GCI Update

The Good, Long Day in Nairobi

Greg and Susan Williams, planting the palm tree

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

In the previous Update, I raved about the conferences held in South Africa and Zambia, and they were highlight events. But that was only part of our African journey. Susan and I also went to the eastern region with Superintendent Kalengule Kaoma (KK) to spend a good, long day in Nairobi, Kenya.

We arrived late on Monday afternoon, giving us time for a relaxed evening of rest. We were going to need to be well-rested to meet the rigors of Tuesday’s schedule.

Our day started with getting a Covid test so that we could board our flight scheduled for that night at 10:45 p.m. Thankfully the young man administering the test allowed us to do the mouth swab (I experienced the Q-tip in the nostril several times, and I am not a fan).

The Gachanja Family. Left to right: Anthony, Jane, Lucy, Philip, Beth, Peter

Once tested, Regional Director, Anthony Gachanja came to pick us up at the hotel. Riding across Nairobi gave us a feel for their culture. I made three observations as we travelled the busy streets. My first impression was how closely the cars and trucks tailgate one another—getting cut off by another vehicle is the rule of the road. Even with what felt like aggressive driving to me, there were no car accidents along the way. The second observation in traffic was how many passengers can ride on a motorcycle. It was common to see three people on a motorbike and occasionally there would be four. Amazing! My third observation was the abundance of Bible scriptures or Christian slogans on van and bus windows. A good reminder that the gospel gets displayed even in traffic.

Anthony’s first stop for our group was his home. His wife Jane and their four lovely children greeted us. They were so pleased to welcome us into their home. We shared stories around the table as we ate fresh fruit and thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of the Gachanjas.

Anthony and Jane then took us to the Nairobi church building, where their pastoral team and key leaders were dressed in their Sunday best to greet the GCI President and his wife. I am deeply humbled by the reception I get from our members, and it continues to amaze me how many want to get their picture taken with Susan and me. I realize that it is the office in which I serve that they respect, and what a privilege it is.

KK with the trees planted in 2021

At the church building, which is a remarkably beautiful and well-thought-out facility, we were given a short history of the building and a tour. They are just now completing a space with one room that will serve as a teen meeting room and a second room that will be the pastor’s office. It was wonderful to have a prayer circle with the pastor and pastoral team and pray a prayer of dedication over that space. From there we went outside, where Susan and I were to plant a tree to honor the occasion (in December 2021, KK and the four Regional Directors of Africa met at this location, and each planted a tree to represent GCI Africa and its leaders). Susan and I planted a nice-sized “Royal Palm” tree that we hope grows to be a healthy plant, just as GC Nairobi grows to be a heathy church. I love the symbolism.

If this had not already been an eventful day, we went from the church to a hotel conference room where we met with church leaders from across the eastern region. The countries of Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Kenya were represented, and the lead pastor from the Kakuma Refugee Camp was able to join us. I had the opportunity to give a presentation explaining GCI’s vision, starting with Jesus as the center, who we are in him, and how our ministry models and strategies are reflective of who he is. KK gave out copies of A Giant Step Forward (the book I wrote with Rick Shallenberger and Tom Nebel), along with the GCI Toolkit so that these leaders can continue to learn about GCI’s overall movement and its ministry concepts. We are coming to better realize that it is Jesus’ ministry, and we are privileged to join him and participate with him. As KK often says – “Hallelujah!”

The various leaders came bearing gifts, and Susan and I were lavished with many wonderful tokens of their love and gratitude. Several of these items will go into our Presidential display case in the Home Office where we can cherish the wonderful memories while honoring the faithfulness of our beloved members in east Africa.

We ended this good long day at the “Carnivore Restaurant.” It was a meat-lovers festival, giving us a taste of some of the exotic meats that Kenya offers. Ostrich and crocodile topped the list. The servers continued to come around with their variety of meats on long skewers until the group finally surrendered by laying down a service flag at the head of the table. As desserts were being served, Susan and I were whisked off to the airport for a late-night flight.

I don’t ever recall having such an eventful day with so many highlights packed in, and it was my good pleasure to assure Anthony and the eastern region that we will return for a full-length conference in 2023—God willing!

Still rejoicing in the good, long day,
Greg Williams

PS
We acknowledge the deep pain the violent attack in Buffalo, NY has caused our Black community. We lament with them and join with the entire Body of Christ in rejecting white supremacy. We embrace this statement from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE):

We reject white supremacy, call for justice for victims and their families, and exhort churches to combat attitudes and systems that perpetuate racism. We also lament the violent attacks this past week in California, Dallas, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Every person is created in the image of God and has inestimable worth (Genesis 1:27). (Read full statement here.)

