Holding The Fort

Hello Friends and Family!

First of all, I want to thank you all for reading this. It is such an honor to know that we have people supporting us in prayer who want to know how to pray for us and what the Lord is doing in and through our lives!

As some of you know, about half of our SGWM staff has been on an almost 3-week (including travel time) trip to South Asia. With Pastor Mike’s wife gone there as well, leaving him to fill the role of mom and dad, that has left most of the day-to-day responsibilities for SGWM to land on myself and our awesome intern missionary (who is raising support to become a missionary in Croatia) Rebecca Alaniz. She has been such an amazing asset to our team and has helped make these three weeks a breeze! By God’s grace, we survived the team’s absence, but we’re looking forward to their return! I’ve already seen some of the amazing work they’ve been able to do over there, and I can’t wait to hear all about how the Lord used them! While I’m a bit jealous not to have gone, I’m honored that I get to stay behind and support them by holding the fort here at the SGWM office to free them up to be used by God there. Here’s a pic of our team there:

Part of the team in South Asia!

In the meantime, we are just about ready to go live with a project that has been in the pipeline for quite awhile, our SGWM prayer book! This will be an amazing resource that will showcase all of our missionaries and their basic prayer requests for their ministries. What a wonderful way to keep our missionaries and their needs in front of “senders” here at home! I’ll be getting the book live in PDF format this week so that people can download it for Kindle, iBooks, or just as a PDF. Be on the lookout for this!

With our senior pastor, Trent Douglass, gone on the South Asia trip, I had the opportunity to preach at my church last week, which was a huge blessing. I taught on one of my favorite passages, Paul’s prayer at the end of Ephesians 3. I loved studying and being reminded myself of my need for strength in the inner man, to be rooted and grounded in Christ’s love, and to be filled with the fullness of God! If you’d like, you can listen to it here 🙂

Things have been fun with the family as well. Maggie (4) and Harrison (2) are doing their first swimming lessons this week, and are already doing an amazing job! I’m proud watching them be brave out in the water. We also got to go on our first family camping trip with some friends in June! It was just a one-night test run, but it was super fun (even with all the hard work!) and we’ll be going again with our Life Group in July.

Maggie in the floral swimsuit, and Harrison on the far right leaning over the water

Jude kickin’ back while brother and sister swim

Camping!

Fun with friends

Plumb-tuckered out from camping!

Also, Amy had the opportunity to lead a workshop on the subject of Biblical community at our church’s women’s retreat in May. I got to listen in on it, and she did an amazing job! With all of her responsibilities as a mom, there are certain gifts she doesn’t get to utilize as much as we’d like her to. But I was able to take care of all three kids while she was gone, and it was great to hear her use her gift of exhortation and put her exegetical skills to use! I’m super blessed to have a wife who loves the Lord and can lead other women to look to Him.

Amy teaching a workshop at the CCSG Women’s Retreat

Please be in prayer for my upcoming trip to Uganda in October. We’re still ironing out some of the details, but I’m really looking forward to going there to sit with and encourage our missionaries, and to bring home a vision for all that the Lord is doing there. I’m praying about some other possible trips over the next couple of years, so please pray for direction for us on that.

Love you all! Thank you for praying for us, and please feel free to respond to this email letting us know what is going on in your lives and how we can pray for you!

All the Best for His Glory!
Joel, Amy, Maggie, Harrison, and Jude


If you’d like to become a financial partner with us as Joel continues to work as a missionary with SGWM’s home office, please click the button below, OR you can mail a check written out to Saving Grace World Missions with “Joel Garcia support” in the memo section to Saving Grace World Missions, 17451 Bastanchury Rd., Suite 203, Yorba Linda, CA 92886-1873. Thank you all for your support and prayers!

Come To The Feast!

A couple of months ago I was in the book of the prophet Isaiah in my Bible reading plan. I was down in a small room at our church with couches, an isolated little spot where I spend time with Jesus an hour or two before work during the week. This amazing poem in the book (chapter 25, verses 6 though 9) leapt off the page:

The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain;
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
Refined, aged wine.
And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,
Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.
And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”

It was a moment of clarity and vision: This is why I do what I do with SGWM! I found my heart longing for this moment that awaits us, and the Lord renewed in my heart my goal of seeing people from every nation gathered with me on that mountain as my family in Christ. I’m going to get to feast with brothers and sisters from every continent, from every people group, and our job as Christians is to start inviting everybody we know to join us by spreading the gospel to our neighbors and the nations. Those little reminders from Him are so precious to push me to continue to do what I do!

