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Ordination of Ceeja Malmkar

Join me in celebrating the ordination of Ceeja Malmkar at GC Surrey Hills, OK, U.S. in March 2022. It has been my privilege and joy to walk alongside Ceeja, as a pastoral resident and now as a GCI elder. Ceeja radiates an unyielding love for God and people that is captivating and awakens a deep desire to know this Jesus she won’t stop talking about.

She shared with me her thoughts on ministry:

Ministry means everything to me. I believe that “ministry” is simply participating with the one whose breath fills my lungs. It’s natural. It’s fulfilling. It’s something that I can’t fail at because it’s not MY ministry; it’s Jesus’. And he never fails. Because of that, ministry fills me with freedom. Freedom to participate in all the things God is doing around me. And there’s no place I’d rather be than participating with him.

Reflecting on her ordination ceremony, she said:

It really meant so much to me. While my relationship and participation with Jesus was just as special to me before the ordination, it was very impactful to celebrate what God has done in my life with my local church family, as well as so much of my GCI Family. I’m often reminded because of my relationships across the denomination that I am a part of something so much bigger. It was incredibly special to me to share in the celebration with so many other elders, friends, and family. I think one of my favorite parts was afterwards, while still on stage, Tim [Sitterley] hugged me and said, “Welcome to the crazy.” I giggled and thought, thank you Jesus for including me in this “crazy” life of ministry. God is so good.

Life and ministry participation alongside Ceeja is not only inspiring, but lots of fun! I am enthusiastic about Ceeja’s leadership as the MTC coordinator in GC Surrey Hills. As a former participant in the GCI USA Pastoral Resident Program and someone who has been mentored by many over the years, I am confident that she will be an invaluable ministry partner to all who seek ministry formation at this MTC site and a force supporting our rising generations of ministers. I asked her what she would say to our young folks in GCI.

Hey! I’m only thirty-something, and that’s still young, right?! 😉 In all seriousness, if I could speak to all the young people in GCI right now, I would want to let them know that they are not alone. I would want to tell them that, in my opinion, the most difficult and trying times of my life were during my teens and twenties. You’re changing, and facing all kinds of difficult times, you’re trying to figure out how you fit in and where you want to fit in. This is the time many people run from church. I understand it because I did it. But God is so faithful that he will never leave any of you regardless of what you may be going through. I guess I could simplify my message to young people into 4 sentences:

You are never alone in anything.
You will always have a seat at the table.
You are loved beyond measure.
You belong.

In my experience, to be around Ceeja is to tangibly feel that you are loved and you belong. I imagine this is how it felt to be around Jesus in his earthly ministry—thank you, Ceeja, for allowing Jesus to minister his presence through you. I am beyond thankful that our young ministers in training will have you in their corner.

Ceeja’s longtime mentor and friend, Mike Rasmussen, reflected on her ordination:

It has been a joy to walk alongside Ceeja the past 12-years. To see her heart and mind grasp the love and inclusion of who Jesus is and what he did – not just for her personally—but for all people, has been exciting and inspiring. Ceeja is driven and passionate about reaching the unchurched and de-churched with the good news of Jesus by sharing his unconditional love. Whatever Ceeja does, she does with all her might! She is hungry to learn and extremely teachable. She desires to see people impacted by Jesus and for them to make a difference within the Body of Christ and in their local neighborhood. Ceeja has been a blessing and an inspiration to our congregation, our neighborhood of Surrey Hills, and our Region – but most of all to Juli and me personally. I was thrilled to participate in her recent ordination as a GCI Elder and I am excited to see what God has in store for her in the years to come.

Join me not only in celebration but in prayer alongside Ceeja as she continues to participate in what God is doing through the Church and Ministry Training Center (MTC) at GC Surrey Hills.

Cara Garrity
GCI Development Coordinator


Marty Davey Honored

Congratulations to Marty Davey, pastor of the GCI Jacksonville, FL, congregation, Christian Family Fellowship, for recognition in the Folio Weekly Magazine, “Best of Jax 2021” awards. He won first place in the People of Jax—Best Spiritual Leader category. This is the second time Pastor Davey has been recognized; he won third place in 2019.

We’re proud of the way you place-share with your neighbors, Pastor Davey!

Pastor Davey and his wife, Yvonne, attending the Folio awards ceremony.

