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A Trip to the Past gives Vision for the Future

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends, during a recent trip to Southern California, I was staying at the Pasadena Hilton as my central point of operation. I woke up by my internal clock, which is finely tuned to east coast time. Being that Since I had four hours before my first meeting, I set out on what turned out to be a five-mile hike.

After getting my morning caffeine at a Starbucks on Lake Avenue, I trekked westward, crossing the 210 Freeway and onto the property that used to be Ambassador College and Home Office of GCI. I worked as a campus tour guide while in college, which gave me a broader understanding and appreciation for the property. One tidbit of information concerned the footprints of Herbert Armstrong and the original four Ambassador students dating back to 1948. These sets of footprints were cemented into a square of concrete at the stairway entry to the lower gardens, or at least they used to be. The footprints are no longer there.

As I walked and talked with God, more perspective came to my mind. Not only had the footprints vanished, at a greater level the institution of Ambassador College had disappeared too. This institution with its extraordinary campus, inviting people and attractive programs had lured me as a high school graduate to journey across the country to engage in the Ambassador experience.

Like it or not, we dubbed Ambassador College the “West Point” of our church, linking it to the famous military academy. Through a liberal arts education and intentionally creating opportunities to develop social skills with a heavy dose of speech training, we annually churned out candidates for pastoral leadership. This institution did its job quite well over four decades.

If my math is correct, the last batch of graduates to come through Ambassador would be nearly 50 years old. The bulk of Ambassador graduates are retired or rapidly headed in that direction. What to do?

My early morning walk across the campus was heightening my awareness to the reality of our challenge. And before you get ahead of me, no, we aren’t looking to rebuild a brick-and-mortar college. However, we do need to create environments where younger men and women are attracted to well-designed programs and the opportunity to learn good ministry skills that can help the denomination create a healthy pool of pastoral candidates for our desired future.

On the heels of my California trip, I was on a zoom conference call with GCI Development Coordinator Cara Garrity and Superintendents Mike Rasmussen and Heber Ticas. Our topic of discussion was evaluating where are we in the process with this strategy of our GCI Ministry Training Centers (MTCs). We concluded that we are just getting started with the MTC strategy, and before we can pinpoint MTC sites around the globe we must first see churches with pastors applying “Team-Based Pastor-Led” leadership, see all three ministry avenues operating and functioning well, and witness a core group of younger people demonstrating a hunger for deeper involvement in ministry. In other words, we want to see the overall expression of Healthy Church on display.

The good news is that we are seeing a few sites across our global network of six regions, and progress is happening. The more difficult news is that it is going to take time. Realistically, it will take the next 2-5 years to build the initial network, and it will take the discipline of our leaders to build it one step at a time, carefully avoiding the temptation to take shortcuts along the way.

Another good news detail is that we have the combined effort of Grace Communion Seminary that can allow us to have the best-educated ministry we have ever had. Do you realize that GCI is too small of a denomination to own and operate a seminary? And yet here we are. Thank you, Jesus.

My walk across the old Ambassador grounds was a moving experience. My mind was filled with recollections of many happy events and relational activities that took place on just about every corner of that property, and yet my heart was stirred and lifted to the future and the possibilities ahead for GCI.

I am convinced that the Risen Lord has us where he wants us, and he knows with certainty where he is taking us.

In and through him,
Greg Williams



19 thoughts on “A Trip to the Past gives Vision for the Future”

  1. Jerusalem was wonderful and foundational (acts 2:43-47) but it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:24-26): may the Lord and the Spirit lead us according to the Father’s Will, Amen.

  2. It is interesting to read your message sir considering the fact I was there in the campus 10 years ago with my brother Bermie Dizon. I am living here in Metro Manila, Philippines. 🇵🇭😊

  3. The Fiftieth Anniversary of Ambassador University was in 1997. The Golden Anniversary 1947-1997. The closing of the last of the three campuses in Big Sandy, Texas ended my career of 20 years employment with the University. Debbie Wood, Tyler, Texas

  4. Praying for the denomination and all that the Risen Lord is doing and I truly believe also that He knows exactly where He is taking us. Praying that the vision that He has given us remains in His will.

  5. Thanks Greg. And seeing pictures of all of the changes there reminds of all the changes here – positive in all directions. Praise the holy name of the Lord!

  6. Greatly encouraged even though I am not affiliated to your denomination yet experiencing an affiliation with the Spirit in which you are exemplary. Praying you would continuously enlarge your territory in the Lord.
    Thank you for sharing

  7. I graduated there in 1977. May we continue to walk closer and closer to Jesus our Savior.

  8. Greg, while never attending AC, I too walked the AC campus several times with heartfelt emotions. I always appreciated the excellence in leadership that we (WCG) desired to provide. The vision Jesus is giving you will come to fruition,
    IF, Jesus gives you the VISION, He will also give you (GCI) the PROVISION.

  9. Faith Forward for sure! Such great times we all had there in Pasadena. Despite our mistakes, I gratefully consider my experiences there and in WCG to be much better than what I deserved. And the people I’ve met and known through these experiences are such wonderful, dedicated and conscientious believers who I’ve been blessed to know and to hang around with.

  10. Thank you for sharing your personal experience and GCI Vision for moving forward in training young leaders for healthy churches around the world! I agree this process will take time. It is much more important to follow God’s lead than charge ahead without consideration of long term affects!

  11. Thank you for putting a positive spin on what could be felt as negative thoughts about the Pasadena experience. I have fond memories of visiting the campus in Pasadena and in Big Sandy when two daughters graduated from AC. Looking forward to where we are being led now.

  12. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.
    (1 Corinthians 1:9). A calling that is irrevocable. (Romans 11:29). The holy, loving relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Be encouraged and press on.

  13. I did not attend the College, but I was baptised in the baptismal pool of the Brickett Wood campus in the year 1966, 55 years ago! I was plunged under by Dan Botha, one of three South African brothers who attended the College. The other two are Steve and Adrian. Can someone update me about them? The Risen Lord is taking us home to the Father.

  14. Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.

    Joel A. Barker

  15. Thanks Greg as we remember the good times of the past & now looking forward to the Bright Vision God gives us looking to His Son, who is our New Creation! Jn 3:14-17

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