Things in the ministry have been great! A couple of months back, I got the opportunity to go to an organization that supports me, Evangelical Christian Credit Union, where I used to work, and share in their staff meeting a little bit about what I do with SGWM as a US-based missionary. It was so sweet to share and see all my old friends there!

Speaking at ECCU

A couple of weeks ago was incredibly busy, but come Saturday night May 5th, all of the work we’ve done over the last few months paid off at our SGWM Missions Banquet! It was a roaring success, as all of the pieces came together perfectly. Our administrative staff and some amazing volunteers helped us put on a fruitful night of spreading our vision of what it means to disciple the nations as a missionary-sending and church-planting ministry. I got to lead bi-lingual worship with one of our church-planters from Mexico as well as interview one of our missionaries (and my friend), Rebecca Alaniz, who is preparing to head to Croatia, about what it means to have a strong sending ministry. It was such a blessing to be a part of this night!

Bilingual worship with Pastor Mike Vincent

Interviewing SGWM missionary Rebecca Alaniz

With Tim Pappas at the banquet

Two days after the banquet, Pastor Mike Thiemann (SGWM’s Director) and I got to head up to Sacramento for a couple of days at a conference with Church United, an organization that helps church leaders get involved in what is going on politically. It was really informative, especially regarding some troubling bills in the pipeline for California. We had a sweet time worshiping in the center of our state’s capitol building and got to meet with some of our assemblymen. The enemy is at work in the political realm, and it is time the church got on our knees to pray for our government and leaders!

Pastor Mike & I in front of the capitol

Senate in session!

With other church leaders in the capitol building

Finally, looking toward the future, I will not be able to go on the trip to the orphanage in Mexico in July after all, as I will be officiating a wedding here. I am, however, still planning on going to Uganda in October. Please pray as I will need to raise some additional support for that trip. I’m looking forward to visiting and blessing some of our missionaries there and getting a better vision for our involvement in Africa!

On the family front, things are going really well! The Lord has been good to our family. Maggie is growing so fast in her learning and maturity in being a helper around the house, Harrison is potty-trained and doing amazing, and Jude just turned one this month (and has plenty of dance moves to show for it!).

Love you all! Thank you so much for your prayers and support as we seek to be a family focused on inviting the nations to that future “feast on the mountain.”

In Christ,
Joel, Amy, Maggie, Harrison, and Jude Garcia


If you’d like to become a financial partner with us, so that I can continue to work at promoting the work of SGWM and our missionaries through articles like this one and other means, please click the button below, OR you can mail a check written out to Saving Grace World Missions with “Joel Garcia support” in the memo section to Saving Grace World Missions, 17451 Bastanchury Rd., Suite 203, Yorba Linda, CA 92886-1873. Thank you all for your support and prayers!

Missionary Spotlight Article for Rebecca and Brenna: Life, Death, and Waiting

One of my favorite aspects of my job is interviewing missionaries and writing up articles describing their ministries to get the word out about what SGWM’s missionaries are up to. I’ll post some of those here on my own blog from time to time to give an example of what I’m doing to help promote the work of SGWM and our missionaries. Here’s an article I wrote a few weeks ago about Rebecca Alaniz and Brenna Kulla, who are both preparing to go serve Jesus in Eastern Europe. If you’d like to become a supporter of our ministry, please see below this article for some instruction on that.

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“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34, 35)

“He who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:38)

The experience of the Christian life is the experience of death; that is, dying to ourselves, dying to our desires and passions apart from Christ, so that new desires and passions in Him may be the driving forces of our lives. For most of followers of Christ, this typically means setting aside selfish desires for either sin or just plain comfort, putting aside our tendency to make ourselves comfortable and secure, and instead stepping out of our proverbial “comfort zones” for the sake of the Gospel. If you pressed a lot of Christians in the United States, you’d likely find that the ultimate “dying to self” experience for most would be picking up and moving to a foreign country.

A Gypsy village in Zagreb, Croatia

That was not, however, the impression that I got as I sat in my office flanked by SGWM missionaries Rebecca Alaniz and (via Skype on my laptop) Brenna Kulla. Both of these young ladies are currently in a preparation period, gaining training and support before heading out to Eastern Europe, not far from each other in fact. Rebecca feels a call to head to Zagreb, Croatia, and Brenna plans on heading to Pecs (pronounced paych), Hungary. In Zagreb, Rebecca’s heart goes out to those in the Gypsy villages near that area, extending the love of Christ to those she says are looked at as “the despised, thieves, and unworthy of love” by many. Brenna sees a unique opportunity in Pecs, a university town that has become a center of diversity (a “borderless city” as she has heard it described) where she can work with other believers to offer the true gospel to foreign students and send them back to their home countries with the message of Christ.

