GCI Update

GCI’s Mission in Bangladesh

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Friends and Family,

Grace Communion International is a wonderful mosaic of churches networked across 66 countries. The purpose of our church is to share the good news of Jesus through building loving meaningful relationships with our neighbors. As we participate with Jesus to make new disciples, we plant churches and identify elders who have pastoral gifts to lead these churches toward healthy expressions captured by the Faith, Hope and Love Avenues of ministry. As these churches grow and thrive, we expect them to become a mother church who gives birth to daughter churches. Some have even started parachurch ministries to serve local needs.

Since 1986, GCI has partnered with Bengali Evangelical Association (BEA) to establish missionary outreach to the Bengali people. Dr. John Biswas founded and led this missionary effort up until his death this past March. As part of his parachurch ministry, John set up the BEA Board of Directors, which has appointed Naomi Biswas to become the new President.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Naomi and listening to her desires to continue the operations of John’s ministry—BEA. I was also delighted to share with her the news of how GCI has a vetted young leader who is leading a GCI church plant in the city of Dhaka, under the guidance of Regional Director Danny Zachariah. Allow me to introduce Amiyo Bacher.

Amiyo Bacher attended the International Graduate School of Leadership in the Philippines and participated in our GCI CrossWay congregation under pastor Aron Tolentino while attending school. Amiyo returned to his native country of Bangladesh, where he is now planting a GCI house church under the direction of his Regional Director Danny Zachariah.

Naomi shared a similar story of a young leader that John had hired to take a leadership position in the BEA Ministry Center. Meet John Adhikary.

John Adhikary, who has a work history related with administrative skills and some ministry background, was hired to work in the BEA Ministry Center in Bangladesh. Because Naomi requested that John be introduced and oriented to GCI, Danny Zachariah will seek to establish a relationship with John and hopefully take on a mentoring role. It will be exciting to see how these young emerging leaders will grow and develop and how the Lord will work through them to reach the people of Bangladesh. It excites me to see a younger generation rising up.

Naomi and I agreed that we need indigenous leaders on the ground in Bangladesh to do the day-in and day-out work of ministry. The Lord is faithfully providing.

Roger and Anthea Lippross
Roger and Anthea Lippross

Another development that deserves mention is that Roger Lippross, who served beside John Biswas from the beginning of BEA, stepped down in July. Roger’s health is such that he simply must retire from service. We deeply love and appreciate Roger and Anthea, and the BEA family will miss their presence.

We wish Naomi and her Board of Directors well as they regroup and reorganize.

We also solicit your prayers and contributions to the GCI general fund so that we can amply support GCI’s work in Asia where it is most needed. Superintendent Eugene Guzon and his team with Regional Directors Mein Kong and Danny Zachariah are continuing to work with young leaders like Amiyo in Bangladesh, Roshan Nepali in Nepal, and some forming relationships with potential leaders in Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

The role of supporting these young leaders in their education and their church planting efforts, which includes continued supervision and guidance from GCI leaders, requires funding. The mission field in Asia is ripe and ready for harvest, and through God’s grace and provision we join him in the field!

I end this message with the closing that Roger Lippross always used.

For the Kingdom!


When the answer is “no,” leaving us weak, then what?

Recently my lovely wife Alberta passed. We were married for 25 years, 46 days.  God’s answer to numerous prayers for her healing was “no” and instead he graciously delivered her into eternity, where she is now experiencing no pain.  Yet, her passing has often left me very sad and weak.  The apostle Paul shared an important God-breathed practical mindset regarding weakness with us in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

“…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I [Paul] will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Since many of us are members in Grace Communion International, grace is a part of our name and DNA. Sometimes we have been challenged over the years with weaknesses in the midst of personal challenges or denominational change.  Maybe even pain!

