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Leaders Commissioned in the Philippines

On January 14, a special combined service was held in Pasay City, Philippines in honor of the commissioning and turnover ceremonies for Grace Communion International – Philippines. A total of 754 attendees were able to witness this significant event.

International leaders also came to visit, including GCI President Dr. Greg and his wife, Susan Williams, GCI Superintendent of Asia Pastor Danny and his wife, Mary Zachariah, and GCI Superintendent of Latin America Pastor Heber Ticas.

Eugene & Lulu Guzon

Dr. Eugene Guzon was shown love and support by the church members with a farewell video greeting to celebrate his 34 years of fulltime service to GCI and 21 years as the National Director for GCI Philippines. “Eugene has served the ministry since 1990 in various capacities, beginning as assistant pastor for Quezon City under Jose Raduban. His work in the national office started when he was assigned as business manager in 1993, and he became National Director in 2002. In 2007, he was also given added responsibilities as Missions Developer for China, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates. He was also appointed as Superintendent for Asia in 2018 until 2023,” explained Percival Gabriel of Quezon City.

Audie & Rachel Santibanez

Pastor Audie Santibañez was then commissioned as the next National Director, and was passed the baton, or in this case, the balangay. Balangays are plank boats that were used for maritime trade and migration by ancient Filipinos. “Just as the balangay was meticulously constructed by skilled hands, without the use of nails, the church’s fresh direction is shaped by leaders firmly rooted in faith, hope, and love. Guided by the winds of the Holy Spirit, the church sails forth just as the balangay rode currents and winds across open seas,” explained Pastor Rex.

Fe & Romeo Pusta

We celebrated two other turnover ceremonies. Pastor Romeo Pusta was installed as the next chair of the Philippine Board of Directors. Pastor Aron Tolentino was commissioned as the next District Director for Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Aron & Joyce Tolentino with daughter, Lizzie

Greg Williams said, “Susan and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to the Philippines. Eugene and Lulu Guzon have served very well, and even though they are stepping down, they are not stepping away. I am confident in Audie Santibanez as the new National Director and his National Ministry Team of Rex Dela Pena and Aron Tolentino. I am also confident in the leadership of Dan and Mary Zachariah as they oversee the churches and leaders across the Asian region. May the gospel have a tremendous impact and we see many come to Jesus.”

Let us include our leaders in our prayers for God’s continuous guidance in their service and ministry for our triune God.

Jessica with Susan & Greg Williams

By Jessica Joy Pamor, GC Pili Youth Leader
Bicol, Philippines

Rest and Resilience in Christ

In the U.S., Black History Month is celebrated in February. It is fitting to recognize this by highlighting the ongoing work of our National Advisory Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and its leaders.

My experience of the NAE Spiritual Retreat with BIPOC Leaders

GCI’s membership in the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) gave me a wonderful opportunity to engage with and grow in the ministry and message of reconciliation. In November, Toni Kim (Director of Spiritual Care) and Mekdes Haddis (Project Director for Racial Justice & Reconciliation Collaborative) hosted a spiritual retreat for the NAE at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville, N.C. (see full article, Living United: How the NAE is Working to Build Bridges of Reconciliation).

Mekdes Haddis, Jeff Broadnax, Toni & Walter Kim

I joined three dozen Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) ministry leaders from around the country to seek Jesus’ face and discern the Spirit’s wisdom in area of racial healing, reconciliation, and resilience within the body of Christ. Large group sessions were facilitated by author and counselor, Sheila Wise Rowe. She offered a Christ-centered approach to the following topics:

    • Racial Trauma within the Body of Christ
    • Trauma Informed Ministry
    • Compassionate Soul Care and Healing
    • The Art of Peace, Joy, Rest, and Resilience

Small group breakout sessions beautifully created an environment for this diverse group to experience trust, vulnerability, and bonding in Christ. Included was time for personal and interactive reflection, prayer, biblical discussion, and chances for networking and building relationships.

I shared God’s move within GCI to develop a National Advisory Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (D.E.I.) for the U.S. Superintendent. I described the work we have done as a denomination to intentionally invite men and women from a diversity of generations, ethnicities, cultures, and perspectives to bring their journey with Jesus to the table and help us become fitly framed together for 21st century ministry in a diverse world.

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Devotional—A Lament

Micah 6:8 says, “[God] has shown you . . . what is good. [W]hat does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

When we look at our societal fractures, however, those of us who identify as followers of the way of Jesus often fail to reflect the justice, mercy, and humility of our Savior. May this prayer be the cry of our hearts.

