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Healthy Church—Neighborhood Camps

Burias Island, Luzon, Philippines

Dubbed “Burias Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder), our three-day camp was the first neighborhood camp in the Philippines to have a holistic approach, reaching young people and the host community through a deep well project. By God’s grace and our sustained efforts, we raised the funds for this new camp.

We appreciate the willing hearts of all who served, especially the support of the GCI Bicol pastorate. GCI Daet provided worship. GCI Pili sent volunteers for food service and transportation. GCI Cotmon delivered equipment — tents, cooking utensils, archery sets. GCI Tabaco sent a culinary expert. GCI Donsol sent a veteran counselor to complete our personnel requirement.

Our theme, “Live Out Love” (1 Corinthians 16:14), was shared by the more than 100 individuals involved. The camaraderie and love culminated in three baptisms in the sea — a trio of young people yearning to serve the Lord!

Here lies the challenge now. We’re responsible for ensuring that these young leaders are guided and equipped on their journey of faith.

By Ricardo E. Perez, Pastor
Cotmon, Luzon, Philippines

 

 

 

Jacksonville, FL, US

We named our neighborhood camp “Grace Camp” when it started back in 2021 to note our connection to Grace Communion International, and to highlight our emphasis upon God’s love and grace towards all children. Each year in our daily chapel service, we focus on a certain aspect of God’s grace. This year our chapel theme was “Speaking with Grace to Others.”

Thirty-six campers aged 6-18, and 24 volunteer staff participated in our three-day camp. The teens had an additional day with an overnight on Jekyll Island, G.A. to provide better mentoring time.

Activities included crafts, sports, a block party, a dance, a water balloon contest, skits, a hike, and off-site outings (See schedule). Approximately a third of the campers came from the neighborhoods near the church. Some previous GCI attendees’ kids and grandkids attended, which is a good way to reconnect with them. Most of our regular church youth attended, which we value as strengthening our internal youth ministry and their discipleship journey with Jesus.

Marty, with wife, Yvonne

By Marty Davey, Pastor
Jacksonville, FL, US

 

 

 

 

Hyderabad, Telangana, India

Our goal with children’s ministry is to plant seeds of God’s word in children’s lives and allow the Holy Spirit to transform them, nurturing a relationship with Christ. To that end, we organised a three-day Vacation Bible School (VBS) on the church premises. The theme was “I Wonder.”

Fourteen children participated, and our design was a place-sharing perspective that would be non-threatening for children who are not Christian. An event like this brings members together and becomes a rich relational experience.

The children were taught to grow in their relationship with Jesus by engaging them with robotic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — and most importantly, our Creator! They heard from early church leaders like Paul, Peter, and Timothy, who helped the first Jesus followers wonder what made their stories unique, what gifts God gave them, how they could use those gifts to serve, and how they could spend time with God each day. Thanks to “Grow Curriculum” from where the material was resourced.

By Danny Zachariah, Superintendent of Asia
Hyderabad, India

Healthy Church—Avenues Retreat

During Dr. Greg Williams’ visit to Australasia, the Fiji Avenue champions and their teams gathered in Nadi, Fiji, for a two-day retreat. Greg and Superintendent Heber Ticas led the equipping discussions. Also present were Pastor Frank Boyd and Emily Boyd, and my wife, Sue Richards, and I.

Commissioned in late 2023, Love Avenue Champion Eugene Panuve, Faith Avenue Champion Jason Raki, and Hope Avenue Champion Epeli Nakautoga and their teams avidly absorbed the material presented. They appreciated the instruction, but they especially enjoyed the many stories and practical tips emerging regularly during the retreat. Dr. Williams began with the relational flow of Christ’s love, faith, and hope into and through our lives that is foundational to the health, vibrancy, and work of the church. Supported with stories from his experiences, Mr. Ticas encouraged us toward having a missional mentality and “posture,” and he described the missional flow between church and community.