Such was the case recently: to honor my wife’s wishes, I needed to travel by plane and auto to do a graveside service with family in another state. God graciously supplied not only the strength to do this, but also an out-of-town brother, retired pastor Glen Weber, who drove about twenty hours over three days to accommodate this.  I am functioning with one eye and could not have done this on my own.

I was in pain and God supplied both strength to me and a brother (and others) to lighten the pain which God has guided me to also do for others over the years.  We are in this together, so I gently leave all of us with this question: whose weakness is God directing you and me to, to strengthen and lift up today with his strength?

Prayer: Almighty wonderful Triune God, thank you for all the heroes you have put into my life before and after the passing of Alberta.  Alberta was certainly my hero and a favor from you (Proverbs 18:22). Thank you for the Body of Christ and your called-out ones who participate with you and lift up those who are weak.  May each of us be your arms, hands and legs passing along  your love, hope and faith to those in need. Thank you for always being our strength. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

By Tom Ecker, Retired GCI Pastor

Surrey Hills Neighborhood Block Party

Neighbors loving neighbors.  It is a beautiful sight and one that was abundant in Surrey Hills last Saturday. We were not able to do Camp Surrey this year, but knew we wanted to do something to show love to our campers and neighbors and let them know we are thinking about them.  So, we decided to sponsor a neighborhood block party in conjunction with our annual water balloon battle.

Events in the Love Avenue are a ton of fun, but also require lots of planning.  It starts with a Love Avenue Team that came together, showed up, and put their hearts into this event.  My Love Avenue team consists of 11 amazing people, from age thirteen to 75-ish (don’t be fooled, the 75-year-old works circles around all of us).  The first step to the event was the prep-work which is a ministry in itself.

We do our annual water balloon battle at the neighborhood ball fields. To prepare for the event, we always clean them up really well.  It’s often the only time of year the fields look spick and span.  I always invite our neighbors to join us for a work party the Friday night before the event to mow, edge, and pick up trash.  This year, I got a message on Wednesday from a neighbor I’ve gotten to know the past couple of years.  He sent me a picture of the freshly mowed fields and let me know he took care of all the mowing so we could focus on edges and trash. What a blessing! Then, our crew got to work.

On Saturday afternoon hundreds of Surrey neighbors lined up with about 13,000 water balloons and had a total blast.  If you’re wondering how we determine who wins a water balloon battle, we don’t.  It actually makes for amazing debates and bragging rights for everyone all year long.

We were blown away by the number of children we had!  We reserved the first 10 minutes of the battle for children only.  Afterwards, it was at the parents’ discretion if their child would continue to participate. After about 30 minutes of water balloon mania, all participants took about 10 minutes going over the field, picking up all the balloons.  We want to keep our neighborhood beautiful, and our policy is always to leave things better than we found them. The cleanup time is actually a great relational time.  There’s something about crawling around on the grass, picking up thousands of tiny balloon pieces alongside your neighbors whom you were just pummeling with water balloons.  Conversation begins to spark, laughter erupts, and relationships are built.

After the clean-up, everyone walked across the street to the Lion’s Club Park, where we had food trucks, live music, gaga ball, yard games, inflatables, a cornhole tournament – all kinds of fun!

We also set up a Camp Surrey kids table and gave away over 100 gift bags filled with goodies.  These bags had Camp Surrey reusable water bottles, bubbles, giant pixy sticks, Camp Surrey pillowcases, and more.  We also had a craft table for them to decorate those pillowcases.  We got lots of inquiries about Camp Surrey and even had a QR code on the table for people to scan to join our waiting list for Camp Surrey 2022.  We ran out of gift bags in the first hour because over 150 kiddos showed up to the event! What a great problem to have!

Camp Surrey provided ice chests full of water bottles and juice boxes as well as hand sanitizer and insect repellant. We decided to keep the fun going after dark and hosted a movie on the park lawn.  A couple of months ago, we cast a poll on our neighborhood Facebook page and let them pick the movie (with the stipulation that it had to be G or PG).  Zootopia won by a landslide! It was an incredible evening of neighbors loving neighbors.

