GCI Update

Pray Better

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

As I write this update, I am travelling to Fargo, North Dakota (Susan’s home state). From there, Superintendent Mike Rasmussen and I will head north and join the National Director of Canada, Bill Hall, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for a three-day conference with pastors and ministry leaders with the theme, “Welcome Home.” We anticipate a wonderful time of regathering after the Covid pandemic and a time of learning and inspiration. (I’ll write about this in our next issue.)

When I prepare to make such trips, I solicit prayer support from the extended Home Office family. Safe and uninterrupted travel is part of the request (especially with all the travel-related horror stories circulating in the news). In a book on Christian leadership I recently read, the author challenged us to think about better prayers, rather than just more or longer prayers. I surmised this to mean more thoughtful and more specific prayers. It caused me think about the words of James when he said, “You have not because you ask not.”

I have come to take a fresh look at prayer. Beyond my personal safety and comfort, plus a general covering of blessing on the meetings, what if I prayed about conferences and celebrations with more intent? Would you join me?

Lord, be with the presenters in their time of preparation. Give them the thoughts and words that the attendees need to hear. Bless them with creativity and passion so that the presentations of the gospel are exciting and move the listeners to action. Jesus, be in the hearts and minds of all who gather that there is a palpable sense of receptivity. Jesus, meet us in the informal gatherings – the shared meals, chats in the hallway, late night discussions, and even the difficult conversations that need to take place. Bring us together in a spirit of unity and harmony. May we deeply appreciate the opportunity simply to come together after this long season of being unable to gather. We join the Psalmist in saying, “How good and pleasant for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). Most importantly, we come together to raise up your name, Jesus, and proclaim you as Lord of our lives and Lord of your church. Jesus, we worship you and declare that we are here to seek your will and humbly ask that you empower us to be the church you would have us be. In your strong name, we anticipate your positive response to our requests. Amen!

May we also be in prayer for our weekly services and our neighborhood engagement. God is present in and cares about our Hope and Love Avenues. We’re soaking up Jesus’ presence when we pray, and his presence transforms us.

After the Canadian conference, Susan will join me, and we will jet off to Australia and Fiji. In late September, I am in the Philippines for a week, and I will then end my 2022 travel outside the U.S. in October with a trip to France. All of these are important gatherings that deserve to be covered in prayer. And just as we pray about the preparation and execution of these gatherings of God’s people, let’s remember to pray about the longer-term lasting impact that they have as pastors, leaders, and members return to the local expression of the church. Lord, continue to guide, bless, and empower our journey toward Healthier Church!

Going Forward on Our Knees,
Greg Williams

Devotional—Hospitality & Sharing Meals

Editor’s Note: Our overarching theme for devotions during the five months of the liturgical calendar called Ordinary Time is Jesus is sending his church. Using Michael Frost’s B.E.L.L.S. acronym as a framework, the topics will relate to missional living.

    • As “sent” people, we are invited to…
  • bless others generously, in word and deed (July),
  • eat with others hospitably (August),
  • listen to the Spirit while engaging with others (September),
  • learn Jesus’ teachings as a disciple (October),
  • and, sent people share the good news with others (November)

We are ruled by the love of Christ, now that we recognize that one man died for everyone, which means that all share in his death. He died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but only for him who died and was raised to life for their sake. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 GNT

How great it is to be welcomed in a home where the love of Christ is obvious. You can see it but also smell it in the food prepared by the host and the warm simplicity that makes us feel at home. I have deep memories of the joy, the comfort, and the love I experienced around tables. They were real divine appointments.

In some of our French translations, this passage says, “We are pushed, squeezed by the love of God.” The Message says, “Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.” Hospitality is one of the products or fruits of this love. It helps strengthen bonds between brothers and sisters but also with the spiritually homeless around us. During Jesus’ ministry, many major events took place during meals, and miracles were performed. He showed us a wonderful way to relate with others and touch hearts.

The COVID-19 pandemic made us more suspicious about having people in our homes. Fear took root and affected our relationships.

Yet hospitality can still be shared in different ways in today’s context: at home with the required precautions or at outdoor gatherings and in our workplaces. For those who have mobility limitations, we can visit them in their homes. Hospitality can also be sharing pizza on a park bench or a drink after sport activities. Food brings people together. Let’s be intentional and innovative!

Meal-sharing blesses guests and hosts and is an ideal setting to share the bread of life in us. Just listen to the divine appointments Jesus has already taken for us, and we will be able to live for him and not for ourselves. Bon Appétit!

 Jesus, as a sent church, we desperately need to experience and share YOU with our fellow neighbors. Holy Spirit, please squeeze our hearts by God’s love and open our eyes to see the tables you have already set for all of us! Amen.

By Betty Brunet
Women’s ministry coordinator and Faith Avenue assistant, Martinique

From Equipper—Place-Sharing

OTW—Eugene, OR, US

Assistant Pastor Tammy Tkach with her mother, May Hall, & Heber Ticas (right)

Grace Communion River Road, just outside Eugene, Oregon, recently held a successful Outside The Walls (OTW) event. We invited neighbors to join us for fun carnival games, free food, and even summer snowball fights.

