GCI Update

Homecoming for Canada

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Greg Williams with two young conference attendees.

In early August, I was able to join Board Chair Dr. Randy Bloom and North America and Caribbean Superintendent Michael Rasmussen in a gathering with Canada National Director Bill Hall, and 120 conference attendees in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Due to COVID, this was the first gathering like this in four years. Hence, Bill titled the conference “Welcome Home.”

The family reunion element was a big part of the celebration, and we were grateful to the hotel property to honor their rates from the original contract signed three years ago. We give thanks to our triune God.

Bill invited Christian music recording artist, Steve Bell, to share his music and his thoughts about the trinity and worship. Steve inspired the audience with his meaningful songs and stories, and he fit perfectly into helping us have deeper thoughts about worship through the Hope Avenue. I was especially pleased for how Steve immersed himself within the group, and how he reinforced our values for the Revised Common Lectionary and the annual worship calendar.

Early in the conference, I shared the “big rocks,” or priorities of how our ministry is structured. Long before we move into the how and implementation, there is need for us to be crystal clear on the questions of who? Who we are? And the why? Hopefully, you have some answers in mind, but allow me to fill in these answers. The “who” is the triune God revealed to us in the person of Jesus. “Who we are?” includes believers and followers of Jesus, and as such we are fellow members of his church. I reminded the attendees that “We are Church People.” It was music to my ears to hear them echo those words back to me. “Why?” is the mission of the church, expressed in our motto, “Living and Sharing the Gospel.”

Mike Rasmussen picked up the training from this point and gave a wonderful thousand-foot view of the Faith, Hope, and Love Avenues, with a deeper dive on the Hope Avenue. Mike shared stories out of his past decades of pastoral ministry, and most recently what he has been learning as he participates in the church and Ministry Training Center in Surrey Hills, Oklahoma. It was amazing to observe the interaction of the pastors and ministry leaders as Mike fielded questions and comments. There was a spark of life, creativity, and hope in this mix of church people. Praise be to God!

Randy Bloom met with the Canadian Board of Directors. The board members are those “hidden figures” that offer their time, experience, and wisdom in support of the national director as he attends to the business and mission of the church. A major decision made in this meeting was to elect Gillian Houghton as the Board Chairperson for the coming year. Please keep her and the work of our Canadian church in your prayers.

On Sunday our conference group was joined by another 200+ attendees through a video link. I was humbled and privileged to be able to address just about half of our dear church members across Canada. I shared with them a message out of 1 Corinthians 3 about “Jesus Our True Foundation.” Any enduring work that we will do in this life will only happen when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, when we participate by building with him, when we build on him and when the work is inspired and saturated by his love.

We join Jesus and our brothers and sisters in Canada as we go forward into the life of GCI. May God continue to bless our participation with him and his work in GCI Canada.

Greg Williams

Canadian Welcome Home Conference

When I asked one attendee of the Welcome Home Conference how she would describe the conference in one word, she replied, “Hope.” I could not agree more. Certainly, this conference came at a time when the message of hope is sorely needed in our country, both within and outside of GCI. We are still dealing with the aftereffects of the pandemic. All our churches and fellowship groups faced being online for several months and many have just started to have in-person services. As a country, we have faced divisions over the handling of the pandemic as well as the stress of dealing with our colonial past and our interactions with the original inhabitants of this land. Finally, as a denomination we are facing the reality of having an aging ministry and members. So, the presentations regarding the Hope Avenue resonated with many of us.

It also fit with the theme of “Welcome Home.” We all have a place in relationship with our triune God, and he is in the process of welcoming all peoples to their true home. As our guest performer and lecturer, Canadian Christian artist Steve Bell said during his For the Journey presentation, “We are all in communion with God by his grace” (a play on our denominational name).

Elder Nova Mustifari (left) and John Kabiona of Ottawa GCI honour retiring Pastor Bill Rabey for his 12 years of serving in the refugee ministry.

The presence of many new Canadians from Africa and Latin America gave us all a sense of what the future leadership of GCI in Canada will look like. Canada and GCI have become a new home for immigrants from many countries, and they are excited to be part of this fellowship and are inviting others to participate in this relationship with our triune God.

As Michael Rasmussen kept mentioning during his presentations on the Hope Avenue, “God is calling all people to be a part of the church…they just don’t all know it yet.”

By Bill Hall
National Director, Canada

 

 

Who Loves Pastors? We Do!

The month of October is Pastor Appreciation month. In addition to the way you plan to demonstrate your appreciation locally, help us honor our GCI pastors in Update. Use the form below to tell us why your pastor or pastoral team is wonderful. How have you been encouraged or invested in personally?

Next month, we’ll share your stories celebrating our pastors. Click the link below to fill out the form. Thank you!

Avenue Champions Retreat—Big Sandy, Texas, US

GC Big Sandy’s core team (Pastor Jerome and Helen Ellard, Rick and Lois Peterson, and George and Sarah Strub) gathered for a retreat at the rustic and comfortable “Whispering Pines” cabin in nearby Holly Lake Ranch, Texas, in July. The three members of the core team are our Avenue Champions: Rick – Love, George – Hope, and Sarah – Faith.

We are very busy people in our congregation and in our lives. As pastor, I desired for us all to get away to rest and get to know each other in a relaxed, natural setting. We shared making delicious meals, sitting outside and watching the deer walk through the yard, and resting in the love of God together.

We got to experience a Strub family tradition during one dinner by having dessert first! Food, games, laughter, and good conversation was the order of each day. One of many highlights was when each couple successfully circumnavigated Holly Lake on paddleboats. As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God is all about relationship, and this retreat helped us grow closer to him and to one another. I heartily recommend that all church leadership teams spend some rewarding, relaxing time together like this! You and your church will be blessed.

