GCI Update

State of the Church

Highway in a sunny spring day, countryside USA. Empty national road, passing through American desert, Blue cloudy sky background

GCI President Greg Williams talks about the state of GCI, emphasizing how the transformative love of Christ has not only changed us but also propels us forward.

Devotional—Witnessing Transformation

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.

How do I see or experience God in the everyday or in the streets? One way I see God in the everyday is when I touch the lives of people who I least expect. In one example, there was a person in my life who has been enslaved to addiction for years and felt far away from God. After having an encounter with God, he now strives to learn more about Christ. We have Bible studies on a weekly basis.

Another example is when I experienced God in my own life. He has brought me from a place of bondage, where I was constantly chasing meaningless things of the world to now following the one who is eternal. I am a witness to say that God’s glorious presence can change anyone he chooses. He does not have favorites.

For the Lord is spirit, and wherever the spirit of the Lord is there is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Now that I’ve found true meaning in life, which is in Christ, God is now using me to show younger people that there’s more to this eternal life than this life here on earth. “In those days I will pour out my spirit even on servants—men and women alike.” (Joel 2:29, NLT)

Lord Jesus, we ask you to use us as vessels for your kingdom and to lead those who are in darkness into light. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Briana Grant
Ladson, SC, US


Pause for Prayer

Join us in praying for all our members around the world who are beginning a new academic year, as students or teachers.

Five schoolkids in casualwear with rucksacks on backs holding by hands while going to school

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we pause from our busy lives to acknowledge how much we need you. A new school year has started in many parts of the world, and we feel excited and nervous. Please guide and direct your children who are students. May they have many opportunities to learn and have new experiences. May they make friends easily and experience safety and security. Please guide and direct your children who are teachers, administrators, chefs, facility managers, bus drivers, counselors, nurses, and all who keep a school running smoothly. May they have a renewed sense of purpose and fondness for their coworkers and the students. May they experience safety and security. May all who are going back to school feel your love for them in tangible ways, God. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Click the image above to watch our Pause for Prayer video.

Faith, Hope, & Love in Action Workshops

Equipping gatherings around our theme of Faith, Hope, & Love in Action are taking place throughout the GCI regions. Earlier in the year, ministry leaders attended a retreat in Tagaytay, Philippines (pictured above). Last month, 25 people from four congregations attended a workshop in Ladson, SC, US (pictured below).

Read on for a detailed account of the workshop in Monterey, Mexico.

On the weekend of March 18-19, 35 members, leaders, and pastors from the northeastern region of Mexico had a blessed time of fellowship and teaching in the city of Monterrey, Mexico. The theme of the conference was “Faith, Hope, and Love in Action.” This was the continuation of the introductory training on the Avenues of a Healthy Church, held in the spring of 2022 in Francisco Villa, a town close to Monterrey.

We started the event with a delicious lunch offered by the Monterrey congregation and immediately we had a time of praise and prayer. Next, I gave an exposition of the themes of “Faith, Hope, and Love in Action,” echoing the invitation of President Greg Williams for 2023. Then my wife, Pastor Selena Venegas, spoke on “Preaching with the RCL.”

On Sunday morning of March 19, we had the worship service and participated in Communion. After lunch, we had a brainstorming session led by the local church pastor, Mario Sáenz, in which the leaders came up with different practical ways to get the Avenues up and running in their church’s neighborhood.

We are grateful to God for the atmosphere of love and fellowship that we experienced at this gathering. We said our farewells with the certainty of the guidance of the Holy Spirit to carry out our participation in the mission of Jesus.

Luis Alberto Soto
Mexico National Director

Women’s Retreat

On August 11-13, women from our GCI Spanish-speaking congregations in Southern California came together for a retreat in the San Bernardino Mountains. For three days, 44 women took part in worship, teachings, interactive activities, and workshops focused on the theme: “Woman, you are not alone.” Various women gave messages that allowed participants to reflect on how they are not alone through this journey of life, no matter the circumstances or stage. “It was reassuring to know that I don’t have to walk alone in my life. My heavenly Father’s love is endless and unconditional,” summarized Ana Molina (participant and workshop leader).

