On the weekend of October 7-9, thirty women enjoyed a retreat at the St. Bernard Retreat Center in Cullman, Alabama. The retreat was sponsored by Grace Covenant Fellowship in Helena, Alabama. The theme for the weekend was Salvation Joy! The speakers were Gerrie Bayley, Barbara Dahlgren, Ruth Miller, and Sondra Peters.
Singer/songwriter Ann Hartmann provided wonderful music (annhartmann.com). Mary Jo Leaver gave a beautiful presentation of Music to the Eyes. Mary Jo’s ministry to the hearing impaired involves amazing lyrical sign language renditions of some of her favorite songs.
Gerrie Bayley, who lives in England, is involved in ministry to the children of Chernobyl, Ukraine. Her slide presentation of the conditions in the Ukraine and her descriptions of the type of help needed resulted in generous donations to assist those in need.
Friday and Saturday evenings were filled with lots of great fellowship and board games! Beautiful fall weather helped make it a memorable weekend for all who attended.
Five years ago, we relocated our church from the Youth Horizons building to Derby, Kansas. We attempted to engage the neighborhood with limited success. At the end of a neighborhood prayer walk, a member prayed, asking that we could serve our local elementary school. A short time later, Youth Horizons asked us to participate in a mentoring program at the school. A few members could mentor. We were excited and praised God for this opportunity.
The following year, we doubled the mentors, but COVID kept us from being with the students. A couple of members planned an afterschool STEM/Art connection group. We just had to wait for COVID to decline. When we were able to resume mentoring, a teacher asked us to assist with an afterschool STEM coding club. This in-school club, meeting twice a week, provided more effective engagement than the original plan. One day, a child walked by and asked, “Bible Club?”
After investigating, we discovered they had a Bible Club with Campus Kids Ministries, Inc. before COVID, and we could host it the coming year! The program provides course materials, treats, and a nice bible for each child after attending three weeks. We provide take-home copies, snacks, adult leaders, and prayer support.
This year, we continue assisting the STEM club and mentoring. Now we host the Bible Club. We currently have 50 students from kindergarten to fifth grade. We enjoy support from the principal and staff. We are permitted to pass out flyers inviting the club to our church events. Many came to our trunk-or-treat experience.
We’re looking forward to our winter GC Derby Camp and Parent Day Out. God continues to bring us opportunities that allow us to participate where he is already active. God shows us that he goes before us.
By Pastor Kirk and Laura Hayden Grace Communion Derby
On Sunday, October 9, GCI Carina in Queensland, Australia hosted a Love Avenue event in support of Mental Health Week. For this community engagement, GCI Carina partnered with Blue Phoenix, a group of volunteers who are passionate about changing the way people think about mental health issues.
As one of the co-founders of Blue Phoenix, I helped to spearhead this community-church partnership event. Blue Phoenix is determined to address the significant gap in mental health education in the community. Its purpose is not only to encourage people but to admire people and give them recognition and applause — it’s a big ask to recover from a mental illness.
Blue Phoenix is a group of volunteers who share their personal stories publicly to encourage conversations about mental health and to dispel myths about psychiatric conditions. They believe we should talk about mental health and well-being because when we talk, tell the stories, discuss stigma, and encourage a dialogue, we can dispel ignorance and myth. And we open our own and others’ hearts and minds to connection, hope, compassion, and recovery. That was our hope for gathering our neighbors for this event.
The Carina congregation hosted Blue Phoenix volunteers and community members for the launch of the sunflower quilt to celebrate its completion. This major textile work is a group initiative and challenge that took more than 12 months to complete. Now it has embarked on its mission to stimulate discussion and to promote thinking differently about mental health issues at the grass roots community level.
What a joy it was to join our larger Queensland community and neighbors celebrating Mental Health Week!
Grace Communion now has a presence in Bangladesh after a legally registered Trust was formed in February 2022.
It all started after my wife, Christina, and I graduated from International Graduate School of Leadership (IGSL) in Metro Manila, Philippines. We had the privilege of being sponsored to study in this school. It was even more of a privilege to meet Dr. Eugenio Guzon in the library, and an instant friendship began.
[Editor’s Note: IGSL, formerly International School of Theology-Asia (ISOT-Asia), is part of Campus Crusade’s formal training resource. IGSL equips Spirit-filled men and women with the knowledge, character, competence, and vision to make an impact for Christ and to make disciples.]
