as a “one stop shop” for accessing GCI information and resources. We hope you find this helpful.

Besides being easier to read and providing an easy way to find information you need or are interested in, the new design will also reduce the number of email formatting problems many pastors have experienced with the Update. We will also be able to include more information and pictures in the Update without burdening those with slower Internet connections.

The Weekly Update is emailed each week to all U.S. Pastors and the International Mission Directors. It is then posted online atupdate.gci.org where anyone can read it.

If you have a need to share the Update with others, you can give them the link above, or forward your email copy to them. You can also print out the pages you want to give others. With the new format you can print only one page at a time, so you only need to print the ones you need.

We’d love to hear what’s happening in your church! If you’d like to submit material for publication in the Update, just email it to WeeklyUpdate@gci.org.

Annual external audit complete

I am pleased to report that the Grace Communion International annual external audit for 2009-2010 is complete, and that we received a clean report. Capin Crouse, a national auditing firm specializing in audits for non-profit organizations, has been the Church’s auditor since 2007. We are pleased to have them as a financial accountability partner as we strive to be good stewards of the funds we are blessed to receive in support of the gospel. The audit report is available to all members in good standing upon written request to the Treasurer’s Office at P.O. Box 5005, Glendora, CA 91740.

Remember that prayer is the battleground where we fight the good fight of faith.

Love from my family to yours,

Joseph Tkach


To send articles and photos, write to WeeklyUpdate@gci.org


July 21, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Cadillac Church Celebrates 30 Years

The Cadillac, Michigan, congregation of the GCI marked its 30-year anniversary on July 10, 2011 with a grand celebration, praising God for his faithfulness and guidance through the many years in our present location. The main message was given by former Cadillac pastor, Briscoe Ellett, who now pastors the Freeland, Michigan, church. Pastor Ellett challenged the members to move forward in faith and trust that God will always provide what we need, as we follow him where he leads. Former pastor Alden Sims gave a brief history of the Cadillac church, and district pastor Sam Butler presented letters of congratulations from Ken Williams, the regional supervisor, and from Joseph Tkach. Current pastor Ray Griffee led the group in praise and worship and gave closing remarks.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the meal planned by Nancy Sims, and prepared by many hands. Current Cadillac members and many former members fellowshipped, reminisced, and watched old videos of church “hunter socials.” These were another reminder that God loves his church “dwelling in unity.”

Due to recent economic cut-backs, the school that has provided the Cadillac congregation a home for 30 years is now closing. They will be relocating to Chase, Michigan, where they have an opportunity to meet in a church building and bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to a new community. Although there are many uncertainties ahead, the congregation is confident that our living God will continue to be faithful and lead us forward for his purposes.

Photo Captions: 1. Current Pastoral Team: Ray Griffee, Susan Davis, and Jimmy Kohler; Alden Sims, former pastor 2. Speakers for Celebration: Ray Griffee, Sam Butler, Alden Sims, Briscoe Ellet 3. Attendees enjoying the meal and fellowship


Word in the Street

This four-day-long Generations Ministries urban mission reaches out to the inner city of Cincinnati, OH. Teens and adults serving as Word in the Street missionaries run a day camp for children ages 4-12. In spite of uncooperative weather, the attendance was great, with a high on Thursday of 130 campers. The camp serves children from the inner-city. It is held in a community center between two housing projects that are often hostile toward each other. Word in the Street missionaries provide the children with games, worship events (including puppet ministry), and serve an evening meal each day to anyone who shows up (this year we served approximately 550!).

In addition to the games, last year we started giving away children’s books. This year we set an extravagant goal to give out 500 books over the four days. The members reached out to neighbors, book stores and publishers and we ended up with over 1500 books.

If you are interested in learning how to create such an outreach effort, please contact Pastor George Hart of Christ Community Church at George.Hart@gci.org.

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Some of our congregations in the U.S. are currently receiving Transformational Church consulting services from our Ministry Development Team. These services utilize the Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT) provided by LifeWay Resources. Recently Philip Nation from LifeWay interviewed GCI Pastor George Hart concerning the TCAT and GCI’s Transformational Church consulting. View the video of the interview at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr__RxiiJf0&feature=player_embedded&list=PLA9037A56D636B6CD. Any churches interested in utilizing the TC consulting service may contact Ministry Development Team member Ted Johnston at Ted.Johnston@gci.org.


Northern Light Camp

GenMin’s Northern Light Camp, led by camp director Todd Fox, was held in Minnesota on July 10-16. 25 campers and 22 staff members participated. In accordance with the camp curriculum, the group celebrated Living Loved. This theme was wonderfully enhanced by the participation of a guest Christian band.

About ten months ago Rileigh Fox, one of the Northern Light campers, was attending a Christian concert. She spoke with members of the band Silverline (known for their hit single, Broken Glass). She asked them to attend Northern Light Camp. They agreed and while at camp they led a worship workshop, a chapel service, and conducted a worship concert (see picture). The band’s testimony fit perfectly the camp’s Living Loved theme, drawing the campers deeply into chapel debrief discussions. As a result, God’s healing hand was clearly evident as campers shared their trials and joys. Praise rang through the heavens with the baptism of some of the campers in the beautiful surroundings of Root River.

Camp activities this year included canoeing, rock climbing, high ropes, archery, Bible study with prayer, and various classes including pen making (using a wood lathe), ice cream making, pottery and drama.

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SEP SoCal

GenMin’s Spiritual Enrichment Program, Southern California (SEP SoCal) completed its tenth year of camp where 88 staff served 184 campers (age 8-19). This camp family brought together Fillipinos, African-Americans, Hispanics, Egyptians and Caucasians from California, Kentucky, Florida and Canada. It was a gorgeous mix of God’s children, representing 47 churches (including 13 GCI congregations) and 12 denominations (and many of the campers are unchurched). 107 of the campers and staff name GCI as their home. This level of participation would not be possible without the support of many generous donors. Over 2/3rds of the campers were given partial or full tuition scholarships.

In order to accommodate growth in the number of campers and an enlarged vision for camp ministry, SEP SoCal moved this year to Pine Valley Bible Conference Center in Pine Valley, CA – 40 miles east of San Diego.

