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Outside the Walls

Comunión de Gracia Internacional Bogotá, Columbia held our first Outside the Walls event on August 26. We combined the three Avenues (Faith, Love, and Hope) by bringing kids to the church for an afternoon of fun. We concentrated our efforts on five activities: an inflatable slide for kids, a bubble game for all ages, a cookie decorating station using different shapes, colors, and flavors, a puppet-driven Bible story time, and a fantastic game of bingo. There were numerous bingo winners; one of them won a bike, and thanks to Pastor Heber, another won a tablet.

We witnessed how God orchestrated this event. Several new families that live in the neighborhood visited the church, and we had the great opportunity to meet them and have a great, edifying conversation.

Our elderly members, the youth group, the church servers, the pastors, and everyone else took part in the event with an open mindset toward fostering relationships. We all had a great time with our beloved kids. We also met interested onlookers who were inspired to join the church service on Sunday.

Additionally, we had a great time reuniting with some families who hadn’t been to church in a while. We ask God to grant us the ability to continue organizing these events at least once a year to share quality time and love and bring smiles to the families in our neighborhood. With the help of all, the Love Avenue team undoubtedly had a fantastic experience for one of their first Avenue events.

By Juanka Barrero, Hope Avenue Champion
Bogotá, Columbia

Healthy Church Challenge Winners

On a sunny Sunday, August 20, the GCI Église Réalité (Reality Church) congregation in Montreal, Québec, Canada held the Community Ice Cream Party. The party was possible thanks to the involvement of our two winners of the 2023 Healthy Church Challenge, Uweso and Martha Nzamba. The prize money from that challenge was used to cover the expenses of the party.

Uweso and Martha chose this refreshing activity for the occasion. They set up their booth with festive decorations, with the help of family and members of the congregation. To the delight of young and old alike, they offered twin ice pops, ice cream sandwiches, Revello ice cream bars, Fudgesicles, and Cosmic pops!

The Ice Cream Party took place in the parking lot of our place of worship. It was integrated into our first community welcome event in our Ville-Émard church neighbourhood of Montreal.

Martha and Uweso offered the ice cream treats to visitors, who were warmly welcomed in English and French by members of the congregation. This event was organized by the Love and Hope Avenue teams.

Uweso and Martha participate in worship at Église Réalité in Montreal. They love to offer songs of praise to the Lord. They also love to witness to their faith and love in the community, as they did through the Healthy Church Challenge and the ice cream party.

Thanks to GCI for this opportunity to involve young people in the life of the church.

By Marie-Line Tremblay Rochette, Children’s Ministry Leader
Montreal, Québec, Canada

Park Pop Up

Grace Communion Cleveland hosted their first “Coventry Peace Park Pop-Up” for the community on Saturday, August 12, scheduled from noon to 4:00 p.m.

After months of prayer, planning, and participation, families were able to enjoy a bounce house, a game truck, face painting, a balloon artist, free hot dogs with chips and water, games, and a DJ. Community partners included Whitmore’s BBQ, Cleveland Heights police officers and firefighters (who brought their fire engine), Lake Erie Ink Creative Writing Center, and Cleveland Heights Public Schools.

Even though rain cut our event short at 2:00 p.m. and prevented the live performance of the band we hired, we could see the Lord move and make connections that are forming relationships for future events. We were looking for a perfect weather day, but God was moving forward with his plans. The rain actually provided opportunities to meet about 20 neighbors and talk with them while huddling under two canopies during the downpour.

We are learning to see the Lord in new ways and to trust him completely, no matter how it looks physically. All in all, it was a beautiful day of experiencing God’s presence.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

By Pastor Tamar Gray and Love Avenue Champion Pat Shiels (pictured)
Cleveland, OH, US

Devotional—As We Go

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.

Trekking up the side of a sand dune, women expertly balance large clay water vessels atop their heads in Rajasthan, India

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:9-10 NRSV

If Jesus only held Sunday service, the Samaritan woman in John 4 would not have encountered him on her daily routine of drawing water from the well. Jesus spread his love and his message almost exclusively to those marginalized by society, like the Samaritans were. Those marginalized—almost by definition—didn’t gather in the temples, in the city centers, or in public.

