Dear pastors and ministry leaders:
As I travel in my responsibilities as Director of Church Administration and Development and GCI Vice President, I’m blessed to spend time with GCI leaders and members throughout the world. We truly are an international family, and that is something to celebrate! I recently had the pleasure of visiting our GCI family in the Philippines and Mexico. Let me share some of what I experienced.
GCI’s congregations in the Philippines, scattered throughout that nation’s 7,641 islands, are served by a wonderful group of pastors, pastoral teams and ministry leaders who volunteer to serve (only two of our Filipino pastors are employed by the church!). Given the financial challenges and the fact that many had to travel long distances, I was amazed that so many attended one of two recent ministry development conferences. Both were hosted by Mission Developer Eugene Guzon, who invited me to facilitate discussions concerning our ministry with Jesus Christ.
The first conference was held in Tagaytay, 37 miles south of Manila. This beautiful tourist city has a marvelous Christian ministry center often utilized by our Filipino brothers and sisters. I was encouraged by the eagerness shown by the 150 participants, and impressed by a strong representation of millennials and professionals (doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, engineers, etc.).
Following the Tagaytay conference, Eugene and I flew to Cebu in the Central Visayas where we held the second conference with 80 in attendance. I heard stories of long journeys to the conference including overnight boat rides. What a wonderful, deeply committed group!
We have an amazing group of leaders in the Philippines! I was particularly moved by their high level of commitment to ministry development and the joy they experience learning in community. I left with positive feelings about their future as they live and share the gospel.
Heber Ticas (from the U.S.), Hector Barrero (from Colombia) and I joined forces in Mexico City to support GCI Mexico Pastor Nata Cruz for an “Outside the Walls” weekend event. This was the first time that Heber, who is National Coordinator for GCI USA Church Multiplications Ministries, offered Outside the Walls consulting outside the U.S.
The event began on Friday as a group of GCI pastors from the region around Mexico City gathered for training in outreach strategy. That instruction was followed with a community outreach block party on Saturday. It was impressive to see the small street adjacent to our church’s place of meeting blocked off and a tent set up to house a trampoline for the kids, a mechanical bull (yes, it was a chance to check this off of my “bucket list”), and several other games. The block party also included various community services, including medical and dental exams, free haircuts, free massages from a licensed masseuse, and some of the best tacos I’ve ever enjoyed. More than 100 guests attended. Highlights of the event are presented in this short video:
(on YouTube at https://youtu.be/27xUbGqHBXM)
I could tell many stories about the Mexico City event, but for the sake of space, let me tell you about Natalie. She lives three blocks from the church and her mom brought her to the block party with her cousin (who lives with them because his mother is not well). Natalie wore a dirty pink sweatshirt and her broad smile stretched cheek-to-cheek. She played tirelessly on the trampoline and I believe she ate three tacos. She and her family then returned to the church for Sunday worship services. She was still wearing that dirty pink sweatshirt and broad smile. She shared with me that this was the first time she had ever been to church and noted how much she liked the children’s class that was provided.
Pastor Nata and his loving congregation created an event filled with fun activities, music and food, but more than anything else, they shared the gospel of Jesus and the power of healing that comes through prayer. Yhere was fun and laughter, but there also were tears and prayer as many participants felt comfortable talking about their trials and deep personal needs. The last report I heard is that 11 people have becomed members of the Mexico City congregation as a result of the event. Our members are continuing to reflect the light of Christ into the neighborhood!
Our family reunion in August
If stories like these encourage you, I think you’ll be greatly encouraged by what you’ll experience at We Are GCI—our Denominational Conference coming to Orlando, Florida, on August 2–6. The Spirit is guiding our churches around the world along similar “outside the walls” paths, and the stories we’ll hear from GCI leaders at our triennial “family reunion” will be a highlight. I look forward to seeing many of you there as, together, we worship our amazing Triune God and celebrate what the Father, Son and Spirit are doing in our midst. For additional conference information, click here.
Pre-conference session for pastors
On August 1, GCI pastors will attend a pre-conference session in which Dr. Gary Deddo will facilitate a discussion on GCI’s incarnational Trinitarian theology as it pertains to the nature of the church, its ministry and the Christian life. Gary has been laying the groundwork for this discussion with a series in GCI Weekly Update titled “The Church and Its Ministry” and a companion series here in Equipper titled “Clarifying Our Theological Vision” (you’ll find part 4 in this issue, and click here for a compilation of the first four parts in booklet format). I encourage our pastors to study these two series before arriving at the conference.
See you in Orlando!
Greg Williams, CAD Director and GCI Vice President