GCI Update

Equipping the Saints

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Faith, Hope, and Love in Action has been the theme of GCI for 2023. Our superintendents and their teams of leaders have been teaching, coaching, and supervising to help our “Team Based—Pastor Led” congregations become intentionally focused and active in the ministry Avenues of Jesus.

What will it look like as these efforts take root? Allow me to paint word pictures of Healthy Church.

Love Avenue

Let’s assume that the Love Avenue champion has been identified and is in place, and that a capable team of missionally-minded people is empowered to organize and mobilize the congregation into relational activities outside the walls of the church and into the surrounding neighborhood. Are you with me?

We can also assume that under the pastor’s guidance, exegetical work has been done. First, the neighborhood’s demographics and rhythm of activities and events have been clearly researched and identified. In a parallel project, an exegesis of the people who make up the congregation is also being done. What are their backgrounds and life experiences? What strategic relationships and connections do they have? What spiritual gifting is present? What passions are expressed by the collective group?

The exegetical work of both neighborhood and congregation leads to some initial planning. What events will the church sponsor? And a very important second question, what will be the come-back event? Are there places and spaces where the congregation can join in with community events or community agencies?

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Devotional—God’s Love Is Boundless

Editor’s Note: For our Ordinary Time Devotional series, you will be hearing entirely from young authors. They will be sharing their perspectives on the theme, “God is in the streets.” Enjoy reading how the next generation of emerging GCI leaders experiences God outside the walls of the Sunday church gathering.

For [Christ Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us, abolishing the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace …  Ephesians 2:14-15

God’s love is boundless and crosses the lines that his children have created amongst themselves. Never would I have imagined myself at an In-N-Out restaurant with a 30-year-old PhD student, an upper-class blonde, blue-eyed teenager, and a 40-year-old father of two. What do these three and a 21-year-old first-generation student have in common?

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. I’ve lived in the same community my whole life, and this felt odd. PhDs are only for people who don’t need to worry about working right away to support their families. The blue-eyed kids sat at the reserved lunch tables in high school and had parents who would call the cops on my friends and me if we rode our bicycles past their homes. Older people only engaged in “adult talk,” and young people should stay out of it.

These were the “lines” I learned growing up—and I was taught to fear the consequences if I stepped over these boundaries. However, through the shared love of Jesus, these psychological heuristics (or mental shortcuts) are being reversed. By opening my heart, the Lord has strengthened my relationship with him through fellowship. This miracle goes beyond just me. Deep friendships, rooted in the love for Christ, erase cultural, generational, and socioeconomic divides. God allows us to learn from one another in our individual corners of the world—such as a college or university.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for having a love so strong it breaks down walls between communities and walls we put up around our hearts. Remind us that before any other identity, we are your children. Please open our minds and soften our hearts to accept this love and to spread it to our neighbors the way Jesus intended us to. All of this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Candrha Lopez
Pasadena, CA, US


Neighborhood Camp Ladson

The GC Ladson Summer Fun Camp was a blessing for both the kids and volunteers. Twenty-one children from the neighborhood and the church enjoyed three days of fun games and activities, including a field trip, making friendship bracelets, a cup stacking contest, and a full day of water games and a bounce house.

The theme for this year’s camp was “Making and Supporting Lasting Friendships.” During our devotional time, the kids learned about how Jesus is our best friend and how we are blessed by his friendship, and that they too can be a friend to others. During our daily praise and worship time, the children sang three songs about Jesus’ love for them and that he is their very best friend. Games and activities reinforced the theme of friendship building and the value of having good friends.

Day one opened with an ice-breaker and a game that allowed campers to learn each other’s names and some things about each person. Some of the older campers were interested in playing basketball and by the end of day Pastor Tommie Grant made that happen. On day two, the highlight was a field trip to a local arcade and bowling alley. Day three was our water fun day and parent program. Parents were fed a lasagna dinner prepared by some of the campers and Chef Bushell. Camp counselors were able to connect with the parents as they ate and enjoyed a song sung by the campers.