A key aspect of the camp’s growth at the new facility is the addition to the camp curriculum of 11 ministry equipping tracks. These tracks prepare older campers for ministry service within their home churches and communities. Jadah and Jason Queen led the Dance Ministry track. Jadah is an instructor at Rock Steady Hip Hop Dance Studio in San Diego and Jason co-directs Rock Steady Ministries and is a youth pastor for No Compromise Student Ministries in Spring Valley, CA at New Seasons Church. Jeremy Ketchum of Oaks Christian Church in San Marcos, CA led the Worship Ministry track. GenMin’s camps & missions leader Anthony Mullins led the Leadership track. Other tracks included Audio/Visual Tech, Church & Personal Finance, Drama, Missions, Ministry Development, Photography, Public Speaking and Videography (for an example of the work of the Videography class, see the SEP SoCal video at http://vimeo.com/26611393).

The theme for SEP SoCal this year was Rooted. The idea came from a song of the same name, written by Nathan Keating of the camp worship team. Nathan was inspired by Psalm 1, which states that a person who delights in God is “like a tree planted (rooted) by streams of water.” This led to Ephesians 3:14-19, which further shaped the theme, focused on deeply rooting the campers in the reality that God unconditionally loves them.

Each day the Junior and Senior campers had daily chapel with praise & worship and a chapel message, followed by debrief sessions and prayer time. The two groups shared meals and fellowship time. Junior campers had their own Christian Living classes and recreational activities including swimming, teambuilding, insects & snakes class, creative arts, kickball, Aeroball, basketball, volleyball, giant tire swing, laser tag, drama class, archery, hand-drum class, and bonfire. Senior campers had their own dance classes, swimming, high-ropes, zip-line, basketball, volleyball, archery, hand-drum class, a four-hour-long purity session, and the aforementioned ministry equipping tracks. The two groups joined together for a scavenger hunt, a Bunko tournament, and a praise & worship concert led by three youth worship bands. Both groups concluded camp with a communion service. A camper from Kentucky was baptized after the service, and several other campers are scheduled to be baptized at their home churches.


Wisconsin Dells:

“What are you up to Lord?” is the question we’ll be focusing on at the Dells weekend celebration from September 29 – October 2. Daily messages focusing on this theme will be presented by Willard High, Stephen Hill, Anthony Mullins and Sam Butler. Special breakout sessions on Friday and Saturday afternoons hosted by Anthony Mullins, Tracy Porter, Dave & Linda Holmes, Sam Butler, Willard High and Doug Johannsen are planned in accordance with this theme.

This event will again be held at the Kahalari family resort in the Wisconsin Dells.

Phone 1-877-525-2427 for room reservations – August 28 deadline!
HUT (or Desert Room) – $109.00 per night plus tax, 1-4 people only
LODGE SUITE— $129 per night plus tax1-4 people only
COMBINATION SUITE (lodge and hut)$238 per night plus tax – sleeps up to 8 people
VILLAGE (lodge and two adjoining huts)$347 per night plus tax – sleeps up to 12 people

FOLLOW THESE EASY STEPS!

1. Call the Kalahari Resort no later than August 28th to reserve your room. After August 28th, the low prices we’ve negotiated will no longer be available! Let the reservation personnel know you are with Grace Communion International or Worldwide Church of God. The reservation number is 1-877-525-2427 or reserve your room online by using this link:

https://res.kalahariresort.com/V1Web/GroupComments.aspx Note: begin with https://…not http://
Enter group ID: 16051
Enter Password: 244
Contact Password (Optional) leave this blank
Click on “Make Reservation” and follow prompts

2. Register your attendance with the church by downloading and filling out the registration form along with your registration fee to:

GRACE COMMUNION INTERNATIONAL
P.O. BOX 5005
GLENDORA, CA 91740-5005

ONLINE REGISTRATION AVAILABLE AT:
http://www.gci.org/go/wisconsin

Follow the prompts and pay with your credit card

3. Come Celebrate Jesus with your family and friends. Enjoy good food and many other activities.

Any questions, please contact doug.johannsen@gci.org by email or by phone at 612-850-6018.


Ghana
From Frederick Amu-Mensah, Marian Amu-Mensah, and Emmanuel Okai:

The Ambassador International School was founded by Grace Communion International in 2001 on the church property at Kutunse, Ghana, about 30 kilometers north of Accra. It was established as a social intervention support for the surrounding communities.

When the school opened, it used existing structures on the church property – the main church hall and one of the round houses. The church hall was partitioned to accommodate the new classes. At the beginning, eleven pupils were admitted into preschool, primary 1 and primary 2.

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The Accra and Kutunse congregations then began molding blocks for the construction of a permanent school building. Funding was obtained through fundraising initiatives in the church areas, with the major funding coming from overseas GCI donors.

Since then, regular funding has been provided annually from the Kalamazoo church area in the United States through Mr. and Mrs. Cleophus Sturdevant, who occasionally visit the Ghana church. The church and the school are indeed grateful to all who have helped. Currently, classrooms have been constructed to accommodate pre-school through primary classes 1 to 6 and Junior High School forms 1 to 3. A computer laboratory has also been completed, which houses 10 computers.

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This year the school presented its third group of pupils for the annual West African Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE), which took place in May 2011. Fifteen students were presented. Thirteen students were presented for the examinations in 2010 and eleven in 2009. The two previous examinations registered 100 percent passing grades in all subjects presented. Successful candidates progress to senior high schools for further education.

The school is still growing. The current population of the school is 150, and it has the potential to reach 350. The biggest obstacle is the distance that many pupils have to travel to reach the school. The church is considering the purchase of a school bus to assist in this regard. This will make it easier for parents to enroll their children because of the assurance of safe passage to and from school. It will also free their minds from the time lost in taking their children to and from school. This is especially relevant to the preschool and lower primary pupils who are too young to cover the distances on their own.

Eventually, the church plans to add a second set of classrooms to help meet the needs of the local community.

The church hall that originally hosted the school has also undergone significant upgrades from the humble wooden structure it once was to a block structure capable of seating over 600 persons.

