Category Archives: World Outreach

World Outreach webinar to address Afghanistan crisis, opportunity

 

In response to the crisis in Afghanistan, EPC World Outreach is hosting a free webinar on Wednesday, August 25, at 3:30 p.m. (Eastern). “Afghanistan Crisis and Opportunity: How Your Church Can Respond” will provide answers to the questions of how followers of Jesus can respond to the Afghan crisis and refugees coming to the U.S.

“We will talk about God’s heart for the refugees, how to be in prayer for Afghanistan and God’s Kingdom there, and how we in the EPC can reach out in practical ways to Afghan refugees that are coming to the U.S.” said Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of World Outreach.

To register for the webinar, go to www.epc.org/afghanistancrisisopportunity

“We want to give specific ways for people to be praying for the situation in Afghanistan,” de Guia added. “One of our workers who is intimately involved in that region and among those people sent us the prayer points below. All of us in World Outreach encourage our EPC brothers and sisters to join us in prayer in the coming days and weeks for God’s glory to be revealed in Afghanistan and among the Afghan refugees.”

Prayers from a World Outreach global worker

  1. Peace of heart. Too many people are crowding the airport and making rash decisions, including believers—albeit they have reason for concern. God is in control and has higher authority than the Taliban.
  2. Relief to internally displaced people. Thousands of Afghans fled their homes to flock to Kabul, only to get caught there now but they are without much food, water, or money. No one is there to help them that we know about.
  3. Civil government. God ordains rulers and kings. The new rulers have the task of running a civil government and society that is stable and peaceful. Even if it is along lines we do not prefer, such laws have not stopped the Church in the past nor will it now.
  4. Protection from fear and boldness of believers. Evacuation is not the best route for every believer nor all Afghans. Looking to the West has become an idol. God is able to protect them and make the Good News to those around them now and protect them even unto death.
  5. Opportunity for Christian workers to Afghanistan. Once there is order there will be a huge need for humanitarian/Christian aid organizations to return. We worked under them before and will likely do so again.
  6. God’s Kingdom to come to Afghanistan. There are no human solutions. Not armies, nor money, nor training, etc. have been able to change their hearts, the real root of the problem. Only God can do that through Jesus.

2021 Leadership Institute: The Israel of God

 

In the 2021 Leadership Institute seminar The Israel of God, Mike Kuhn examined an array of passages from both the Old and New Testaments in light of the question, “how we should understand ‘Israel’ biblically?” He also considered three implications regarding the current state of Israel:

First, the identity boundaries of Israel were never ethnic but covenantal.

“The sign of the covenant was the identity marker,” he said.

Second, the Old Testament anticipates what the New Testament teaches—an expansion of those boundaries in terms of both land and people.

Third, all nations are included in the Israel of God—people—and the promised land is a renewal of all creation.

“Jesus, in word and action, gave sufficient indication that the true people of God are those people who believe the testimony about Him and join themselves to him to become one with Him,” Kuhn said. “Jesus is the spiritual progenitor of a new people, a new nation consisting of both Jews and Gentiles.”

Kuhn emphasized that this new nation is the inclusive and expansive continuation of Old Testament Israel.

“The difference is that now the anointed prophet, priest, and king has appeared—God’s eternal purpose for His people is fulfilled in Christ,” he said. “To use the language of Hebrews, the shadow has now given way to the reality. In Christ, God’s purposes are not merely proclaimed, but achieved. Christ is the Israel of God.”

Kuhn serves as Missional Theology Specialist for EPC World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network (ITEN). For more than 28 years, he lived in three different Arab countries: Morocco, Egypt, and Lebanon, where he served as Professor of Biblical Theology and Discipleship at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut from 2012-2018.

The Leadership Institute is an equipping component of the annual General Assembly meeting.

#epc2021ga

Phil Linton reflects on seven years as Director of World Outreach

 

Phil Linton

At the end of this month, I will step down after seven years as Director of World Outreach. I want to reflect here on four developments I’ve seen in our work during that time.

Internationalized Church-planting Teams

The EPC World Outreach global workers we send out from North America almost always end up teaming with spiritual brothers and sisters sent out from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. These relationships are rarely orchestrated from denominational or mission agency headquarters, but rather are organic partnerships that grow as disciple-makers from very different cultures discover each other working on the same task directed by the same Spirit.

Second-generation EPC WO Global Workers

By Presbyterian standards EPC World Outreach is relatively young, having sent out its first workers in 1985. But in recent years we have seen adult children (Jackie, Peter, and Josh) from three different EPC WO families return with the EPC into full-cycle church planting among people with least access to the gospel. With these folks we build on the foundation of decades of the very best preparation for cross-cultural ministry.

Repatriated Immigrant Global Workers

The dream of escape to America—the Land of Opportunity—is still very much alive throughout much of the world. Few who have achieved that dream give it up and return to the lands of their birth, but we in EPC World Outreach have several families where at least one spouse fits that description. These families have unusual credibility with neighbors who recognize they are animated by a power greater than material success. Coupling that credibility with a deep understanding of local culture to share the gospel has had a major impact in many cases.

National Church Missional Leaders

As World Outreach Director, I receive several requests each week from Christians around the world, asking for “partnership.” Of course, partnership may have many different meanings, but usually these appeals are for funds to carry out ministry in their communities. As important as these ministries are, I routinely turn down such requests to focus our resources and energies on a different kind of partnership.

World Outreach has developed close relationships with church leaders in Asia and Africa whose eyes are always on the frontiers of their communities. They look beyond where their churches are, to the neighborhoods, villages, and towns where no churches are. They pray for those places; they go to those places; they train and send people to those places; and EPC WO comes alongside to help them. Our efforts here become magnified and multiplied for a hundred-fold effect.

One final note: these developments in World Outreach have been gifts from God through the labors of people other than me. It has been the labors of loving missionary parents which have borne sweet fruit in the lives of our World Outreach MKs. It has been the faithful service of elders in our presbyteries who nurtured relationships with national church missional leaders in places like Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Albania, and Russia. It has been EPC pastors who welcomed and befriended immigrant Christians in their congregations, and then encouraged and guided them to be sent back by EPC World Outreach. And it has been our WO global workers who have recognized “God’s team” in the faces of El Salvadoran, Brazilian, Singaporean, Indonesian, Albanian, etc. brothers and sisters and reached out hands to work together. To all of you, I say thank you for your service to Christ, and for making my work as WO Director a joy.

Grace and peace,

Phil Linton
Director, EPC World Outreach

Gabriel de Guia named Executive Director of EPC World Outreach

 

Gabriel de Guia

Gabriel de Guia has been named as the new Executive Director of EPC World Outreach. A member of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla., he has served in a variety of capacities with Cru since 1995. His most recent role was Senior Aide of Development to the Executive Director for the Jesus Film Project, which he has held since 2012. Cru—formerly Campus Crusade for Christ—is an international ministry founded by Bill and Vonette Bright in 1951 and based in Orlando.

“I’m overwhelmed to be selected to lead EPC World Outreach,” de Guia said. “I feel like I’m coming full circle in ministry, as my grandparents came to faith in Christ through the work of Presbyterian missionaries in the Philippines in the 1920s. And now, I just have a grand sense of God ushering us into this great adventure. It wasn’t something I was planning on or dreaming of, but that makes it all the more confirming that this is something God is calling us to. That brings about a ton of excitement.”

Rob Liddon, Chairman of the Executive Director Search Committee and Moderator of the EPC’s 30th General Assembly, said de Guia was the committee’s unanimous choice among a group of “exceptionally strong” candidates.

“Following much prayer and discussion, the nine-member Search Committee unanimously concluded Gabriel to be best situated to lead World Outreach into the second quarter of this century as its Executive Director,” Liddon said. “We are very pleased to welcome him and his wife, Rachel, to EPC World Outreach.”

Over a 26-year missionary career with Cru, de Guia’s other responsibilities have included Advancement (Major Gifts) Officer for the Jesus Film Project, Writer in the Global Communications Office, and Assistant to the President. He also served as College Campus Minister at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., and Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind., from 1996-2002.

He has led or helped lead short-term evangelistic mission teams to Africa, Asia, Central America, and multiple locations in the United States. In addition, he has provided direct missionary member care to more than 30 Cru missionary families in East Asia; equipped numerous teenaged children of missionaries in lifestyle evangelism; coached missionary staff in support raising; and served as lead liaison between Cru’s mission partners, mission field directors, and major donors. This effort helped raise millions of dollars for multiple global outreach initiatives.

Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk-elect and a member of the search committee, said de Guia exhibited leadership that is anchored in a strong faith and prayer.

