Mother – Daughter – Sister Church! Report: Portland International Christian Church

“When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev.”  Psalm 126:1-4

 

Ron and Tracy Harding at Portland’s Inaugural Service!

The light drizzle of rain could not dampen the spirits of the 262 that gathered on Sunday, January 11, 2009 for the Inaugural Service of the Portland International Christian Church! Included in that number were six disciples representing our sister church in Phoenix and fifty disciples from Eugene, as well as five of us from Los Angeles. Most disciples in these respective congregations “owe their salvation” to the Portland Church. The Portland Church from 2003 to 2007, not only multiplied disciples but multiplied churches, as we sent out mission teams to establish congregations in Eugene, Oregon (2004), in Phoenix, Arizona (2005) and in Los Angeles, California (2007). After the Spirit called Elena and I to lead the Los Angeles (City of Angels) Mission Team, sadly, the leadership of the Portland International Church of Christ drifted over the next year towards a more mainline theology. (This same destructive path was taken by most International Churches of Christ in late 2002 and early 2003.) Devastating to many of us, the Portland International Church of Christ officially “proclaimed” their autonomy shortly after the LA Jubilee in August 2008. After this announcement, 20 disciples took a valiant stand based on their Biblical convictions.

 

(See “A Portland Report According To My Convictions” by Chris Broom – September 27, 2008.) Refusing to be complacent and desiring to be used in God’s new movement were: Nana Ofosu Budu, Shela Corbin, Xavier & Ann-Marie Davis, Luis & Maricela Diaz, Rachel Frye, James & Jennifer Haynes, Jennifer Kahm, Debbie Kernan, Marcos & Elisabeth Lopez, Megan Matthews, Flavio & Ema Salmeron, Chris Schultz, and Daniel & Elisa Valencia. These courageous souls were organized into a “remnant group” by Jeremy and Amy Ciaramella, the Evangelist and Women’s Ministry Leader in Eugene, Oregon. Almost daily for two months, the Ciaramellas drove the 100 miles between Eugene and Portland to minister to these 20 hurting, but hopeful disciples. By November, the leadership of the City of Angels Church asked the Phoenix and Eugene Church leaders for help in building a mission team to “restore the fortunes” of the Portland Christians that still believed in Jesus’ dream of a unified movement of disciples to evangelize the nations in this generation. (Psalm 126:4) The Portland Mission Team was led by Ron and Tracy Harding of Los Angeles. Joining the team were Gordo Esparza of LA, Whitney DiLoreto and JB Firman of Eugene, and Marcel Turner and Janelle Rushen of Phoenix.

In November, the Hardings “counted the cost” with each of the disciples in the remnant group to lay the “foundation of Christ” in the new Portland International Christian Church. (Luke 14:25-33; 1 Corinthians 3:11) In the past two months, God has added nine baptisms, 10 restorations, and 28 placing memberships bringing the Portland Church’s membership to 66 sold-out disciples! That’s why during the welcome at the Portland Inaugural Service by Elena and me, Elena in tears of joy said, “We bring you greetings from the City of Angels Congregation – your daughter church, your mother church and your sister church!”

With over 260 in attendance, the Portland Church had an amazing Inaugural Service this past weekend!

The Inaugural Service was held in the beautiful Tiffany Center in downtown Portland. The Portland disciples were particularly encouraged by their new sound system! This was purchased just a few days before with $500 sent from our sister church in Honolulu and by Tracy forgoing her salary for the first two weeks of January! The singing was amazing! Sabrina Gardner of Phoenix said later in the day, “The service felt like a mini-Jubilee!” Immediately before the welcome, the Eugene Saints Band played, The Portland Song. This song became the anthem of the new SoldOut Movement initiated in Portland in 2006. DJ and Kacie Comisford, now leading the Empire City Church in New York City, wrote this song about their prayers and their experience in searching for a church filled with “the people that still dreamed.” God led them from Cincinnati, where there were few baptisms, to rainy Portland, where the Comisfords joined God’s revival. Many at the Inaugural Service sang along with the band on the chorus, “Welcome to Portland Oregon! Where the rain’s a’pourin’! Hope your soul feels at home! All the people criticizing, but we’re just baptizing! Got plenty of H2O! Hey – O! Welcome home!” I was so choked up that I was unable to sing, for once again I felt “home” in Portland, Oregon!

 

I was so proud of Ron as he preached an inspiring sermon from Psalm 126 entitled, “The Dream.” He included the moving account of Joseph, who was “hated… because of his dream.” (Genesis 37:8) Ron’s points say it all: (1) The Dream Is Dangerous, (2) Hold On To The Dream and (3) The Dream Is Only The Beginning. In time, Joseph put away his bitterness from the betrayal of his brothers, who sold him into slavery at the age of 17. At 30 years old, Joseph was made second to Pharaoh in the greatest empire the world had yet seen. Upon being reunited with his brothers, Joseph kindly says to them, “Do not be distressed… for selling me [into slavery]… God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:5-8) Joseph persevered in his faith, because of his deep conviction of the sovereignty of God – every event that occurs, God either makes happen or allows it to happen for His glory! So it has been in my life, as well as in the creation of a “new” Portland Church, which is “likeminded” with all of the other churches in the movement. (Philippians 2:1-4)

6 were added to our number! Chris, Ezequiel, and Juan got restored, then Lucia Leza got baptized!

Another highlight of the service was the communion, humbly delivered by Russ Preston. Adding to the joy of that day was the announcement of two dating couples – Gordo Esparza & Whitney DiLoreto and Joe Estep & Aurora Luna. So moving were the placing memberships of Trinity Bernier-Nachtwey and Brooke Helm, the girlfriend of JB; the restorations of Ezequiel Gonzalez, Juan Ortiz and Chris Williams; and the baptism of Lucia Leza!

 

Brooke & Trinity

Tracy singing

The Tiffany Center

Elena and I had to tear ourselves away from the fellowship to catch a flight to Los Angeles, as we wanted to be there for the six o’clock House Church Leaders Meeting. There, so much “good news” was shared about the House Church Services that took place that day! In fact, even with some students who had not returned from the holidays, the Lord blessed us with an attendance of 388! Our evening concluded with a late meal with the decision-making shepherds of the City of Angels Church – Nick & Denise Bordieri and Tony & Therese Untalan. Both of these dear couples became our friends and “partners in the gospel” in the early days of Portland. We reminisced about those exciting times and laughed at the irony that God made our beloved Portland Church – our mother church, our daughter church and our dear, dear sister church! Once again, I felt “home.” To God be all the glory!

 

Kip McKean

 

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