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Captions: 1 Church hall that served as classrooms when the school was founded. Molded blocks are in the foreground. 2. School assembled and ready to begin day’s work 3. Sturdevants giving a presentation in Kutunse during one of their visits 4. A class session in progress 5. Current state of AIS. Painting started in 2011 6. School layout as at 2011 7. Computer Laboratory of AIS 8. Pre-school class with their care giver, Deaconess Charity of the Kutunse congregation 9. 2011 final year students of AIS presented for BECE Examinations 10. Original church hall that doubled as classrooms for AIS 11. Refurbished and expanded hall for church services at the Kutunse site


Prayer Requests and Updates

Jason Richards
Update from Pastor Martin Manuel on his grandson

Today, for the first time in nearly three months, Jason walked around in his own home with his family! He has progressed so well that his doctors decided that they could release him to continue treatment and rehab at home while he waits for a heart transplant. Hallelujah!

We are understandably exuberant, but the journey to Jason’s recovery is not complete. Now, he will undergo extensive treatment at home. His parents and we (Genneen and I) take on nursing responsibilities of daily administering medicine and checks. This is all new; the hospital staff provided extensive training, but the task is complex.

Jason, of course, is thrilled to be home. There is no better place for him. Colin and Janet are relieved from nightly hospital stays, and we all are relieved of the daily hours in the hospital.

Your prayers have given all of us so much support through the grace of our wonderful God. Please pray now that Jason receives flawless care at home, that he receives the new heart that he needs, and that his parents have the strength to fulfill their responsibilities.

Some have remarked that Jesus has carried this family through these difficult days. Amen! We will continue to need the help of the Lord through the days and weeks ahead.

There is so much to say about the experiences of the past three months. We and many others at Seattle Children’s Hospital have experienced the grace of God in a special way.

Thanks again for all you’ve done,
Martin Manuel

Audrey Mae Robinson

Audrey Mae Robinson a long-time dedicated church member, passed this week at the age of 84. Audrey was the mother of Brenda High (wife of Pastor Willard High) and aunt of Jannice (Mrs. Curtis) May. She was an active worshiper at New Hope Christian Fellowship Church in Eagle Rock, California.

One of the joys of Audrey’s life was serving as a mentor for others; her cheerful smile and encouragement to “Keep Moving Forward” touched the lives of many.

Audrey was preceded in death by a son, Pastor Ronald Robinson, and a daughter, Florenda Robinson-Harrow. She is survived by her daughters Cheryl L. Robinson, Yuvetta Robinson, Brenda Robinson-High, son Anthony Robinson, and many other descendants. The family requests your prayers as they grieve the loss of this wonderful woman.

There will be a memorial service on Sunday, July 31, 12:30 p.m., at New Hope Christian Fellowship, 777 Colorado Blvd, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, CA. A catered meal will follow.

Remember that prayer is the battleground where we fight the good fight of faith. Let’s encourage everyone to join together in prayer, for we belong to Christ, and by the Spirit it is in Christ that we pray. Prayer and other spiritual activities help keep our hearts in tune with God and remind us of who we are in Christ. He is our all in all, and in him we are eternally beloved of the Father and blessed to share his good news with others.

Love from my family to yours,
Joseph Tkach


July 13, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Linda Rabey sent this report about the women’s retreat held near Ottawa, Canada, last weekend:

Fifty-six ladies enjoyed the 11th annual retreat organized by the Women’s Ministry of the Ottawa-Gatineau congregation. For the second year in a row, the location chosen was in a beautiful park reserve at the Manoir d’Youville in Quebec, which enabled the ladies to take beautiful walks through the park and enjoy the river surrounding this small island. This year’s retreat included ladies from five denominations and four provinces, as well as one from Washington State.

The worship music was superb, provided by ladies from various congregations. This year we also were blessed with a worship dance presentation. The talks were very much appreciated. Marge Haughton of the Smiths Falls congregation spoke on “Walking through the Valley of Death.” Dorothy Nordstrom from Edmonton spoke on “It’s Just about Love.” Dorothy’s sister, Ingrid Gula from Prince George, spoke on “My Depression, My Faith,” and Ingrid D’Andrade from Montreal spoke on “God’s Love Languages.”

It was a time the ladies could relax, laugh, cry, and speak to their sisters in Christ about some of their challenges, trials, hopes and dreams. Every year we wonder if we will be able to continue to hold this annual event, as there is so much preparation and work by numerous volunteers who sacrifice many hours and much energy and prayer to bring a retreat to fruition. But once again, after the retreat is over, and one sees the incredible benefit, growth and fruit born from so many ladies coming together and being inspired in and through the Holy Spirit, there seems to be no other decision but to start planning for next year. God willing, we will have a 12th annual retreat for this area in 2012.


Canada

From Gary Moore:

Our local congregation in Abbotsford (Harvest Christian Fellowship) held its annual retreat last Saturday, June 25, at the home of Jim and Karen Miller. Todd Martin, our pastor, did a great job facilitating, as those who attended took a focused look at how our congregation is doing, and through prayer sought God’s direction as we seek to be useful and fruitful in his hands. Mike Baker, who recently moved from the Halifax area, was kind enough to share the pictures below.

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Leigh Smithson was in touch from Silvermeadows, the western summer camp. He said that there are 36 teens and 13 preteens, along with 22 staff. Leigh mentioned that Steve Posiak (pastor for our churches in the Okanagan region in British Columbia), and Amy Pena (our new pastor in Regina) are there, and are proving to be wonderful additions to the camp.

Craig and Debbie Minke’s oldest son Bryce was awarded two plaques at the Langley Christian School awards assembly. One was for Excellence in Humanities (Grade 11) and one is a Community Service Award “for service rendered unselfishly to the school or Community.” In addition, he was awarded a certificate of excellence in Math and Science. Congratulations to Bryce!

Finally, I have a report from Mark Yandt of the Ottawa congregation (see below). A couple of years ago Mark rode his bike across Canada to raise money for Camp Connections, our Eastern youth camp. This year Mark organized a 173-kilometer weekend ride from Ottawa to the home of Dennis and Lynn Lawrence in Montreal for members from the Ottawa and Montreal areas. Mark’s report is below, and the pictures prove they really did it.

Congratulations to the group (including my brother Karl who made the trek)! The funds raised are going to a very worthy cause, as the camp continues to make a meaningful difference in the lives of many.


From Mark Yandt:

We did it! Great job riders! Thanks to everyone who supported us and followed our progress on Facebook as we traveled. The trip was a huge success. I know everyone wants to know how much we raised, but I will hold you in suspense and mention a few highlights and give a few stats first, so read on!