“We were all greatly encouraged by Gabriel’s personal commitment to prayer and evangelism,” Weaver said. “His passion for the Great Commission flows from his deep personal relationship with Jesus.”

Johnny Long, Ruling Elder for Hope Church in Memphis, Tenn., served as a member of both the search committee and the World Outreach committee of the General Assembly.

“Going through this process allowed our search committee the opportunity to absolutely find the right person for this role for this time in World Outreach and for our denomination as whole,” Long said. “Gabriel brings superb organizational expertise and excellent interpersonal and organizational communication skills. His experience with technology to advance the gospel will be a huge asset as we continue to grow and expand the outreach capabilities of World Outreach to share the gospel to the most unreached peoples around the world.”

A native of Cincinnati, de Guia’s parents emigrated to Minnesota from the Philippines in the 1960s and later moved to Ohio. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from The Ohio State University in Columbus. He also has participated in numerous professional development opportunities, including Cru’s two-year Senior Leadership Initiative, a Master’s level program offered by invitation only.

The de Guias have been married since 2007 and have three children.

“We are honored with the sacred, holy privilege to step into this avenue of ministry for the sake of the global church,” Rachel said. “We have long appreciated the Revelation 7:9 picture of the throne room of God, and we’ve used that verse as a filter to help discern what God has called us to. For the EPC to be pursuing that vision was confirmation of God’s leading us to this.”

Liddon noted that the search committee was united in “seeking the mind of Christ for World Outreach” during the entire process, which began in 2019 with the NLT’s appointment of a World Outreach Evaluation Team. That committee was tasked with reviewing the goals and strategy employed by World Outreach, as well as the results achieved.

“The evaluation team worked with World Outreach leadership, and it commended the sound and enduring work of World Outreach—past and present,” Liddon said. “At the same time, that team’s report to the NLT proposed a number of changes they thought necessary in light of current cultural and economic developments in the areas WO serves.”

Liddon noted that the search was “a measured, considered process, and yielded quite a number of candidates, all of godly character and impressive backgrounds in Kingdom ministry.”

“I think we all felt,” said Iris A, a World Outreach global worker who served on the search committee, “that the Holy Spirit truly led us through this lengthy decision-making process to come to the same mind and decision.”

Search Committee Member Kevin Cauley, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and former chairman of World Outreach Committee, said he was “impressed with Gabriel’s humble, prayerful, and Spirit-led approach.”

“He will bring fresh eyes to help World Outreach to see in new ways how we may continue building upon the great foundation passed down from our former outstanding Directors,” Cauley said.

The nine-member Search Committee began its work in October 2020. It was comprised of a variety of EPC Teaching Elders, Ruling Elders, and missions practitioners. Because of security issues related to their work, not all members of the committee were able to be named.

The Executive Director of World Outreach is selected and called by the National Leadership Team for a three-year term, which is renewable. Phil Linton, who has served as Director of World Outreach since 2014, is retiring at the June 2021 conclusion of his current three-year term.

World Outreach is the missions arm of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, with a principal calling to glorify God by starting church-planting movements among least-reached people groups. World Outreach currently has approximately 75 family units serving across the globe.

World Outreach prayer directory available for pre-order

 

Orders are now being accepted for the EPC World Outreach prayer directory.

Commitment to global movement through missions is one of four strategic priorities for the EPC. One way each of our congregations can engage in this is by supporting our global workers financially and through prayer. The spiral-bound directory is designed for desktop display and includes a comprehensive list of all EPC global workers and their prayer needs. The directory offers opportunity to get to know the EPC’s global workers and their ministries, region of service, and ways you can pray for them.

To pre-order, go to www.epcwo.org/prayerdirectory. The deadline to order is February 3, 2021.

December 2020 EPC budget report: strategic priorities spending restored amid continued strong PMA support

 

Support for Per Member Asking (PMA) over the first six months of the EPC’s fiscal year continues to be strong. As a result, the National Leadership Team (NLT) reinstated $60,000 in the Office of the General Assembly’s budget for church planting and $26,000 for church revitalization at its January 19 meeting.

PMA contributions received by the Office of the General Assembly since the July 1 start of fiscal year 2021 (FY21) total $1,234,886. While the amount is $18,863 less than the $1,253,749 received during the same period in fiscal year 2020, year-to-date contributions are 13.7 percent ($149,219) above the $1,085,667 “Bare Bones Plus” budget.

“We reduced the 2020-2021 budget by 17 percent out of an abundance of caution, since we did not know how the ongoing pandemic would affect our churches financially,” Jeremiah said. “We did not want to be in a position where we had to make cuts to an approved budget later. But I am so thankful that our churches continue to demonstrate their commitment to the EPC in such uncertain times.”

Jeremiah noted that the 40th General Assembly not only approved the reduced budget but also authorized the National Leadership Team to increase funding for strategic ministry opportunities should FY21 revenue exceed projected spending.

The 12-month rolling average for monthly PMA contributions is $197,809—within 1 percent of the rolling average as of December 31, 2020. PMA support in December 2020 was $312,238.

Of the $1,234,886 received, $246,977 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $2,954,022 was received through December 30 for designated funds. This total is $218,006 (6.9 percent) lower than the $3,172,027 in designated gifts received in the same period in fiscal year 2020.

Jeremiah said if significant donations to two funds in 2019—Emergency Relief and Church Planting—are not considered, designated giving is up more than $369,000 (14.4 percent) in FY21. Nearly $320,000 was donated to the Emergency Relief Fund through December 30, 2019, in response to Hurricane Dorian. An anonymous donor gave $250,000 in December 2019, designated for church planting.

Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings.

Of the total, $2,905,521 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $48,501 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Committee announces updates to World Outreach Executive Director search

 

The World Outreach Executive Director Search Committee has extended the deadline for applications to February 28. In addition, the requirement that the next Executive Director of World Outreach live in Orlando has been relaxed.

“We want to allow as much time as possible for interested individuals to complete the application materials,” said Rob Liddon, chairman of the nine-member search committee. “Also, the committee recognizes—and the National Leadership Team affirms—that while local residency to the office is strongly preferred, a leader with the experience and qualifications we are seeking for the role may well have strategic contacts, networks, and other relationships that a relocation may weaken. In short, by making these two adjustments to the search process we believe we are removing two potential stumbling blocks that may prevent us hearing from the best—and God’s preferred—candidate for this critical position.”

World Outreach is the international missions arm of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Phil Linton, who has served as Director of World Outreach since 2014, is retiring at the June 2021 conclusion of his current three-year term.

Through World Outreach, the EPC and its more than 630 Christ-centered congregations seek to extend God’s Kingdom by making disciples of all nations by commissioning and sending workers, as well as partnering with like-minded mission organizations around the world. The Executive Director of World Outreach will be on the forefront of building on a strong tradition of global partnerships, as well as leading change and guiding mission impact.

For more information, including application materials and the position description, see www.epc.org/woexecutivedirectorsearch.

EPC seeking candidates for Executive Director of World Outreach

 

Applications are now being received for Executive Director of World Outreach, the international missions arm of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Phil Linton, who has served as Director of World Outreach since 2014, is retiring at the June 2021 conclusion of his current three-year term.

Through World Outreach, the EPC and its more than 630 Christ-centered congregations seek to extend God’s Kingdom by making disciples of all nations by commissioning and sending workers, as well as partnering with like-minded mission organizations around the world. The Executive Director of World Outreach will be on the forefront of building on a strong tradition of global partnerships, as well as leading change and guiding mission impact.

Applications will be accepted until January 15, 2021. The Executive Director of World Outreach must be (or become) a member of the EPC.

For more information, including application materials and the position description, see www.epc.org/woexecutivedirectorsearch.

For more information about EPC World Outreach, see www.epcwo.org.

Emergency fund launched for Beirut explosion relief

 

BeirutExplosionReliefFundThe EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help relieve suffering caused by a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4. The blast killed more than 180 people and injured an additional 6,000. An estimated 300,000 people were left homeless.

Donations to the fund will be sent to the Church of the Nazarene in Beirut and other key ministry partners of EPC World Outreach.

“The Nazarene Church in Lebanon has a long history of work among Lebanon’s poor and refugees, and is very well-positioned to provide emergency help in Christ’s name to victims of the blast,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “Many of our Nazarene brothers and sisters there were sharing their meager resources with refugees even before the explosion. Our gifts will be a great encouragement to their faithful and generous outreach, as well as our other partners in Lebanon.”

Click here to donate to the Beirut Explosion Relief Fund. Thank you for providing help to those in need.

World Outreach Philemon Project GROW Center preschool damaged in Beirut explosion

 

Security camera footage captures the moments that the shock wave from the August 5, 2020, explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, hit the Philemon Project GROW Center.

