GCI Update

Empowering and Encouraging

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

So that they may become part of our GCI leadership DNA, in 2023 we will continue to focus on the 4 Es of leadership development and ministry actions – Engage, Equip, Empower and Encourage. This letter will be focused on Empowering and Encouraging.

To empower simply means to give power or authority. I’m reminded of Matthew 28:18 where Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Just as Jesus is fully enabled to act, he wraps us into his mission. We, too, are permitted to go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching all things about Jesus. There is confidence in going when we know we are backed by Jesus, and when we realize that as we go, he is always present with us. That’s empowerment with real power.

In the February 22 Update, I wrote about the practical ways Jesus included the original disciples in the feeding of the 5,000. This was a wonderful example of how he equipped and prepared them for what was to come in the commissioning of Matthew 28, when he sent them out into the world to make more disciples and to establish the community of the church. Both accounts display doing ministry with Jesus – one was directed by the earthly Jesus, the second from the heavenly Jesus by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

We then see that empowerment comes after an appropriate training period. Empowerment includes an endorsement, a sending, and a backing. (For further study, explore the times when Paul sent his son in the faith, Timothy, as his representative.)

True-life stories help to better paint the picture. See the story below of an important lesson learned by Rick Shallenberger as he took advice from his mentor on adapting his approach with an intern.

Read More


P.S. Are you looking for a fun way to empower your members aged 8-17? Encourage their involvement in the Healthy Church Challenge! Videos selected in the first round will be shown at the Denominational Celebration. Final winners will receive a prize. Here’s more information.

Devotional—All Things for Good

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

As we start our day, it doesn’t take long for something to not go well. It might be a missed alarm, spilled coffee, an angry interaction, or any number of daily occurrences which we’d say are “not good.” How then can we believe God works all things for good? There’s no way, right? Wrong, there is no human way, but God has made a way through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Romans 8 helps us remember this way of Jesus: full of forgiveness, grace, mercy, love, and relationship. Paul reminds us not to have a mindset of flesh, which is death, but one of the Spirit, which is life and peace (verse 6). We are not obligated to live according to the flesh (verse 12) especially because it cannot compare to what God has in store. Paul is adamant about shifting our focus and perspective away from ourselves and upwards to God, our relationship with him, and his coming glory we’ve yet to experience (verse 18).

This is how we know “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (verse 28). This doesn’t mean all things we experience are good, for we live in a broken, fallen world. It does mean God is with us in our sorrow, confusion, suffering; bringing his goodness into every heartache we experience, no matter what.

Precious Lord, you know our struggles and our desire to experience your good. Help us lean into you and receive life and peace amidst our struggles and daily circumstances. May your life replace our selfish comparisons. Show us, Lord, how you work ALL things for good. Amen.

By Carrie Osborne, pastor
Chillicothe, OH, US

Celebrate Dr. Alvin Simmons

Black History Month is celebrated in the US during the month of February. To honor this celebration, in GC Ladson (SC), the children spoke to the congregation about historical figures. Included was a summary of the life of Aretha Franklin and a recitation of a portion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by Black Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in US history. Join us in celebrating the achievements of one of GC Ladson’s elders, Dr. Alvin Simmons!

Dr. Simmons is a leading research entomologist at the US Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina. An entomologist is an expert in the branch of zoology concerned with insects.

Dr. Simmons is also the president of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). The ESA is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. He is the first African American president of the ESA.

We asked Alvin to tell our readers a little about his family.

My wife, Edith, and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this year. We have two wonderful daughters, Princess (age 12) and Duchess (age 8). We all enjoy travel opportunities; Princess has been to eight countries so far. Last November, Princess was, by far, the youngest speaker at the Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America.

Read more about Dr. Simmons here and here.
Congratulations on your achievements, Dr. Simmons!

Black History Month Celebration

On February 26, Grace Communion Cleveland celebrated Black History Month with a multicultural luncheon after church services. Members were encouraged to bring a dish that highlighted their family’s culture. The delicious food was an excellent opportunity to celebrate our unique differences and how we all are brought together in Christ.

We had another reason to celebrate on this day. We opened our new children’s space!

Earlier in the month, we had an evening sing-along on Saturday, February 18. A good time was had by all, with several guests in attendance. Using members of our worship band and YouTube karaoke, the music from various genres was covered for young and old alike. The song list ranged from “The Gilligan’s Island” theme song, “We Will Rock You,” to “Hallelujah Amen,” just to name a few. Singing, dancing, and laughter filled the air. It was decided the sing-along would become an annual event.

Tamar with husband, Lenny

By Tamar Gray, pastor
Cleveland, OH, US

Love You Can Taste

Grace Communion Woodbury’s Love Avenue is directed towards feeding the hungry and giving the lonely a place to connect. With long-term goals of having mission meals to contribute to this endeavor, our short-term goals are more within the grasp of our currently small membership.