Everyone serving at the camp felt God’s presence and guidance during the three days. Moreover, we felt a deeper love for the children and their parents. Many parents came to our Sunday service and said they wanted to come back. We believe we made an impact on the children and their parents as we heard many of them saying how they wanted to keep in touch. And all neighborhood campers preregistered for next year’s camp!

We plan to keep in touch with these families to let them know about GC Ladson’s future events. One church member is arranging to mentor a camper from the neighborhood. Another member and her child are arranging a sleepover with a neighborhood camper. We’re also keeping in touch with the children and parents by sending text messages with notes and pictures. We feel privileged to be able to work with Jesus and share his love with this neighborhood.

Mary Robinson, Love Avenue Champion
Ladson, SC, US

Neighborhood Camp Surrey Hills

Surrey Hills is celebrating another incredible move of the Holy Spirit throughout our church and neighborhood. Camp Surrey 2023 was a huge success serving 87 campers from grades K-7th. Most of these campers have become familiar faces, which is something that we relish in being a neighborhood church. These are the same faces we see throughout the year at our different neighborhood events, at the school, the neighborhood park, or gas station. Many of these children and parents are more than neighbors, as they have become our friends, and some have become members. It’s mind-blowing what happens when we let Jesus build his church, and we simply participate in the great commandment of loving God and loving our neighbors.

This was our 4th year of doing “Camp Surrey” in person. Every year, we have grown, we have learned, and we have adapted. This year, God did something incredible as we were able to accept 87 campers because of the generosity of 65 incredible staff volunteers! This camp felt very different from previous years, and we had found our “sweet spot.” This camp ended with many tears from campers begging for it to last longer. It was unanimously obvious, that this year was a favorite.

Campers enjoyed kayaking, a climbing wall, an incredible escape room, swimming, and many indoor and outdoor activities. Our theme was “Mission: I’m-possible,” and everything from décor, to activities, and Pastor Joe & Miss Nikki’s messages at the Spirit Rallies were themed and filled with interaction and fun. Every single camper was impacted in a big way and left knowing that they are loved.

On the last day of the camp celebration, we announced next year’s theme and opened a pre-registration link. As of today, we have over 51 families already pre-registered for next year! Wow! We will continue to follow up with these campers and their families throughout the year both online and in-person. Our next follow-up event is our back-to-school water balloon battle and neighborhood block party! We are so excited!

Thank you to everyone for your prayers as we continue our planning for Camp Surrey 2024: “Survivor.”

Ceeja Malmkar, Love Avenue Champion & MTC Coordinator
Surrey Hills, OK, US


Pentecost in Fiji

Dennis Richards and I were thrilled to be able to join our Fiji family for their Pentecost service. Members had boarded a minibus at Lautoka in the West at around 6:00 AM for the three-hour trip to Suva, and another minibus came from Rakiraki, more than two hours away. There were 83 in attendance in the hall, plus another 17 participating on Zoom, for a total of exactly 100 people.

After several delightful items of special music, including a children’s action song, Dennis gave an inspiring sermon based on the 1 Corinthians 12 passage about spiritual gifts. Then I led a communion service. After the service, the hall was quickly transformed into a dining room and the members enjoyed lively fellowship over a bounteous potluck lunch, the tables laden with a huge variety of local dishes.

All too soon, it was time for the minibuses to take the members from the other side of the island home again, everyone buzzing with memories of a wonderful Spirit-filled celebration of this very special day. It was quite evident that the same Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost 2,000 years ago is still filling and guiding the body of Christ in the islands of Fiji.

Rex Morgan with his wife, Marilyn

Rex Morgan, Pastor
Auckland, New Zealand

Healthy Church Challenge

To reflect God’s faithfulness through the generations, this year GCI hosted the 2023 Healthy Church Challenge. The Healthy Church Challenge prompts GCI members aged 8-17 to creatively express what healthy church means to them.
For this challenge, we focused on our theme REMEMBERING OUR FIRST LOVE. Some prompts we provided were:
      • I love Jesus because____.
      • I know Jesus loves me because____.
      • One way I share the love Jesus has given me is____.

