Several years ago, congregations in Haiti began planting churches in the islands of the Bahamas nearby. These new church plants have faced opposition from the Bahamian government because they were not affiliated with any reputable organization that could give legal status to their community of believers.
In the fall of 2016, a team of Encompass Global workers, including Jesus Munoz, Javier Forero, Wayne Hannah, and Larry DeArmey, officially inducted those new churches into the Charis Alliance, making them legal in their country. Not only does their new status allow them to worship without government interference, but it gives them a larger body of believers which is committed to caring for them.
The five leaders from the Bahamian church plants joyfully accepted the Charis Commitment to Common Identity and Mission at the induction ceremony and then participated together with their new community in foot-washing, communion, and a love feast of local foods. The Encompass team conducted leadership training, and a total of 15 local pastors came to learn about the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and the importance of avoiding the “one-man team” dynamic in ministry.
The Theological Committee of European Grace Churches was a key source of input in the creation of the Charis Alliance Common Identity Initiative. Since the 2015 Charis International Convention in Thailand, the committee has met yearly to have discussions on theology and discipleship strategies which could help Grace Churches in Europe and their Charis Alliance partners. The results of their work are made available to anyone who is interested. The last gathering, in Birmingham, England, brought six leaders from different Grace Brethren churches in Europe to study God’s Word and discuss a biblical response to several current societal trends and challenges.
Encompass Global Worker Tom Barlow, who attended the gathering, says, “The mutual respect of all those present, representing at least 5 different countries and discussing fairly diverse and potentially contentious theological issues, was remarkable. There was open, frank and active discussion - with a wide range of perspectives - but all with a striking amount of grace, love and unity. The word synergy is used quite a bit, but to see that group engage issues together was powerful. Together, they came up with stronger positions and reasoning than any of them would have come up with on their own. Pretty encouraging!”
Encompass Global Workers Florent Varak and Gary McCaman traveled across the border to San Luis De Rio Colorado, Mexico to conduct leadership training at a local FGBC conference. Many church leaders and students from the Mexican Grace Brethren Bible Institute came to hear Florent and Gary’s teaching on spiritual gifts, spiritual warfare, and forms of worship. The specific purpose of the trip was to encourage area leaders and to manifest the Charis Commitment to Common Mission’s focus on leadership training.
Edgar Moreno and Arnulfo Vieyra, both members of the Charis Alliance, are pastors who teach at the Bible Institute and work with the Mexican Grace Brethren Missions Agency. Their goal is to see more people trained and mobilized in Mexico, both to help existing churches and to plant new ones. Florent and Gary coming to San Luis to help them in this training is exactly the kind of blessing the Charis Alliance exists to produce.
Apart from teaching and eating delicious tacos, Florent and Gary also met Samuel at the Leadership Training conference. Samuel, a young man soon to graduate college with a law degree, is preparing to be the first person the Mexican GBC Missions Agency sends outside of Mexico! Samuel plans to deploy to Uruguay in August of 2017 and stay for an initial two-year term. His deployment will be a historic event.
Last month, Encompass Global Workers Paul Klawitter (France), Roy Angles (Ireland), and Malcolm Stevens (England) met with the Crossroads Church Center team in Dublin, Ireland to present the Charis Alliance’s identity and mission. They discussed Charis’ theology, ecclesiology, missiology, and commitment to unity. By the end of the meeting, the Crossroads team was unanimously in favor of joining the Charis Alliance.
The Crossroads Church Center was originally planted by Encompass Global Workers Scott and Rebekah Becker. After several years of ministering in Ireland, the Becker family transferred the leadership responsibilities to a multinational team of believers in 2015 and moved back to the US, where Scott now serves as the Campus Pastor at the Lancaster Grace Church in Pennsylvania.
Today, the Crossroads team consists of Irish native Caoimhe Twist, who served alongside the Becker family for years, and Irish-Americans Caleb and Karen Parrow. The Crossroads Church Center serves the people of Dublin in many ways, from running a Girls Club to helping victims of addiction and abuse. Their love and commitment to the local community fits well with the Charis Alliance’s Commitment to Common Mission. They hope to be inducted soon.
CAR, Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria
Encompass Global Workers Jason Carmean, Kevin Stauffer, Frank Puhl, and Florent Varak met with leaders from African Union Churches and the various Bible Schools in Africa last week in the Central African Republic. The gathering focused on updating and unifying the curriculum being used in the Bible schools in CAR, Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria. Most of the schools have been using the same content since their opening. A revised curriculum will better equip the graduates who will later serve the Union Churches, and by unifying the content, the schools will develop a clearer ministry expectation for their graduates, giving more credibility and relevancy to their education.
The week-long gathering resulted in the formation of a committee with representatives from each country to produce an updated curriculum for the schools. The committee will also consider how the Charis Commitment to Common Identity and Mission will shape the new content. It will be a huge undertaking but one that will profit everyone.
At the end of the week, The Union Churches presented the Encompass team with a gift. One of the focuses of the meeting was unity, and so each Encompass Global Worker was given a matching blazer made of many vibrant colors. The photo they took together wearing their blend of colors is a visual representation of their common commitment to be one body.