The Philemon Project GROW Center, an early childhood development center and adult mentoring program in Beirut, Lebanon, was heavily damaged by the explosion that rocked the city on August 5. The center is located approximately two miles from Beirut’s port, where the blast occurred.

The GROW Center is a project of EPC World Outreach and is led by Robert Hamd, a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the Central South. Hamd reported by email late August 5 that none of the center’s staff were seriously injured, but one employee’s home was destroyed.

“Our house is completely gone,” said Azig, an Early Development Specialist at the GROW Center. “We gathered clothes, money, and important papers as much as we can. My family will go to my brother’s fiancee’s house. Please mention us in your prayers, I don’t know how we will overcome this.”

Hand reported that “not much is salvageable” at the GROW Center.

RobertHamd

Robert Hamd

“The building has structural damage, stuff is strewn everywhere, windows are broken,” Hamd said. “Thank God no one was in the building when it happened.”

He added that the staff is “traumatized.”

“They’re weeping,” he said. “One told me she cried for three hours straight until she collapsed from exhaustion.”

As of August 6, no major injuries have been reported among the families the GROW Center serves.

“We grieve with the long-suffering people of Beirut in the aftermath of this terrible shaking,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “We pray God will comfort them and, through people like the GROW Center staff, give them a foundation that can never be shaken.”

PhilemonGrowCenterDamageA

The blast shattered windows and left the facility littered with broken drywall and other debris.

More than 135 people are confirmed dead from the explosion, with more than 5,000 injured and as many as 300,000 homeless. Officials have said those numbers are likely to climb. Marwan Abboud, Beirut’s Governor, said half the buildings in Beirut are damaged. The explosion was reportedly caused by 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored in a warehouse at the port since 2013.

“Please pray for our work and witness,” Hamd said. “This is a catastrophe of epic proportions.”

The GROW Center provides early childhood development opportunities for at-risk and underserved Lebanese, Syrian refugee, and migrant children and their families in a Christian environment. For more information about the Philemon Project GROW Center, see www.thephilemonproject.org.

To donate to the center’s recovery, go to www.epcwo.org/supportphilemongrow. Hamd noted that all donations given in the near future will go toward “repairing the building, replacing books, toys, kitchen items—basically everything.”

Church sewing groups answer call for masks for Michigan COVID-19 hotspot

 

Hamtramck, Mich., is an area that was hit hard by COVID-19. About five miles from downtown Detroit, 42 percent of Hamtramck’s 22,000 residents are foreign-born—giving Hamtramck the largest percentage of immigrants in the state and a longtime focus of EPC World Outreach efforts among Muslims in the United States.

Between January and March, as many as 300 families moved to Hamtramck from Bangladesh to join relatives. The March coronavirus outbreak and subsequent shelter-in-place orders isolated these immigrants in unfamiliar surroundings, in some cases even from relatives. So when a World Outreach global worker in the area put out an urgent request in April for masks to share with the Bangladeshi and Yemeni families in their neighborhood, women in sewing groups at two EPC churches jumped into action.

MasksForHamtramck

Paula Creamer

Paula Creamer, a Ruling Elder for Grace Community Church in Falcon, Colo., responded to the need after seeing it posted on the EPC Women’s Resource Council’s Facebook page.

“We have a women’s sewing group at the church called Stitchers of Grace,” Creamer said. “It actually started about seven years ago in response to a need for pillowcases at a local homeless shelter. We sew pillowcases every year now for the Salvation Army and the shelters.”

When COVID-19 hit Colorado and local paramedic, fire, and police departments requested mask donations, Stitchers of Grace stepped up to help. They were joined by two other women’s sewing groups in the Colorado Springs area: The Black Forest Craft Guild and Falcon Stitchers. The three groups were familiar with one another, having met at the annual craft show that is held at Grace Community Church each holiday season.

“Between the three groups, we have about 20 women who have given their time and efforts over the last few weeks to sew almost 9,000 masks,” Creamer said. “We have given them out to rescue workers, shelters, clinics, and hospitals. We already knew how to make them when the request came from Hamtramck. So, of course, we said we could help.”

Meanwhile, across the country in Findlay, Ohio, a group of women from Gateway Church also was rallying to sew masks for Hamtramck.

“The request came from one of our mission partners,” said Cody Ohnmeiss, who serves as Gateway’s Go Local Director. “We were already partnered with that area of Michigan and wanted to help in any way that we could.”

So he called Sandra Tietje, who leads a ministry team called Sew, Quilt, Share. When Ohnmeiss told her they needed 500 masks, her response was, “That’s a big number!”

But she knew that God would provide, as He always does. The group had already been sewing masks for local hospitals and nursing home facilities. In the previous month, they had distributed more than 2,000 masks—all made from materials they already had on hand or had been donated from local fabric shops.

“God knew that this moment was coming and what would be needed, and He had already laid the foundation so that this could happen,” Tietje said. “There were many, many hands involved in this process, and God is the one who has done it.”

The women’s group launched in 2003 when a few ladies from the church felt like God was calling them to start a sewing ministry as part of the church’s outreach ministries.

“We have a strong missional history at Gateway,” Tietje said. “I have a photo of my grandmother working on a quilt with her Ladies Missionary Society back in 1967. I’m actually in the photo, too—underneath the quilt! We grew up watching our mothers hold bake sales and sew things to raise money for missions. This is our heritage.”

Every month, people meet at the church to cut fabric and put kits together to distribute to women who want to participate in the sewing projects. Ohnmeiss serves as the runner, dropping off and picking up projects throughout the city.

“One of the beautiful things about sewing is that if you have a passion for it and you meet someone else that has a passion for it as well, it breaks down the barriers that divide,” Tietje said. “This is a fun, non-threatening outreach to our friends. There are ladies who have started coming to our church because of friendship evangelism through the sewing group.”

Creamer has seen the same thing at Grace Community Church.

“Some of the women have started praying together and a few have even been attending the Tuesday Women’s Bible Study,” she said. “This latest project—the masks for frontline workers—has connected us more deeply with the community. We’ve even had grocery stores providing us with twist ties from the produce section to make the nosepiece on the masks.”

Creamer knows firsthand what a blessing these masks have been. Her husband is an essential government employee, and she is a nurse in a local hospital.

Ohnmeiss noted that a perhaps-unexpected blessing from the effort was watching how God brought many different people together to serve those who are in need.

“One of our pastors made it a family project,” he said. “He and his girls had never sewed a mask before, but they put in a day’s effort and came out with masks to send to Michigan. It was beautiful to watch.”

All of the masks produced by the church groups have been sent to Hamtramck. Between the two churches, they were able to provide even more than the 500 that were originally requested.

Tietje understands firsthand how important it is to come together in this unprecedented time and be there for one another. Her father-in-law passed away in May, and they were unable to be with him in the nursing home when he was sick or give him the kind of funeral that they would have liked. While the experience was difficult, it also gave her a greater empathy for those who were suffering and a passion to get even more masks to those in need.

“God always lays the groundwork before something like this happens,” she said. “He knew the pandemic was coming long before we did, and was aware of every little need. He brought our sewing group together for such a time as this. What a joy and privilege to play a small part in His plan.”

By Kiki Schleiff Cherry
EPConnection correspondent

Former Director of EPC World Outreach Dick Oestreicher and wife, Bobbi, succumb to COVID-19

 
Oestreichers

Dick and Bobbi Oestreicher

Richard George “Dick” Oestreicher (born June 20, 1934) and Roberta Belle “Bobbi” Oestreicher (nee Bradley, born September 12, 1936) were married on August 30, 1958, at Grace Bible Church in Ann Arbor, Mich. They enjoyed 61 years together and went home to be with the Lord on April 17 and 14, 2020, respectively.

Red dots on a wall map in their home marked all the places they had been, including Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Russia, and Ukraine just after the wall came down. Dick and Bobbi were some of the best traveled home missionaries you could ever meet. Their work was always personal, as together they shared the love they had experienced in Jesus with the wider world.

Graduates of the University of Michigan, the Oestreichers bled maize and blue for the rest of their lives. Active members at Ward Church, they were friends to all they met and faithful servants of the Lord. Missionaries at heart, they served in a host of mission fields over the course of their life together.

A consummate preschool teacher even beyond Montessori school walls, Bobbi loved to engage young children at their level. Through SEND International and as Director of EPC World Outreach, Dick resourced international church planting with innovative leadership. Spiritual mentors for more than six decades, Dick and Bobbi were an inspiration to many.