We had between 400 and 500 people participate in this event.  We had well over 150 children.  We made a special announcement before the movie. Pastor Joe introduced himself and invited everyone to join us at the Surrey Hills Elementary School Gym the next morning for a special worship experience and blessing of the children.  I’m thrilled to say we had SEVEN brand new faces Sunday morning. Praise God!

In the midst of so much sadness and chaos the past year, there was something amazing that happened this weekend in our neighborhood.  It was a day without arguments, politics, or anger. It was a day of relationship, a day of love, a day of community.   God is so faithful.

I often think of the old saying from the movie “Field of Dreams” when it comes to relaunching our church into this neighborhood.  I used to always quote the line, “If you build it, they will come.” Weekends like this are a loving and gentle reminder from my Papa that I need to change that mantra in my head.  The truth is that “God will build it, and we will love.”

Ceeja Malmkar,
Surrey Hills Love Avenue Champion

Death of Isei Colati

Isei and Vasiti Colati at the 2017 Orlando FL GCI Denominational Conference.
Isei and Vasiti Colati at the 2017 Orlando FL GCI Denominational Conference.

It is with great sadness we report the sudden death Saturday, August 7, of Fiji’s senior pastor, Isei Colati, from complications associated with Covid-19.  Known widely for his caring and friendly way, Isei and his wife Vasiti served primarily the Suva congregation but travelled extensively and regularly also to visit and encourage the smaller congregations and members scattered across Fiji.

Because of the pandemic lockdown in Fiji, Isei’s funeral service, led by Suva elder Jope Uqeuqe on Wednesday, August 11, was restricted to just five but was live streamed widely on Facebook and was watched also in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.  Eulogies for the family were read by Isei’s grandsons, Jiuta Jr. and Jese Wainibuli, and for the church by long-time member Frank Boyd.  The service, despite its restrictions, was a dignified and fitting tribute to Isei’s 40 years of service in the church, the last 15 years as Fiji’s pastoral leader.

Isei’s loving way and care to detail, his rich base voice and booming, cheerful “Bula!” are sorely missed.

Dennis Richards
GCI Regional Director New Zealand & South Pacific

Cards and condolences may be sent to his wife:

Mrs Vasiti Colati
GPO Box 16697






Continued Prayers for Joffre Butler

Joffre is now out of the rehabilitation facility and receiving nurse and therapist support at home. He’s trying to build back muscle strength and continue the healing process. Your prayers and cards have been much appreciated, and we ask for continued prayer for motivation, pain control, and strength for all of us.

Rick Shallenberger
Regional Director US, North Central



New Life in Christ Backpack Outreach

New Life in Christ, the GCI congregation in Queens, New York City, joined with hundreds of volunteers in our Richmond Hill neighborhood in delivering thousands of backpacks to families in need.  The River Fund, a neighborhood non-profit focused on combatting poverty and its effects on families, organized the event, and New Life was a sponsor.  Our team, led by Florence Emerole, one of our Love Avenue Champions, joined in preparing backpacks for distribution to families in need as identified by the River Fund.  As a result of our relationship with the organization, we were allowed to add a message of the hope of Jesus along with our congregational brochure to hundreds of backpacks, adding a real presence of Christ to the event while meeting physical needs.  We prayed over many backpacks that our messages would reach the hearts intended by the Holy Spirit.

The mission of The River Fund is “to feed and empower those we serve to move beyond the lines of poverty.”  Their slogan is “Taking Poverty Personally.”  This matches a stated objective of our congregation’s outreach to make a difference in the community in Christ, especially in light of the pandemic, and we have partnered with this organization on a number of projects in the last few years.

New Life will have its own Back to School event on the weekend of September 11-12, utilizing sound principles of inviting and effective follow-up engagement.

John Newsom
Pastor, Queens, New York