United Church of God

Home Office Weekly Update: August 3, 2023

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Home Office Weekly Update

August 3, 2023

From the President . . .

Visiting our Italian brethren

Good afternoon, brethren.

My wife and I arrived home in Cincinnati earlier this week after a most enlightening and heartening trip to visit the churches and ministry in the British Isles and Italy.

Last week I wrote about our time in the British Isles, and from there we traveled over to Italy. It has been a year since Carmelo Anastasi died suddenly. Mr. Anastasi was the “backbone” in many ways of the Church in Italy, faithfully serving the brethren there for decades.

Since the death of Mr. Anastasi, Angelo Di Vita has been the pastor over the three churches in Italy as well as coordinator of the popular Feast of Tabernacles site in Sabaudia. Enzo Alfieri is also an elder in Italy, serving primarily in the Milan congregation. However, he and his wife assist and serve throughout the region.

The Italian national office is located in Bergamo, which is about an hour north of Milan. It is staffed by Delia Anastasi, who handles literature fulfillment, incoming phone calls and who coordinates the Italian church websites, labuonanotizia.org and chiesa-di-dio-unita.it. Delia also manages the Italian church YouTube channel where sermons are featured. Over the last several years the Italian work has seen some dramatic results from YouTube channel enhancement and marketing.

Last Sabbath we had the pleasure of being in Milan for Sabbath services. There was a fine group of people gathered there who filled the meeting room. Some traveled from far south in Italy and it was a wonderful day, much like a feast day.

Restore to the peoples a pure language

While there was joy and a sense of camaraderie at services, there was also the issue of the language difference. I remarked during my sermon that the situation reminded me of the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. After receiving the Holy Spirit, the apostles went out and spoke with the crowds who had assembled in Jerusalem. People were there from many nations, all speaking different languages. God provided the miracle as the apostles spoke that all those of foreign languages heard the message in their own language.

What a blessing and gift that was on that day. I found myself appreciating that miracle even more while in Italy and at services because I yearned for all of us to be able to speak and hear the same language. Looking ahead to the return of Christ and His Kingdom, one of the features will be that “[God] will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9).

What wisdom God has that He will unite the people by language, a reversal of the interruption of man’s progress that was brought about when He confused the languages at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11).

To offset the language barrier, the Italian office provided a professional translator who accompanied us in our meetings and accompanied me during Sabbath services. She provided a great service, allowing conversations to develop between us at services and at the group meal that followed services, where, fittingly, pizza was the main dish.

On Sunday we spent several hours with the Italian brethren. Many good questions were asked as the brethren there, like all of us around the world, desire unity. We spoke about “striving” for the unity of the faith and the necessity of God’s Spirit to bring true peace and to unite people. Being of “one accord” takes continual work and ongoing communication.

A worldwide family of God

As we left Italy and returned back to the United States, my wife and I felt a great love for God’s family whom we’d had the tremendous opportunity and pleasure to meet, work and bond with during this trip. We came to understand the unique pressures our brethren face in the nations in which we live. Life in Italy and the United Kingdom, while similar to that in the United States, is also different given the laws, society, history and effect of religion in those areas. Our prayers for our brethren in international areas are different now as we more and more realize what our brethren face in the various nations in which God has called people around the world.

It also reinforced for us, and I hope all in the United Kingdom and Italy share in the feeling, that we are all family, bound together by God’s Holy Spirit. While we may have difficulties from time to time, God has called us for a purpose and we have His commission to fulfill and His “temple” to build individually and collectively around the world. We are all part of that great Work of God, and we must all pray for His guidance, direction, leadership, wisdom and Spirit as we follow the Way Christ wants us to go—dedicated to the plain and pure truth of His Word, and to the unity and agape love He desires to develop in all of us.

In humble service to God and each other, there is great joy and peace. We look forward, as God gives opportunity, to meet more of our brethren around the world as God prepares us all for the return of His Son Jesus Christ.

Take care, brethren. Have a wonderful day of preparation and Sabbath.

In Christ’s service,
Rick Shabi

From the Ministerial and Member Services . . .

Death of Jack Fike

Jack Fike, an elder serving the congregation in Tampa, Florida, died on July 16, 2023. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Kathleen Fike, and his children Twila (Dale) Yates, Michael (Nancy) Fike, Sandra (Bob) Orosz, and Jonathan (Janice) Fike.

After graduating from high school, he served in the United States Army. He met Kathleen Ann Kirk in 1954 and they wed on June 2, 1957, going on to have their four children. He was an accomplished welder, retiring in 1998. After retiring, Jack spent his time enjoying his family, as well as hunting and fishing.

Jack was ordained an elder in God’s Church in 1984, where he spent many hours serving God’s people. Jack lived a life teaching and modeling the way God wants us to live. He often said we live the way we do—God’s way—because it is the best way. He would respond in a predictably gracious way with kindness and respect toward everyone. He had many admirable traits but perhaps one of the best ones was that it was difficult to say something wrong about Jack. He was a gentleman and knew politeness in all that he did.

He enjoyed teaching and had an excellent grasp of how to communicate the subject at hand. His signature smile and handshake were offered frequently. He leaves behind many good examples to be followed. His commitment to God was unmistakable and he will be greatly missed by his family, the Church and those who knew him.

A full obituary is available online: dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/brandon-fl/gilmour-fike-11374459.

Jelly and the Hunt for Little Larry

The United Church of God adds a 15th episode to the Jelly short film series with, “Jelly and the Hunt for Little Larry.” View it online at ucg.org/members/kids/jelly/jelly-and-the-hunt-for-little-larry.

Jelly and the boys stay overnight at Camp Otterwood. When Little Larry goes missing, Jelly’s friend, James, starts to feel homesick. With the help of a special friend, they discover the importance of family.

This particular episode also includes a family study sheet in the download tab titled, “The Importance of Family: Learning and Growing Together.” Parents can use this resource to have conversations with their children after watching the short film.

View the entire Jelly short film series at ucg.org/members/kids#jelly and catch up on all 14 previous episodes.

Report from Camp Buckeye

It was another wonderful year at pre-teen Camp Buckeye located in Ohio’s Amish Country. This year 76 staff members came to serve 74 campers amid beautiful weather with sunny skies. The overall camp theme of “Race to Your Crown” was reinforced by morning Christian living classes titled, “Ready, Set, Go!”

At Camp Buckeye, we believe the seven elements of “The Zone” are at the heart of helping our children learn that God’s way of life is real, it is lasting, and it is fun! From team-building exercises to watersports, from arts and crafts to canoeing, from archery to field games and many more activities, every moment was an opportunity for personal growth, many smiles and endless laughter. Our aim was to help the children learn about God, build friendships, and create lasting memories.

Through gentle guiding and instruction, our dedicated counselors and assistant counselors instilled values of compassion, kindness and gratitude in the campers that we hope they will take with them for years to come.

Mark Graham returned to lead the campers in a Monday evening sing-along, including the signature Camp Buckeye song he introduced two years ago. Several minute-to-win-it games and kettle corn rounded out our evening campfire program.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all parents who entrusted us with their children’s well-being during the last 3½ days. As always, we thank God for His blessing upon the camp, the campers, and the volunteer staff who worked diligently to help our children to know “God’s Way Works!”

—Len Martin, director, Camp Buckeye

Job Opportunities

The United Church of God is still seeking a Video Editor and Receptionist. Details about all of the current job postings for the Church may be reviewed at ucg.org/members/news/current-job-openings.