A Lament for Hiding Our Eyes from the Imago Dei

Holy Sacred God
You have asked us to be
Repairers of the breach
To mirror You as You
Proclaim good news and liberty
to those who are oppressed

Forgive us for
Seeking to make people
In our own image
Instead of seeking
To be conformed to Yours

We repent for
Our willful ignorance and arrogance
Our apathy and indifference
Our selfishness and inaction
Our defensiveness and pride

Forgive us for
Our lack of vulnerability and understanding
Our lack of curiosity and compassion
Our tendency to make statements
Instead of asking questions
Thinking we already know
Seeking our own comfort instead of
Listening, bearing witness
And rejoicing in the truth

We have marred
The image of Your image bearers
We have been silent
And covered our eyes and ears
We have refused to offer hope,
To restore, repair and protect
Instead of inviting those who suffer into Your Jubilee
We have removed seats from the table
And erected walls where there should be open doors

Please forgive us, Lord
Put salve on our eyes so we can see
Help us to be loving, joyful, peaceful,
Good, kind, patient,
Faithful, gentle, and self-controlled
We are your Beloved Community
And we belong to one another

You have said that the world would know
That we are your disciples
If we love one another.
May it be so with us.

By Afrika Afeni Mills, Faith Avenue Champion
Steele Creek, NC, US

For more information about Afrika’s antiracist work, check out her website.

Kenyan Youth Camp

Campers worshipping with Naivasha congregation

Our annual youth camp, held near Nairobi, Kenya, concluded on December 10. The campers enjoyed life skills training, team building activities, worship sessions, and supervised free time to allow for creating friendships. We closed the camp by attending a worship service at the GCI congregation in Naivasha.

Valerie had this to say, “To be honest, I did not know what to expect. The day started with travel in a common bus to the camp site, and I thought, we are doomed. But by the end of the second day, I was warm and into the camp proper. There was a good choice of topics which were relevant to us, and we were given time to socialize with our friends. Indeed, we experienced the love of Christ from our trainers.”

Wangari had this to say, “The theme was wonderful. I have experienced our trainers as pastors before, but I saw another side of them that I did not know; indeed, they are all-round people. They taught us the importance of understanding that choices have consequences.”

Beth had this to say, “Camp was the best part of my holiday. I made new friends. I learnt about a lot of things, for example, self-awareness, self-esteem, phone addiction, and that choices have consequences. Everyone in the camp was on their best behavior and friendly. Our teachers were wonderful.”

At the end of camp, many campers were biding others good-bye saying, “See you next year at camp.” It is our hope and great prayer that we will indeed be able to hold the camp again in December 2024. Please join us in this prayer.

Antony Gachanja, Regional Director East Africa



Devotional—Changed by Glory

While [Peter] was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” Matthew 17:5-7 NRSVUE

Luke’s Gospel says Peter, James, and John were led up the mountain by Jesus to pray. Let’s see this through their eyes. As he was praying, Jesus’ glory was revealed. They saw Jesus, the one who had been sharing life with them in many ways, experience a change that was beyond their comprehension. This experience must have changed them deeply, especially in how they regarded Jesus from that moment on.

When we have a glorious encounter with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t happen as it did that day on that mountain. Nevertheless, the experience is profound. We do not come away from an encounter with Christ through the Holy Spirit remaining as we were. Certainly, we see things differently, and we see others differently. We also recognize the extended invitation from our loving God to see that he is more than what we assume or expect.

During the season of Epiphany, let’s celebrate the glorious revealing that happened at the Transfiguration, and embrace the beauty of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in us as our journey to becoming more like Jesus continues.

Loving God, we want to be changed by your glory. Continue to reveal yourself to us. We long to see you as you are, the Beloved Son. We want to live in the light of your truth and be witnesses to your glory. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Terry McDonald
Terry, with wife, Kizzie

By Terry McDonald, Pastor
Kansas City South, MO, US


Drive-by Christmas Cheer

The Grace Communion South Kansas City Love Avenue team generated many ideas while planning for Christmas. We chose two events to bless our surrounding neighborhood. The assistance I receive from my team has been invaluable, and they are amazing servant leaders. We stepped out boldly to see where the Holy Spirit would lead.

Using our facility’s large yard and circle driveway, our first event was what lovingly became known as the “Drive-by Christmas Cheer.” Our talented Pastor Terry McDonald made flyers that we distributed to our schools and our surrounding neighborhood. We wore costumes such as a beautiful dancing elf, a very jovial, dancing Santa Claus, and two snowmen. On the drive and lawn, we placed two 6-foot, lighted candy canes strategically to show entrance and exit. And a very cheerful lighted gingerbread man faced the road. A projector flashed a colorful festive light show on the building.

The costumed members danced and offered a warm welcome to passing vehicles. It was a wonderful sight to behold. We served our guests hot chocolate and hot apple cider. We passed out candy canes and Christmas ornaments that were wrapped in greetings from our congregation and our QR code.

