Global Connection International
"Connecting people who care, with the world's greatest needs!"

Dr. Jim Groen


A Brief History of Global Connection International

Narrative by Dr. Jim Groen
March 2013

From his very first trip to India in 1963, God began to place some of the darkest and most difficult parts of the world on Jim Groen's heart.  It was also on that first trip to India, that the indigenous Youth for Christ leaders - desperately in need of training, encouragement, and empowerment, also touched his heart.  These men had no cultural or language barriers, and eventually, hundreds of them attended leadership training schools in the ensuing years.

On February 20th, 2000, Jim and Dotti Groen had lunch with Jack and Pat Forney to discuss the launch of a future ministry.   Jack and Pat, along with Jack’s parents, JD and Rae Forney, had supported the Groens for nearly half a century, and after lunch that day, the Forneys wrote a check for $10,000.00 even though there was no 501(c)(3) to issue them a tax receipt.  That was the seed money that paved the way for Global Connection International to open for business.  

During this time, Jim Groen was meeting with a local, Christian attorney by the name of Cam Syke asking him to consider being a part of incorporating GCI.  In the course of those early discussions, Cam offered the use of a small space available in his office suite, and on March 15, 2000, Global Connection International was incorporated as a public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue Code.  As we begin the 15th year of our ministry, we can look back with joy and pride on the miracles that have taken place, and the Lord's faithful provision of the resources to meet every obligation.  As the details of GCI's early ministry focus were laid out, the nation of Cuba seemed to come to the forefront. Jim Groen's heart was drawn to the island of Cuba because years before, his parents had raised enough money to build a church near the airport in Havana.  It was his desire to locate and visit this Church, and since the founding of GCI, over 40 trips have been made to Cuba to train, encourage and empower the growing, enthusiastic Cuban Church. 

GCI Vice President, Cam Skye developed such a passion for Cuba and other Central American countries later on; that he took it upon himself to learn the Spanish language.  With a special interest in caring for the needs of some of the world's neediest children, Cam has had a tremendous impact for the cause of Christ in these countries over the ensuing 13 years, as well as being a vital part of the growth of GCI's ministry and outreach.

 In 1998, Jim Groen made his first trip to Cambodia.  At that time, he and his family were attending Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora, Colorado, and this church had sponsored 14 Cambodians from a refugee camp in Thailand.  They were survivors of the infamous, "Killing Fields" in Cambodia, and the leader of the group, Setan Lee, translated for his fellow countrymen at the church.  He often talked with Jim about going to Cambodia with him explaining how most of the pastors and 85% of the Christians were killed by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, guerrilla forces.  The Church remnant there was small and divided - desperately needing someone to come with help and hope for his people.

On his way to Cambodia, Jim traveled through Singapore where he met up with a businessman friend of his that he had gotten to know well during his tenure as the President of Youth for Christ International.  His friend advised him not to go to Cambodia stating that it was not safe due to fighting in the streets.  "However," he said, “if you do plan to go, I have built and own the Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh, and you will be my guest there."  He also gave Jim the phone number of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and said "If you have a problem, please call him."  Although there were no ensuing safety issues of any serious consequence, Jim did call the Prime Minister and they became well-acquainted.  The Prime Minister informed Jim that they didn't receive much help from the USA.  Only 26 doctors remained alive after the holocaust and their medical corps and hospital facilities were in desperate need of rebuilding.  Thus, GCI became actively involved in this important initiative and has continued to provide medical assistance in a variety of ways to this very day.

On Groen's next trip to Cambodia, he took heart surgeon Dr. Dan Smith and Cardiologist, Dr. Mark Sheehan along.  Since that visit they have returned to Cambodia with dozens of doctors and health care workers who have, in turn, trained many Cambodian doctors.  Later, they created their own ministry called, “Jeremiah’s Hope," and continue to serve there on a regular basis, having earned great respect and the admiration of those around them.

On Jim's Groen's third trip to Cambodia he took Dr. Billy Kim along, and 500 church leaders, representing four different denominational groups, were brought together for leadership training.  At the end of the conference, the group shared Holy Communion together.  This was not only a historic event but a time of healing for the pastors with many tears and hugs.  From this point in time, a revival began to take place in Cambodia.  Jim Groen made numerous additional trips to Cambodia after which, current GCI President and CEO Jim Weber took the point for GCI's Cambodian ministry there - growing it into one of our most effective initiatives.

In 1998, a Tanzania student attending the Denver Seminary came to see Jim Groen, telling him of the tremendous economic needs and lack of basic training that pastors were facing in his home country.  As a result of that conversation, Groen made a vision trip to Tanzania along with a team, and God began to work in wonderful ways.  GCI founding board member, Dave Schlachter, went on the second trip, and he and his family have made numerous trips back over the past 15 years.  He has built a strong friendship, partnership and relationship of trust with Bishop Unity Msami and his family over the past 14 years; and GCI has been instrumental in helping him establish a ministry center called "Voice of Victory" in an impoverished, Muslim community located at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Today the compound includes 5 acres of land, a church, a school and a recently-completed medical clinic.  The Lord used memorial funds given in memory of Cam Syke's wife Suzie, who unexpectedly lost her life back in 2006, for construction of this beautiful, new facility, and it was equipped with medical supplies and pharmaceuticals during the past year with a grant provided by the Concordia Angel Foundation. 

