GCI Update

Anam Cara

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

World Friendship Day, also known as International Day of Friendship, takes place on July 30th.

The original idea for a day of friendship came from Hallmark cards in the 1930s and was originally celebrated on August 2. The cynical public largely viewed the day as a money-making scheme by Hallmark. Sales of friendship day cards did not take off in Europe and by the mid-1940s the day had faded into obscurity in the USA. However, the idea of a day to honor friendship was adopted by a number of countries in Asia, where it remained a popular custom to reserve a day for celebrating friendships and the exchange of gifts between friends. I’d suggest this speaks to the understanding of the importance of relationships in the Asian culture, which is a strong biblical theme.

The Bible says a lot about the importance of friendship. Here are a few choice verses in Proverbs ESV

  • Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
  • Proverbs 18:24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
  • Proverbs 27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
  • Proverbs 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

The overall theme is that a friend is a companion who can tell you the truth, and who shows up especially in the difficulties of life. The question, “Who can you call at 2:00 am when you are in dire straits?” is quite telling. How long is your personal list?

Having a relationship where you are accepted, understood and well cared for is the most valuable treasure. Anam Cara is a concept that I was introduced to when I participated in an experiential graduate class called Celtic Spirituality. Anam Cara is a Celtic phrase meaning “soul friend.”

Dr. William P. Ryan describes Anam Cara as “compassionate presence,” a person who knows your heart and intent. In the companionship of a soul friend, you are recognized and known providing a deep sense of trust and belonging. Every one of us needs true, genuine friendship for our spiritual development and growth, and especially for our personal sense of worth and belonging.

Personally, I am blessed with spiritual brothers and sisters who “stick closer” than biological siblings. These friendships are like anchors that keep me grounded and stable. The greatest friendship, however, is the shared relationship with my Lord Jesus who calls me his friend. It is he alone who truly knows me to the depths of my being and loves me in spite of my warts and my moods. It is he alone who will never leave me or forsake me. This same promise is true for you.

Proud to be your friend,


P.S. The upcoming Denominational Celebration will certainly have the fabric and feel of an International Day of Friendship. It will be a time that we can see our GCI friends around the world and hear marvelous stories of what our friend Jesus has been doing in us and through us. I hope to see you July 23-25!


Devotional: Waiting

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1 NLT

The bougainvillea plant was removed from a large pot and replanted near the trellis over our new patio. It was in shock. One of its thick roots had snapped when it was violently pulled out. I wondered whether it would survive the radical loss of its leaves as they yellowed and fell silently to the ground. I held on to the hope that its branches would one day cover the trellis with bright red and green leaves.

I looked for tiny green buds along its branches, for signs of new life, and I waited. I dug around the trunk and gave it nourishment and water regularly. I waited, continuing to hope that hidden deep within her there was still life. I waited wondering whether it was putting all its energy into new roots.

Just as we cannot see the repairs and restoration happening in a transplanted vine, we cannot always see what God is doing in us as we wait in liminal space. Disruptive changes and losses happen regularly in life: a worldwide pandemic, divorce, the loss of a job, broken relationships, and illnesses.  These troubles have the potential to leave us in shock, grieving and wondering if life will ever be the same again. Waiting in liminal space can seem interminable. It can be disorienting, and confusing.

Two of Jesus’ prayers tell me he knew the pain of loss and waiting in liminal space. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed to the Father, “if it is possible let this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” His ability to pray under the enormous sorrow and anxiety of what he would face, speaks to his habitual way of praying. And so, he taught his disciples to pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In Jesus we have someone who doesn’t just know about our sorrow; he feels it with us and sees us through it.

When I remember how dead this vine seemed and yet how beautiful, vibrant, and productive it is today, I am encouraged to have hope in God’s power to redeem. Nothing happens to us outside of God’s good purpose for us. While we wait, we can give God access to the deep places within by praying honestly about our feelings and asking him for the patience and trust to wait.

His redemptive power can be seen in the treasures we discover in the waiting: a new revelation of who God is, a course correction, strength to endure or a gift of compassion, all graces given for our healing and for the sake of a hurting world.


“I surrender ________________ to you.” I cast all my fear and anxiety and insecurity upon you, trusting that you will do your part, trusting that you will show me what my part is (if any), and trusting that all things will work together for good–because I love you, and because I am called according to your purpose.

Please give me the wisdom to know your will for me, the willingness to accept it, and the courage and strength to wait patiently. I need your help in each of these ways, for I cannot do any of them on my own.[1]



By Carmen Fleming




[1] Adapted from the “Daily Prayer of Surrender” Author unknown

REGISTER NOW: GCI Virtual Denominational Celebration

Register Now!

Registration for the virtual 2021 Denominational Celebration is open!  We will be focusing on the Hope Avenue, 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 and 2021 speakers! Each Superintendent will share stories of hope, revealing how the Spirit is moving in their region. The Main Sessions will also feature a live interview by GCI President Greg Williams with each Superintendent. Click here to visit our events page and read the Superintendents’ bios.

Connect With Us Beforehand on Facebook

If you Like and Follow the Grace Communion International – GCI Page you can find information about the upcoming Denominational Celebration and follow along with our Event Page as we count down the days until we can all celebrate together virtually. By RSVPing to this Event in Facebook, you will receive exclusive content leading up to the Celebration, and be the first to receive an invitation to the GCI Denominational Celebration Group on Facebook.