Chakeyra Taylor Graduates

Chakeyra’s proud parents, Charles and Keysha Taylor, are the pastor and Hope Avenue Champion at GC Miramar, Florida, U.S.

Let us share in the joy of Chakeyra Taylor’s accomplishment! On Sunday, May 1, 2022, she received a Bachelor of Public Health from Florida International University in Miami, Florida.

This is Chakeyra’s second degree. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts in 2017. She is on track to enter medical school in the near future.

Chakeyra, you bear the image of our triune God in the way you desire to serve others and usher in light where there is darkness. Congratulations!

The LiLY Conference

Grace Communion Cleveland (Cleveland, Ohio) hosted their 18th Annual LiLY (Living Life for You) Women’s Conference on April 22-24, 2022, at Embassy Suites in Beachwood, Ohio.  Eighty-one women registered to participate in our conference, “Faith in Action,” highlighting the theme scripture:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28).  

The weekend began with a praise and worship session Friday evening. Saturday, our first speaker Dr. Kim Carter, led “Igniting Your Faith.” We were reminded to look for the “And” in scripture and remember we are enough.  We walked away with the words “Read, Heed, Study, Work” to put our faith in action.

Left to Right: Pastor Carrie Osborne, Dr. Kim Carter, Pam Smith

Pastor Carrie Osborne (Voice of Hope Church of God—Grace Communion Chillicothe, Ohio) presided over session two, “Your Heart God’s Home.” She shared how we know we do not have to be perfect, but we can still struggle with perfectionism. Another highlight was learning how creating boundaries allows us to love others and ourselves simultaneously.

Dr. Carter returned in the afternoon with “Executing Your Faith in Action Plan,” where we learned the need to be in the correct posture to move forward in faith, not lose precious time, and how God is really in charge of us. We learned not just to tell God about our problems but instead to take the time to inform our problems about our God.

Ashley Gray, praising with worship flags

Pastor Tamar Gray (Grace Communion Cleveland, Ohio) was the MC for the weekend and led the last session-church service on Sunday. The sermon was titled “Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt.” Before leaving, we were reminded to drop our doubts and put our faith in Jesus.

We are looking forward to April 2023. Stay tuned!

LiLY Teens

By Rosa Hulse
Women’s Ministry Leader

 

Meet Josh Holsenbeck

“The message I hope to send is that God gave you talents, so find them, develop them, and use them for his glory!”—Josh Holsenbeck

Check out this month’s GCI Profile to get to know Josh Holsenbeck, member of Grace Communion Richardson, Texas, U.S. To read his full profile, click the image below. #WeAreGCI

New Building—GC River Road, OR, US

We are Grace Communion River Road, formerly Grace Communion Eugene and before that, Living Grace Fellowship. We have gone through many names, but our heart has always remained the same. We have been a people that have endured many moves in our long history—including grange halls, schools, movie theaters, and square dance palaces!

More than twenty years ago, we were fortunate to land in a Methodist church that offered us a chance to heal and realize our purpose both within the congregation and without, but we knew it wasn’t a permanent home. We started our search for a permanent location, and we ended up just jumping from that church to another one that felt even less like the place we wanted to be. But at least we were able to make the change to Sunday at that location.

We finally hired a realtor to help with the search, but she didn’t understand our needs, like parking, appropriate rooms, and accessibility for those who are disabled. We became discouraged and finally gave up the search. There just wasn’t anything out there.

It is very interesting when you give up control of a situation, because it is then that God is ready to step in and take control. He was waiting for us to see what he had in store for us in his time.

Later, my son told us of a church that was for sale in our small community, and we thought it would work for us. But eventually, we realized we would not be able to afford to purchase it. Oddly enough, a member approached me and asked if we would be interested in leasing the church if she and her husband purchased the property. Of course, I said yes! They purchased the property, and we moved in. (Then COVID happened, but even that was a blessing because it allowed us to do some remodeling before we moved in.)

Over the months, it became apparent that some of the plans the owners had for developing the property were not feasible, creating an opportunity for GCI to help them transition from ownership and bless Grace Communion River Road with a permanent home. It seemed that the Holy Spirit was moving puzzle pieces around to make this a blessing for all. The Home Office stepped in, with board approval, and purchased the building for the Eugene Congregation with available funds from our region. Our congregation was told over 70 years ago that one day they would have a building of their own, and now they finally did!

We have a concentration of members in Junction City and the bulk of our members live just to the south, in the north end of Eugene. Therefore, it has been on our radar for quite some time to pursue Junction City as a potential focus neighborhood. So, you can imagine how thrilled we are to have found a church location in our focus neighborhood!

As a new church to the neighborhood, we are trying to be a “learner first” and not coming in with any preconceived ideas of what we think we should be doing. We have a pretty good understanding of our area because we’ve been mapping our neighborhood. We know the urban vibe is starting to grow because younger people are moving in, and it’s a neighborhood full of families. Now, we just need to find where we can be the best fit.