It was an extremely early start for the three team members from Montreal, who drove to Ottawa Saturday morning, July 2, to meet the riders from Ottawa. Spirits were high, though, and after a picture on Parliament Hill, Victor Zampino, Karl Moore, Elizabeth Ferlatte, Tina Yandt and I embarked on the first leg of what was to be a 110km pedal to Hawkesbury.

The team meandered its way east through Ottawa, leaving the city on Innes Road, where the plan was to meet up with the support vehicle (driven by Ingrid Zampino), which couldn’t follow us everywhere in the city. It was a pretty efficient 31.8-kilometer trip to the first break point. Everyone was fresh and the weather was fantastic, so this first bit was easy. A light snack and some sunscreen, and we were back on the road.

The only surprise on day one was the lack of asphalt! Road bikes can’t handle much gravel, so when we ran out of road, we navigated east, searching for paved roads. With a little help from Karl’s iPhone, we managed to find a route that didn’t take us much out of our way.

We pulled into Stephanie’s Motel parking lot at 4:55 p.m. Sun baked, with legs of jelly and slightly tender rear ends, only the thought of a cold drink and much-needed dinner was enough to motivate us to clean up and meet for some grub. With 110 kilometers of sun and road behind us, dinner could not have been more satisfying. We laughed and relived the day’s events over an amazing meal before falling into an exhaustion-induced super slumber! The team averaged 22.3 kph over the weekend and was on the road for almost seven hours Saturday.

Day two was another beautiful day. The sun was shining and there was a brisk west wind that pushed us all day. Nicole Lim joined us, which made the group six riders, and after a good breakfast we set out at 9 a.m. The route from Ottawa to Montreal is flat in general, but there were some hills to conquer. Sixty-two-and-a-half kilometers later, we arrived at the Lawrences’ home, where they welcomed us with cold drinks and a much-needed cool-down in the pool. And we were finished!

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of all the riders who peddled their kilometers prior to the trip itself, we gained an incredible amount of support from a huge number of people who had never supported the camp in the past! This not only gave us an opportunity to spread the word about the camp, but also to broaden our support base for the future. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and the wonder of the Internet, we were earning $24.12 for every km that the team cycled! All totalled, this means we gathered over $4100 of support for Camp Connections! It’s an achievement we can all be proud of!

We hope to see even more riders pedaling in Peddling Kilometers 2012. The team this year showed that everyone can participate! It’s an event for all ages and all levels of cycling experience! What an amazing adventure it was!


Bangladesh

From Rod Matthews:

Bangladesh National Director, John Biswas, and I are excited to announce that GCI will conduct its first conference and development weekend in Dhaka, March 16-18, 2012. Our staff from the Bangladesh Evangelical Association (BEA) mission center near Barisal will travel to Dhaka, enabling some of them to visit the capital for the first time. Some GCI pastors, elders and church leaders from elsewhere in Asia and even further afield will attend to give our remote workers their first personal contact with fellow workers in the gospel from abroad who are also part of our international fellowship. This is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to see one of the world’s more populous countries, the contrasts of life in Dhaka, and perhaps a trip to rural Bangladesh. More details will follow in the months ahead.

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Captions: 1. Bangladeshi Children in Services 2. John Biswas with local people


Sri Lanka

From Rod Matthews:

Announcing the church’s first ever publication in the Tamil language! Through funding from the New Zealand congregations and individual donors, the Discipleship Course (Discipleship 101) was translated into Tamil in Sri Lanka for use among the large Tamil population there, the second-largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka. The work was done by a professional translator associated with Youth For Christ in Colombo, and 1000 copies were printed by the Colombo Theological Seminary (CTS), with whom we have a warm and growing relationship. CTS is selling the course in its seminary bookshop and is using it as a text in one of its basic Christianity classes. We are in the process of assessing whether this Sri Lankan Tamil translation will need revisions or can be used as it stands in Tamil-speaking areas of India and among Tamil speakers elsewhere.


India

From Rod Matthews:

Yelagiri is a delightful hill-country town in the northwest of Tamil Nadu state. Church members from across our southern Indian pastorate traveled there May 26-29 to attend a spiritual refreshment weekend with the theme of “Facing Our Christian Challenges.”

Pastor Joe D’Costa wrote:

While most parts of India including Bangalore sizzled with hotter-than-usual weather, Yelagiri was cool. Forty-three members including eleven orphans attended. This was the first time we had the children from Dr. Suntharam’s orphanage attend. It was like an SEP camp for them. They were well behaved, responsive, and participated in and enjoyed all the games and activities. They sang the English hymns at services in the morning with gusto, and Dr. Suntharam gave a summary of the message in Tamil at the end of each day’s message.

A Bible study in Tamil was conducted for the children each evening of the weekend camp. Two ladies from the church spoke at these Bible studies. Before the study the children put up a special show with skits, songs and dances. All of them carried a Bible. They opened to the quoted scriptures very quickly and read them, much to the surprise of all present. Most of the children are from Hindu background.

Even though the cost of food and lodging at the camp center has increased to Rs.450 per person per day, the priest at the camp center charged us Rs.275 per person per day. The priest who manages the center was impressed with our group and offered to keep the rates the same for us in October when we visit the center for our annual family festival. We have accordingly booked the camp center from October 2-8, 2011. He offered to sponsor one child for every two children we sponsor for the festival. So it appears that the children will be attending with us from now on.

The food was amazing and in plenty. The campsite is surrounded by mountains, lots of greenery and fruit trees loaded with mangoes and jackfruit at this time of the year. The beautiful natural surroundings made it conducive to spend time with God, making the weekend a spiritually uplifting experience.


Prayer request

Remember that prayer is the battleground where we fight the good fight of faith. Let’s encourage everyone to join together in prayer, for we belong to Christ, and by the Spirit it is in Christ that we pray. Prayer and other spiritual activities help keep our hearts in tune with God and remind us of who we are in Christ. He is our all in all, and in him we are eternally beloved of the Father and blessed to share his good news with others.

Love from my family to yours,
Joseph Tkach


July 6, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Congratulations to Olivier and Susan Carion’s son, Pierre!

In addition to his full-time work at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, England, Pierre also serves as a local firefighter. Recently, he and two other firefighters were awarded the Chief Constable’s Commendation for Bravery following a life-threatening fire.