Dr. Guzon asked me where I attend Sunday worship. I was looking for a church where my family and I could attend. Then, Dr. Guzon invited me to attend the GCI Crossway fellowship where Aron Tolentino was pastoring. We took an instant liking for the fellowship. The choir, sermon, doctrine and friendliness of the fellowship impressed us. We continued to attend until we graduated from IGSL. We were also privileged to attend GCI annual celebrations, pastoral trainings, youth camp, small group training by Dr. Gary and Cathy Deddo, and combined services with President Dr. Greg Williams.
After we graduated, we felt a strong connection with GCI. I made a request to Dr. Guzon to plant churches under GCI in Bangladesh. After sharing this vision with a few dedicated people, who were my students earlier, they were all willing to come on board. With their help we were able to reach out to many small villages where people were wanting to belong to a fellowship.
Now we have five house churches in two provinces. We have 108 baptized members of GCI. In addition, we have four potential house churches. These house churches are led by a team of two leaders. At the moment, members gather every Sunday in one of the houses of our leaders. They are very happy and passionate to walk with Jesus Christ.
After researching on registering churches in Bangladesh, I began preparing the documents with the help of a lawyer. After several corrections with the help of Dan Zachariah, Dr. Guzon, and the Home Office, we finally were able to register on February 15, 2022, as Grace Communion Church Bangladesh. We praise God for this accomplishment.
Many challenges remain. Bangladesh is a predominantly Islamic country. Only around 0.3 percent of the population are Christian. Limited resources and access to leadership trainings hamper our efforts. Nevertheless, we plan for sustainability and hope for 20 house churches in the next three years. The prayer of our worldwide fellowship is much appreciated.
What a blessing we have in Jesus. I see God’s hand in our neighborhood engagement efforts. GC Pasadena doesn’t have a big budget, so we must look for other means to engage the community and share the love of Jesus with our neighbors. We began distributing donated food from the grocery store, Vons. But when that ended, we prayed for God to open another door.
Now, we’re grateful to be giving away produce from Trader Joe’s every Saturday morning. The manager of our church building even allowed us to use the hall without charging additional rent. It’s a chance to meet our neighbors, ask their names, and pray with them if they desire. Often, they ask, why are you doing this? It’s an opportunity to talk about our church. Most express surprise and gratitude.
We want to be a consistent presence. We want our neighbors to realize that we are truly intentional about loving and helping them. For this reason, it’s important that this is an ongoing event.
We’re beginning to see how the food donation is a connecting point to the larger community. My husband, Saddie, is friends with the tennis players in Eagle Rock, where Trader Joe’s is located. Two of those friends volunteered to bring the produce from the store to our church in Pasadena. On top of that, they are now attending our church service. Then they invited all the other players to the 9th anniversary celebration of our church — half of those in attendance were tennis players! Additionally, one tennis player, Ben, who is a retired nurse, volunteered to check blood pressure and blood sugar on Sundays for our members.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. God is really the one opening the door. We just follow Jesus, and bear witness in what he is doing in the lives of our neighbors.
Every September 15 through October 15, National Spanish Heritage month is recognized and celebrated in the U.S. The month pays tribute to the contributions of the American Latino community. Since several Central American countries celebrate Independence Day on September 15 and Mexico on September 16, the celebration takes on greater meaning in these communities throughout the U.S.
Our Sun Valley and Hawthorne, California, congregations joined in the celebration by honoring the immigrant fiber of the makeup of these churches. In our Sun Valley congregation, the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru are all represented by church members. In Comunion De Gracia Hawthorne, all but one of these countries are also represented.
On September 18, both the Sun Valley and Hawthorne congregation independently dedicated their Sunday celebration to celebrating Spanish Heritage. As part of the service, prayers were lifted on behalf of these nations, and our union in Christ was celebrated as the united expression of the body of Christ.
The celebration affords the congregations a space in which church members can come together to celebrate their heritage. They do this by dressing up in traditional attire, highlighting ethnic roots, and enjoying traditional cuisine. It becomes a celebration of God’s amazing creativity and his immeasurable grace in Christ.
Additionally, Spanish Heritage Sunday also grants the opportunity to invite family, friends, and neighbors to experience the unified body of Christ in a tangible manner. It has become one of the key events for outside the walls presence in our church neighborhoods.
Since the first time that we dedicated a Sunday (on some occasions a weekend) to Spanish heritage, God has blessed us with many opportunities to meet those we receive as guests and our surrounding neighbors. Many of these relationships have become disciple-making relationships. We are grateful for God’s providence and the many opportunities that he affords to participate in his everyday mission in our community and city.
By Heber Ticas Pastor & Superintendent Latin America