Original church with bell tower

Our challenges going forward are shared with the rest of the world—Covid. Once we have it behind us, we can make the push we’re wanting to make to engage our neighborhood more fully. And you know what? COVID has, in some respect, been a blessing because it’s allowed us to get moved into a new building and make the renovations that we needed. Our little country church is not extravagant; it puts on no airs. It is surrounded by Filbert Orchards and a Country Club. There are many projects in the works from roofing, laying asphalt in the parking lot, landscaping, and tree removal. Also, we are considering adding a “bell tower” to make it resemble the original church that stood on this property for more than eighty years.

Covid has also forced us to have the digital presence that we’ve always wanted. So, without the pressure of having to hurry all these projects along and risk them turning out poorly, we were able to do properly what was needed.

Church outdoors during Covid restrictions

Since moving in, we’ve already come to know many families in the neighborhood. Now we’re looking forward to opening our doors and welcoming the families with an Open House in July. And then hopefully, we will be mutually welcomed by our neighbors.

So, for those thinking “It’s never going to happen. We are never going to find a permanent home,” I was the last person to believe our story could happen. But it did happen—in just the right time, in just the right place, and most importantly, in God’s timing and not ours.

Note: Listen to Linda and others talk about the process of “mapping” their neighborhoods from a posture of being a “learner” on this episode of GC Podcast.  

By Linda Sitterley
Pastor, GC River Road, OR

 

Death of Steven Broadnax

It is with sadness we announce the death of Steven Lewis Broadnax of Cincinnati, Ohio. Steven died on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at the age of 67, surrounded by loved ones. He will be greatly missed.

He is the brother of Jeff Broadnax, Regional Director of the Eastern U.S. Jeff shared the following reflection:

My big brother was one of my heroes growing up.   We were eleven years apart so everything he did was super cool to me.   As we grew into adulthood, I continued to admire him as a man, husband, father, brother and child of God.   His smile was infectious and a true love (that could only come from God) was always felt by those he came into contact with.

Cards may be sent to:
Jeff and Karen Broadnax
1211 Deer Path Court
Grove City, OH 43123-8750

Devotional—Ascension

Acts 1:8-11 NIV

8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After [Jesus] said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

For forty days after his resurrection, Jesus had been with his disciples. When it came time for Jesus to go to his Father and no longer be physically present with his disciples, he ascended bodily in a cloud into heaven as they watched.

So, why didn’t Jesus just disappear? He had appeared to them behind locked doors and then disappeared from their sight before. And, why the cloud?

In both the Old and New Testaments, a cloud is the symbol for God’s presence and God’s glory. In Isaiah 19:1 we are told that God rides on a cloud—it’s his “vehicle.” It is biblical imagery that helps our human minds picture and grasp things that are—on their own—beyond human comprehension.

The cloud imagery in Acts 1 tells us that Jesus is God. It also tells us that he is the Son of Man (the special heavenly human of Daniel 7:13). Acts 1 tells us that Jesus, who is bodily resurrected, bodily ascends to heaven thus opening a place in a side of the created world that otherwise would be bodily inaccessible to humans, a place in the life of God for humanity.

The apostles were eyewitnesses to this bodily ascension of Jesus. He was no longer in their physical presence but, through the Spirit, he would still be present with them. As Jesus assumed his kingship and high priestly role in heaven, his prophetic role would continue through the Spirit in the lives of his disciples, the Church. They were to go into all the world, preach the gospel, seek and save the lost, make disciples and in so doing participate in the ongoing ministry of Jesus on the earth.

At God’s appointed time, Jesus will return bodily in the same manner in which he left. He will come again in a cloud and every eye will see him. But, until that day, his ministry continues on the earth through the Spirit in the work of the Church. There is much left to do.

Therefore, we should not stand around gazing up to heaven wondering “how can I figure out when Jesus is coming again?” We have work to do. Just as the apostles did, we continue to participate in the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ.

Be assured, Jesus will come again, and he will park his cloud on the Mount of Olives and all creation will rejoice. Until that day, let each of us actively continue to participate in the ongoing ministry of Jesus. Let us seek and save the lost and make disciples by living and sharing the gospel.

Prayer: Father, thank you for sending Jesus. We very much look forward to the day when you will send him to us again. Jesus, thank you for coming and for sending us the Spirit. Spirit, thank you for coming and making Jesus present to us. Bless us as we continue to be about the Father’s business and participate actively in the ongoing ministry and mission of Jesus until he comes again. In Christ’s name, Amen.

By Dan Rogers
Pastor, GC Las Vegas, Nevada and Regional Support Team – West, U.S.