Love Avenue Workshop

On March 18-19, more than 60 people gathered at the new GC Surrey Hills church and Ministry Training Center (MTC) in Oklahoma for a workshop on the Love Avenue. It was the third workshop in the series: the Hope Avenue workshop was held in the spring of 2020, and the Faith Avenue workshop was held in the fall of 2021. We’re grateful to the Cincinnati West church for hosting the first two workshops.

Background and Context

In the March 23 issue of Update, President Greg explained our 3-Year Plan Toward Healthy Church, including the process of identifying “Vision” churches. U.S. Vision pastors were invited to attend these three workshops with their Avenue Champions. This was the beta testing described in the President’s letter.

So, what is a Vision church? Over the past several years, each of the U.S. Regional Directors has been working with a handful of pastors and congregations within their region. These Vision churches work together within their region as a “Vision Team.” The goal is to collaborate in a community of practice and provide High Challenge and High Support as they work toward the Healthy Church vision and strategies of GCI—to grasp the denominational vision, live the vision, and in time, share the vision with others. The high support includes training, tools, and support from the Home Office, their Regional Director (and others), and monthly regional coaching for the pastor and Avenue Champions. These three Avenue workshops have been just part of the training and high support.

Tamar Gray

The Love Avenue workshop

The Love Avenue workshop included presentations made by two pastors, a church planter, and two Love Avenue Champions on the following topics:

      • The role of the pastor
      • Mapping your neighborhood
      • Making friends in your neighborhood
      • Missional events
      • The role of the Love Avenue Champion
Left to right: Tamar Gray, Terri Westerhaus, Dishon Mills, Linda Sitterley, Ceeja Malmkar

The workshop was interactive by design. Each presentation was followed by small table discussions, whole room debriefs, and application time for individuals or local teams. The workshop closed with a Question & Answer session by a panel of the presenters and Communion.

Aleck Thompson, associate pastor and Love Avenue Champion in Eugene, Oregon, gave us his takeaway:

What always strikes me at these workshops is the comradery. In this specific case, I think this feeling of a family reunion came through not only in the times of fellowship over meals and in the evenings, but also during the sessions.

Each of our congregations may be geographically and socially diverse, but we share the same struggles and, even more importantly, the same solution in the person of Jesus. I appreciate each speaker opening up about the struggles they have and some of the strategies we can embrace for each of our congregations to grow.

Terri Westerhaus is the Love Avenue Champion in Cincinnati West, Ohio. She had this to say about the workshop:

Terri Westerhaus

I came away with three points. I was educated on the “apprentice square” tool. The four sides of a square were correlated with the four steps in guiding someone into a new role. It was simple, to the point, and easy to remember. I will use it for many things in life—not just church! Another presenter shared this tip: to help finance neighborhood/church events, ask organizations from your community to be sponsors. What a great idea! Third, community events are a way of creating a space for people to share their stories. Yes, it might get challenging at times, inconvenient for some, or even “messy,” but that is okay.

Tommie Grant, pastor of Ladson, South Carolina and GCI Board Vice Chair, had the following feedback:

The Love Avenue Workshop was AWESOME! It was amazing to see the Holy Spirit at work in the presenters. Each presenter was a practitioner expressing best practices from their experiences. They were able to convey ideas on getting to know our neighbors and developing relationships so our rhythms can be coordinated with their rhythms to create spaces where ALL feel welcome to experience the unconditional love of our triune God.

We are extremely blessed to have pastors and key leaders working together in shared ministry. The strategy of Avenue Champions multiplies the effectiveness of a pastor and helps equip and empower the saints at the same time. There is some intentional work on the front end, walking the Avenue Champions around the apprentice square, but once this has been completed, the Champions are free to step into crucial areas of ministry within their congregations. We are beginning to see and hear just how freeing and empowering the Team Based-Pastor Led and Avenue strategies really are.

Mike Rasmussen
Superintendent North America and Caribbean

Video—Orientation to the NAE

Program Transcript


Dr. Walter Kim, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), visited our Home Office in Charlotte on February 10. Watch the video of the presentation that he made to our Superintendents, U.S. Regional Directors, Home Office staff, and pastors who were in town for an orientation.

In case you missed it, here’s the video of Dr. Kim’s interview with Greg Williams that we published last month.