The picture shows Pierre with Stuart Nagler, Chair of Hertfordshire Police Authority, on the left and Frank Whiteley, Chief Constable for Hertfordshire, on the right. To view an article featuring the three firefighters and the Mayor of Harpenden from The Herts Advertiser on the June 23 Click Here.


Invitation: National Youth Workers Convention

From Anthony Mullins: Youth Specialties hosts a National Youth Workers Convention every year. This year, one of the gatherings will be held in Atlanta. I want to invite you to join me there in November. The details are listed below. This will be a “pay-your-own-way” event, so you’ll need sponsorship from your camp or mission, local church or your own bank account for all expenses. We receive a significant discount by registering as a group ($100 per person) so please let me know by July 31 if you can attend.

A new feature this year is the Theology Forum. Presenters include Andrew Root (who has appeared on You’re Included), Kara Powell, Kenda Creasy Dean and Dean Blevins. Topics include:

“What does it mean to be a person?”
“The interaction between human and divine action”
“Theological issues impacting Christian Formation of adolescents”
“How do practical theology and culture interact?”

Website: Click Here

Dates: November 18-20, 2011
Location: Atlanta Marriott Marquis – Atlanta, GA
Registration Cost: $198.00 per person (if we have a group of 4 or larger)
Hotel Cost: $119.00 for double occupancy
Promo Video: Click Here

For David Crowder Band fans, they will be leading worship at NYWC, and this will be one of their last appearances together. You can read more about the band here: http://www.davidcrowderband.com/


Lexington, Kentucky

From Ted Johnston:

At the Lexington regional conference in June, Philip Nation of LifeWay Resources gave a presentation concerning the Transformational Church assessment and consulting process. This process provides churches with tools and assistance to help churches grow in their ability to participate effectively in what Jesus is doing in the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Father’s mission – both locally and globally.


Bogota, Colombia

From Andrés Felipe Barrero:

Forty-two young campers visited Los Tunos June 24-27, a two-hour drive from the church. Topics included family, relationships and the grace of God.

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Crossing Borders mission trip to Mexico

Crossing Borders recently completed its 6th year of ministry short-term trips to Mexico. Nine participants distributed food, toiletries, socks and other necessities to “Meals-On-Wheels for people without addresses.” They also cooked and served homeless street people in Nuevo Laredo, visited with native ministry leaders, preached and performed dramas at a local church service, conducted Vacation Bible School at three locations, and toured a private ministry facility to see how the ministry might be involved with them on their next trip.

When they were serving dinner to non-Mexican immigrant deportees, the city mayor heard about what they were doing and met with them to discuss their ministry goals and offered his help to the group for future trips. While Crossing Borders participants always seek to declare God’s love through their actions, on this trip they also had opportunity to preach the gospel in a church service. Chaplain Steve Solari and director Lee Berger each gave a short sermon with drama skits.

Crossing Borders’ next trip to Mexico will be in December, when they will deliver hundreds of shoebox gifts. If your church would like to provide gifts, or participate in the trip itself, see the Crossing Borders website at www.cbmission.org or call director Lee Berger at 903-746-4463.

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Photos by: Lee Berger (except where noted)
Photo 1: CB team (with local ministry leader, Randy Leyendecker) distribute food and necessary items to Juan, a homeless man.
Photo 2: Serving a meal to, talking with and praying for non-Mexican immigrants as they are deported.
Photo 3: VBS crafts for children of the Los Artistas neighborhood
Photo 4: Pastor Pedro Castillo is excited to receive large boxes of shoes, bags of clothes and some children’s teaching resources.
Photo 5: Nuevo Laredo city Mayor Benjamin Galvan (center, behind flag) and other government officials meet with Crossing Borders missionaries [photo by staff photographer for mayor’s web blog site: http://benjamingalvan770.blogspot.com/]


Philippines

From Len Josen:

The Ambassador School for Children opened in 2004 with eight students in the nursery level. Since then, Ambassador has added one extra level each year. This year, we are proud to introduce our energetic batch of fifth graders as the Department of Education accredited our Grade 5 level.

In pursuit of our vision to become an international school, we enthusiastically welcomed four of our international students from the U.S.A., Korea, and Indonesia. During the annual parent orientation, the school also presented some of our exciting programs to be offered this school year, such as the football training program, the expansion of the Rondalla Team, and the school’s association with the Quezon City government for the Adopt-a-Park Project, which will instill environmental awareness and patriotic values in our kids and parents.

Ambassador is also enterprising a partnership with two colleges that specialize in the field of business administration, health, global education, marketing and advertising, and multimedia arts. This partnership is in line with our desire to further the students’ learning experience, promote health awareness among the students, parents and the community, and intensify our thrust of providing a quality learning environment, staff and resources.


Thailand

From Rod Matthews:

Pastor Livingstone Besweri is a young African man pastoring a small congregation in Ratchaburi, Thailand. In October last year, he sent us an email asking if we could be his spiritual mentor. He was impressed with the material on our website, and wanted to be a part of our ministry since he saw that Jesus Christ was “the top.” Southeast Asian pastor Wong Mein Kong visited him last year and was impressed with his approach and sincere desire to build a closer relationship with us. So in May this year, when we both were visiting Thailand, we drove two hours southwest of Bangkok to the town of Ratchaburi to meet with Pastor Livingstone again. God works in unexpected and marvelous ways. Pastor Livingstone is only 26, is from Uganda and is teaching primary-level English in a local school. His brother, Samuel, 35, who is a level 2 chemistry teacher, and Samuel’s wife, Margaret, assist in this ministry. They have two children, Nicholas, 2, and Esther, 3 months.

Pastor Livingstone can speak basic Thai, but not enough to preach in the language, yet the congregation of about 20 people consists of a majority of local Thai people, some of whom cannot speak much English. Each week they hire a local Thai lady who speaks fluent English to translate their sermons into Thai. Livingstone and Samuel’s parents live in Jinja, Uganda, and host a house church of about 50 people in their home there. He told us that he forwards all the material he learns from us to his parents. When I told him that we had churches and a pastor in Uganda, he immediately wanted to connect his parents with GCI in Uganda – now a work in progress.

Our visit only strengthened their desire for us to mentor their ministry, and we are in the process of building this new relationship and providing him with more biblical educational material. They were delighted with the 10-lesson discipleship course (Discipleship 101) as a tool for ministry, and through Pastor Livingstone, we have funded its translation into Thai. This should be available electronically in the near future, adding one more international version to the six other Asian language editions already available.

