GCI Update

HOPE

Photo of the New York skyline with a rainbow on the horizon
Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

The “Hope Avenue” of ministry has been our guiding theme this year, and the crescendo was going to be the Denominational Celebration. (In the April 1st issue we shared the news that we will postpone this until the summer of 2021.)

Another initiative that we have been promoting in 2020 is the GCI Worship Calendar. Through the combined efforts of the Superintendents, Regional Directors and Media Team, we were anticipating special gatherings around Holy Week and Easter, and to our shock and dismay much of the world has been on an extended self-quarantine lockdown.

So, what has the Lord been up to? Has he somehow forgotten our plans in GCI? Should I join the laments of the Old Testament Psalmist?

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’ (Psalm 42:3)

There are a few of our members and their church families who have experienced the loss of loved ones at the hands of COVID-19, so I want to be careful not to move past the reality of grief too quickly. Where there has been loss of life, grief is multiplied when friends and family are not able to gather for a funeral service and celebration of their loved one’s life. Our hearts go out to you, and we lift prayers of comfort.

So where is our God? In the pattern of many Psalms, the grief, mourning and despair are turned to joy, hope and faith when the psalmist recalls what the Lord has done in the past, and how he is with them in the present circumstance. The same is true today. Let me express to you some of the tangible ways I have found hope.

I had the privilege of speaking with our six Superintendents around the globe and I was encouraged to hear their stories of how the pastors and churches in their areas are managing. I’m happy to share that each superintendent and their families are safe and healthy. I also found it interesting to discover how many of us have children who serve in the healthcare field. We seek your prayers for them and the other front-line workers. (Eugene Guzon estimates that in the Filipino members scattered around the world, there are some 170 doctors and nurses.) I am proud that our small denomination has such strong representation in the healthcare world.

The Superintendents expressed how many of their pastors and churches have shared online gatherings—inclusive of Sunday services, small group studies, game nights, youth meetings and the like. Not only do members have access to meetings online with their home congregation, many are accessing neighboring churches in their region, country and across the world. Staying home has spawned a new level of creativity and connectivity that we have not experienced before.

Having personally participated in online meetings for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I was more than pleased to see that the initiative to promote our GCI Worship Calendar is happening. It wasn’t how I envisioned, nor could I have anticipated to what degree GCI would access Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, WhatsApp and other social media platforms, but here we are.

We are finding hope during the pandemic, and why should we be surprised? Hope has a name: Jesus. His name is being proclaimed online and it is incredibly hopeful to see how we are communicating with many people beyond our regular members. May we continue building and forming these relationships.

Our Denominational Celebration is delayed, and yet it will go on. The prayerful planning and hard work that has been done to this point will serve us well as we rejoin the final preparations next year. Hope is still the theme, and I praise our Triune God for always supplying hope even through difficult times.

Always looking to our Hope,
Greg Williams

Pastoral Resident Program Graduates

Join me in celebrating David Borum and Elizabeth Mullins, who completed their GCI USA Pastoral Residencies this year.

David completed his residency on January 24. He served as a Pastoral Resident with Pastors Linda and Tim Sitterley with Grace Communion Eugene and Grace Communion Salem in Oregon. David brings wit as well as a depth of reflection and inclusive spirit to his pastoral ministry. Ministering alongside David, I’ve experienced laughing over a sarcastic joke one minute and a soul-deep conversation the next.

Elizabeth completed her residency on April 3. Elizabeth served as a Pastoral Resident with Pastor Anthony Mullins with Grace Communion Hickory in North Carolina. Elizabeth brings great compassion for those of God’s children hurting and oppressed and a heart on fire for God’s healing and restorative justice to her pastoral ministry. Ministering alongside Elizabeth I’ve experienced being challenged into uncomfortable depths with Jesus that lead to growth and a little bit of holy mischief.

Below, we asked them to speak about their ministry and review their experiences and takeaways from their time spent in the GCI Pastoral Resident Program.

 

Cara Garrity
Development Coordinator

 


Elizabeth

portrait of Elizabeth Mullins holding a sign saying "local"

I’m very passionate about how God conforms us to Christ’s image in the context of God’s Body.  My faith is not merely a private, individual transaction between God and me.  God’s story has always been one of renewing, redeeming, and restoring a people!  We grow in love and desire for God and experience God in the relational community of the Church.  And the Church is the beautiful Bride of Christ!

I have been shaped by the Pastoral Resident program by sharing community with and learning from my cohort of other pastoral interns and residents. The intentional leadership development I received was also an important piece.  Pastoral leaders must possess a love and desire for God and an understanding of theology, of course.  I learned that leading and discipling others in a healthy church goes beyond this.  Healthy leadership is a skillset that can be refined. Personally, healthy leaders are growing in emotional intelligence, self-awareness, boundary-setting, time management, and the development of nourishing habits and rhythms.  Interpersonally, healthy leaders are growing in the skills of team-building, communication, empowering and calling up others, and change management.