The family home was perhaps their greatest mission field, where they lovingly raised their children, established a legacy of faith for generations after them to follow, and extended hospitality far beyond the normal bonds of family. Compassionate, humble, and genuinely loving, the Oestreichers always had an extra place at the table. Faithful and welcoming, frugal yet generous, they held themselves to the highest Christian ideals while extending love and grace freely to everyone around them. Their lives bore unmistakable evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work over the decades.

When their love on earth was spent, and their love of God made perfect, the Oestreichers died well—Dick having fought the good fight and Bobbi having embraced the peace of God which passes understanding. Billy Graham once said, “Someday you will read or hear that I am dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” The Oestreichers, spiritual giants in their own humble way, changed their address this past week. We grieve, we mourn, but we do so in the sure and certain hope of resurrection, which is offered to all who trust in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Dick and Bobbi are survived by children Lori (Joe), Lisa (Rod), and Mark (Jeannie), grandchildren Zack (Rachael), Kirsten (Geoff), Rachel (Dan), Shana (Anthony), Jake (Kristin), Rachel (Isaac), Riley, Wade, Vance (Alyssa), Max (Bailey), and Shelby, by 12 great-grandchildren, Dick’s sisters Ruth and Carol (Jim), Bobbi’s sisters Kay (Bruce) and Kathy (Jim), and a host of nieces, nephews, and dear friends. Bobbi was preceded in death by her sister, Bonnie (Terry).

World Outreach global workers minister, monitor coronavirus locally

 
PhilLinton

Phil Linton

by Phil Linton
Director, EPC World Outreach

As WWII drew to a close, a young Russian soldier-mathematician was arrested and condemned to imprisonment and permanent exile for privately criticizing Stalin. Imprisoned in a Siberian labor camp, later suffering from cancer and given just weeks to live, it seemed that all the plans, hopes, and dreams of his life were shattered. But what Stalin meant for evil, God used for good, and the arrest changed the course of Aleksankr Solzhenitsyn’s life so that the soldier-mathematician became one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

The COVID-19 pandemic is shattering many of our plans and dreams, but how is it affecting EPC World Outreach? It is causing us, like you, to be on heightened alert. We are talking with and listening to government sources, other mission agencies, and our own colleagues around the world to try to keep up with changing situations. But, above all else, we keep in mind that God is in control, and there is no virus that can do anything without God using it for His good purposes.

The EPC World Outreach staff in Orlando is doing the same things that many of you are—working from our homes, canceling all but essential travel, postponing events, and changing meetings to video conferences. We have stepped up text, audio, and video calls to stay in even closer communication with our global workers to pray with them and help them think through their responses.

World Outreach is neither requiring nor forbidding any of our workers to return to the States. We believe these decisions are best made at a team level by those most aware of local situations. Two of our workers, in exceptional circumstances, have returned to the States in the past week. The rest are heeding local medical advice, postponing travel, and adopting social practices to inhibit spreading the disease. As they have long prayed for spiritual breakthroughs in their communities, they are now waiting in hope for opportunities to be God’s ambassadors to neighbors in need.

The message that our global workers tell their neighbors is the same message they tell themselves: in a global pandemic the only safe place to flee to is the arms of God.

Thank you for remembering our missionaries even as you face your own challenges. Thank you for praying for them as you pray for your own families; thank you for giving to support them, even as you deal with your own financial reverses. Please continue to pray.

  • Pray for our missionaries’ health and stamina, especially for those working with the poor and providing health care in difficult settings.
  • Pray for World Outreach leaders to be full of grace and truth as we respond to our colleagues’ questions and needs.
  • Pray for all of us to be radiant ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, sharing the good news that brings life to the dying.

Looking back at the surprising course of his life, Solzhenitsyn wrote this prayer:

How easy for me to live with you, Lord!
How easy to believe in you!
When my mind casts about
or flags in bewilderment,
when the cleverest among us
cannot see past the present evening,
not knowing what to do tomorrow—
you send me the clarity to know
that you exist
and will take care
that not all paths of goodness should be barred.
At the crest of earthly fame
I look back in wonderment
at the journey beyond hope — to this place,
from which I was able to send mankind
a reflection of your rays.
And however long the time
that I must yet reflect them
you will give it me.
And whatever I fail to accomplish
you surely have allotted unto others.

Let us live these days of the COVID-19 pandemic so that, when it has passed, you and I will look back at it in wonderment as a time where God’s glory was most radiant.

World Outreach receives $50,000 gift for Lebanon early childhood development center ministry

 

Nearly 70 at-risk children in Lebanon and their families will benefit from a $50,000 donation to the Philemon Project Grow Center, a ministry headed by a World Outreach global worker in the region. The online donation was submitted in January and is the second major gift received by World Outreach in the past six weeks.

“The Grow Center is a vibrant ministry that shares Jesus’ love with children of migrant workers and Syrian refugees, as well as other at-risk children in Lebanon,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “The Center also works to help break the cycle of disfunction by offering mentoring programs to the parents. The work they are doing is quite amazing.”

The Philemon Project was started to provide migrant workers in Beirut with high-quality, reasonably priced childcare. The organization has developed into a non-governmental organization (NGO) and is under the auspices of Resurrection Church Beirut. The Grow Center is a Christian-led early childhood development center and adult mentoring program. It welcomes underserved children and families from all ethnicities and religious backgrounds and provides a healthy place for children ages one to four to grow physically, cognitively, socially, and spiritually. The Center’s adult mentoring program helps parents develop skills to create lasting, healthy, and active relationships with their children.

For more information on giving to the EPC or EPC World Outreach, go to www.epc.org/donate or www.epcwo.org/support, respectively.

World Outreach receives $50,000 gift

 

The ministry of a World Outreach global worker who serves in a secure location overseas will benefit from a $50,000 gift the EPC received in December. The donation was the second major gift of the month, following a $250,000 contribution for church planting.

“It’s such a blessing to see what happens when believers respond to our Lord’s prompting,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “All of us in World Outreach are confident that many people will come to Christ through this very generous gift.”

Linton also noted that the gift, which was donated through the global worker’s secure online donation form at www.epcwo.org, was made prior to the announcement of the gift for church planting.

“God is obviously at work in the hearts of His people,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “It’s exciting to think about the possibilities of how God is using the EPC through the gifts of generous donors to grow God’s Kingdom.”

To make a secure online donation to the EPC or EPC World Outreach, go to www.epc.org/donate or www.epcwo.org/support, respectively.

World Outreach plans three summer mission projects in U.S. for 2020

 

What are you doing this summer? EPC World Outreach is planning three mission projects among non-native people groups in the United States in July 2020—one designed for families and two intended for high school students. Each of the six-day experiences are in partnership with a local EPC church.

WO-ExperienceWO2020ExperienceWO: El Cajon will take place July 5-10 in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, Calif. Participants will share the love of Christ among the local Muslim population by teaching English classes, leading children’s programs, and visiting homes in the neighborhood.

“This is a great trip for families or groups, as well as individuals,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “You’ll learn how to spark conversations that create opportunities to share the gospel with our Muslim neighbors.”

Participants will stay with host families from the EPC’s Covenant Church in San Diego. The registration deadline for church groups is January 15. For more information and to register, see www.epcwo.org/experiencewo.

WO-SMJ2020Summer Mission Jam returns in 2020 with two opportunities for high school students. Participants will serve among Afghan, Bangladeshi, Iraqi, Pakistani, and Yemeni peoples in ethnically diverse areas of Hamtramck, Mich., July 13-18, and Sacramento, Calif., July 20-25.

Students are scheduled to spend the afternoon each day serving residents by picking up trash, cleaning yards, and leading outreach games and activities in a local park. In the evenings, students and leaders will gather for worship services and reflect on the experiences of the day.

“Summer Mission Jam is an amazing opportunity for churches to invest in their students as they learn more about Muslims and how to interact in a way that is loving and beneficial for the Kingdom,” said Shawn Stewart, World Outreach Mobilization Coordinator. “In the mornings and afternoons, students will learn how to ‘bridge the gap’ with Muslims and be the fragrance of Jesus through instructive teaching and service opportunities in the local community. In the evenings, we’ll worship together around God’s Word, inspiring students to grasp that it is worth their life to follow Jesus…no matter the cost.”

Participants in Hamtramck will stay at Wayne State University in Detroit. Those who choose the Sacramento option will stay at the EPC’s Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento. The registration deadline for either event is January 15.

For more information and to register, or see www.epcwo.org/summermissionjam.

If you have questions about any of the World Outreach summer mission projects, contact Stewart at shawn.s@epcwo.org or 828-273-2009; or Cassie Shultz, World Outreach Church and Agency Liaison, at cassie.s@epcwo.org or 407-930-4313.