Xochilt Ticas, Women’s Ministry Leader

Saturday was filled with various activities, including a break in the typical program to focus on practical skills related to physical, financial, and mental health according to God’s word. Women were able to reflect on making possible changes to glorify God in all aspects of life and become better servants. Saturday night was high energy and included times to fellowship and sharing of testimonials. It ended with a liberating worship night focused on exalting our Lord with all our being. First-time visitor Brenda Benitez stated, “I am so thankful to God for being part of this beautiful retreat. It was a great blessing for me. The messages shared by different servants, the testimonials, games, and worship were great.”

The women’s retreat concluded on Sunday with Communion and prayer over each participant and those in leadership positions. First-time visitor Karen Campos said, “It was a great experience for me, full of learning and motivation.” Karina de la Rosa, an event organizer, left the event feeling, “so blessed to have had this opportunity in which I was inspired, empowered, and renewed by the Holy Spirit.” GCI women returned home with the reminder that they are not alone and “feeling blessed and renewed,” as Lourdes Núñez said.

Lily Aparicio, Worship Leader & GCI Coach
Santa Ana, CA, US

Retirement of Bob Ehlen

Join us in honoring Bob Ehlen’s retirement. He served as GCI pastor for 15 years and as an elder, facilitating a fellowship group, for the past seven years in Missouri.

Congratulations, Bob and Jan! We are very grateful to both of you for your many years of faithful service.

We wanted you to hear from Bob in his own words.

Our journey started in 1968. Together, with our two sons (our daughter came later), we encountered the church through my mother and brother. We were baptized shortly thereafter.

Since the church hall needed to be set up each week, I became interested in helping set up chairs. There was a catch, though. I was told I needed to go to Spokesman Club to be able to help. It seemed a bit strange for chair set-up, but I joined and graduated. Some years later, when a graduate club was formed, I was appointed president. Eventually, Jan and I were ordained as deacon and deaconess, and we continued to serve in many areas, like organizing socials, potlucks, picnics, and in the choir. Jan also served in the women’s ministry.

In May 1992, I was ordained as an elder. It happened the day before our daughter got married, and I was told I could officiate their wedding. But everything was so new to me, I didn’t think I was ready for that. We continued to serve in the local area.

Things were changing in our church. God, the Holy Spirit, was leading us in new teachings and new understandings of what the Scriptures were saying and or not saying. It was a time of uncertainty for a lot of members. It was sad to see some members in turmoil.

As time passed, the opportunity opened to start a new church location. I was told I would be the pastor of that congregation. It was a new beginning and a very new experience for us. It was certainly different pastoring a congregation instead of just giving Bible studies and sermons occasionally.

I think, not until changes came in our doctrines, did we fully realize that the new covenant was fully in force now, and that our salvation didn’t depend on laws, days, food, nor any person. Nothing that we did or didn’t do was the way to salvation; no person can bring about our forgiveness and salvation, only Jesus.

Our salvation depends on what Jesus did for all his creation. We found it to be such a relief that it didn’t depend on our righteousness but on Jesus.

During my time pastoring, I was blessed to be able to baptize some of our grandchildren and others who accepted Jesus as their Savior. Once another pastor and I visited a prison to baptize one man and ended up baptizing eight. It was also rewarding to be able to marry couples, especially some of our grandchildren.

Retiring, after 31 years in ministry, will give us time to travel and see more of our beautiful country.

Bob & Jan Ehlen

Meet Rene Overton

“Our mission statement is growing in faith, living in hope, and serving in love. It is my joy to support that mission through this role, and I have fun doing it.” —Rene Overton

Check out this month’s GCI Member Profile to get to know Renee Overton, the Social Media Coordinator for Grace Communion Cleveland.

To read her full profile, click the image below or here. #WeAreGCI

Prayer Guide—September 2023

“For years, even in my personal, quiet prayers, I worried that I was saying something wrong. LIke that the Holy Spirit was some too-strict teacher that was judging every piece of syntax and phrase and word. But the reality is, prayer is just another way to connect with a loving and gracious Father.” ― Hannah Brencher

Join us in communion and corporate prayer this month as we celebrate how God is working in and among our fellowships.

Click here or the image below to download and print the September Prayer Guide.