We had such a great time and 22 neighbors participated. Some children even got out of their cars to look more closely at our costumes and have fun with us. They were so cute. It is our belief that those people were the ones God wanted us to bless. What a joy!

We are actively serving a neighborhood elementary school, and I’ve been volunteering in one of their kindergarten classes. As our second event, we chose to bless this classroom of children with what became known as “Adopt a Classroom.” We decided to give a pair of Christmas pajamas and a book to each child. The teacher was excited about this idea and provided the sizes for all 19 children. Our congregation prepared the packages. On the day of delivery, four individuals in our group, in costume, delivered the gifts. Watching the students’ excitement and joy invigorated us. We presented the teacher with a gift as well; she was surprised and grateful.

We send encouragement and prayers to all our churches and ministry leaders. Every person touched reveals God’s love, and we are excited to continue this effort in 2024.

Barbara Leatherman, Love Avenue Champion
Kansas City, MO, US

Christmas Parade

In December we held our Very Surrey Christmas Parade and Neighborhood celebration with our church family and neighbors. We had over 21 decorated golf carts, muscle cars, and floats and were joined by the Oklahoma City Police and Fire Departments. It was incredible and the neighbors went all out!

After the parade, we loaded into our church building. We offered free face painting and craft tables, hosted by neighborhood businesses and volunteers from the school. There were professional pictures with Santa from a neighborhood photographer. And there was a hot chocolate and cookie bar sponsored by our neighborhood Lion’s Club and our favorite coffee roasters!

We had well over 500 in attendance at the celebration (and hundreds more who watched the parade) and neighbors simply hung out together for hours. I just sit in awe of what I see Jesus doing. He is using this church building in all the ways we dreamed it would be used. He’s building bonds through relationships. He’s breaking down walls. He’s flipping the script. He is eliminating this entire idea of an “us” within the church walls and “them” outside. We are just a “we” in Jesus. The church participating in what Jesus is already doing is simply breathtaking. This event was a reminder that at GC Surrey Hills, we truly are “Neighbors Loving Neighbors.”

Ceeja Malmkar, MTC Coordinator
Surrey Hills, OK, US


Have you ever had a quest for knowledge that defied political, social, or religious boundaries? This state of enlightenment is what drove the “three wise men” or magi, who were gentile, to seek out and worship a Jewish baby born in Bethlehem. Why were these men wise, you might ask.

We believe their wisdom was born from a knowledge and fear of the Lord that was handed down by their ancestors throughout the centuries. We have reason to believe the magi were also well-versed in astronomy and understood celestial objects, space, and the physical universe at that time. The star was significant to the magi because of a prophetic timetable, given by the angel Gabriel to Daniel, which they were educated about.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV)

In ancient Greek, the word “epiphany” means showing, manifestation, or appearance. The word is principally used in Christianity to refer to the manifestation of Jesus to the gentiles (i.e., non-Jews), namely, when the “wise men” visited and paid homage to the infant Jesus. According to God’s plan, even at his birth he was laying the groundwork for inclusion of all humankind to be a part of God’s family.

Our heavenly Father and Creator of all the universe, we humbly come before you just as the wise men did. Help us to desire a relationship with you. Please give us wisdom in all the decisions we make and give us the heart to believe the unbelievable. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Randal Roberts, Associate Pastor
Maumee, OH, US

Sharing Christmas Cheer

On December 9, GC St. Michaels held a community engagement at a local skilled nursing facility. Each year, we budget for a community service during the holiday season. This year, the Love Avenue team decided to buy Christmas presents for the residents of the facility. Rather than merely dropping off the gifts, we received permission to plan a fun game that could be interactive and relational. We played the Dice Game with the gift-wrapped presents; if you roll doubles, you get to pick out a prize. (Some people know it as the White Elephant Game.)

The staff of the skilled nursing facility said that their residents did not often participate in group activities, so we should not expect any more than a couple people to show up. We were grateful and surprised when around 20 residents attended! One resident, who really wanted to attend, had recently contracted COVID. We selected a couple of presents to be delivered to her room. She was overwhelmed to be remembered and cried tears of joy.

The residents who joined in the game had mobility limitations, so the youth from our congregation helped make the game accessible for them. Our young members (grades kindergarten to sophomore in high school) walked the dice around to each player, sometimes even helping the person roll the dice. If the player got doubles, their young helper would run up to the table, pick out a present, and bring it back to them.

I was so proud of our young people and the interactions and relationships they established with the residents. At first, they were a little shy. Actually, both the residents and our youth were shy! But in no time, everyone was talking, laughing, and having a great time. The staff of the nursing home was amazed at how well it went.

Jon with wife, Carey

By Jon Arnold, Facilitator
St. Michaels, MN, US