Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Columbus Baton-Passing This Sunday

It will be an historic day for the Columbus (Worthington), Ohio, Grace Brethren Church this Sunday, September 30, when the pastoral baton is officially passed from Jim Custer (left, in photo) to Dave Plaster (right).

Custer has been pastor of the FGBC's flagship church since 1968 and under his tenure the church has had tremendous influence in the number of Christian workers it's produced and in the number of church-plants it's fostered in the Columbus area.

Plaster is coming from the top academic administrative position at Grace College & Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana.

Plaster will be the third pastor of the Columbus congregation (David Hocking was first), which began meeting in September 1964 with 15 members, meeting originally in the Marion Forrest home and later in a Seventh Day Adventist Church building.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Feeling Better, LOOKING Better!

Gary Austin sent along this photo, taken September 23. He (rightfully) notes that this one shows him a lot "healthier" than the one we posted last week.

Gary (shown here with his wife, Jean), is the pastor of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Grace Brethren Church, and he is recovering from a long stretch of surgery and chemotherapy for colorectal cancer. He and Jean thank you for your prayers during this ordeal.

A New Blog -- Technology and the Church

Leadership Network has launched a new blog that's all about current technology trends and what those trends mean for the church.

The new blog space will cover the Internet, social networking, mobile phones, podcasting, wiki, and more. Add the blog to your Favorites list and check in often to learn how technologies can help your church.

Currently on the site are rich articles such as "40 Reasons for Pastors to Blog," "10 Things an Effective Church Website Can Do for You," and "15 Ways to Get Your Facebook App Discovered."

To access the blog, click on

Monday, September 24, 2007

Arctic District Churches Fully Staffed

Posted by Chuck Thornton on the Arctic District Ministerium's blog at

The Arctic District Ministerium met on September 20 at Peninsula Grace in Soldotna, Alaska. This is the first time in several years that all Grace Brethren churches in Alaska have had pastors.

The most recently arrived is the new pastor at Kenai Grace. Al Kidder began serving the Kenai Church in mid-July. Grady Pennell was installed as the new pastor of the Eagle River Grace Brethren Church on Sunday, June 17.

Randall Candidates at Peninsula Grace

On Sunday, September 23, Keith Randall candidated for the Senior Pastor position at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church in Soldotna, Alaska.

Keith has been serving on the PGBC staff as Director of Administration (3 years) and, more recently) as Interim Pastor (16 months), since Pastor Dan Thornton left the position to study for his doctorate.

Peninsula Church will have a special business meeting on September 30, after the morning service, for the purpose of voting on Keith's call.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Gary Austin to Begin Chemo Monday

Gary Austin (at right, with his wife, Jean), pastor of the Grace Brethren Church of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been locked in a struggle with colorectal cancer this past year. Here is an update and some prayer requests. (Ron Boehm photo)

My last stint in the hospital was the first week of August. Since then, I've been home, gradually getting off medications, developing a good appetite, trying to regain some of the pounds lost over the summer (40 pounds -- have regained 15+ ), and trying to build up physical strength through walking.

I met with the oncologist the end of August and persuaded him that I was not ready to start chemo treatments again, so he gave me three more weeks. We met with him this past Thursday and we decided to start treatments this next Monday, Sept. 24.

Because it's been almost 16 weeks since the May 9 surgery, his feelings that chemo will be successful in reducing the chance of reoccurring cancer have been minimized. It seems I'm "outside the window of studies" when chemo was started within 4-6 weeks of surgery.

Because of this, he's only putting me on one chemo rather than the two he had planned on! I'll carry a pump for 48 hours every other week that will pump 5-FU into my system. Then we wait and see what the Lord has in mind!

As for today, I'm back in ministry activities - preaching, counseling, meetings, etc. - while still trying to adjust to the urological needs that are not fully resolved. This chemo treatment will make me more susceptible to fatigue and infections - especially bladder infections. So I'm starting a new medication this weekend to combat that need.

The doc said if my white count drops off while under chemo, they may have to put me back in the hospital to bring it back up. I asked if there were any other options - besides the hospital. The nurses are really nice but I always seem to have a rough time when in the hospital. My veins don't like the IV's they put in, for one. And then they draw lots of blood - and that creates other issues. I'm also dealing with MRSA - a staph infection that's hospital generated and not resolving itself. [One benefit to MRSA is a private room in the hospital!]

So, you have a few things to pray about for me over these next four months of chemo treatments. Jean is doing fine though she's got an infection problem that keeps cropping up every now and then that won't go away.

You need to know that our thoughts and prayers are with you every day. Would love to hear from you.

Gary & Jean

Richard Bell Resumes Preaching a Month Early

Here is an update on Richard Bell, pastor of the Apple Valley Community Church, a Grace Brethren church in Winchester, Virginia. Richard was diagnosed last October with mantle cell lymphoma. His wife, Nancy, gives the following update:

We'd like to thank everyone who prayed for Richard during his treatments at Johns Hopkins Hospital over the past seven weeks. We thought you would like to know how positively God answered those prayers.