Joe Tkach, Jr.

Our Love Avenue team wanted an event as welcoming as it was repeatable. “Christmas in July” seemed simple to explain and an instant tradition to draw people year after year. Throughout the training the acronym OTW became widespread. Looking Outside The Walls to serve our neighbors is important. Even so, I immediately saw OTW as ‘On The Way’ and for me, the event took on new meaning. The great commission is translated with the command, “Go”, but the Greek reads, “as you go.” In other words, ‘On The Way’ to whatever you do, make disciples.

Regional Director Tim Sitterley as Santa

I feared that a failed OTW would discourage our congregation from ever reaching out again. We have to remember that events are opportunities, not obligations. When we have fun engaging with guests, they are bound to want to join us on the way.

We made ourselves known in the community and started some good relationships with the neighbors who stopped by, but we learned we could have had better advertising and signage. Also, reducing the event from five to three hours could prevent wearing out our volunteers in the future. I look forward to seeing more neighbors at our monthly family nights, and we already have volunteers eager for our Halloween event.

Snowball games

You don’t have to spend a fortune or overwork the members of your congregation to attract people to join you in the body of Christ. Your congregation just needs to be welcoming and treat every guest as a new friend. I know that I picked up some friends on the way and am excited to see what God has in store for the future.

By Aleck Thompson
Associate Pastor & Love Avenue Champion

Phil Doele Commissioned—Snellville, GA, US

On July 31, in the Atlanta area, I had the privilege to commission Phil Doele as the pastor of GCI Snellville. It was a blessing to have Elizabeth with me as we celebrated Jesus Christ and his unflinching love with the congregation. The day before, we enjoyed the retirement party for their former pastor, David Beckner, and his wife, Gayle.

Installing a new GCI Pastor is a wonderful experience. Within the congregation is a renewed hope through a refined vision in the Holy Spirit, an anticipation for the future, and gratitude for the triune God’s provision. Join me in praying for Pastor Phil and Esther during this time of transition.

Left to right: Phil, Eula, Christianna, Esther

Allow me to share a little about Phil and his family and vocational context. He’s married to Esther Carlisle Doele. Many of you will know Esther and the Carlisle family from Alabama. Esther’s sister, Jacquelyn Carlisle, is an elder and facilitator of our fellowship group in Montgomery. Please excuse their love for Alabama football! Their older daughter, Christianna, is a student at Georgetown University in the Washington, D.C. area and has served on our regional GC Next team and as a cohost for GC Podcast. Their younger daughter, Eula, will soon begin her freshman year at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Eula is following in her father’s footsteps by attending Yale. I can’t say enough about Christiana and Eula! They are exceptional young women and emerging leaders in our denomination.

Phil will not only serve as the pastor of GCI Snellville but will continue his full-time employment as an architect. Phil, we are grateful for your humble servant-heart and your deep love for God and your neighbors. Thank you for saying “yes” to God’s “yes!”

By Anthony Mullins
Regional Director, Southeast


Volunteers Needed

Prayer for Patsy Ross

The following is a prayer request for Patsy Ross, wife of John Ross, the pastor of Greenwood, Mississippi, U.S.

Patsy suffers from serious digestion complications that make it difficult to eat enough and get the necessary nutrients. The lack of nutrition has caused her heart to beat too fast. The good news is that a heart specialist recently determined that Patsy’s heart is healthy, and she is trying a new medication to slow her heart rate. Patsy will see a pain specialist and a gastric specialist to hopefully resolve some of her symptoms.

Due to nausea and lack of appetite, Patsy has lost more than 50 pounds this year and is very weak. She needs assistance moving around, and John is her primary caregiver. Please pray for provision, healing, and peace.

Cards may be sent to:

Patsy and John Ross
1204 Glendale Cir
Greenwood, MS 38930-7203

Death of Claudine Woodie

Claudine Lorraine Woodie, age 97, of Greenwood Village, Colorado passed away on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. Claudine was born December 10, 1924, and she was an employee of GCI in Business & Human Resources and Mail Processing from 1951 through 1995. Her brother-in-law, David Hunsberger, submitted the following to be shared with our Update readers.

Claudine was a long-serving employee, known by many who would have enjoyed her exceptional hospitality and generosity in both Bricket Wood and Pasadena. Claudine hosted many dinners in her home. After retirement and moving to the Denver, Colorado area, she continued serving members and youth with enthusiasm.

Widowed in 2001, Claudine lived her final years with Shirley and David Hunsberger and niece Teresa Hannaway, and her children—a real “full house!” As she took her last breath here at home, she was surrounded by sister Shirley, brother-in-law David Hunsberger, nephews Glen Hunsberger, Gavin Hannaway, and Justan Presley, and nieces Annette Presley and Teresa Hannaway. With a peaceful look, Claudine departed for her spot in glory, to wait for and welcome the rest of us.