GCI Update

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



Devotional: God of Second Chances 

Jonah 3:1-5: Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

The book of Jonah is a story about second chances. For the Ninevites, yes, with God delivering them from destruction out of his abundant love. But also a second chance for Jonah himself.

By the time we encounter Jonah in chapter 3, he had received God’s command to go to Nineveh and call them to repentance. We know he was unwilling to preach the message of salvation to Israel’s enemies, that he had run away from God, was caught in a storm, thrown into the sea, and swallowed by a great fish. But God delivered Jonah and here we see the word of the Lord coming to him a second time.

God wanted Jonah to be part of his redemptive work. Not because he could not accomplish it without Jonah, but because he was also concerned with restoring Jonah’s heart. God was not deterred by Jonah’s disobedience. Instead, God pursued him, saved him from death, and gave Jonah the commission anew: Go and proclaim the message I give you.

From Jonah’s story, we see that despite our shortcomings, stubbornness, and begrudging heart, the Lord can still use us in his work of saving and transforming lives. In the midst of the uncertainty and suffering around us today, we recognize the need for people to receive the hope of salvation and to experience God’s kindness and mercy in tangible ways.

If you think you are not good enough for God to use – not ready enough, loving enough, or “holy” enough – think again. If you have been in ministry but you have grown lukewarm or fallen short, God is not done with you yet. Take the chances you are given. We all have a role to play in bearing Jesus to the world – where is he telling you to go?

Prayer: Thank you Lord, that you are not limited by our shortcomings to fulfill your purposes. Create in us an obedient and compassionate heart to proclaim the gospel and be expressions of your relentless love to those in need.



By Joyce Tolentino
Mandaluyong, Philippines

Jacksonville Congregation Hosts Easter Play

This Easter, Christian Family Fellowship, our congregation in Jacksonville, FL, hosted a children’s Easter play. Church members enjoyed the children’s presentation of the Easter story, as an extra special addition to their Hope Avenue service.

Click the link below to watch:

GCI Denominational Celebration: Register Now!

Registration for the virtual 2021 Denominational Celebration is open!  We will be focusing on the Hope Venue, shaping our worship services to be inspirational experiences that center around our hope in the person of Jesus.

Individual Registration for members and Watch Party Registration for leadership teams to participate and debrief together are both available. Make the Celebration a retreat for your congregation, click here for ideas on how to host a watch party.

Our Main Session Speakers

We are excited to present our GCI Superintendents & 2021 speakers! Each Superintendent will share stories of hope, revealing how the Spirit is moving in their regions. The Main Sessions will also feature an interview by GCI President Greg Williams with each Superintendent. Click here to visit our events page and read the Superintendents’ bios.


Project Hope

Don’t forget to share Project Hope with the kids in your congregation! For more info on the challenge, click here.

Disaster Relief in St. Vincent

To help our GCI brothers and sisters in St. Vincent with urgent needs caused by the recent volcanic eruption there, GCI is sending $5,000 immediately from the Home Office GCI Disaster Relief Fund.  This will help provide emergency food, water, and other urgent needs. We will monitor the situation for potential additional assistance needs. We have also learned that GCI Canada has sent $5,000.


GCI Disaster Relief Fund

If your congregation is sharing the gospel about Jesus in the one square mile around your church and still has available funds and a heart to help members impacted by major disasters like the one in St. Vincent, one of the best ways to do so is to donate to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. The Fund helps provide members in disaster areas with emergency needs such as food, water, medicine, clothing, temporary housing, home and/or church hall repairs, temporary local pastoral salary expenses and other emergency needs. Monies received into the Fund that are not immediately needed will remain in the Fund to be allocated in future disasters. In previous years, money from this Fund has been used to help members recover from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, storms and flooding in Bangladesh and Honduras, an earthquake and tsunami in the Solomon Islands, typhoons in the Philippines and an earthquake in Haiti.

If your congregation would like to donate to the Fund, you can set up a one-time donation through GCI Online Giving (https://www.gci.org/online-giving/) by selecting Give for Disaster Relief under the drop-down menu.

If your congregation prefers to send a check, make it out to Grace Communion International, indicating on the memo line that the donation is for the GCI Disaster Relief Fund. Send the donation to:

GCI Disaster Relief Fund
Grace Communion International
3120 Whitehall Park Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28273

Prayers for our Southeast Asia Congregations:

In Myanmar, the immediate concern now is the welfare of the people and the church in Myanmar in light of the military seizure of power. There is anger, injustice, a sense of loss and uncertainty with the ongoing protests, civil disobedience movement by the people and violence by the authorities. Coupled with the covid-19 pandemic, the lives and livelihood of ordinary people have become more difficult. The progress of the last 10 years is in danger of being rolled back, including the gospel work in Myanmar. We pray for God’s power and providence in directing the affairs of history in line with his will.

In Bangladesh, with the passing of John Biswas the BEA organization is regrouping. One member, Amiyo Bacher, is a Bengali national who is well connected to our GCI Asian leaders and wants to plant churches.

Death of Lee Pettijohn

Mr. Lee Pettijohn, longtime GCI member in Big Sandy, Texas, passed away April 14 while in hospice care at a local nursing home. He had been in declining health the last few years and had recently suffered a stroke. He was formerly in the church’s television department in Pasadena, California. He and his wife Vivian were wonderful members and friends in Big Sandy. Mr. Pettijohn was 87 years old and his widow, Vivian, is 93. We are especially grateful for the care they received from Lee’s daughter and her husband, Don & Jeanie Cochran, who moved here a few years ago from Oklahoma to take care of the Pettijohns.

Mrs. Pettijohn’s address is:

Vivian Pettijohn
104 W T&P Ave
Big Sandy, TX 75755

And the Cochran’s address is:

Don & Jeanie Cochran
209 N Lexington Dr
Big Sandy, TX 75755

Second Granddaughter for the Morrisons

Robbie, Lydia, and Melinda Muyargas. Big Sister Adelynn Joy was enjoying a holiday at the Morrisons.

Mike and Janet Morrison are happy to announce the birth of another blessing, Lydia Hope Muyargas, born Easter, April 4, 2021, in southern California. She was 20 inches, 7 pounds, 7 ounces. All are doing well.