Announcing Third Option Similarity Training

Grace Communion International is committed to being an international communion of grace, and we desire our congregations to be spaces where members live in the unity of the Spirit with each other.

In the wake of the May 25, 2020, George Floyd murder, GCI was compelled by love to do more to combat racial division and all other forms of disunity. In January 2021, we introduced the National Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for the U.S. This council was convened to begin the work of discerning how our denomination could better reflect the oneness of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Building upon GCI’s past work to promote reconciliation, the Council was charged with making recommendations to Mike Rasmussen (Superintendent North America and Caribbean) that would help our fellowship heal from social divisions and be a place where people from all backgrounds are welcomed and treated with love and respect.

With approval and support from the GCI Board of Directors, I am pleased to announce that GCI is implementing the first set of recommendations from the DEI Council.

In September 2022, nationally acclaimed author, trainer, and Pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego, CA, Miles McPherson will lead members of the GCI Home Office team, Board of Directors, Regional Directors, and DEI Council members through the Third Option Similarity Training.” Based on his book, The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation, Pastor McPherson will help our team increase our capacity to promote Christ-centered diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels of the denomination. McPherson, also a former National Football League player for the San Diego Chargers, is a prominent and respected voice of unity within the United States. His training comes from a Christ-centered, gospel foundation that matches well with our GCI values.

This DEI initiative is not a passing fad. Rather, we intend it to be a permanent cultural shift within GCI, and the training will continue to be passed along to our U.S. pastors and churches over the next couple of years. It is our intention to participate with Christ more purposefully and actively in his ministry of reconciliation. It is our prayer that these positive steps will equip our leaders and churches to work together more effectively as peacemakers in their congregations, neighborhoods, and communities.

I want to thank the DEI Council for being led by the Spirit to get us to this point. I believe God has great things in store for GCI.

Greg Williams

Jesus, Place-sharing all the Way to Calvary

Greg and Susan Williams
Greg and Susan Williams

Dear GCI Family and Friends,

Many years ago, I read a book that equated Jesus to a chief executive officer (CEO). The gist of the book was to overlay the “How tos” of Jesus onto the role of a modern-day business leader. The book fell woefully short because it failed to establish the “Who” question. If Jesus is just a good person, a good teacher, and a model to imitate, we miss who Jesus is. We relegate him to the list of Mohammed, Buddha, Socrates, and the like.

Jesus, as a member of the Triune God, emptied himself and became human. He lived a perfect life, tempted in every way that we are and yet without sin. He is creator of the universe, and it is in him that we live and move and have our being. Jesus is the King of Kings, and we shall ever be growing into the comprehension of who he is.

So, what was Christ really like? How did he place-share with his disciples? Consider this list—a 24-hour snapshot—of how Christ interacted with his followers that final day before Calvary.

      • He gave them detailed preparatory instructions for the gathering in the upper room. Coming together and being together was always a priority of Jesus, and frequently surrounded a meal and festive environment.
      • Jesus was about serving other people. On this night he girded himself with a towel and took the wash basin, then one by one he knelt and washed the feet of his disciples. He set the tone for how much he valued them.
      • Continuing with other people in mind, the profound words of instruction he shared with them and the intimate intercessory prayer he prayed for them was for their comfort. Jesus, who is the “Suffering Servant” portrayed in the writings of Isaiah, deeply identified with the suffering and grief that his followers would face, and he attended to this.
      • Jesus was honest. He warned them of the troubles they would experience in the world and that ministry would be hard. He then assured them that the Holy Spirit would be the guiding presence to see them through.
      • Jesus gave them hope for a future. He proclaims that he will share in the sacrament of communion with them again in the kingdom to come.
      • He shared that he would go away, and during this interim he would be preparing a place for them in glory.
      • Ultimately Jesus willingly went to the cross and laid down his life. The broken bread and wine pointed to the actions that would come the next day.

(Read chapters 13-17 of John’s Gospel and see if you can identify other ways that Jesus demonstrated deep care and friendship for his followers)

In this “one-day” amazing display of love and friendship, descriptors that leap out of the fabric of this event include servanthood, sacrifice, truth, hope, security, purpose, and friendship; all being of the highest order. These authentic qualities of Jesus demonstrate his deep love and care for his followers. This loving, caring, belonging relationship is what Jesus extends to all humanity.

