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Playground Pop-up—Cleveland, OH, US

Grace Communion Cleveland hosted its first neighborhood engagement in the afternoon on June 26 after Sunday services. Our congregation meets in a classroom at Coventry P.E.A.C.E. Campus, which is a former elementary school that now houses non-profit groups and artists. The Playground Pop-up, as we called it, was held in the community park that is part of this campus, where families often bring their children to the large playground with grassy hills on weekends.

There was a rubber ducky-pull game for kids to win prizes, face painting, sidewalk chalk drawing, a balloon artist, corn hole games and a physical education teacher to engage kids in organized activities. Juice boxes, water and an assortment of chips were the snacks for the afternoon. Four $50 gas cards were given away to adults in a drawing midway through the event.

Although thunderstorms were in the forecast all week for that Sunday, we forged ahead with our plans, praying for God’s intervention with the weather. The rain held off until 3:45 p.m., fifteen minutes before the end of the event. Even then, it was just a gentle brief rain. We were amazed, pleased, and praising God that all went so well for our first outreach and look forward to August when we will have a picnic and school supply giveaway.

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

Neighborhood Camp—Surrey, OK, US

As 75 campers, 40+ volunteer staff, and dozens of parents poured into the front doors Wednesday morning of Camp Surrey, I was reminded of what life-on-life ministry looks like. These people were more than camp attendees – they were people I see at my kid’s school, ball games, neighborhood activities, the neighborhood gas station, the neighborhood park, and all other places where my family and I do life. Camp Surrey was yet another braid in the rope of my life, the church’s life, and the lives in Surrey Hills. Every single child and parent was known in some way by at least two or three staff members. The friendly greeting and connections further deepened the relationships being built with our church and the people of the neighborhood.
But the Holy Spirit never stops. Among the 40+ volunteer staff, approximately 10 of the staff are “new members” of our church! Relationships with these new church family members and long-time family members were significantly deepened. Bonds were built as a foundation for a life-long relationship with one another.
The activities, kayaking, team building, food, dancing, and messages were all great. But what really stood out to me as a pastor was seeing the everlasting impact happening in the lives of campers, staff, and parents.
Being a neighborhood church with a neighborhood camp is more than being a church in the neighborhood with a camp. It’s living out the love of God in our daily lives in the neighborhood we live!
Grace and peace,
Joe Brannen
Pastor, Surrey Hills, OK, US

Neighborhood Hot Breakfast—Clarksville, TN, US

Editor’s Note: This is a wonderful example of a congregation paying close attention to the rhythms of their neighborhood. They discerned a need and were compelled by love to risk trying something new. Thank you for sharing your story!

It was a simple plan—a hot breakfast prior to our church service for the neighborhood the first Sunday of each month. First, we advertised in the newsletter of the senior center where we meet for church, and we put up flyers in a nearby apartment community. We learned that both places provide meals during the week, but no meals are served on Sunday.

Next, one member, Princess Yeager, gave our bulletin board at the center a fresh, new look. We spruced up the worship hall with new silk plants. It may have been a simple plan, but it was a lot of work for organizer Zebbie Cox. For that first Sunday of March, we decorated and laid out a table of juices, hot beverages, biscuits with sausage, breakfast casseroles, and muffins—everything you could possibly want for breakfast. This was in addition to the usual work for each Sunday: setting up chairs, sound system, and the tricky job of setting up cameras for a live recording of the sermon.

Our March breakfast was set for 10:00 a.m. with the church service at 10:30. We didn’t know what to expect, but we had high hopes for a big hungry crowd. That was not the case. We had a few family members attend, but they were simply being supportive. It was the same in April–disappointing and discouraging, to say the least. We talked about pulling the advertisements and discontinuing the breakfast. Two ladies, Sue Williams and Shirley Barton, were keen on continuing the breakfast, though.

We’re so glad they were, because for our May breakfast, we had four guests! You might not think that’s a big turnout, but when the average attendance on Sunday is fourteen, that’s almost a 30% increase. The irony is, two of the guests had already eaten, so they didn’t come for the breakfast.

We will continue the monthly breakfast but will scale back a little bit on the amount of food we provide. We continue to pray that God will lead others to visit our little congregation for nourishment of one kind or another.