I served in Grace Communion Hickory in North Carolina.  Since our congregation was a relaunch into a new neighborhood, we decided my role would include serving as the Community Developer.  My role evolved to include the Champion of the Love Venue, also.

In addition to falling deeper in love with Jesus’ Church, my time in the Residency program demonstrated how important it is to be a local, community church.  It’s very difficult to discern how to participate with Jesus’ renewal in my neighborhood without proximity and daily presence. Having a laser focus on one square mile surrounding our church building has had a huge impact on how we love our neighbors.

David

Portrait of David Borum

Since the age of 16, I have been involved in some form of ministry. Over the years I have participated in everything from street evangelism, youth ministry, worship leading, jail ministry, leading home groups and preaching. The most memorable time in my life was when I spent two years in full-time ministry in The Philippines with Youth With A Mission. My hope is that by the end of the year I will be a lead pastor somewhere within GCI.

The Pastoral Resident program afforded me the opportunity to take a good hard look at pastoral ministry within GCI. Through the program I was able to assess what my strengths and weaknesses were and to learn how to work together with others in ministry. Through the Pastoral Resident program I was made fully aware of my need to be dependent on the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom. The program positioned me to develop a heart for God’s people.

I served two congregations: my home church in Eugene, Oregon, as well as the Salem, Oregon, congregation an hour away. Serving two congregations helped make me aware of how different a culture can be from congregation to congregation. I found that I needed to tailor my sermons and approach to people in these congregations based on their specific needs.

I will always have fond memories of our annual resident/intern retreats that were held in Ohio and Tennessee. Having the Regional Director also serving as my lead pastor gave me the privilege of meeting many other pastors/leaders in the denomination. It gave me a good sense of the vision and mission of GCI. I am grateful to Tim Sitterley for his trust in where God was leading me and affording me the opportunity and the autonomy to pursue what God had been placing on my heart in how to serve the church.

Covid-19 Prayers & Updates from Our Pastors in the USA

Grace Communion Charlotte Members Feed the Homeless in the City.
Grace Communion Charlotte Members Feed the Homeless in the City.

Charlotte, North Carolina – Pastor Tracy Winborne

Our first responders, John, Claudia and Ashley are providing meals and snacks to over 200 homeless people on College St. One would think they are imagining a scene from a horror story right in our backyard. Hundreds of people are living in tents and without much-needed resources. Our mission is God’s mission: to witness the gospel and with limited words act by showing love. These members of Grace Communion Charlotte are taking precautions and experiencing a joy inexpressible. This is an ongoing activity for Grace Communion Charlotte. We provided funds to support our homeless and will do so every Wednesday as long as it takes or until funds are unavailable. And even then, we can hold their hands. Ashley, 19 years old, is passing out scriptures to the homeless and sharing the gospel message. We are proud of their missional DNA and know good things will come from the love poured into the community.


Houston, Texas – Pastor Mark Mounts

We in Houston pray that all are coping with this incredible reality that we and the world are facing. All of Houston and the surrounding counties are under directives to “stay at home.” The exceptions are the usual service providers and medical staff that keep us all going. We have gone to a virtual worship format and we have also been communicating through Facebook. We are very spread out and most of our members are older and would be considered in the “high risk” category. I called one of our members who has limited mobility and he reported that his neighbors are buying him food and making sure he’s got all that he needs. He became a widower a little over a year ago. This is our prayer: Most loving God, thank you for moving the hearts and minds of those to let your light shine; even in the most troubled of times.


Waltham, Massachusetts – Pastor Dishon Mills

The COVID-19 crisis is not good. We pray for those families around the world who have lost loved ones to this terrible disease, as well as those who are currently sick. At the same time, we serve a God who can make good things come out of bad situations. Moving our Sunday meeting and small groups to ZOOM has dramatically increased our reach. We have attracted at least one new person each week for the past three weeks. Our attendance is up 25% and our web traffic is up over 200% since the crisis began. COVID-19 has forced us to focus on relationships, which is what the church should be doing anyway. Perhaps we are in the midst of a virtual revival?


Big Sandy, Texas – Pastor Jerome Ellard

One way we are remaining together is by phone: my wife Helen and I, and two other elder couples have divided up the congregation so that we can contact every member at least once during the week, encouraging them and asking if they need any help. We are still the body, even when we can’t physically be together. I’ve also started a “virtual prayer meeting.” Several of us used to meet at church on Tuesday evenings for a time of intercessory prayer. I’m now sending out a prayer list to all our members that have email, asking them to pray in their homes on Tuesday evening or at any other time during the week, adding other things they know about to their prayers. I send my Sunday message summaries to the local paper. I’m looking at other ways that we can continue to share the hope we have in Jesus through his word. We are asking everyone to keep up with each other and we look forward to being able to be together again soon!

Prayer Request for James Newby

Dear friends,

James had his follow up with a second doctor this week, and he would like to do surgery rather than simple surveillance. It is currently scheduled for Friday, May 8. Please keep him in your prayers for the surgery, his recovery and peace of mind.