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Captions: 1. Samuel and Livingstone Besweri 2. Ratchaburi Bible Study


Karen Congregation

From Rod Matthews:

Upon arrival in Maesot, Wong Mein Kong and I were disappointed to learn that on this trip we were not permitted to visit the refugee camp where our Karen congregation is located. Karen elder, Lah Shi, informed us that the United Nations is in the process of categorizing and separating the various classes of refugees in the hope of eventually closing the camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. Five major camps hold over 100,000 refugees who are mainly ethnic Karen people who have fled

Myanmar to avoid the decades-old conflict with the Burmese army..

The UNHCR has been attempting to resettle genuine political refugees for some time, but as families are resettled overseas, new refugees arrive, many of whom are economic refugees, seeking a better life for their families as they hear about the resettlements. So the population in the camps has not declined. Economic refugees do not fall into the mandate of the UNHCR and once the sorting process has taken place, many of these are likely to be returned to Myanmar. But after decades of life in these camps, there are many elderly people who cannot face a new and much more complicated life in a foreign land where they would also have to learn a new language. Many of these long-term refugees will probably have to live out their lives in Thailand unless there is a permanent and secure political settlement within Myanmar. The political refugees whose lives are endangered by a return to their homeland desperately need and desire a new life for their children. It is a confused and uncertain situation for so many who are stateless and dependent on the UNHCR and humanitarian organizations for their survival.

The Australian churches provide financial support every month for our Karen congregation, to help with medical needs, educational expenses for the children, home repairs and food supplements, and to provide pastoral care and support.


Prayer Requests and Updates

Marilyn Gentleman, facilitator of our Fairbanks, Alaska, Grace and Truth Community Church, passed away June 29 at the age of 69. Although confined to a wheelchair for more than 30 years, Marilyn faithfully and cheerfully served God, her family and her community.

Cards may be sent to:
Dennis Gentleman
1326 6th Avenue
Fairbanks, AK 99701-4136.


It’s with deep regret that I inform you of the passing away of one of our pastors, Colin Curtis. Colin had been battling prostate cancer, as well as having a stroke. He died of heart failure. Colin had served the church for many years, initially in Durban, before moving to Pretoria, where he pastored our Raslouw congregation. He is survived by wife Dolla, a son and two daughters.

Cards may be sent to:
88 Springbok Ave
Theresapark
0155 SOUTH AFRICA

Remember that prayer is the battleground where we fight the good fight of faith. Let’s encourage everyone to join together in prayer, for we belong to Christ, and by the Spirit it is in Christ that we pray. Prayer and other spiritual activities help keep our hearts in tune with God and remind us of who we are in Christ. He is our all in all, and in him we are eternally beloved of the Father and blessed to share his good news with others.

Love from my family to yours,
Joseph Tkach


June 29, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Lexington, Kentucky, district conference took place last weekend. During the conference we presented Debbie Bailey with her Advanced Diploma in Christian Ministry for completion of all required courses from Grace Communion Seminary. We also congratulated and honored Ron Dick, who is about to retire, for his years of service.

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Bogotá, Colombia

Ministry leaders met at the home of Hector and Paulina Barrero the weekend of June 10-12 where Randy Bloom discussed principles of leadership and starting new churches. On Sunday the Bogotá congregation celebrated Pentecost with about 145 in attendance. Randy gave the sermon and two were ordained, Cristobal Daza and Yesid Perez.

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Hector, Paulina and Randy discussed producing voice-over translation for the FaithTalk Group Training videos (http://faithtalkgroups.blogspot.com/). Randy will provide transcripts of the video lessons and Hector will record the voice-overs.


Paul David Kurts, Hillary Irusta and Emma Lee Kurts

Pastoral Ministry Assessment

Through Church Multiplication Ministries, U.S. Church Administration and Development (CAD) provides trained ministry assessors who conduct in-depth assessments of those men and women being called by God to serve as GCI pastors and church planters. It is standard CAD practice to assess all prospective church planters, all individuals being hired for the first time as full-time employed pastors, and all pastoral interns.

Last Thursday, Ted Johnston and Ken Williams teamed up to train Paul David Kurts to serve as one of our assessors. Then on Friday, Ted, Ken, and Paul David (with his wife Emma Lee sitting in) formed a team that assessed Hillary Irusta. Hillary is serving as a GCI pastoral intern. Hillary’s assessment will give her valuable, in-depth guidance as she completes her internship. It will also provide valuable input as this fall she begins a Master of Divinity seminary degree program, with an eye toward serving in the future as a GCI pastor or church planter.

 


Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Joseph Franklin writes:

In preparation for the closing of the academic year and the summer vacation, I sent letters to invite all the parents to join the school’s staff and personnel in the traditional farewell lunch that we offer our kids at the end of the academic year. This invitation also concerned the distribution of school reports for their little ones and diplomas for those completing the preschool cycle. This joyful event was scheduled for June 26.

But, because of the extreme heat we are experiencing, and an epidemic of fever that kept a good number of children out of class, we organized these activities on June 21.

The activities took place under our long tent that is next to our wood building where we usually meet for worship and socials. We could not sit inside the building, so 125 participants and about 15 late comers stood outside. They joyfully applauded the kids as they passed up front to play, each one his part, reciting Bible verses, recounting the history of great people of the Bible, which they learned in class.

It reminded me how a team of missionaries like Jeff Schneider, Cecil Pulley, and Charles Fleming, who came down on February 2010 to work under heavy rains, helping us. The Holy Spirit has gotten into the needs of this population using some loving hearts that are open for service. God is glorified and we all are blessed.

We give thanks to our sister churches in Indiana, my beloved brother David Perry and his wife Jonnie, and all those who helped and pray night and day. We thank Mr. John Halford who encourages through his colorful articles, particularly those that witness of GCI moving everywhere in the planet.

Our heartfelt thanks go to you all.

This year,16 children completed the preschool cycle, but only 10 were part of the ceremony, the rest were sick, which we regret very much. We ended the year with 81 kids. We missed 53 whose families have moved to other camps.

We pray that every one comes back healthy after these two months vacation.

God bless you all.


