GraceConnect eNews, No. 152, Week of June 21, 2016


The eNewsletter for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
Alexia Manor, an assisted living community for the elderly on the east side of Cleveland, has become a place to share the gospel through Bible study, prayer, and establishing friendship with the residents.

The Potential for God

Cleveland, Ohio struggles with many of the same obstacles as larger American cities. Crime, unemployment, poverty, a general sense of hopelessness. Yet, none of the other cities were once named the Most Distressed City in America, like Cleveland was in a recent study. How does one respond to a report like that? By talking and praying, one person at a time.

That’s what Mark Ritzman has been doing since moving there from Pennsylvania last year. A pastor in Philadelphia for the last eleven years, Mark became part of the network of
SEEDNet, (a church planting in Spiritually, Emotionally, Economically, Developmentally Oppressed areas) in September of 2014. Not long after, Mark felt God calling him back to his native Ohio; specifically the distressed streets of Cleveland. The move would find him closer to family, and a plus was his family’s love of big cities.

Mark and his wife, Candi, grew up in the Akron area, before diverging down different academic paths. Candi attended Grace College in Indiana, while Mark studied at Wheaton College just outside of Chicago. During his studies, Mark participated in a ministry that took place in Chicago’s juvenile hall, which was filled with rough and tough, mostly African American teens, who were only waiting to graduate to ‘big boy’ prison. Intimidation described Mark’s feelings pretty well. But he soon found the kids to be regular people -- hungry for God’s Word. Mark saw their potential and first felt the tug toward inner city ministries.

“God has given me a compassion for those that others might look at and think they have nothing to offer.” Ritzman describes his mission. “I’m not one to overlook what they have for God and His kingdom.”

He refers to the words of 1 Corinthians 1:25 & 27: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength… But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."

Mark is fulfilling this mission every Wednesday at noon, when he drives from his home on Cleveland’s west side, to Alexia Manor on the city’s east side. Alexia Manor is a mild form of assisted living for the elderly or those with slight physical handicaps. It is a crossing of cultures, a thirty-something white guy walking into a community of older residents, vastly African-American. But God is using this culture clash all the same.

Thus far, Mark has lead Bible studies with the residents and any individual prayer and talking that comes up in-between. And the residents are eager to talk, as well as learn about the gospel. Just as eager as Mark is to establish friendships with them. He finds it neat to be recognized as ‘Pastor’ at Alexia. It makes it easier to break the ice with folks and make his position known and also to get to know the residents first hand.

Mark and SEEDNet have been working to integrate themselves even farther into Alexia Manor. Recently, Mark has been working directly with the manor’s management to start up an official Bible study; food, fellowship, the whole nine biblical yards! Mark is very excited to get the proper permissions approved. It is one step closer in Mark’s mission to make disciples for Jesus. Pray for this mission to be seen through and for the future of those disciples. 

Keep up with the ministry in Cleveland on the
Ritzman's blog, and send the Ritzmans a letter of encouragement by clicking here. --by Haley Bradfield


[Your Turn]


John F. Smith, pastor at Grace Church at Willow Valley in Lancaster, Pa., blogs at He recently published a post about the meaning and value of theology in the life of a Christian. He writes,

"I must admit there was a time in my life whenever I heard the words 'doctrine' or 'theology' I would break out in a case of spiritual hives. I mean the last thing I wanted to do was spend time reading some stuffy, boring theology textbook! But then I learned that my "theology allergy" was actually to my detriment. That in fact, the study of theology (theology simply means "the study of God") was extremely vital to the health and welfare of my soul."

Click here to read the rest of his post.


Enjoy GraceConnect eNews? Learn more about our parent organization, the Brethren Missionary Herald Company, during its annual corporation meeting next month. It will be held Sunday, July 24, 2016, at 7:30 a.m. The breakfast meeting will be held in the Grand Ballroom West at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, 123 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5H 2M9.

The meeting is in conjunction with the national conference of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, Margins|2016. A ticket is required for the breakfast meeting. The subsidized cost is $16USD and the ticket may be purchased at the Margins|2016 website.

Call GraceConnect at (574) 268-1122 with additional questions. You may also want to check out the corporation meeting for Grace Trust, dba Encompass World Partners. Click here for more information. 


Check out the below video, a recap of the Vacation Bible School 2016 Grace Church in Powell, Ohio (Rick Nuzum, pastor), held last week.

Click the
picture below to watch the video.
Grace Church Powell VBS '16 week recap

Events in the FGBC

June 20-July 11, 2016  Operation Barnabas Tours (CEN)
June 22-28, 2016  Mission Trip to Haiti (WGUSA)
June 27-July 1, 2016  Encounter Atlanta Atlanta, Ga. (EWP)
July 4-10, 2016  StreetWise (formerly Crosswalk) Philadelphia, Pa. (CEN)
July 22-25, 2016  Margins Conference Toronto, Canada (FGBC) 
July 26-31, 2016  Momentum Youth Conference Cedarville, Ohio (CEN)
August 26-27, 2016   WLS: Principles of Effective Bible Study, Winona Lake, Ind. (WGUSA)
September 9-10, 2016   WLS: Soul Care in Leadership, Eagle River, Alaska (WGUSA)
September 26-28, 2016  ​Central Focus Retreat (FGBC)
September 30-October 2, 2016   Soul Cry: Prayer Summit, Auburn, Ind. (WGUSA)
October 7-8, 2016   WLS: Soul Care in Leadership, New Holland, Pa. (WGUSA)
October 17-19, 2016  ​East Focus Retreat (FGBC)
November 11-12, 2016   WLS: Equipping Others for Ministry, Marysville, Ohio (WGUSA)
CEN – CE National
EWP – Encompass World Partners
FGBC – Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
GBC – Grace Brethren Canada
WGUSA – Women of Grace USA
GC – Grace College

Send events for the calendar to
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