And praise God, because he is at work in our midst—the Healthy Church Challenge entries from these incredible young people are evidence.

My prayer is that you be both encouraged by the words of these wise GCI members and challenged to continue including the voices, gifts, and lives of young people in the growth of your local healthy church rhythms.

A big thank you to all youth and congregations who participated in the 2023 Healthy Church Challenge!

Congratulations to all our participants and winners!

1st: GCI Montreal, Quebec, Canada
2nd: GCI Fiji
3rd: GCI Melton, Victoria, Australia

View all the video entries here.

How will you invite youth in your local congregation to participate in healthy church next?

Cara Garrity, Development Coordinator


Grace Communion Seminary Commencement

On Friday, June 30, the Grace Communion Seminary (GCS) Commencement was held during the Denominational Celebration in North Carolina, U.S. The last commencement was in 2017 in Orlando, FL; this commencement was for students who completed their studies 2018-2023.

There were 19 candidates for a Master of Pastoral Studies, 12 candidates for a Master of Theological Studies, and two candidates for a Master of Divinity. Twenty graduates attended the commencement. The student address was given by Audie Santibanez, GCI Deputy National Director of the Philippines.

Testimonials of Graduates

The GCS training has changed me as a person as well as a minister of the gospel. I have no doubt, I am adequately equipped for the work. As it says in Luke 12:48, “to whom much is given much is required.” I plan to use what I have been given to develop more leaders who will in turn develop more leaders. That way these leaders will be equipped to share the gospel with more people. —Anthony Gachanja, Regional Director, East Africa

Within a very short time, what I was learning in the seminary classes started to infuse every aspect of my ministry. Many members commented on how my sermons had grown in depth and richness after I had been taking seminary classes for a couple of years. The books I acquired for my classes make me feel like I have a gold mine of theological knowledge sitting on my bookshelves that I will be able to mine for the rest of my ministry vocation. —Al Kurzawa, Pastor, Seaford and Morwell, Victoria, Australia

The unique aspect of GCS is the awesome learning environment of family. This is not an ordinary educational experience that is distant. We know each other well—faculty, staff, and students. We learn from each other in a trinitarian experience of mutual indwelling that makes the GCS experience so profound. Accordingly, we can relate this experience back to our congregations, not just as knowledge, but a true experience of what true relationship in this common journey can bring. —John Newsom, Pastor, Queens, New York, US

My first ever GCS class was with New Testament Survey, and I was still a reluctant student until about halfway through that class. But it was the beginning of something magnificent. What I did not want at first has turned out to be one of my greatest blessings. God has used my classes with GCS to bring spiritual renewal to my life. Something I did not expect but I’m immensely grateful for. —Audie Santibanez, Deputy National Director, Philippines

Grace Communion Seminary serves the needs of pastors and others engaged in Christian service who want to grow deeper in relationship with our Triune God and to be able to serve in the church more effectively.

The mission of GCS is to equip men and women for church-based ministry. We accomplish this through quality graduate-level distance education programs in biblical, theological, and pastoral studies grounded in biblical, Christ-centered, historically orthodox faith and worship.

Learn more about GCS here.

Blessing of Great Granddaughter

It was an honor to bless my great granddaughter, who is two years old. This special occasion took place in May.

It was good to openly request God’s protection and blessing on this young child. It is always wonderful to acknowledge and publicly confess that God is in the middle of our lives, at the earliest age, right from the beginning.

Morris Williams, Pastoral Team Member

Shreveport, LA, US

In the photo below, Mr. Williams appears on the far left. Pictured is the Shreveport pastoral team, with their wives, praying during their commissioning service on November 6, 2022. Congratulations and thank you for serving!
Left to Right: Morris and Sherry Williams, Shirley Anne and Garry Green, Ruby and Reggie Green

Meet Dan Krupp

“I would like people to know that we are a little group of people that are on fire with the love of Jesus. We are a group of people that have been given a great, liberating deliverance, and we want to share that deliverance with others.”

Check out this month’s GCI Profile to get to know Dan Krupp, Associate Pastor in Woodbine, GA. To read his full profile, click here or the image below. #WeAreGCI