Our Love Avenue team has begun creating half-size aluminum steam pans (available at warehouse club stores) to assist families struggling between “heat or eat” through the winter months. They have been experimenting with recipes in order to learn the amounts and costs for each meal. So far, there have been two large “meal-making” parties after church netting between 15-17 half-size steam pans of food. The first was a shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes on top. The second was Mexican rice and chicken fajitas; tortillas, sour cream, and salsa included.

They delivered the hot pans to unexpecting families. The families’ faces lit up when receiving the hot and ready-to-eat dinners, and they expressed their gratitude. Any pans that were unable to be delivered the same day were put in the freezer for later delivery. An unanticipated benefit of these meal preparations is that when a guest came to church and mentioned he was attending a funeral later in the day, we were able to offer a frozen dinner for him to give the grieving family.

There are no strings attached to this outreach. Recipients are not asked to join our church. They are simply receiving love and assistance in a tangible form. The foil lids have our church name on them as well as the words, “You are loved. You are valuable.” If the meals are delivered hot, recipients are verbally informed as to the meal content. If frozen, they are labeled with content and heating instructions.

This “first phase” of our Love Avenue walk has been a growing and learning experience. We are enjoying where we are now in the process and are anticipating a well-developed Love Avenue as we continue.

By Brad Reed, pastor
Woodbury, PA, US



Watch the WeAreGCI video featuring Brad and his wife, Marlene.

We Are GCI—Marlene and Brad Reed

Death of Leny Santibanez

Ma. Leny Panhilason Santibanez, the wife of district superintendent Terrence Santibanez (Western Visayas, Philippines) and mother to three daughters, Terlene, Lucellie, and Emiellie, died on January 1. Her daughter, Lucellie, serves as the administrative assistant in the Home Office.

We share in their grief and in their hope of resurrection. The following is the obituary shared with Update from her family.

Born on January 30, 1964, Leny grew up in a shanty by a river in Alijis Bacolod City, Philippines with four siblings. Many might wonder how difficult her growing years were, considering the condition of the environment, but she told many stories of how she loved every single bit of her time with nature. She often told us how she would go fishing, swimming, and do the laundry by the river.

Leny’s life was not easy nor financially abundant, but she was resourceful and creative. Countless stories have been told of how she was an entrepreneur even from a young age. She would sell oysters, mosquito larvae as fish food, or anything that they could sell to supplement their needs at home. She and her siblings would often walk to school for several kilometers because finances were scarce for them to afford public transportation. They believed in and valued education, so they persisted.

As a child, she went to the capital city of the Philippines, Manila, with her aunt. She had more entrepreneurial adventures such as selling Sampaguita flowers at parks just to be able to buy food. She was so selfless that she would extend help to those in need, even with the very little she had.

Read More


Prayer for Mozambique and Malawi

The following prayer request is from Takalani Musekwa, our Regional Director in South Africa.

Mozambique and parts of Malawi are still experiencing incessant rain and flooding. Infrastructure is being destroyed. Many areas no longer have electricity and telephone networks are also collapsing.

Please continue to pray for safety.

Donations to the GCI Disaster Relief Fund make it possible for GCI to respond quickly to disasters like this. If you or your congregation would like to donate to the fund, have your church treasurer make a one-time or recurring donation using the online donation system. (Choose “Disaster Relief” in the drop-down menu.)

If preferred, you may donate by a check made payable to Grace Communion International, noting on the memo line that the donation is for the GCI Disaster Relief Fund.

Mail the check to:
GCI Disaster Relief Fund
Grace Communion International
3120 Whitehall Park Dr.Charlotte, NC 28273

2023 Healthy Church Challenge

Join the 2023 Healthy Church Challenge and help us

Remember Our First Love 

at the Denominational Celebration.

All GCI Youth ages 8-17 are invited to participate. Videos selected in the first round will be shown at the Denominational Celebration. Final winners will receive a prize. Deadline to enter is May 1, 2023. Visit www.gci.org/challenge for more information about the challenge and how to participate.

Denominational Celebration—Register Now!

Volunteer at the Denominational Celebration

Are you considering volunteering, but you have questions?

Check out our Q&A.

Q: The conference is 3+ days. Will I be expected to serve the entire time? Every session? What’s my time commitment?
A: Each shift or session is 2.5 hours or less. We ask that you choose and serve for one shift. Of course, you can choose more than one shift.

Q: Do I have to create my own lessons / curriculum?
A: No. We will provide a lesson and activity with all supplies for your session.

Q: How many other adults will I be with?
A: Depending on the age group, you will be with at least two other volunteers during your shift.

Q: Can I request which age group I help with? If I’d rather serve with teens, can I request that?
A: Absolutely. On the sign-up, you will see that the shifts are organized by grade/age and times. You can pick any open slot.

Do you have additional questions or want to volunteer? Please send an email to home.office@gci.org 

The GCI Swag Store Is Now Open

GCI Gear is Here!

We are excited to announce that GCI clothing and accessories are now available as part of our Denominational Celebration! Represent our fellowship and reflect your personal style. Shop now, by clicking on the image below.

We chose the vendor for our on-demand store based on their high-quality and ethically sourced items, as well as their ability to ship internationally. However, please note that the shipping costs are per item. You can get detailed shipping information here.