By Sondra Peters
Pastoral Team Member, Clarksville, TN, US

Death of Norva Kelly

The following is the obituary shared with Update from Norva’s family.

A beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend, Norva Lee Kelly passed away at her home in Duarte, CA on June 11, 2022, at the age of 86. She left behind her husband Ronald Kelly, her children Ronda Perry, Kara Zebrowski, Randel Kelly, Shari Campa and Michelle Suckling, her son-in-laws Marty Perry, Dan Zebrowski, Jorg Kelly, John Campa, and Bruce Suckling, along with her sisters, Natalie and Kaye and her brothers Jack, Dennis and Ray. She was blessed with ten grandchildren, two grandchildren by affection, six great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. She extended her family to include those not just related by blood but those that she loved as her own.

Born in Yellville, Arkansas, Norva was the daughter of Norvel & Alvah Pyle. While the family may not have had an abundance of money, they had an abundance of love, laughter, and joy. She always drew fondly on her Arkansas roots, for it is there she learned to love family, traditions, and most importantly, Jesus. Throughout the years she resided in Yakima, WA; Pasadena, CA; Sacramento, CA; Oakland, CA; Longmont, CO; and Big Sandy, TX. It was in college in Pasadena, CA that she met and married Ronald Kelly. They were wed on August 28, 1960, and were blessed with sixty-two years together, with the last thirty-six years spent in Duarte, CA.

If you knew Norva, you loved her. She loved God, her husband, and her family above all else. She inherited her cooking skills from her mother and spent countless hours in the kitchen making meals, first for her growing family and eventually adding friends who became family, spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren around the dinner table. Friday night dinners became sacred gatherings. She enjoyed many years of traveling the world with Ron, supported his love of landscape photography, and even indulged him occasionally by posing for a picture. She cherished her friendships and was always the first to reach out to others when they were hurting in any way. She was one of the godliest women you could ever meet, and a prayer warrior who loved sharing scripture in a tender-hearted way with those who mattered most in her life. Being a grandmother and great-grandmother was a role she cherished. She embodied love in a multitude of ways — she was a baby whisperer, a reader of countless children’s books, a supporter of academics and the arts, a shoulder to cry on, and the one to call to celebrate any achievement. She was our angel on earth.

Cards may be sent to:

Ron Kelly
841 Swiss Trails Rd.
Duarte, CA 91010

Prayer Update—Santiago Lange

Below is a prayer update for Pastor Santiago Lange in Stuttgart, Germany. In April, we asked for prayer for his diagnosis of advanced colon cancer.

Dear Friends,I am writing to you after receiving my fifth Chemo/Anti-body treatment on June 28. After the sixth treatment on July 12, there will be a CT scan to help determine the effectiveness of the therapy. And the next therapy steps will be determined with my oncologist on July 25.

The chemo/anti-body therapies pack a heavy punch, with side effects like skin rashes with water blisters, mouth sores and dryness, pain, weight loss, and weakness. I am glad to be able to share that my [pressure] wounds continue to heal nicely. After some losses I have been able to gain weight, but I would joyfully welcome another 13-16 kg.

I am every day deeply thankful for your partnering support as our family goes through this health crisis. I pray that the Lord may bless your kindness a hundredfold.Every blessing,Santiago



Notes may be sent to:
Santiago Lange
Birkenweg 13
55490 Gemünden


Wedding of Kelly Meade & Andrew Rakestraw

Kelly Meade and Andrew Rakestraw were married on Saturday, May 21, 2022. They had a beautiful, small wedding in the backyard of Kelly’s parent’s home in Fort Mill, South Carolina, with Anthony Mullins officiating. Kelly’s brother, Chris, in South Korea, Andrew’s brother, Matthew, in Washington, DC, and a few other guests joined the wedding from zoom.

Shortly before the wedding, Kelly graduated Summa Cum Laude from Montreat College with a major in Psychology and Human Services. Andrew graduated Summa Cum Laude from Florida State University with a double major in Political Science and Public Relations. They will make their home in Tallahassee, Florida.