On the second day, Greg proposed we tackle the questions submitted earlier as a practical exercise. Given questions appropriate to their Avenue, the teams spent the morning brainstorming and strategizing goals, action steps, point persons, and completion dates. Then they presented their suggestions and received feedback. What a good job they did! They had generated basic ministerial action plans (MAPs) and proven the ability of the teams to work together on difficult issues.

While Dr. Williams returned home on Sunday, Mr. Ticas stayed to speak to the Suva congregation. He gave tips on staging Love Avenue events at that venue, signage to advertise the church’s presence, the importance and placement of greeters, and the role of contact cards for following up with visitors. How encouraging this visit was! The emerging leaders are fired up and excited about the future growth and health of the church in Fiji, and the future looks positive.

Blessings,

By Dennis Richards, Regional Director, New Zealand and the South Pacific
Palmerston North, New Zealand

Healthy Church—Worship Hall Dedications

Awutu-Breku, Awutu Senya, Ghana

The Awutu-Breku congregation held a very special service in May to dedicate their new worship hall built from GCI Ghana resources.

Special guests at the occasion included Pastor Emmanuel Okai (Regional Director of West Africa) and his wife, Mrs. Margaret Okai; Pastor Dr. Frederick Amu-Mensah (Pastor of Kutunse, Accra) with his wife, Dr. Marian Amu-Mensah; Pastor Lady Glowen Kyei-Mensah (Assistant Pastor of Lashibi); and Pastor Christopher Balidin (Pastor of Buduburham) with his wife, Beatrice Balidin. And I attended with my wife, Mrs. Rebecca Okai.

After a time of praise and worship with prayer, Pastor Mawuena Balidin, the pastor of the Awutu-Breku congregation, welcomed everyone to the special occasion. After I delivered the sermon, we celebrated the new hall dedication.The service also featured an ordination ceremony. Miss Esther Korto Kolie was ordained as deaconess for the Buduburam congregation. Pastor Lady Glowen Kyei-Mensah also led a fundraising session, which was met with warm responses.

The service had a great atmosphere with 47 people in attendance. Everyone was excited about the newly dedicated hall.

By Theophilus Nii Okai, Pastor and National Director of Ghana
Accra, Ghana

 

 


One aspect of Healthy Church is having a prominent, consistent presence in your neighborhood. A permanent location helps to cultivate your congregation’s presence. Congratulations to the Awutu-Breku congregation, and to the following three congregations who are also celebrating new church halls. We share in their joy. Join us in praying for fruit, rooted in our true vine, Jesus.

Baguio, Luzon, Philippines

We are thankful to God for his provision of our new place of worship celebrations. Ang Ating Tahanan — our home! Our first worship celebration on June 2 was filled with joy, thanksgiving, and praises to our triune God. GC Baguio, let us be in the attitude of expectancy for new things, new memories, and new God-encounters together in this place.

Rosacara, Mindoro, Philippines

Almighty Creator, we rejoice in the groundbreaking ceremony for our new church building. May this place become a beacon of light and love in our neighborhood, drawing hearts closer to you and fostering unity, compassion, and hope for all who enter its doors. Bless this endeavor with your guidance and grace.

Port Harcourt, River State, Nigeria

To the glory of God, we dedicated our new church hall on May 19. We are grateful for the participation of Pastor Emmanuel Okai (Regional Director for West Africa) in our ribbon cutting ceremony.

Devotional—Compelled by His Love

During Ordinary Time, we meditate on questions like, “What does an ordinary life that is being transformed by Jesus look like?” I love to dwell on this response: “a life compelled by the love of Jesus.” Our Jesus is a relational, incarnational God – so it is no surprise that a life compelled by his love will bring us into a life lived amongst our neighbors.

In honesty, we can acknowledge that even when it comes to being present with our neighbors and participating in Jesus’ mission, we are not always motivated by love. Sometimes we are motivated by guilt, the desire to be seen as a “good Christian,” or pride.

