From the President . . .
Greetings brethren, from Manila, Philippines:
For the past week we have had the absolute pleasure of being here in the Philippines, enjoying the Sabbath last week in Manila and getting to know the members there. What a friendly, welcoming and hospitable group God has brought together in this area. We thank pastor Ray Evasco and the congregation there for their hospitality.
The Philippines is a unique country, comprised of over 7,000 islands. There are around 600 who are in the Church in this nation, with congregations and pastors serving them in the three major areas of Luzon, Mindanao and the Visayas.
The elders, deacons and other Church leaders from the Philippines (and their wives) have been here in Manila since Sunday for a week-long training and leadership development workshop along with elders, deacons, leaders and their wives from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Hong Kong and Myanmar. International senior pastors David Dobson and David Schreiber, plus Darris McNeely, Steve Myers and I have been conducting meetings every day discussing various topics of interest, focusing heavily on the truth of the Bible, the responsibilities of teachers, ensuring the congregations are well-shepherded, understanding prophecy, applying the word of God in today’s world, and discussing how we can better and more effectively preach the gospel to the billions who live in this area of the world with all of its diverse languages and religions.
All told, there are 69 of us who have been here this week. It has been an inspiration to all of us, I believe, to have this opportunity to get to know and better understand each other and the circumstances and conditions in which we live, to bond together as a Church, to share ideas and have open discussions on whatever comes to mind. Being blessed with a very nice facility where we are all in the same hotel and share every meal together has enhanced the week. We may be of different nations and backgrounds, but we are one Body—family united by God’s Spirit and the truth into which He has called us.
It may be, as we have discussed here, that this is the first gathering of its type in the modern era of the Church, where people of so many nations in this area have been able to gather together to discuss and learn these matters of the Church, as Christ leads us. This is indeed a unique era in history where we have the freedom and opportunity, without any travel restrictions, to assemble with those from various nations. We thank God for the opportunity, and for opening the doors through various visa restrictions and other circumstances to bring us all together this week.
As the conference ends tomorrow at noon, my wife and I will be traveling on to Hong Kong to visit the Church there this Sabbath and to work with senior pastor Terry Franke and members there on their website and what we can do to begin effectively preaching the gospel in that area. Darris and Debbie McNeely will be traveling on to Singapore, and Steve and Kathe Myers will be traveling down to Mindanao to visit a congregation there.
Brethren, we thank God for the opportunities He gives us to serve His Church in the United States, as well as around the world. We live in a rapidly changing world and there are forces at work to destroy mankind. Thank God we know the truth, and thank God and Jesus Christ for their love for all of mankind. Please continually pray to God, thanking Him for His plan and for calling us out of this evil world. And ask Him to always guide us and direct us all as we care for the people around the world whom He calls, and to complete the work of preaching the gospel in every nation and tongue, as He has commanded us.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Have a wonderful upcoming Sabbath.
In Christian love,Rick Shabi
From Ministerial and Member Services . . .
Death of Martha Clement
Martha Clement, wife of elder Harold Clement of the United Church of God congregation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, died on Dec. 19, 2023, at age 87. Martha has been described as a “ray of sunshine” upon entering a room. She never met a stranger and will best be remembered for her Christian example, her beautiful smile and her bountiful love.
Martha was introduced to Harold by a mutual friend, and they married in 1952. Martha was a loving wife and devoted mother who took great care in homemaking and nurturing her family and four children. Martha was baptized in 1963, joining Harold as a member of the Worldwide Church of God, and the two of them dedicated their Christian lives to the word of God and serving brethren. Later in life, Martha and Harold moved to Mounds, Oklahoma, and she especially enjoyed the many years they shared on their land.
She is survived by her husband. A funeral was held on Thursday, Dec. 28.
Southeast Region Pastoral Conference
32 pastors and their wives met near Hampton, Georgia, Dec. 17–19 for a pastoral conference for the Southeast region. This was the second in a series of conferences that are planned for pastors in each region of the United States over the next seven months.
The overall theme of the conference was “speak the same thing,” taken from 1 Corinthians 1:10. There were many hours of instruction and discussion, held at the Calvin Center, a camp, retreat and conference venue located about 20 miles from Atlanta, Georgia.
“Pastor as Disciple” was the theme of the first session that began the conference, presented by our president, Rick Shabi. He focused on the ministry’s first responsibility to be a disciple of Christ, called to preach, teach and live by God’s truth, upholding the “faith once delivered.”
The next presentation was interactive instruction on being “accountable” elders. Steve Myers emphasized the instructions given in 1 Peter 5 and the weighty responsibility to shepherd, oversee and lead God’s people by example. He emphasized the God-given duties of the ministry and that elders are “those who must give account” (Hebrews 13:17).
Darris McNeely then spoke on the importance of being a “Pastor for the Vision.” He encouraged all to come to the “unity of the faith” and “the unity of the Spirit” as we fulfill the admonition to equip and edify the people of God (Ephesians 4:3, 13). Gary Petty, regional pastor of the Southeast region, gave an interactive session on “Developing Congregational Leaders,” stressing the importance of planning for continued leadership to care for those whom God calls. The remainder of the sessions were interactive discussions on various topics that included doctrine, ethics, policy and pastoral responsibilities.
A lively part of the conference was the personal interaction with each another and the ability to discuss church matters face-to-face. There is no substitute for conversing with one another in person to “speak the same thing” and “come to the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13).
—Steve Myers, Operation Manager, Ministerial and Member Services
Agape Love Series Part 4—“Love Does Not Envy”
This week’s study is titled: “Love Does Not Envy.” 1 Corinthians 13 says that agape love does not envy. This sermon brings out three strategies for combatting envy in our lives.
You can listen to it online at ucg.org/sermons/love-does-not-envy-agape-love-series-part-4 or download it to your favorite mobile device. All 11 parts are available as a sermon series at ucg.org/sermons/sermon-series/agape-love.
—Peter Eddington, Operation Manager, Media and Communications Services