Thanksgiving offering to support World Outreach women’s retreat

 

2019ThanksgivingOfferingThe 2019 EPC Thanksgiving Offering has been designated for the 2019 World Outreach (WO) retreat for WO Direct female global workers. The “Reflect, Connect & Envision” retreat will be hosted by WO Member Care Directors Chris and Debbie Gibson from April 2-6, 2020, in Budapest, Hungary.

“This gathering is designed for our missionary women who are sent through World Outreach to come together for renewal, revitalization, and refreshment,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “Most of our global workers who serve with our co-op partners have annual conferences and retreats put on by their agencies. Our workers sent directly by World Outreach only have this type of event every three years at our Family Gathering.”

Linton added that the 2020 retreat is an effort “to help our ladies on the front lines to feel loved and recharge their batteries. Our 15 WO Direct women have expressed a desire to form relationships with their counterparts who share many of the same ministry, family, parenting, and team issues,” he said.

“The theme of the event, Reflect, Connect & Envision’ will include a variety of activities, all designed to Reflect on who God is, Connect with other women in similar situations, and Envision how God wants to lead—both personally and within ministry,” Linton noted.

The financial goal for the 2019 Thanksgiving Offering is $18,000. The cost per global worker to attend is approximately $1,200 and includes airfare, ground transportation, and meals.

Secure online donations to the Thanksgiving Offering can be made at www.epc.org/donate/thanksgivingoffering. Individuals also can utilize text-to-give by texting “epcthanksgivingoffering” to 50155 from any smart device. Donors who prefer to send a check should put “Thanksgiving Offering (041)” on the memo line and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Attn: Finance Office
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

For help with donations, contact Catherine Rutter, World Outreach Finance Assistant, at catherine.r@epcwo.org or 407-930-4473.

For more information about the retreat, email chris.g@epcwo.org or call 501-413-0054.

The annual Thanksgiving Offering supports a project approved by the General Assembly each June, alternating between World Outreach and Church Planting/Revitalization.

World Outreach Committee reviews ongoing work, interviews candidates for future ministry

 

WorldOutreachCommitteeMeeting201910At its fall 2019 meeting, the EPC World Outreach (WO) Committee discussed a variety of topics related to policy and finance, heard reports on several ministry projects, and interviewed several candidates for potential future appointment as global workers.

The committee met October 17-18 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach, noted the importance of spending time on administrative matters.

“We have to continually review our policies and procedures to ensure that we are providing the best possible support for our global workers out there on the front lines,” Linton said. “I am grateful that the members of the committee take that responsibility seriously.”

Among those items were amendments to the World Outreach Manual concerning vehicles and transportation, housing, excess support, and administrative fees. The committee also discussed issues related to approved agencies and heard reports on ministry projects in Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

“It’s exciting to know that God is working in and through EPC World Outreach,” Linton noted. “The disappointing part is that because of where so many of our people are serving, we have to be so careful in our reporting so we don’t jeopardize their safety.”

Members of the World Outreach Committee are Kevin Cauley, Chairman, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; Brad Buescher, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Rick Dietzman Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; Phyllis Ellsworth, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest; Susan Lear, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; Johnny Long, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; David Miller, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Patrick Tucker, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Gulf South; and David Van Valkenburg, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West.

World Outreach Evaluation Team convenes first meeting

 
WorldOutreachStudyCommittee

Members of the World Outreach Evaluation Team are (left to right) Rob Liddon, Jerry Iamurri, Alan Johnson, Brad Gill, Brian Tweedie, Betsy Rumer, Johnny Long, and Kevin Cauley.  

In its report to the 39th General Assembly, the EPC National Leadership Team (NLT) announced the formation of a World Outreach Evaluation Team in response to Phil Linton’s retirement in June 2021. Linton has served as Director of World Outreach since 2014. The Evaluation Team held its first meeting August 27-28 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando, with the goal of filing its report in time for the NLT to form the World Outreach Director Search Committee by the 40th General Assembly.

“Anticipating that the search for Phil’s successor will begin in earnest after the 2020 General Assembly, the NLT concluded that the next ten to twelve months would be an excellent opportunity to review and evaluate the ministries and work of World Outreach,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “This is not a search committee, but their work will help set the table for the task that a search committee will undertake in 2020 and 2021.”

Rob Liddon, Ruling Elder for Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn., and Moderator of the 30th General Assembly, is serving as chairman. Other members are Kevin Cauley, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; Brad Gill, Ruling Elder from Presbytery of the Midwest; Alan Johnson, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Johnny Long, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Betsy Rumer, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; and Brian Tweedie, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Midwest. Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri is serving the committee as staff resource from the Office of the General Assembly.

Cauley and Long are members of the permanent World Outreach Committee; Johnson and Rumer are former members of the World Outreach Committee, with Rumer serving as Chairman in 2017-2018. Liddon also serves on the National Leadership Team.

City of Hamtramck, Mich., thanks World Outreach Summer Mission Jam participants

 

SummerMissionJam2019HamtramckIn a July 11 post on its Facebook page, the City of Hamtramck, Mich., thanked EPC World Outreach for holding its Summer Mission Jam in the southeastern Michigan city.

“Thank you for making Hamtramck a destination again this year for your Team Summer Jam!,” the post reads. “We enjoy working with you on keeping our city ‘Klean’ and beautiful!”

Surrounded by the city of Detroit, Hamtramck has a significant Bangladeshi, Yemeni, and Bengali population. The city made national news in 2015 when residents elected the first Muslim-majority city council in the country.

“We are thankful for our relationships with the people and leaders of Hamtramck,” said Phil Linton, World Outreach Director. “Our Summer Mission Jam provides an opportunity for high school students to make Muslim friends and talk with them about Jesus without traveling halfway around the world. Hamtramck is a great setting for our students to ‘find somewhere different to love your neighbor,’ as we like to say.”

Students from three EPC churches took part in this year’s event, held July 8-13. Participants spent the afternoon each day serving Hamtramck residents by picking up trash, cleaning yards, and leading outreach games and activities in a local park. In the evenings, students and leaders gathered for worship services in which they were challenged to reimagine the cost of following Christ.

Will, a rising 11th grader from Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church in Signal Mountain, Tenn., said his favorite part of the experience was “the opportunity to show God’s love to the people around us and just to be able to serve.”

The 2020 Summer Mission Jam is scheduled for July 20-25 in Fremont, Calif. For more information, see www.epcwo.org/summermissionjam.

Summer Mission Jam a unique outreach opportunity for high school students

 
SummerMissionJamHamtramck

Hamtramck, Mich., is one of two Detroit-area sites of EPC World Outreach’s 2019 Summer Mission Jam.

What are you doing this summer? Summer Mission Jam is a new, entry-level missions and outreach equipping conference for high school students. Participants will serve among Lebanese, Bangladeshi, Yemeni, Iraqi, and Pakistani peoples in the Detroit, Mich., suburbs of Dearborn and Hamtramck from July 8-13, 2019.

“Summer Mission Jam is an amazing opportunity for churches, big and small, to invest in their students as they learn more about Muslims and how to interact in a way that is loving and beneficial for the Kingdom,” said Shawn Stewart, EPC World Outreach Mobilization Coordinator. “In the mornings and afternoons, students will learn how to ‘bridge the gap’ with Muslims and be the fragrance of Jesus through instructive teaching and service opportunities. In the evenings, we’ll worship together around God’s Word.”

The event begins on Monday evening, July 8, and concludes on Saturday, July 13. Registration is $450 per student and includes meals and accommodations.

“Step out and be a part of something new in the EPC,” said Phil Linton, Director of EPC World Outreach. “We are positive it will impact your world and give you new ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus in your own communities.”

Click here for more information and to register, or see www.epcwo.org/summermissionjam.

Student mission conferences offer unique worldview experiences

 

High school and college-aged students—as well as their leaders—have multiple opportunities in the coming months to be encouraged, equipped, and challenged to dig deeper into the God’s Word and His heart for the nations. For more information about any of these conferences, contact Cassie Shultz, EPC World Outreach Church Liaison, at cassie.s@epcwo.org or 407-930-4314.

EPC Summer Mission Jam
June 24-29, 2019—Fremont, Calif.
July 8-13, 2019—Hamtramck, Mich.

SummerMissionJam2019Summer Mission Jam is a mission and outreach equipping conference for high school groups. Participants will work alongside EPC partner churches to minister to Muslim peoples in these two cities. Registration is $480 and includes lodging and meals (except dinner on Monday).

A minimum of 80 registered students is required by November 15 in order to host this event; students, leaders, or youth groups interested can complete a brief online survey to learn more and indicate interest in either the California or Michigan event.

Urbana
December 27-31, 2018—St. Louis, Mo.