While our own love falls short, the love of Jesus is always sufficient. It is this love that ushers us into a “new ordinary” life — beautiful, ordinary life spent in the presence of beloved ordinary people, bringing glory to our extraordinary God.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 NIV

Prayer:
Lord, we thank you for being with us in each small moment and each grand moment. We pray that you would continue to compel us to live our ordinary days according to the truth of your lavish love. May it lead us to live lives of presence with our neighbors, just as it has led you to live present with us. Amen.

By Cara Garrity, GCI Development Coordinator
Steele Creek, NC, US

Healthy Church—Replicating Leaders

On June 2, the Montreal congregation celebrated the ordination of two assistant pastors. Bill Hall, National Director of Canada, was with us to ordain Marie-Line Tremblay and Pierre Duguay

Marie-Line’s role as an assistant pastor and main responsibility is to our families, including the supervision of children and youth ministry. Pierre’s main field of service and role is that of Love Avenue Champion.

By Roger Labelle, Pastor
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Healthy Church—Kidz Blast

On June 1, Grace Communion Cleveland, by the power of the Holy Spirit, successfully organized and held a free event for kids to celebrate the start of their summer vacation from school. As a connecting point, the engagement event was held where we meet for services. From noon until 4 p.m., our common area was filled with families who we invited from two of the elementary schools in our community.

Students enjoyed games, earning tickets for prizes, and a bounce house that was always filled with children. We also set up an indoor roller skating rink in the gym. We served hot dogs cooked on the outdoor grill, lemonade, bags of popcorn, and frozen popsicles to fill hungry people.

A mother and daughter team in our congregation never took a break from creating beautiful individual works of art on the faces of children and adults. Our hired balloon artist continually made fun balloon sculptures for everyone who waited patiently in line. Some children took the opportunity to create a canvas board painting at a table run by an artist who has a studio in the building. The table offering stacks of children’s books that were donated by the literacy cooperative were happily taken home by families as they left the event.

We estimated that there were more than 200 people in attendance. We felt very blessed to have had such a wonderful connection with our community. Glory to our God!

By Pat Shiels, Love Avenue Champion
Cleveland, OH, US

Devotional—Ordinary Love

“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out — perhaps a little at a time.” —Wendell Berry

I’m new to my neighborhood. I have high hopes of making new friends and building community. I make eye contact, smile, and greet every neighbor I see. And some of them return the greeting.

But many do not.

“Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself” is a poem by Wallace Stevens. Borrowing that idea, author Greg Boyle describes, in The Whole Language, how we don’t want to settle for a description of the kingdom, we want the kingdom itself.

When I read that, I teared up. It connects very deeply to the longing in me. My desire for connection and unity with my neighbors is a longing for the kingdom itself.

Do you long for more than ideas about the kingdom?

Longing can feel like sadness, but it indicates that there is more — more than ideas. Longing tethers me to hope — hope in Jesus’ restorative, reconciling action in my neighborhood. I hope in the reality that we are created for belonging and kinship.

How do I cultivate belonging when my neighbors don’t appear to want to connect?

I don’t have the answer. Perhaps I will have to live it out, a little at a time.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And he shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord! Psalm 27:13-14 NKJV

We wait. We pay attention to the goodness of the Lord. We stay consistently available and near. We smile. We will not settle for merely the idea of the kingdom kinship.

Prayer:
Strengthen our hearts, Father. In the face of questions, empower us to be of good courage, Spirit. We are grateful for you, Jesus, our answer. Amen.

By Elizabeth Mullins, Update Editor
Durham, NC, US

 

Healthy Church—Succession Planning

Kathy & Grant Forsyth, David Borum, Rick Shallenberger

On May 5th, I had the blessing of installing David Borum as the associate pastor of our GCI congregation in Kenockee, Michigan. I wish I had the space to tell you all the Holy spirit interventions we experienced during this transition.