Pecs, Hungary

For both of these young missionaries, they felt called to the mission field from a fairly early age, but the Lord gave them more specifics during their time at Calvary Chapel Bible College (Rebecca in Murrieta, California after a trip to Croatia, and Brenna in Hungary). They both heard of Saving Grace World Missions, and that brings us to the place they are in life now, the period of waiting to go. It’s a period that Brenna describes as death. While leaving the American dream behind to bring the gospel to the nations is an act of “death to self” that many Christians are so afraid of making, Brenna and Rebecca feel that staying in the comfort of home is the ultimate act of dying to all that they want. They want to go. But God is asking them to wait. How long? Neither of them is sure, though they hope it isn’t much longer. But the irony is that, through this waiting, God has increased their trust in Him and His timing, so that even if it is longer than they hope, their trust in Him is unwavering.

SGWM Missionary Brenna Kulla, preparing to go to Pecs, Hungary

Part of what makes this season so difficult is that as they seek to raise financial support, many are only willing to partner with a missionary who is actually on “the field.” The problem is, missionaries in the waiting season like Rebecca and Brenna need willing financial partners before they are able to head out. A good sending organization wouldn’t send out a couple of single gals without the financial stability they need to be safe and fulfill their calling, but if it were up to these girls, they’d leave in a second with barely enough to scrape by. Part of the blessing of waiting for Rebecca is that she is not only learning to raise financial support, but gaining a team of spiritual supporters behind her. She is being discipled, trained on cross-cultural issues, and learning the gravity of leaving. “Once you’re sent out,” she says, “you’re gone, so I’m learning to enjoy the time I’m here with family and friends.” Plus, she’s realized that the more she shares her story with people in the states, people here are learning about Gypsy culture and their need for Christ who wouldn’t have otherwise been informed. She’s actually providing her target culture with more prayer warriors on their behalf by her staying!

SGWM missionary Rebecca Alaniz (far right, preparing to go to Zagreb, Croatia) with some children in the Gypsy villages

Brenna feels much the same way. For her, “This season is an opportunity to invite people here to see the need and feel the calling as well.” It’s also taught her a lot about herself and God. “The walking and the waiting,” as she calls it, sometimes feels like a mountain in front of her, too big to scale. But as she realizes her own frailty, weakness, and inability, she is seeing God’s faithfulness do the work. Now she knows that when she finally makes it to Pecs full-time, it will only be because God has done the work, and she will have a greater confidence that he will get her through any challenges waiting for her there. For both Brenna and Rebecca, God has been redeeming the time of their waiting period. So while the preparation period may feel like death, they are finding abundant life in Christ in unexpected ways; abundant life that they can’t wait to see God use to turn Eastern Europe upside down for the Gospel.

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If you’d like to become a financial partner with us, so that I can continue to work at promoting the work of SGWM and our missionaries through articles like this one and other means, please click the button below, OR you can mail a check written out to Saving Grace World Missions with “Joel Garcia support” in the memo section to Saving Grace World Missions, 17451 Bastanchury Rd., Suite 203, Yorba Linda, CA 92886-1873. Thank you all for your support and prayers!

Missionary Spotlight Article for Vincent Family: Preach. Disciple. Send. Repeat.

One of my favorite aspects of my job is interviewing missionaries and writing up articles describing their ministries for SGWM’s monthly newsletters. I’ll post some of those here on my own blog from time to time to give an example of what I’m doing to help promote the work of SGWM and our missionaries. Here’s an article I wrote a few weeks ago about the Vincent family in Rosarito, Mexico. If you’d like to become a supporter of our ministry, please see below this article for some instruction on that.


Preach. Disciple. Send. Repeat.
by Joel Garcia

Attending a church service at Calvary Chapel Rosarito is a dynamic experience from the very beginning. As you walk into the courtyard, you’re immediately faced with the fact that this church genuinely wants you here. They want you to feel at home. They want you to feel like a part of their family. They want you to eat with them and talk with them and laugh and cry and sing with them. Their friendly greetings and hearty handshakes and warm smiles are a message from God through His people. What they’re really saying is, “You matter to us, because you matter to Him.”