By Jerome Ellard
Pastor, Big Sandy, Texas

Love Avenue Engagement Events—Cleveland, Ohio, US

Grace Communion Cleveland held its second Love Avenue engagement event on Sunday, August 14. An advertisement in a Cleveland newspaper invited families to pick up school supplies for the upcoming school year and have a picnic lunch of hot dogs, chips, and drinks. In case of rain, it was decided to hold the event in the large interior common area of our meeting space.

Forty-four happy kids, accompanied by their parents, left with bags of supplies to start off the school year. Three $50 gasoline cards were raffled off to any adult who entered their name in the drawing. A member talked with some of the attendees who inserted their written prayer requests into the prayer wall inspired by the west wall in Jerusalem. The prayer requests were presented to God after the event and kept confidential. Most of the congregation was able to be there, filling the room with friendly smiling faces as they handed out supplies and served food to the guests. Set-up and clean-up went quickly with many hands to help with the tasks.

The following Saturday, we engaged with the community at the annual sidewalk chalk art festival sponsored by the organizing tenant of our building, Coventry Peace Campus. We were invited to participate alongside the professional artists with a designated 4’x6’ space. Five members of our congregation volunteered and attended a training session before the event so we could make our art stand out.

One of our members also came up with our design beforehand, based on our mission, “Growing in Faith, Living in Hope, and Serving in Love.” Many other smaller squares and rectangles were painted on the ground for members of the community to come and participate. Our five artists took turns on various parts of the design, which also gave us plenty of time to wander about and interact with the other members of the community.

By Pat Shiels
Love Avenue Champion, Cleveland, Ohio

Tree Planting Engagement—Melbourne, Australia

The GCI congregation in Mooroolbark, Melbourne, Australia (the Mooroolbark Christian Fellowship) was finally able to host its annual neighbourhood tree planting day after two years of cancellations due to COVID-affected lockdowns.  On a cool and blustery winter’s day in July, the 17th annual Tree Planting Day was held. With trowels and mattocks in hand, about 70 rugged-up-and-rugged tree planters got on their knees in the dirt to dig holes, plant seedlings and saplings, and gently protect almost 1000 trees in a reserve not too far from where the congregation had met for worship just an hour before. Twenty-five people from the GCI congregation were joined by another 40 or 50 people from the local neighbourhood.

For the  event, which is planned to coincide with Planet Ark’s National Tree Day, the GCI congregation works in partnership with the local government, which selects the location and provides seedlings and wooden stakes. The main reason for the event is for the congregation to serve the local neighbourhood and invite and engage with residents who also have the same desire to do good and have a positive impact on the local surrounds. The congregation has developed several partnerships in the local community, and it was great to see those partnerships continue to bear fruit with many of them joining us, including the local Girl Guides chapter, the local Scouts and even our local member of Parliament. The congregation also provided hot drinks with jam and scones for the volunteers who put in the hard work after a couple of hours of planting trees.

There is something relaxing about working together outdoors with soil and gardening tools. There were some wonderful conversations had, and it was delightful seeing families planting and conversing together, helping each other out across the generations. Next time we plan to show our church presence even more by wearing a t-shirt with our church logo. Or perhaps, on such a wintery day, a church logo on a beanie would be better!

By Matthew Gudze
Pastor, Melbourne, Australia

Devotional—Listening to the Spirit of Truth

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)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13 (NIV)

Our Lord Jesus Christ, when he ascended to the Father, gave us this magnificent, lovely parting gift– the gift of the Holy Spirit. The verse above instructs us on one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit – to guide us into all truth. Whatever we hear from the Spirit guides us and lets us know what is yet to come. As children of the Most High, we know the mind of God through the Holy Spirit’s leading. In missions, we are out and about walking in his truth, letting the world know about his kingdom. The best companion to have, trust, and listen to is the Holy Spirit. He knows the mind of the Father, and he is the one directing us as we speak about God’s kingdom. Not listening to him would be like telling your parents that you are of age and do not need their guidance anymore.

Missional practices, journeys, or events are our way of telling God that we are privileged to be telling the world about who he is and obeying his commandments. We are grateful to be carrying his presence. It will be very unwise of us to say that we will not listen to the one who is to teach us how to speak, walk, who to talk to, what to say, how to say it, when to say it, to whom to say it, and where to say it. The missional field is a dynamic field, and we need to listen to the Spirit, not only because he is God and knows the mind of Christ, but he also knows the minds of those we are being sent to. It is the Spirit’s ministry to convict the individual being spoken to. It should be a deliberate action. He should be our best friend, helping us navigate through life in our personal and missional lives.

Prayer:
Our Father, the great God of heavens and earth, we pray, oh Lord, that we will trust you enough to let you lead as we share your word with others through our lives, actions, and words. May we have a listening ear and be sensitive to your promptings as you direct us in this world to let the world know about you. May we be like the sheep who know your voice and follow where you lead. May we never go astray from you because you are the way-maker and the road map to our lives. In Jesus’ name, amen.

By Brenda Asare-Akoto
National Youth Pastor, Ghana

 

Meet Jen Gregory

“Not everyone receives love expressed to them in the same way. Our congregations and individual members work hard to learn how to best express that love to their neighbors in a way that is most meaningful to them. Some people might need help with food, others with clothing, while still others might need childcare. Some people simply need an ear to listen to them.”—Jen Gregory

Check out this month’s GCI profile to get to know Jen Gregory, Elder and GCI Board Member.

To read her full profile, click the link below. #WeAreGCI