Mountaintop Camp, Georgia

From Emmanuel Andrews

Quite a few campers this year said that although they have come to camp many times, this year was different in that they really got a better understanding of what Christ is about. Seeing the growth in the kids from year to year is inspiring and makes the work we do even more fulfilling.

We are a participatory camp; the campers are involved in helping the camp to run. We have very low food cost this year due to the efforts of our leadership team (specifically Rick & Pearline Dolsey and Helen Garrett). They were able to get Kroger to sponsor a breakfast and we got donations from Sam’s Club as well. This is ongoing and we hope to get Wal-Mart involved next year. We also had the Saturday night spaghetti meal sponsored by the Men and Women’s Ministries of Living Hope Christian Fellowship, and we were able to secure paper products and condiments from Sonic restaurants. As a result the cost for food came to around $700.00 for the entire camp for the entire weekend, and the kids ate well.

Campers: 52
Staff: 50
Li’l Toppers: 17

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Canada

From Gary Moore:

Wendy, Kylie and I had a tiring, but most uplifting visit to St. John’s, Newfoundland, last weekend. It was great seeing Chris Starkey, Frank and Linda Gough and the members there.

We received the sad news from South Africa that Colin Curtis died. Colin was lay pastor of the congregation in Pretoria that Wendy’s parents attend. He was a wonderful person and a caring pastor, and will be greatly missed. Your prayers for his wife Dolla and their children and grandchildren would be much appreciated.

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Photo to the right is of some of the St. John’s members, and the photo to the left is of Colin and Dolla Curtis.


Estonia

From Carl Fredrik Aas

I have been in Tartu, Estonia, for a couple of days to have a church meeting and a public lecture. I have given public lectures four times a year for about 15 years. This time we tried something new; we advertised in the newspaper an open question and answer session. The ad did not say that I would answer the questions, but that we could discuss the questions. Leo and I were quite concerned how this would turn out. We were concerned that people would not listen and respect different points of view. I started with some introductory comments that I also have questions about certain scriptures, but I would try to discuss the questions they felt important. The session went much better than anticipated. About 50 people attended.

The day we had the public discussion, the 13th of June, was 70 years since 10,000 Estonians were deported to Siberia by the Russians in the beginning of the Second World War. On the 25th of March 1949, another 20,000 Estonians had the same fate. Most died and never returned to Estonia. I was therefore prepared for a question about why God allows suffering, and the question came: Was this God’s will that this should happen? I believe that we have a way of explaining that God is truly just and loving at the same time.

I will go to Estonia in August in connection with our summer school project. This year many of those who could be interested in going as staff teachers are not able, for a number of reasons. At the moment only four young WCG adults (including myself) have confirmed that they will come. One or two have not decided yet. I ask for your prayers for the summer school project, that we have the teachers we need and that it is a success. Nice warm and dry weather would also be appreciated!


Prayer Requests and Updates

From Gary Moore: I want to include an update from Dennis Lawrence that he sent this morning. I know he is the prayers of many of us, and both he and his family continue to need our support.

I’ve hesitated to write a health update for a while, not really knowing what to say. I got out of hospital on March 4 and had a couple of weeks in recovery mode. Then I felt pretty well and started doing as much as I felt I could and wanted to do, preaching, some visiting, work around the house and with the family. On Easter, I noticed a small spot on my belly and thought that ”it” was back, but didn’t mention it until I saw the doctor 10 days later, who confirmed it. All the chemo, radiation, and stem-cell transplant didn’t get the cancer; it’s still there. I’ve had about the best that could be thrown at me, and it didn’t work, aside from keeping me alive to now, which is no small feat considering the aggressiveness of this lymphoma.

So it’s growing again. We took a while with the doctors to consider the best method of treatment, as I’ve had the strongest chemo, and anything more would start to damage internal organs. I’ve now been referred to the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal and am part of a clinical research trial of a new and promising cancer drug called panobinostat.

I just started this last Wednesday, and it’s too early to know how it’s going or even what side effects come from it. I’ve known the fatigue and much more nausea, especially later in the day, than I did before, maybe a side-effect? Each week I go for a checkup. I can take as many of these cycles as needed once we see whether/how it is working, and that will be evident through shrinking this mass on my abdomen.

I so much appreciate all the love and prayers that have come toward my family and myself over the last months. Currently, we are planning toward our first family wedding for July 9 and it looks like I’ll be able to give her away and to officiate, likely with a tear or two. Sadly, my health will be an ”elephant in the room” for the celebration but, hopefully, we won’t focus on that too much. But we have relatives coming from far and near, as well as our two beloved churches here who are doing a wonderful work in hosting a community meal for the reception.

Thank you, each of you, for your calls, emails, and love that have flowed so freely this past year. I’ll keep you posted as we go forward, better than I have the past four months!

www.cornwall.wcgweb.org
www.montreal.wcgweb.org
www.camp-connections.org


Update on Joplin, Missouri

Jim Kissee writes: The Joplin members not directly affected and especially those who were in the tornado path are so grateful for the prayers, cards and encouragement they have received. Veda Wead is now in physical therapy. She is making a remarkable recovery. Her family is deeply appreciative to the local congregation for assistance given to them during their mom’s weeks in ICU in Springfield. A nurse in the ICU read the cards Veda received to her, and she commented to me that those cards were so thoughtful and loving.

Gerald and Gloria Ambroisus found a rental while their house is being rebuilt. The destroyed structure has been removed and the foundation for rebuilding laid.

Don and Shirley Haas, whose home was on the edge of the tornado with limited damage, now have a more normal street, though they miss the trees.

Kathy Bettes will soon have the damage to her home repaired. Her damage was not as urgent. She is still (and understandable so) nervous about the weather.


Joyce Powell

Joyce Powell, beloved wife of UK minister Stuart Powell and mother of Joanne McCulley, died June 23 at the age of 78. Her five-year struggle with heart disease ended peacefully and quickly with Stuart and Joanne holding her hands. Many thanks for all the love, prayers and support over the years. Joyce’s funeral will be July 4. She requested donations to Mission Aviation Fellowship (www.maf-uk.org) in lieu of flowers.

Cards may be sent to:
Stuart Powell
63 Sharphaw Ave
Skipton,
N. Yorks BD23 2QJ
England

Remember that prayer is the battleground where we fight the good fight of faith. Let’s encourage everyone to join together in prayer, for we belong to Christ, and by the Spirit it is in Christ that we pray. Prayer and other spiritual activities help keep our hearts in tune with God and remind us of who we are in Christ. He is our all in all, and in him we are eternally beloved of the Father and blessed to share his good news with others.