Urbana2018Held every third December, Urbana is a global mission conference that creates a sacred space for college students to learn more about missions and discern God’s call for their life. Among the speakers is the EPC’s own Beth Paz, Director of High School Ministry for First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif.

Registration is $515 until November 15; $615 after that date; lodging is approximately $125 plus taxes. The EPC Next Generation Ministries Council provides a limited number of $150 scholarships to students interested in attending; go to www.epc.org/nextgen/urbanascholarshipapplication for details and to apply. Learn more about this potentially life-changing conference at www.urbana.org.

Cross Conference
January 2-5, 2019—Louisville, Ky.

CrossConference2019Cross Conference is a global missions conference for college students that focuses on reaching the unreached peoples of the world. Registration is $119 until November 30, and $139 until registration closes on December 18, 2018. Lodging is approximately $116 plus taxes. The EPC Next Generation Ministries Council provides a limited number of $40 scholarships to students interested in attending; go to www.epc.org/nextgen/crossconferencescholarshipapplication for details and to apply. Learn more about this exciting conference at www.crossforthenations.org.

In the short video below, David Platt, Pastor-Teacher for McLean Bible Church in McLean, Va., and former President of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, explains why Cross is not just for those who sense a personal call to serve on the mission field.

World Outreach commissions 13 new global workers

 

WOlogo-RGB900EPC World Outreach commissioned 13 new global workers on June 21, 2018, at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn. The commissioning took place during the Thursday evening worship service of the 38th General Assembly.

To financially support one or more of these new workers, visit www.epcwo.org and click the “Give/Support” button. For more information about World Outreach and its ministries or people, email wo@epcwo.org.

Meet these new global workers:

Scott and Colleen
Scott and Colleen have been serving at First Presbyterian Church of Little Rock, Iowa, since 2004, when Scott was called to become their pastor. In recent years, they sensed God leading them to pursue cross-cultural mission outreach. While carrying out pastoral responsibilities in Little Rock, Scott and Colleen completed Serge’s Sonship course and four months of WO-mentored Muslim outreach. They will join a Serge church planting team in a predominantly Muslim, multi-ethnic community in London, England.

Tim and Debbie
Tim and Debbie honed their cross-cultural and language skills over decades of pioneer church planting in East Asia. They’ve taught at local high schools and colleges, started non-profit development organizations, raised cattle, and operated camps for “third-culture kids” (children raised in a culture other than that of their parents’). Their home church is Trinity EPC in Florence, S.C. They will serve under a co-op agreement with Pioneers.

Todd and Pru
Todd and Pru spent the first decade of their marriage on an OM International church planting team in North Africa. They put the lessons learns there to use in designing a program to train a new generation of evangelists and disciple-makers for the Turkic world. Their family now includes two sons, Brennen and Corren, who have visited five continents in their short lives. They are members of First Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Oregon City, Ore. They will join the Presbytery of the Great Plains’ Engage 2025 initiative to plant churches among Albanian Muslims in Macedonia.

Saul and Jesse
Saul and Jesse have lived out the missional calling since their early years. Saul went on his first mission trip when he was 11 years old, and Jesse grew up in Malawi where her parents were missionaries. They are members of Hope Church of Carbondale, Ill., where as newlyweds they helped start Hope’s first mission committee. While researching ministry opportunities for their church family, they attended an Encounter WO event in December 2014. They have served as volunteer WO Mission Assistants since October 2016, and now will join the WO Mobilization Team.

S and A
S and A both grew up in South Asia—S in an extended family of prominent Muslims, and A in a Christian family from a Hindu background. They have been commissioned to plant churches among Muslims of South Asia and metro Detroit. After their marriage, S and A reached out to their primarily Muslim neighbors and work contacts, and were instrumental in starting several household Bible studies in the Detroit area. For more than 10 years, S has been praying for Rohingyas—a Muslim people fleeing violence in their home country of Myanmar. This year, local authorities gave him an open invitation to work in the world’s largest refugee camp, which is home to more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees. S and A are members of Faith EPC in Rochester Hills, Mich.

Portia
After graduating from Nyack College in New York with a major in Intercultural Studies, Portia moved to a majority Muslim city in Europe to join an OM International church planting team. As teammates left one-by-one, Portia persevered, building friendships and reading the Bible with those friends. Goodwill Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, N.Y., sent her out six years ago, and she was commissioned this year as a WO/OM International co-op worker.

Ben and Ellie
A year after their marriage in 2012, Ben and Ellie moved to High Wycombe, England, to join Greg and Sally Livingstone on a church planting team among South Asian Muslims. Three years later, they returned to the U.S. to continue Muslim outreach in Dearborn, Mich., and finish their studies at Moody Theological Seminary. They will serve as co-op workers through Frontiers, and will move to a Muslim city in South Asia next year where Ben has accepted a teaching position. Ben and Ellie are members of Cornerstone EPC in Brighton, Mich.

 

Commissioners to 38th General Assembly approve Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality, re-elect Stated Clerk, propose Commissioned Pastor revision

 

GA2018BannerCommissioners to the EPC’s 38th General Assembly approved 26 recommendations, declined two others, and for procedural reasons took no action on an additional five. The Assembly was held June 19-22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn.

TomWerner

Tom Werner, 38th GA Moderator

Recommendations that were approved include a Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality, the re-election of Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah to a new three-year term, proposed changes to the role of Commissioned Pastor, and more. Commissioners also welcomed seven new churches to the EPC since last year’s Assembly; elected Tom Werner, Ruling Elder from Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo., as Moderator; and elected Case Thorp, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, as Moderator-Elect. Thorp serves as Senior Associate Pastor for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.

Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality approved

The Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality is a companion document to the Position Paper on Human Sexuality that was approved by the 36th General Assembly in 2016 and ratified by the 37th Assembly in 2017. The 36th General Assembly, meeting at Ward Church in Livonia, Mich., also approved the formation of an interim committee to write the Pastoral Letter. The committee held several listening sessions at the 37th General Assembly in Sacramento. The preliminary draft was released in January 2018 to Teaching Elders and Sessions for comment.

Sandy Willson, Interim Committee Chair, reported that the draft also was sent to “select outsiders who have particular expertise, training, and personal experiences that would qualify them to provide feedback. The men and women consulted included persons with personal and professional experiences with same-sex attraction, physical and sexual abuse, terminal degrees in counseling, and experience in theological education.”

The Letter was approved by unanimous vote of the Assembly.

Commissioned Pastor expansion proposed

The recommendation to expand the role of Commissioned Pastor was presented by the EPC’s Interim Committee on Ministerial Education (ICME), with the affirmation of both the permanent Ministerial Vocation Committee (MVC) and the Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC). If ratified by the EPC’s presbyteries, the recommendation will allow a Commissioned Pastor to serve on a church staff that has an ordained Teaching Elder serving as Pastor.

A Commissioned Pastor is a Ruling Elder who has been temporarily authorized by a presbytery and given the authority of a Teaching Elder. The role was previously reserved only for a congregation without a Pastor, mission churches, church plants, or chaplaincy roles in hospitals, hospices, prisons, or other institutions.

Michael Flake, MVC Chair reported approximately 40 Commissioned Pastors currently serve in the EPC.

“Almost all of these serve in their home church,” he said. “These are churches that do not have a Pastor, and one of their Ruling Elders will agree to be examined by the presbytery and become a Commissioned Pastor.”

He said one of the benefits of a Commissioned Pastor is that a church with this type of stable leadership is more likely to not only stabilize but also become healthy and grow to the extent that they can then call a Teaching Elder.

“Unfortunately,” Flake said, “in our current way of doing things when that happens the Commissioned Pastor is out of a job because we have no provision for having a Commissioned Pastor in a church with a Teaching Elder.”

Allowing a church to have both a Teaching Elder and a Commissioned Pastor “would continue to recognize the calling that God has placed in certain Ruling Elders’ lives—acknowledging what God is already doing,” Flake said, adding that it also could help with pastoral burnout by giving a Teaching Elder an opportunity to have a Ruling Elder step in and help with certain pastoral duties. He emphasized that a Commissioned Pastor would still be subject to the approval of the presbytery.

ICME Chair Fred Lian noted that the recommendation allows the presbytery—which can mandate theological continuing education for the Commissioned Pastor—to “invest in our Ruling Elders who have been called to a more fuller role of ministry to their churches and their communities.”

Because the Assembly-approved recommendation proposes changes to the EPC’s Book of Government, it is now Descending Overture 18A. Each of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries will vote on the Overture at their winter 2018 meeting, having discussed it at their fall meeting. Presbyteries may debate its substance, but the Overture may not be amended. To be presented for adoption at the 39th General Assembly, 11 of the 14 presbyteries must approve the Overture.