Prayers and Encouragement for the Butler Family

thank you

Sam and Denise Butler want to thank everyone for your prayers for their son Joffre throughout his recovery process. Joff’s injuries were quite severe, but he is gaining strength and all three surgeries were successful. Joffre is still dealing with an “angry pancreas” that needs to heal. And he needs energy and motivation as he is entering a long stretch of rehabilitation. Cards and letters to encourage him would be a blessing.

Please send cards to:

Joffre Butler
4439 Summit Forest Dr
Rockford MI 49341

Jacksonville Congregation Hosts Neighborhood Camp

The Jacksonville FL church hosted a local GCI Neighborhood Camp July 1 – July 3, at the church-owned building. We give glory to God that everything went well and safely, with inspiration and fun for all.

Our congregation previously held an overnight, resident Youth Camp for the past 25 years, excepting last year during the coronavirus precautions.

It has always been a great bonding experience for the church’s youth and adults, to one another and to the church. It is a beneficial ministry tool, and we may utilize it again as a local church activity in the future.

This year we decided to experiment with the strategy of a Neighborhood Camp, where the focus is on attracting youth from our immediate community within a short distance of the church’s location.

For 2021, our organizational goals revolved mainly around working out the logistics of a Neighborhood Camp, gaining experience and ideas to use when we expand next year. We also wanted to re-connect with our church youth and their families, several of whom we haven’t been able to minister to regularly since the Covid-19 shutdowns of 2020.

Thanks to the blessings and guidance of the Lord, we were able to achieve these goals and provide many fun, creative, relaxing, and inspirational activities at our church building, with a couple of off-site activities to a water park and a trampoline park.

Below is a photo of our participants.  We had 18 campers ages 6-16, and 15 staff members, ages 22-71. Of this group of campers, 2 were from neighborhoods within a mile of the church, and 6 others live within 3 miles. Most, but not all, had already become part of the Jacksonville congregation.

We plan to develop this strategy even further next year with another Neighborhood Camp, adding more outreach and advertising to our neighbors.  We didn’t want to bite off more than we can chew this year, until we felt more confident that we could field the necessary core group of staff and campers from our congregation.

We are looking forward to reaching more of our immediate community in next year’s Neighborhood Camp, with a desire to cultivate, plant and reap new disciples of Jesus Christ.


Marty and Yvonne Davey



Marty Davey, Pastor
Jacksonville, FL & Woodbine, GA

Cullman Women’s Retreat

Hello Girlfriends!

I am happy to announce our 2021 fall retreat at the St. Bernard Abbey Retreat and Conference Center in Cullman, Alabama. Following our year-plus of Covid, I know that many of you have really been looking forward to the chance to spend a relaxing weekend with friends.  Faith friends are so important, and these retreats have made it possible to renew friendships as well as make new friends.  This retreat center has a beautiful conference room where we have our general sessions, and the bedrooms are adjacent to the meeting area. The bedrooms accommodate two people (twin beds) and each has a private bathroom.

The dates are October 1-3, 2021.  Registration begins Friday afternoon at 3 p.m.  Snacks will be available, but you will be on your own for dinner that evening.  A Cracker Barrel and other restaurants are nearby.  This evening is free for getting checked in and relaxing. If you will be arriving after 10 p.m., please let us know ahead of time if possible. My cell phone is (205) 540-1515.

Our theme for the weekend will be The Epic Story of the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation a wonderful story of God’s tremendous love for his creation is revealed.  The Scriptures reveal an incredible story of redemption through Christ our Lord.  “For in him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28)

Speakers this year include Barbara Dahlgren, Ruth Miller, Sondra Peters and Mary Jo Wheatcroft.  Ann Hartmann will be our guest singer again this year! You can go to Ann’s website (annhartmann.com) to learn more about Ann’s music and ministry.

Dress is casual for the entire weekend.  Bring comfy shoes, as you might enjoy a bit of walking. We now have a tradition of great fun playing games on Friday and Saturday evenings, so bring your “play clothes” or pajamas for this!  Bring your favorite board games, and label them, please!

The retreat center supplies our bed linens, towels and washcloths.  You might want to bring your own water bottles, if you enjoy having bottled water.  We do have access to a kitchen and a refrigerator, so we are able to enjoy snacks throughout the weekend.  The meals which will be provided are Saturday breakfast, lunch and dinner and Sunday breakfast (total of 4 meals). This year we are planning to have all our meals at the retreat center again.  We got such positive feedback from this.  Being able to eat “in house” is very convenient and everyone seemed to enjoy the leisurely mealtimes.

We plan to conclude the retreat by noon on Sunday so that those who need to get on the road will have the full afternoon for travel.  For those who want to stick around and visit a bit, we can have prolonged “goodbyes” in the retreat center.

We hope you will help spread the word to others who might enjoy the weekend. If you have questions or need more information, contact me at (205) 663-7979 (home), (205) 540-1515 (cell) or email ruth.miller@gci.org.

Please fill out the registration form, include payment, and return it by August 30.  This is important, because the retreat center is such a popular place and we need to secure the number of rooms we’ll need ASAP!   Late registrations will be accepted if space is still available.

I’m looking forward to sharing this weekend with you in October!

With love,
Ruth Miller      

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