Much love,

The Newby family

Prayer Requests from the Southeast Region, USA

Tommie Grant, pastor and GCI Board member, sent a prayer request on behalf of his brother Robert Grant. On Monday, April 6 Robert became very weak and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was tested for COVID-19, but results came back negative. Wednesday morning they found that he has an infection in his blood but not sure of the reason ( similar situation happened to him last year).  However, late in the afternoon, we received a call that the infection caused his kidneys to shut down. He was rushed to the ICU, where they put him on dialysis immediately before the infection damaged more organs. No one is able to see him at the hospital because of COVID-19 restrictions, including his wife, Barbara. This is taking a toll on the family at the moment after just losing our oldest brother a month ago. Robert is the 2nd oldest.

Update as of April 28th – Tommie’s brother Robert remains in the ICU in a critical but stable condition. Still not responsive as of last Wednesday.  Tommie said his condition hasn’t gotten any worse which they consider a good sign. Tommie and the entire Grant family appreciate your ongoing prayers during this difficult time.

Cards for Tommie Grant may be sent here:

Tommie and Robin Grant, Jr.
115 Heritage Lane
Summerville, SC  29483-3110


Ellis Necessary, GCI pastor in Morristown, TN, fell on Thursday night, April 9th, and fractured a hip and shoulder.  He had surgery on Friday.

Update as of Monday, April 28 – After two weeks in the hospital, Ellis was able to return home last week and is working through his recovery from the fractured hip and shoulder. Surgery on his hip went well and his shoulder thankfully didn’t require surgery. As some of you know, Ellis runs his own small business, and being unable to work has caused additional stress. He’s grateful for your prayerful support.

Cards for Ellis Necessary may be sent here:

Ellis and Dorothy Necessary
498 Cambridge Cir
Russellville, TN  37860-9329

Fuel for the Heart

“I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways.” Psalm 85:8, NLT

Many times I partner with people to create music, or complete projects in which we mutually have an interest. We connect, exchange ideas, make plans and naturally speak words of encouragement to keep the embers lit for the project. I confess I am so excited for it that I can hardly sleep or concentrate on other things. My focus appears as if I have blinders on. It’s a battle of balance for me. Whatever I’m working on at that time, there’s a process I take myself through.

Every day, I speak life into what I’m doing by writing the words on little pieces of paper and stick them on my wall right beside my bed. This practice has proven to keep my focus in line with wherever the Lord is leading, teaching or trying to help me to grasp. So, at those times when I’m working on a project, I have the correct words that fuel my passion and fire.

During one of these times, I recall wanting to push forward with an idea to help hurting women who had suffered traumatic pasts. Within three months of connecting with a friend on the idea, we had erected a vision, mission statement and a few guidelines. It was a session of dreaming and planning. We set a date for the next meeting and then…life happened. We both got very busy with family, children, school, health issues and travelling. The embers were just lit but not blazing. Wanting to move forward with the project, I looked on my wall and I began to go through the words that the Lord had given me regarding this project. I sensed that he wanted to teach me something. I did not know what that was, but at this moment, it was about to unfold.

That same day another friend called and asked me about the projects I was working on. Without thinking, I flowed out all my ideas and workings with the women in trauma project. Immediately, my friend became annoyed that I did not consult them about it and that I had somehow left them out of the planning on purpose and without consideration for their interests and feelings. They had expressed an interest in doing something like this project, and we had spoken about it months before my initial brainstorm meeting with my other friend. I had forgotten that conversation, sadly. This friend was hurt and responded in silence to my attempts at an apology. After our conversation, I was left confused and hurt, and the words of condemnation began to fuel my heart with disappointment. I forgot the words on my wall. Fueled by shame, I forgot them so quickly. The blaze I had, soon blew out because I had hurt my friend and I didn’t know where to turn or what more to say.

However, in time, the Lord in his mercy revealed to me that I needed to listen carefully to my friend. She needed my empathy, for she had suffered trauma and wanted to be a part of this helping project to heal. I totally missed that reality in our conversation. But, instead of condemning myself for the oversight, I needed to fuel my heart with peace, therefore being at peace with my wounded friend.

The word of the Lord came to me as I prayed earnestly for my friend and my guilty heart. He led me to Psalm 85:8: “I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways.” I was both comforted, strengthened and disciplined in love. My friend and I were reconciled and the project is on hold until we can set aside the proper time to bring it to fruition. To continue to blaze for things that our hearts want to do is beautiful. However, consulting the Lord, and watching with wisdom as we move forward, is my lesson in living, loving and manifesting the love of the Lord.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for fueling our hearts with a passion for loving and helping your people. Let us listen fondly to your whispers of love leading us on your peaceful path, and showing us how to best respond to people in our lives with patience and understanding.

 

By Keysha Edwards Taylor
Worship Director, GCI Miramar, FL

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