The apostle Paul says to follow him as he follows (emulates) Jesus. More Christlikeness and more of the tangible expressions of Christ’s love is absolutely what the church of today needs.

May the rejuvenation we have experienced on Easter Sunday firmly remind us of how our personal following of Jesus is also about a personal sharing with others. May the season of Eastertide be punctuated by how we place-share with our neighbors, family, and friends.

Compelled by his love!

Greg Williams

Death of Freia Smith

Freia Ann Smith of Shady Grove, Texas passed away at her home on January 12, 2022. She was born October 31, 1932, in Celeste, Texas to James and Louise Friddle. In 1954 she married the love of her life Paul B. Smith, and they shared sixty-two years together before his death in 2017.

Mrs. Smith was a founding member of the Big Sandy congregation in 1953, and she worked for many years as Church Secretary. She was known for her positive and caring nature. She never met a stranger and was always willing to do what she could for others. She loved to dance, play board games, and spend time with her family.

She remains in the fond memories of her friends and her family which includes her three children: David Nathaniel Smith and Marla Smith of Pasadena, California; Benjamin Ralph Smith and Lore Smith of Billings, Montana; Loma Ann Gibson of Big Sandy, Texas; her grandchildren Nathan Smith, Allison Smith, Dustie Pierce, and Shelby Smith, great-grandson Tatum Smith, and numerous nieces and nephews.

It is a great comfort that throughout her life she was loved and accepted fully and completely by God and lived her life sharing that love with other people. She is resting in the peace and joy of His presence.

Mrs. Smith’s service will be held at the Big Sandy high school auditorium at 401 North Wildcat Drive, Big Sandy on Saturday morning, April 16 at 10:30 a.m.

Cards may be sent to her daughter who was her caregiver for the last several years:
Loma Gibson
PO Box 1206
Big Sandy, TX 75755

Death of Marie Woods

Suetie “Marie” Woods died on March 15, 2022, shortly after celebrating her 93rd birthday. She was a longtime member of Grace Christian Fellowship, the GCI church in Longview, TX. The service was held Saturday, March 19 at Gladewater Memorial Cemetery. Until a few weeks before her death, she enjoyed good health, living independently, and attending church services each week.

Marie had been married to her husband, Adrian, for over 70 years before his death in 2015. She was also preceded in death by her daughter, Ruby Marie Woods Newsom. Marie is survived by grandson Dr. James Newsom and wife Tonya, granddaughter Thelma Kipe & husband Greg, great-granddaughters Lauren Murillo & husband Alex, Madison Newsom, Evelyn Kipe, Victoria Newsom, great-great-granddaughters Kira Munez and Cataleya Murillo.

For more than 6 decades at Grace Christian Fellowship Longview, Marie served cheerfully and faithfully in a wide variety of duties, including being commissioned as a deaconess, as was formerly our practice. For the past 15 years, she performed the important duties of church Treasurer. Her sweet smile, her attention to details, and her heart for service will truly be missed.

You’re Invited—Galway, Ireland Celebration

The GCI Galway Celebration 2022 is being held
Wednesday, 29 June to Sunday, 3 July
at the four-star Salthill Hotel, a prime location
on the promenade with stunning views across iconic Galway Bay.

The theme for 2022 is take from 1 Thessalonians 3:12 25:40.

And may the Lord increase your love until it overflows toward one another and for all people, just as our love overflows toward you. (TBT)

We’ll be exploring this theme over 5 days of sermons, worship, prayer, communion, and conversation. And there will be plenty of opportunities for fellowship and fun—or as we say in Ireland, enjoy the craic!

Accommodation is available at the Salthill Hotel, or you can choose from a wide variety of B&B and self-catering properties in the area. Rooms at the Salthill are available at the special rate of €145 per night for a double and €125 per night for a single, Wednesday & Thursday and €175/€195 per night on the Friday & Saturday, all of which includes a full Irish breakfast. However, please note that wherever you choose to stay, Galway is a popular holiday spot. Book your accommodation early to avoid disappointment.

For further details,
please contact Joe Casey:
via email – joecasey@shannontechnology.ie
or telephone – 00353 87 259 2983

By Peter Mill
Regional Director, Scotland, Ireland, North of England