Paternal grandparents of the bride, Kim and Jimmie Meade (elder in Kenokee, MI)

Congratulations, Kelly and Andrew, on your graduations and wedding! As you begin your life together, we share in your joy and hold you in our prayers.



Briana Grant Graduates

Briana’s proud parents are Robin and Pastor Tommie Grant, of GC Ladson, South Carolina, U.S.

Let us share in the excitement and joy of Briana Denise Grant’s accomplishment! On Saturday, May 28, 2022, she received her high school diploma from Summerville High School. The ceremony was held at the North Charleston Coliseum in Charleston, S.C. Briana earned two academic award letters and a silver medal for her grades above 90.

Briana aspires to become a nurse and passionately desires to enroll in ministerial college. According to her mother, Briana has an unrelenting devotion to Christ, a passion for learning more about our Lord, while living out his purpose for her life.

Briana, you are a lovely image-bearer of our loving God. Your desire to share the good news of Jesus with others is contagious. Congratulations!

OTW—Ladson, SC, US

From my perspective, an Outside the Walls (OTW) event is a spiritual practice that Christians believe to be a part of the call from Christ to go and make disciples. Going outside the walls of the church is a way for members to share the love and goodness of Jesus Christ. OTW means meeting and loving people as Jesus did. As the Love Avenue champion, I lead the team in planning activities and creating spaces that allow Jesus’ love to be shared and grown with other people who are not members of the congregation. I am honored to be a part of this great work.

For our first OTW activity, the team made plans for a summer celebration. Since we’ve hosted picnics many times before, we felt confident we could provide a fun day for the neighborhood. We know that our target neighborhood has many families, so we planned activities that would be appealing to them. We hoped that our neighbors would come out to enjoy the day, meet us, and each other.

We have already engaged with this neighborhood through our weekly meal service and two other picnics we hosted in the neighborhood park. I had hopes of seeing at least 50 people come to our OTW event on the church grounds, less than a mile up the road from the target neighborhood. I feared, however, that more people would come and that we would be overwhelmed serving and managing that many people.

Just under 15 people, mostly under the age of 18, showed up. From this turn-out, we have concluded that this neighborhood, which is one of four near our church, may not be our only focus. We are discerning that our church has many kids and several members who have spent many years teaching and planning for kids and that we should capitalize on that strength. So, moving forward with future events, kids will be our targeted group.

One thing our committee can improve for future events is the engagement of people. More could be done by our group to start and maintain conversations with our guests. Next time, I hope to have a select group of people who had been trained and equipped for engaging guests as they come.

Now that the event is over, I am pleased with how our church members participated and arrived ready to serve. Everyone I asked to be a part of the team was willing to help, some offering to do anything they could to be a part of the event. Church members had a great time and enjoyed being together again since this was our first big gathering after being apart during the pandemic.

I encourage other churches to develop a thorough plan that is within the range of their God-given talents and step out of the church walls. God will absolutely be there—God is already in your neighborhood!

By Mary Robinson
Love Avenue Champion, Ladson, SC, US

Youth Baptisms—Lancaster, CA, US

On June 5, 2022, as part of our celebration for Pentecost Sunday, we were privileged to baptize two of our youngest members, Christian Knight Martinez, age 8, and Valiant Peter Martinez, age 6. It was especially meaningful to my husband, Pastor Jonathon, and me because they are our sons!

Christian and Valiant had been asking for more than a year to be baptized. As part of our preparation for the day, we explained the event and what would happen. They were so excited they didn’t want to wait even one more day. Then they asked, “Will we feel any different after we get baptized?” I replied, “Maybe you will, maybe you won’t.”

After church on Zoom, we met at a friend’s house. This church celebration also became a Love Avenue event, as our kids invited school friends and their family. We had 21 in attendance.

After the baptism we had a meal and pool party. The kids and their friends enjoyed holding their own “baptisms” in the spa, while the adults enjoyed time fellowshipping. It was a very special time, and everyone enjoyed the opportunity to meet new friends and have fun in person.

The following day, when asked if he felt any different, Valiant (6), said, “Yes, mom, I feel like a new man!” Praise God for this wondrous blessing!

By Susanna Martinez

For more from this fun family, watch this episode of We Are GCI.