Stated Clerk re-elected

JeffJeremiah

Jeff Jeremiah

Jeremiah was elected to a fifth term as Stated Clerk. He has served as the EPC’s Chief Executive Officer since 2006.

“I am so very grateful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me this ministry that you have just confirmed for three more years,” Jeremiah said following his unanimous re-election. “This will be my last term as the Stated Clerk. In the next three years, I will do all that I can to help prepare for the future of the EPC. I love you, and want God’s very best for you—and for us—when I lay this ministry down.”

He challenged the “Boomers” in attendance—those born between the early 1940s through the mid-1960s—to support, mentor, encourage, and champion the younger men and women in the EPC.

“We must do this if we are going to secure the future of the EPC as a mighty instrument used by God for the expansion of His Kingdom in this place and around the world,” Jeremiah said.

He said his other goal in his last term was to continue to work on behalf on Andrew Brunson. He referenced Luke 18—where Jesus addresses the issue of counting the cost—reflecting on the nearly two years since the EPC Teaching Elder was imprisoned in Turkey.

“How could we have counted the cost then, when we had no idea what was ultimately going to happen and how long this would take?” he asked. “The only answer I have is that there some tasks that our Lord calls us to, and we do them. I will admit that this task has been costly, but I bear that cost knowing that it is what God has called me to.”

Jeremiah described his relationships with numerous U.S. Government officials that he has developed over the 20 months since Brunson’s incarceration.

“I have been amazed by the doors the Lord has opened for us in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “But we know the only open door that matters is the door of the plane through which Andrew and Norine come back to the United States. Until that day comes, we will not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time will reap a harvest if we will not give up. I have spoken for all of us when I have repeatedly assured Andrew and Norine that we will never give up. Never.”

New interim committee to be appointed

Commissioners authorized Moderator Tom Werner to appoint an interim committee “to study how the EPC can better become a denomination that faithfully embraces and serves our neighbors from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9).”

The recommendation came from the National Leadership Team (NLT), which explained the rationale for the committee in its report to the Assembly:

“At its January 2018 meeting, the NLT spent considerable time discussing where God is calling the EPC in the next decade. One of the areas in which the NLT believes we can improve as a denomination is in our efforts to minister to the diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural communities that surround many of our churches and that the Lord calls us to serve.”

Scott Griffin, NLT Chair, said the goal is to “make our denomination look more like the neighborhoods where God has planted us.”

The recommendation was unanimously approved by the Standing Committee on Administration, and added to an omnibus consent motion.

Budget, special projects approved

The total approved Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19—July 2018 through June 2019) budget for EPC operating expenses is $2,669,231. This amount includes $438,199 in direct funding of the four strategic initiatives—$92,690 for Church Revitalization; $182,680 for Church Planting; $121,290 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $41,539 for Global Movement. In addition, 20 percent of Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions to the EPC support Global Movement in the form of funding the overall ministry of World Outreach. Funding for the strategic initiatives was added to the EPC operating budget in the FY2018 budget; they previously were funded through undesignated cash reserves since their 2014 inception.

The Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY19, which are supported outside of per-member-asking (PMA) but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $5.62 per member above the PMA target of $23 per member.

In other administration-related business, commissioners approved:

  • A recommendation that shifts approval of applications to the EPC Church Loan Fund from the EPC Foundation to the NLT Finance Committee.
  • The EPC Restated Articles of Incorporation and Corporate Bylaws. These documents stem from a liability study undertaken in 2014. That study led to a corporate restructure of the EPC in which World Outreach and Benefit Resources, Inc., were separated as legal entities from the EPC ecclesiastical body, but remained under the oversight of the General Assembly.
  • A recommendation that ordained ministers drawing retirement income from the EPC 403(b)(9) Defined Contribution Retirement Plan be allowed to designate up to 100 percent of their retirement income for housing allowance.

New committee and board members elected

In addition to the election of Werner as Moderator and Thorp as Moderator-elect, the Assembly elected the following individuals to fill vacancies on the EPC’s permanent committees and boards as others complete their terms of service (TE denotes Teaching Elder. RE denotes Ruling Elder. * denotes second term.):

Benefit Resources, Inc., Board of Directors: RE Robert Draughon*, Presbytery of the Central South; Michael Moore, Presbytery of the Central South; TE Bill Reisenweaver, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

Committee on Chaplains Work and Care: TE Greg Holman, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Jennifer Prechter, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; TE David Snyder*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; RE Richard Swedberg*, Presbytery of the West; TE Brad Yorton, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization: RE Franklin Carter*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic. (Carter was not seated due to Assembly approval of Recommendation GA38-14 to disband the Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization.)

EPC Foundation Board: RE Ben Borsay, Presbytery of the Midwest; Mark Eibel, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE John Graham, Presbytery of the Southeast.

Committee on Fraternal Relations: RE Carol Culbertson, Presbytery of the West; TE Don Fortson, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic.

Committee on Ministerial Vocation: RE Neal McAtee*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Caroline Tromble*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes.

National Leadership Team: RE Phil Fanara*, Presbytery of the East; RE Michael Gibson*, Presbytery of the Great Plains; RE Rob Liddon*, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Rosemary Lukens*, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

Next Generation Ministries Council: Greg Aydt, Presbytery of the West; Meg DeHaven, Presbytery of the East; TE Andrew Mills, Presbytery of the Gulf South; RE Becky Shultz, Presbytery of the West; Ryan Suzuki, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest.

Nominating Committee: RE Marion Bradshaw, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Larry Carlson, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE Susan Humphreys, Presbytery of Mid-America; RE Joe McCoy, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE David Ricketts, Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; TE Wayne Hardy, Presbytery of the Great Plains.

Permanent Judicial Commission: RE Amanda Cowan, Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; RE Don Flater*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Dana Opp*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Presbytery Review Committee: RE Cecil Matthews*, Presbytery of the West.

Committee on Theology: TE Ron DiNunzio, Presbytery of the East; TE Ryan Mowen, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Women’s Resource Council: TE Sharon Beekman*, Presbytery of the West; TE Mary Brown*, Presbytery of the Great Plains; RE Lynn Burdge, Presbytery of the Central South; Anita Campbell, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

World Outreach Committee: TE Chris Bear, Presbytery of the East; TE Rick Dietzman, Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest; RE Patrick Tucker*, Presbytery of the Central South.

Other business items

Several other items of business were unanimously approved without discussion. Those items were:

  • Ratifying Descending Overtures 17-A, 17-B, 17-C, and 17-D. Overture 17-A amended the Book of Government sections 9-6A and 10-8B.2a, bringing consistency to the wording of the two sections by specifying the term of service for an out-of-bounds call as a renewable term of up to three years. Overture 17-B amended the Book of Government sections 21-2D.2e and f, expanding areas of ongoing authority that may be given to the Ministerial Committee at the discretion of the presbytery. Overture 17-C amended the Book of Government section 10-7 by creating and defining the called position of Transitional Pastor. Overture 17-D amended the Book of Government section 9-5A.1 for consistency with section 10-7 to clarify that all calls to Teaching Elders must be approved by the presbytery. Each of these overtures were approved by the 38th General Assembly, and subsequently approved by the presbyteries at their winter 2017-18 meetings.
  • Giving the permanent Fraternal Relations Committee the authority to develop a fraternal relationship with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, as well as the authority to appoint EPC representatives to engage with groups where participation of the Stated Clerk is not necessary.
  • Disbanding the permanent Church Planting and Revitalization Committee (CPRC). The CPRC stated in its report to the Assembly that the successful implementation of the Church Planting Team under the leadership of Tom Ricks and the Church Revitalization Task Force (now known as the GO Center led by Ken Priddy) since 2012 and 2013, respectively, made the CPRC “superfluous and no longer necessary.”
  • Re-assigning Benton, Washington, Crawford, and Sebastian counties in northwest Arkansas from the Presbytery of the Central South to the Presbytery of the Great Plains.
  • Approving Operation Mobilization as an approved Cooperative Mission Agency, Timothy Two as an approved Mission Agency, and Equip International as an approved Mission Agency of EPC’s World Outreach.
  • Supplementing the EPC Foundation Board with at least one volunteer representative from each presbytery. These volunteers would help expand awareness of the Foundation’s services as they speak to churches and individuals in their presbyteries.
  • Approving the minutes of the National Leadership Team, Next Generation Ministries Council, Women’s Resource Council, and permanent committees on Church Planting and Revitalization, Fraternal Relations, Ministerial Vocation, and World Outreach.
  • Approving the minutes of the 14 EPC presbyteries (with some minor exceptions requiring response to the permanent Presbytery Review Committee by December 31, 2018).
  • Accepting the invitation from Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., to host the 39th General Assembly in June 2019.

Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization

The annual Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization was presented to Restoration Church in Munford, Tenn. for their revitalization efforts. Mike Gibson is the Pastor, and the congregation joined the EPC in 2010.

Limited by a sanctuary built in 1911 and now landlocked with no parking or expansion room, the church was experiencing only incremental, transfer growth and not reaching the unchurched in its community.

“We weren’t expanding the Kingdom, we were just rearranging the sheep,” Gibson said, noting that he and his leadership team undertook a study of its community to address the issue. “We wanted to know what kind of needs they had and what we could do to minister to them, and what were we doing or not doing to attract them or be a total disinterest to them.”

In response to what the study revealed about the church and the community, the congregation changed its name to Restoration Church, adopted a contemporary worship style, and developed a ministry to families.

“A lot of the people around us had been through a divorce but were very family-oriented,” he said. “They were very concerned about not repeating what had happened in their homes that resulted in divorce. And they were very interested in receiving help.”

Jeff Jeremiah affirmed the church’s willingness to not only ask hard questions about its health and ministry to its community, but also its effort to make changes in response to the answers they received.

“Under Mike’s leadership, lives are being redeemed, revived, and restored through the ministry of Restoration Church and I am thrilled that their hard work has been recognized by the entire EPC,” he said.

Church Planting Team highlights growth in plants, networks

In addition to business recommendations voted on by commissioners, the EPC’s interim and permanent committees and boards presented reports to the Assembly on their work over the past year.

TomRicks

Tom Ricks

Tom Ricks, Chair of the Church Planting Team (CPT), reported 43 active EPC church plants in 16 states. He also reported at least three churches “went from being a church plant to being a localized congregation, which is the ultimate goal—getting them to stand on their own two feet and then multiply themselves by planting other new churches.”

Ricks reported two church planting networks currently, with two more in development. Ricks noted that one of these networks, in St. Louis, Mo., was formed by five EPC churches in the Presbytery of Mid-America. “We have bound together and have committed our resources and energies for the sole purpose of planting churches in the city of St. Louis—not in the county or in the surrounding area but in the urban part of the community.”

He also noted seven active church plants in underserved neighborhoods around the country. Ricks emphasizing that the CPT is looking at not only underserved neighborhoods, but also unreached areas—particularly in the northeast and on the West Coast.

“These are a couple of areas in our country where there is tremendous opportunity in a post-Christian era to plant churches and share the gospel.”

Additional church planting activities described in the Church Planting and Revitalization Committee’s printed report to the Assembly included:

  • A new church plant in an area of Nashville, Tenn., with an 80-percent minority population.
  • An Hispanic church plant in Charlotte, N.C., launched by Lake Forest Church in Hendersonville, N.C., in partnership with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (INPM). The EPC signed a church-planting partnership with the INPM in 2016, and the Charlotte congregation will be led by a church planter from Mexico.
  • Church of the Resurrection in New Orleans, La., launched in 2017 by the Gulf Coast Church Planting Network.
  • The inaugural “church planting cohort” designed to encourage and equip EPC church planters, and led by Bart Garrett, Lead Pastor of Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, Calif.

Ricks, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Mid-America, is Pastor of Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo.

GO Center describes revitalization tools, new funding model

KenPriddy

Ken Priddy

Ken Priddy, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic and Director of the EPC GO Center, provided the report for the GO Center, the primary EPC vehicle for church revitalization. He explained that the GO Center is an equipping ministry “that engages and empowers pastors, church leaders, and congregations to move forward into greater health and vitality—to revitalize—through training, consulting, coaching, and assessing.”

He said each of the EPC’s 600-plus churches “is at the epicenter of a domestic mission field,” noting that the people in these missions fields are not simply lost; they are missing from the family of God. “They are waiting for the gospel to get to them,” he said. “The question is, ‘How and when will our churches take the gospel out?’ That is the question that the GO Center seeks to answer.”

Priddy reported that 12 of the EPC’s 14 presbyteries now has a volunteer GO Center Coordinator, who serves as a link between the GO Center and the needs and interests of the presbyteries. Priddy also said that more than 30 volunteers have been trained to serve as GO Center Vision Team Coaches. Coaches work with a local church Vision Team to encourage and assist those teams through implementation of the GO Center training in their local context. He also said new training materials have been created and implemented.

A further area of emphasis over the past year has been the development of relevant metric tools to assess the health of participating churches and their progress through the GO Center’s revitalization process.

Finally, Priddy reported a shift in the ministry’s funding structure for the future. He said the GO Center has been incorporated as its own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and effective July 1, 2018, will receive funding from three streams. The first is continued, though reduced, support from the EPC administrative budget. The second is a fee structure  attached to the ministry services provided, Third will be donor funding solicited by the GO Center through the EPC Foundation.

World Outreach reports progress, sets goals

PhilLinton

Phil Linton

Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach (WO), noted four major accomplishments since the 2017 Assembly in Sacramento:

  • The WO global worker assessment and approval process was completely revised.
  • A thorough mid-term evaluation of Engage 2025 was completed, and Engage 2025 Team Leaders (and their families) were brought together and given new tools, resources, and training to carry out their task.
  • A manual for International Business as Mission (IBAM) was developed and approved.
  • Multi-year Ministry Plans were developed to deliver specific goods and services to our International Theological Education Network partners.

Linton said IBAM will be a major focus for the coming year.

“This past year has seen the maturation of a process in laying the groundwork, and this is the year we want to see that implemented,” he said. “Our goal is to have six hubs for business professionals across the country to incubate and take advantage of the business acumen, counsel, and energy of business people in the EPC.”

He shared a second goal for IBAM of having two entrepreneurial business professionals joining the World Outreach team in the next year.

Linton also reported that the goal he shared at the 2017 General Assembly in Sacramento—11 new global workers commissioned at this year’s Assembly—was nearly met. Seven families and one single candidate were appointed by World Outreach Committee in the last 12 months.

“We still need to provide reinforcements for our Engage 2025 pioneer church planting teams,” Linton told the 2018 Assembly. He said World Outreach will be praying and working to have six new global workers commissioned next year to join existing Engage 2025 teams serving in the Muslim world.

#epc2018ga

38th GA World Outreach activities celebrate God’s work in the world

 

GA2018BannerMore than 50 EPC World Outreach global workers and staff are registered to attend the 38th General Assembly, June 19-22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn. Don’t miss the opportunity to get to know the ministries of World Outreach and its global workers! World Outreach activities and meetings include, but are not limited to:

Tuesday Leadership Institute: Building Blocks of a Missional Church
This seminar is geared to ignite your church to missional living and also help build a missional DNA within your congregation. God’s heart is for the nations, and we are all given the opportunity to participate in this work using our many different talents.

Tuesday Evening World Outreach Banquet
This year’s World Outreach banquet will honor Greg and Sally Livingstone, who helped start Operation Mobilization in the 1960s, directed the U.S. office of North Africa Mission in the 1970s, founded Frontiers in the 1980s, and now serve as EPC World Outreach Senior Advisors. The guest speaker is Bob Blincoe, President of Frontiers USA. Also featured will be “stories from the mission field” presented by World Outreach global workers serving overseas.

Wednesday Networking Lunch: Where in the World are You Going?
Need ideas for short-term mission projects for your church? Join us to discover what other EPC churches are doing, exchange information and ideas, and create an opportunity for new partnerships to begin. If you have a short-term opportunity to share, contact Shawn Stewart at shawn.s@epcwo.org.

Wednesday Dinner: Global Worker Presentations
For those who purchased tickets for Wednesday dinner, come hear World Outreach global workers describe how God is using and blessing their work among people groups who have little or no access to the gospel.

Thursday Dinner: Global Worker Meet-and-Greet
Join us for dinner and meet your World Outreach global workers, including our newest appointees who will be presented to the Assembly in the worship service following dinner.

Thursday Evening Worship with Global Worker Commissioning
The featured speaker for the Thursday evening worship service is Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. In addition, new World Outreach global workers will be commissioned. Please note that due to potential security concerns, the commissioning portion of this service will not be live streamed.

World Outreach exhibits
Many of our global workers will have displays about their ministries at the World Outreach exhibit area in the Main Lobby at Hope Church. Stop by any time between Tuesday and Friday afternoon and get acquainted!

For additional World Outreach events at this year’s General Assembly, including more Networking Lunches on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, see www.epc.org/ ga2018worldoutreachevents. If you have questions about any of these activities, contact Cassie Shultz at cassie.s@epcwo.org or 407-930-4313.

For details about the 38th General Assembly, including daily schedules, Assembly documents, and more, see www.epc.org/ga2018.

#epc2018ga

GA2018WO