Jesus made it clear. If you practiced religion exclusively in the traditional religious gathering spaces, you were absent from most of the miracles Jesus was performing and the message of love he was spreading.

How then, after more than 2,000 years, have we come to act as if Sunday worship is the highest form of spiritual expression? It seems as though we have learned no lessons from our past. Jesus says “go,” but we’ve stayed put for many years.

Lord, help us reach those marginalized by our society.
Help us reach those experiencing homelessness—giving them spare change so they may get through another day.
Help us reach those struggling with their faith in humanity—giving people the benefit of the doubt whenever they ask for help.
Help us reach those experiencing loneliness—taking time out of our day to make conversation with our families, neighbors, and coworkers.
Help us “go” and be like you. Amen.

By Jesús Molina
Glendora, CA, US

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

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.

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)

Prayer: 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


Trivia Night

It didn’t start out as a connect group. We began going to Thursday night Trivia at the local beer place as a way to see our daughter and son-in-law during the COVID pandemic. Nothing else was open and we were able to spend time with them as well as get acquainted with our new community in Oregon. The host asked almost every week if anyone would be interested in hosting the game, and for a long time, I paid no attention. But when the kids decided to move back to California, I decided since we went every week anyway – and the poor host had a five-hour round trip commute – I could do it.

After several weeks went by, I told a few people at church about my new gig, and some of them said it sounded like fun. They got a team together and became regulars. It has grown to sometimes two or three teams and everyone has a great time – sometimes they even win!

Then I was asked to become the Faith Avenue champion. I had no idea what that would mean and wondered if I would have to reinvent the wheel. Pastor Linda assured me I wouldn’t, as there were several groups already going strong. Then she said, with a twinkle in her eye, that Trivia was a connect group! I hadn’t realized it could be called that, but she’s right. The church members have another way to interact outside of services and practice reaching outside the walls. They are warm and outgoing to the other teams, introduce themselves to regulars and new teams alike, and have created a more family-friendly and fun atmosphere.

It’s encouraging to me how God can turn something I meant as a favor to the former host with a long commute, and be a fun little side job, into a way to connect people both within our church and to our small town. And he often knows what we need before we do.

Tammy Tkach, Assistant Pastor & Faith Avenue Champion
River Road, OR, US

Neighborhood Camp Richardson

Twenty-two campers ages 5 to 12 from 15 families served by 28 staff members (including 3 teenagers) made for a great time of loving God, loving others, having fun, and being safe at the Richardson Neighborhood Skills Camp. Organized by Grace Communion Richardson with help from our American Heritage Girls Troops TX1595 and TX0147 and Trail Life Troop 147, the young people were taught various life skills and the relational skills of kindness, truthfulness, forgiveness, and courage. It was our first neighborhood camp, and it went very smoothly, praise God, despite some initial trepidation in the planning phase.

The theme of camp was “Develop Your Superpowers.” The staff taught the campers that the skills and gifts that God has given all of us are meant to be developed and shared in love. Skills taught included cooking, gardening, auto care, first aid, graphic design, cartooning, cake decorating, sign language, chess, home repairs, ancient weapons, outdoor skills, sports fitness, and musical ear training. Classes were practical, hands-on, and fun. Role-playing interactions helped develop the relational skills mentioned above.

As Katherine, one of our staff members, shared, “watching Audrey* come out of her shell during the ‘Get to Know You’ games (when just a few minutes before that, she’d been sniffly and asking me to phone her mom), and seeing her really enjoying her first session of ‘Drawing Comics’, and then watching her beaming face skip into the room on the second morning with no hesitation or fear was one of my favorite memories!” Another staff member, Connor, said he loved that the kids got more and more confident during each relational skills session.

I was inspired by the hard work, graciousness, and love of the staff that permeated camp. And I felt it was all worth it when a number of the campers and parents requested that we hold camp again next year with more days added.

Gabriel Ojih, Pastor
Richardson, TX, US

*not her real name

Note: All the pictures were taken by our 14-year-old photographer, Naia Moya.