Richard tolerated the chemo much better than expected and they let us move back home two weeks early and then commute one day a week to finish the chemo these past two weeks. He had strength enough to resume preaching on September 16--a month earlier than the doctor anticipated. We praise the Lord for all of that!

Richard has to take a lot of precautions over the next six months not to catch any illnesses. He will be going every few months for routine tests for the study he is in
and to watch for relapse. The study is to determine if receiving just the high dose cytoxin without a stem cell transplant is just as effective as with a transplant.

It was interesting to find out that since all of his white cells were wiped out and he lost his immunity, in one year he has to start taking baby immunizations all over again. He has to be particularly careful not to be exposed to chickenpox or anyone who gets an immunization with live vaccine.

We are in the Lord's hands and trust Him for each day. We would still appreciate your prayers as you think of us.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Fort Lauderdale Church Closes

The following notice is excerpted from a letter distributed recently to supporters and friends by Pastor John Nelson of the Grace Brethren church in North Lauderdale, Florida:

Dear Friends and Prayer Partners,

We are writing to let you know that on September 9, 2007, Grace Community Church will be holding its final public worship service. The church has decided that it is best to bring the ministry to a close on that date. We have experienced much in the way of God’s blessings over the years and we are grateful and indebted for your valued prayer and financial support to this ministry.

We have been commissioned by Jesus Christ Himself to fulfill the Great Commission and “Make Disciples Who Make Disciples” and it has been a great joy to do it together. Now, in His infallible wisdom and total sovereignty, He (God) has decided to disperse us and send us out at His direction. It will be our prayer that you continue to love and serve Him and that you will not stop growing in Him.

We thank you so much for your concern for us and the ministry at GCC! You have been part of an amazing work of God. In the fifty plus years of her life, GCC has impacted thousands of lives, sent out missionaries to all parts of the world, spawned pastors and church leaders, planted other churches in Florida and has made a significant difference in the South Florida landscape. Please continue to pray for us as we seek His will for ministry for us. Much is uncertain from our perspective but we know that God provides! Many Thanks for a job well done! God Bless You!

In His love and from our hearts,

Pastor John & Bonnie,
The Leadership Team and the People of Grace Community Church

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Drew Walther to Pastor Singer Hill

From today's Johnstown (PA) Tribune-Democrat:

Pastor Drew Walther has assumed duties as senior pastor at Singer Hill Grace Brethren Church, 2980 William Penn Ave., Vinco, Pennsylvania.

Walther is a graduate of Pensacola (Fla.) Christian College and Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Ind. He served 21 years in two pastorates, both in Ohio.

Walther and his wife, Sherry, have three children.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tom Julien Gives Treatment Update

Tom Julien, longtime Grace Brethren missionary to France and former executive director of Grace Brethren International Missions, is about 2/3 through an innovative treatment regimen for heart and vascular health. As many have been praying for him and Doris, he provides this update, with appreciation for continuing prayers.

Doris and I have deeply appreciated all the cards, calls and emails assuring us of your concern and prayers for me. This will just be a few lines to give you an update.

As you remember from my previous communications, on July 19 we found that three of my four bypasses were clotted shut. The decision was made to treat this with nitrates and a relatively new procedure called Enhanced External Counterpulsation.

This treatment consists of forcing blood into the heart from the legs, producing collateral arteries. It requires 35 sessions of an hour each, during a period of seven weeks. They are given at the heart center at the Lutheran hospital.

I began treatment on August 2, and have eleven to go. We often stay overnight in the new home of Doris’ sister. Mary Ann and Duwain are in Florida and have graciously given us a key to their home.

The technicians have been very positive about the amount of pressure pushing the blood into the heart, but of course it is impossible to know just what the actual results are, though I have more energy and have experienced almost no angina pains. I will see the cardiologist a week or so after the treatments are completed to see what the next steps will be.

In the meantime I am able to resume a certain amount of activity, and my thankfulness for Doris continues to grow exponentially. Thanks for your continued prayers. We will write after seeing the cardiologist.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Frank Figueroa New Pastor at Waipio

Frank Figueroa (pictured) is the new pastor of the Waipio Grace Brethren Church in Mililani, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu.

Formerly an associate pastor of Calvary Chapel, Pearl Harbor, Pastor Frank has a Grace Brethren background, having spent a number of years as a member of the Waipio church.

Recently retired Waipio pastor Dave Mitchell, in introducing Figueroa to the Fellowship, said Figueroa "is committed to keeping Waipio a Brethren church.

"Pastor Frank is an excellent Bible teacher and speaker as well as being talented in music," Mitchell said, pointing out that Figueroa's background includes leading a Christian band for approximately ten years.

Mitchell said that both he and the church are excited about what God is doing at Waipio Grace Brethren Church.