Dave Schlachter also introduced a long-time friend by the name of Leslie Kotwica to GCI, and she served as the administrative assistant for about ten years.  Leslie also took a special interest in Tanzania, and traveled there with our teams on a couple of occasions.
In 2001, Jim Groen and Cam Syke headed to Nicaragua for the first time with Greg Dixon.  At the time they really didn't know anyone, and only had the name of one pastor whose name was Arturo Castro.  Since that time, Greg Dixon made over 50 trips to Central America and what has happened through God’s help there has been remarkable.  Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador have been touched by GCI’s ministry. 

A few years ago Greg helped host a youth rally at a large stadium in Managua where nearly 38,000 young people attended and hundreds became Christians.  Soon after that, GCI hosted the first-ever, Presidential Prayer Dinner in Nicaragua with around 240 high-ranking, governmental officials, including then President Enrique Bolanos, in attendance.  Here, these men and women heard the Gospel message clearly proclaimed via the testimony of major league baseball's Dennis Martinez who had a home in Miami, Florida as well as in Managua.  The National, country leaders Greg has recruited are a wonderful group of dedicated, Godly men and women who continue to minister in a wide variety of ways.

In the year 2000, it was Jim Groen’s privilege to meet Gaylord and Kathy Layton at a meeting on the Channel Island of Jersey off the coast of France and England.  The meeting was hosted by their mutual friend, John Dick, who was one of the original developers of the Denver Tech Center.  John had become friends with President Kagami from Rwanda where 1,000,000 people were killed in 100 days of genocide in 1994.   In 2002, John Dick invited President Kagami to visit Denver and learn about the long-term development of Tech Center.  He flew into Denver with his cabinet, and while he was here, Gaylord and Jim Groen had dinner with them and were subsequently invited to come to Rwanda for a tour of the country.  While there, Jim and Gaylord were introduced to Bishop John and the Sonrise Orphanage which he founded in the Northern part of Rwanda, with children left homeless by parents who were killed on both sides of the war.  Today there are over 1,200 orphans and boarding students in this school that is now rated #1 in the country.  God laid the school on Gaylord Layton's heart, and as a result, over $700,000 has been raised to establish the finest, state of the art Computer Technology Center in all of Central Africa.  Recently, Barnes and Noble donated 430 I-Pads which we shipped to the school.

A graduate of the Sonrise School recently sent an email explaining how he saw his first computer at the school and shared how it had changed his life.  He said, "today I’m a student at the University of Pennsylvania.  After my training, I plan to return to Rwanda and help make a difference in my country."  This is another story of how the Lord has raised up "Bi-Vocational Associates" to accomplish great things for the Kingdom around the world.

Over Thirty years ago Norm and Kay Huxman were introduced to Global Connection International.  Norm is the founder and bass singer for Legacy Quartet - one of the most outstanding southern gospel quartets anywhere.   They have been wonderful ministry partners over these many years and have represented GCI and the Lord Jesus Christ well.  It was Jim Groen's privilege to help recommend them for a trip to Australia, Cuba and six times to South Korea where they have literally become "stars" in their own right.

In 2004, we developed a relationship with Doug Ross who later became the director of our "Global Literature Connection."  Jim Groen met Doug when he was director of Seattle Youth for Christ.  Later he became the founding President of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and built it into a very influential organization.  Doug was able to procure thousands of dollars’ worth of books and publishing materials that GCI delivered all over the world.  On one occasion he received 50,000 copies of Dr. Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life in Spanish, which we shipped to Nicaragua.  Also, under Doug's leadership we were able to provide 3000 sets of 10 books and a Study Bible to pastors throughout the island of Cuba, and he secured a license for GCI to distribute The Jesus Film via DVDs to Churches and homes in Cuba.   In addition, Doug, raised over $400,000.00 for ministry during his tenure with GCI. 

The remarkable part of GCI's story is highlighted by the fact that, in most of these countries, we have been there for ten years or more.  In addition, we have been blessed with outstanding country leaders.  Bishop Unity Msami in Tanzania; Dr. Victor Gonzalez and Rev. Moises Isla in Cuba; Arturo Castro, Priscilla Cisneros and Derrick Rameris in Nicaragua; Pastor Giovanni Mora in Costa Rica; Freddy Manrico in Guatemala, Margot in Honduras, Rev. Laurent Mbanda in Rwanda; and Samoeun and Robledo Intal in Cambodia, just to name a few.

A great debt of gratitude is owed to other members of our founding Board who have faithfully helped fulfill the GCI dream through the years.  Dave Bandimere and his family have been passionate supporters of The Great Commission ever since any of us have known him, and he has made several trips overseas with GCI teams.  Bill Shenkin, who traveled to Cuba with Cam and Jim Groen has provided much insight into our financial matters.  In addition to hundreds of hours donated to helping us with our media projects, Jim Mullens has also provided countless hours of counsel and encouragement to both of our GCI Presidents over the years. Jack and Pat Forney have been among the most faithful and generous financial partners from the very beginning.  Peter Chung accompanied Jim Groen to Cuba, Cambodia, and to North Korea in search of the school where his father attended.  Forty-seven years ago Jim Groen met Dr. Billy Kim from South Korea, and Billy has partnered with GCI in ministry all around the world.  We been privileged to have him on the GCI leadership team from day one, and thank him for his great support.  All of these men have been faithful and powerful leaders.

“Do not go where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave an impressive trail.”

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  2. Korea
  3. 1986 Bahrain
  4. Dr. Groen and Bobby Michaels
  5. 1973 Prague
  6. Cambodia
  7. Cambodia
  8. 1988 Washington DC