During some downtime at the 2023 Denominational Celebration, I was chatting with Tim Sitterley, US West regional director, and David. David shared his excitement about the growth some congregations were experiencing, and his desire to serve even more. When Tim asked if he’d ever consider moving, David said that as much as he loved the members in Seattle, he had determined that he would follow wherever the Lord led him. Eventually, I interjected, “Would you consider moving to Michigan?” I hadn’t planned to bring up the topic and was a bit surprised the words came out of my mouth. Tim and David also looked surprised, but David repeated that he was willing to follow where the Lord led. The next morning, I introduced him to Grant and Kathy Forsyth.

From that introduction, the three of them spent much of the rest of the conference together and quickly realized how much they had in common in their approach to ministry. They continued getting to know one another virtually, and David visited the congregation and fell in love with it. Several other Holy Spirit interventions took place throughout the discernment process, which culminated in his installation on the congregation’s annual Dedication Sunday.

Prior to coming to Kenockee, David was serving as the pastor of GC Northshore (Seattle, Washington). Originally, David was a part of GC River Road (Eugene, Oregon), where he completed his pastoral residency. David said he is looking forward to serving the congregation and being fully integrated into the community in hopes of being a blessing to all he meets. Read More

Healthy Church—Blessing of Mothers

As part of our Love Avenue rhythms at Comunion De Gracia Sun Valley, we celebrate and honor mothers in several ways. On the Saturday prior to Mother’s Day, our men’s ministry put together a gala dinner for the mothers of our congregation, along with some guest mothers. Church members were encouraged to invite their friends and family who are mothers. The only prerequisite is registering for the event. Sixty-seven mothers participated in the event including 13 first-time visitors. The men and the youth waited the tables to the delight of the participants.

In addition to the exquisite dinner provided, the mothers enjoyed fellowship, music, and multiple goodies that were raffled. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the night was the professional photography. All the mothers were invited to partake in a free photo shoot that was donated by a church member.

The following day for our Sunday service, we prayed over and anointed all the mothers in attendance, including many first-time visitors and some of the mothers who attended the gala dinner the previous day. The whole weekend was dedicated to celebrating and blessing the mothers in our midst. Two weeks earlier we had celebrated our first of two Blessing of Children services for the year. It was so fitting that the mothers were now the ones who were being anointed, celebrated, and the recipients of much love.

These missionally minded events are a great way to express love to the mothers and create a space for the greater body to participate missionally and to join Jesus in his continued pursuit of all people.

Every Blessing,

By Heber Ticas, Pastor & Superintendent of Latin America

 

Healthy Church—Avenue Champions

Epeli Nakautoga, Eugene Panuve, and Jason Raki

The Suva congregation in Fiji reached a key milestone on their ongoing vision when the three Avenue champions were commissioned last fall. Epeli Nakautoga is serving as the Hope Avenue champion, Eugene Panuve as the Love Avenue champion, and Jason Raki as the Faith Avenue champion.

Together with Pastor Frank and Emily Boyd, I have observed Eugene, Jason, and Epeli and their ongoing maturing, clear leadership abilities, and willingness to serve. We felt their unique giftings and temperaments make them well suited for these roles. Happily, they readily agreed.

We commissioned them before the congregation, and I explained that they were selected because they had shown themselves faithful over time. Each had stepped up to serve whenever asked and had shown himself teachable and consistently enthusiastic about the congregation’s vision and plans. They have demonstrated both their leadership capacities and suitability for these new responsibilities. What a pleasure it was to commission them as Avenue champions, and what an encouragement to the church in this region.

Youth leader is another important role in the life and health of the Suva church. Tongli Panuve and Joana Wainibuli are youth leaders providing regular weekly studies for the youth. I am encouraged that the relationships amongst the group are strong, and I see their potential for greatly assisting our vision of Healthy Church in Suva.

I ask that you pray for all three Avenue champions. Pray for Frank and Emily Boyd, who will guide and encourage them. And please pray for me also that I provide appropriate training and resourcing in a timely fashion.

Dennis pictured with his wife, Sue

By Dennis Richards, Pastor and Regional Director, New Zealand
Palmerston North, New Zealand