Love from my family to yours,
Joseph Tkach


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June 22, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Hearty congratulations to Eleazar and Benina Benavides, who will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this weekend! Yes, that’s sixtieth! Eleazar is an elder in our Albuquerque, New Mexico, congregation.

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Sleep: food for thought

According to Science Fair, researchers in Wisconsin and Italy have found that the brains of rats kept awake past their bedtimes begin to turn themselves off, neuron by neuron, even though the rat is still awake. This suggests that that the 35 percent of Americans who routinely sleep less than seven hours a night are also having portions of their brains go off-line even though they’re still awake. The message is that we need to take sleep seriously (from Science Fair, 4/27/11).


Lexington, Kentucky

From John Halford: Sunday, June 19 was a bittersweet day for the Lexington, Kentucky, congregation. Ron Dick, who has been the congregation’s pastor for more than 20 years, will be retiring to Florida. Ron’s wife, Linda, has been ill for several years, and she finds the warmer climate more favorable.

As his final act of official service to the congregation, Ron ordained Beth Jeffers as an elder. I was asked to represent the denomination in installing the new pastoral team consisting of Beth Jeffers, John Bailey and John Todd.

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The Lexington congregation has recently been blessed with a remarkable outreach opportunity. One of the members heard about a pastor of a Hispanic congregation who was looking for a location for his newly planted church to meet. The leaders of the two churches met, and our church agreed to let the new congregation use our building on Sunday afternoons. In return, the members of the new church offered to take care of the landscaping of our property, something that was beginning to be a challenge for our aging members. In addition, the two congregations decided to join together for occasional worship services and to work alongside one another in community outreach.

The pastor and elders of the Hispanic church attended our service last Sunday, and Pastor Emmanuel Romero sang some special music in English and Spanish. Then Ron invited them to join us in ordaining Beth and commissioning the new pastoral team. I found this development inspiring and encouraging, and I have asked Beth Jeffers to tell the story more fully for a future edition of Christian Odyssey.


UK Women’s Conference

Friday, June 3, some 60 women gathered in glorious sunshine at High Leigh Christian Conference Centre for a weekend of relaxation, inspiration, conversation and fun. After a warm welcome and dinner, Nancy Silcox led worship and Shirley Henderson, who coordinated the conference, gave a message focused on the theme of the weekend, “Love Never Fails…What can I do?”

Saturday dawned another beautiful day. Hard working ladies behind the scenes, led by Joy Barlow, arose early and posted a letter beneath our doors to set the tone for the day ahead. After welcoming the day visitors, Julie Robus led worship and Helen Francis did a reading. Our keynote speaker for the day, Tammy Tkach (editor of Connections, a publication for women in ministry and wife of the GCI president, Joseph Tkach) spoke about how knowing God as triune deepens our personal relationship with God.

After the all-important tea and fellowship break, Tina Sullivan invited everyone to share their outreach activities. Barbara Wilkinson led worship in the afternoon, and then the group split up for the four workshops being offered. Evelyn O’Callaghan Burkhard led “Helping People Deal with Loss”; Irene Wilson led “Beware! Comfort Zone!”; Tammy Tkach led “Praying Outside the Box”; and Sinead Henderson led “Building Accountability.” Saturday concluded with a evening of hilarious games provided by Sinead Henderson and Comet Chukwurah.

Sunday was another glorious day full of chatter and reminiscing as the weekend drew to a close. Julie Dickson led us in uplifting worship as the focus moved deeper into relationship and communion with God. Tammy spoke about the freedom we have to know God’s love and give it more fully, and Shirley led us in the final Communion service, reminding us of our place together in the body of Christ. Due to the individual efforts of all, many of whom travelled long distances, gave up time, invested ability and listened and shared, the weekend was a resounding success.


Visit to biblical and classical Turkey

The UK church is planning a tour to biblical and classical sites in Western Turkey.The tour would leave on Saturday, June 2, 2012, and return on Sunday, June 10. Flights leave from the UK to arrive late into Izmir (ancient Smyrna) via Istanbul on the Saturday night, June 2. Then we would travel by air-conditioned coach to Ephesus, Miletus, Hierapolis, Laodicea, Sardis, Pergamum, Troy, the Dardenelles, and Istanbul, from where we would return home on June 10.

Among the many highlights would be visiting some of the places where Paul and John were in New Testament times, exploring archaeological sites, and going shopping in the world-famous Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

The cost is still being finalized, but is likely to be about £1200 per sharing adult. The single supplement is £249. The cost is inclusive of flights from Heathrow or Manchester, half-board accommodation, entrance fees to sites, land transport in air-conditioned coaches, airport transfers while in Turkey, plus the services of an English-speaking guide. Not included are travel insurance, visa costs (£10 cash upon arrival), lunches, tips (voluntary circa £50 per person for trip). Also not included are any increases in flight taxes and fuel surcharges.

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To register an interest please email: james.henderson@gracecom.org.uk

Please note that departures from New York and France may also be available.


Prayer Requests and Updates

From Dennis Lawrence:

I began my new treatment yesterday and am feeling rather poorly today. I have some abdominal pain but I have medication to control that. My treatment involves cycles of three weeks where I go in at the beginning and have an infusion of retaximub, a chemo drug, and get panobinostat in pill form. This treatment is a hopeful one, but we don’t know how long it will take to make the difference we want to see made. After that, I only need to return to hospital weekly for checkups. I feel weak today but tomorrow should be better and I hope to be in church in Montreal this weekend, but I have to go day-by-day right now. Thank you very much for your ongoing prayers, calls, and emails of support and encouragement. It makes a tremendous difference.

Cards may be sent to:
211 De L’ile Blvd
Pincourt, PQ J7V 3R6
CANADA

Remember that prayer is the battleground where we fight the good fight of faith. Let’s encourage everyone to join together in prayer, for we belong to Christ, and by the Spirit it is in Christ that we pray. Prayer and other spiritual activities help keep our hearts in tune with God and remind us of who we are in Christ. He is our all in all, and in him we are eternally beloved of the Father and blessed to share his good news with others.

Love from my family to yours,
Joseph Tkach