And that’s not where things stop for Pastor Mike Vincent’s church in Rosarito, Mexico. If you’re a newcomer (or if you’ve brought a newcomer along with you) you’re given a gift of a book or music. But what really hooks people is the fact that this church is alive. After all of the warm greetings, you’re seated in a pew and the celebration begins. The church’s bilingual worship time is a thing of beauty, a small taste of the believer’s future singing praises with people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9) as Gospel-centered lyrics swing back and forth between Spanish and English in an upbeat, celebratory style. And this is functional as well, with a fair share of the church’s congregation being English speakers; Pastor Mike preaches in English through a Spanish translator as well. And with each message comes a clear presentation of the Gospel with an opportunity given for the lost to respond.

People are getting saved at Calvary Chapel Rosarito in such numbers that, about a year ago, Pastor Mike implemented a new believers’ class during their first service on Sunday mornings. Those who put their faith in Christ at CCR are encouraged to skip the sermons for a month and head to a four week class where they learn the basics of the Christian faith, culminating in publicly declaring their commitment to Christ by being baptized at the church’s monthly baptism. In fact, at a recent church baptism, 11 out of the 16 believers baptized had been saved for under 2 months!

Completing the new believers’ class at CCR culminates in baptism with the church body

So Pastor Mike’s vision for CCR is to gain converts to Christ and disciple them; but his big-picture goal is not to fill his church. In fact, he’s seeking to send them out! Pastor Mike is a church-planter at heart, because that’s what he sees in scripture, and that was what was modeled in his own life as a believer. “I was sent out myself, and it was a really exciting time for me,” he says. “I kept seeing it happen around me [at his home church, Calvary Chapel Saving Grace in Southern California], and from the very beginning I had it in my mind to start doing it myself.”

The Vincent family was sent out by a church passionate about church-planting, Calvary Chapel Saving Grace, over a decade ago

It took awhile to get the process going, getting his own church established in Rosarito and raising up leaders being the first steps. After the first two church plants to come out of CCR didn’t end up panning out, Pastor Mike became more proactive in training, implementing a church-planting class to train people in the skills it takes and the hardships involved in the process that he knows so intimately. The class is an extensive 2 year program, with weekly 3-4 hour classes led by CCR’s pastors. In addition, prospective church-planters need to be actively involved in ministry as pastors and, where possible, staff members. They need to lead at least one ministry at the church as well as a home group. It may seem like a long process, but this type of training is invaluable according to Pastor Mike. And the fruit of this work speaks for itself; out of 19 church planting teams that have been sent out of CCR (15 in Mexico and four in the United States), 16 are still presently meeting. Those are amazing numbers!

And so the process continues for Pastor Mike Vincent and his team at Calvary Chapel Rosarito. They preach the gospel, sinners come to Christ, new converts are discipled, and church-planters are sent out to new locations, where they repeat the process all over again. Preach, disciple, send, repeat; this is the heartbeat and rhythm that drives this booming church in Rosarito, Mexico.


If you’d like to become a financial partner with us, so that I can continue to work at promoting the work of SGWM and our missionaries through articles like this one and other means, please click the button below. Thank you all for your support and prayers!

Time To Go!

Hello Friends and Family!

I hope you’re all doing well! Thank you for taking the time to read this update; I can’t tell you how much it blesses missionaries when you read our updates and take interest in the things God is doing in our lives. Things are continuing to go well with the ministry here. If you’re not familiar with my specific role in missions, the short of it is that I am on staff with Saving Grace World Missions as Director of Communications. I’m part of a staff that makes sure our missionaries are cared for spiritually and practically. My main role, on top of assisting with financial management for our missionaries, is to get the word out about what SGWM is and what we and our missionaries are doing. Please be in prayer as I lead up the promotion of our upcoming banquet May 5th, which is a great opportunity to garner support for the organization to help us send and support missionaries in an even greater capacity! Most people don’t realize the need to support not just missionaries on the field, but the organizations that send them and support them. The work of a missionary is not nearly as effective without a great sending organization!

I am hoping to finally get to go out on the field this year! My goal is to go to Africa in May or June with SGWM’s director, Pastor Mike Thiemann, to do some teaching and simply spend some time with our missionaries on the field there. Below are some pics of some of the missionaries we hope to visit there, and here is an article Pastor Mike wrote about why going out to see them is such an important aspect of our ministry. (On a side note, another cool aspect of my job is that I get to edit these great articles Pastor Mike writes for his missions training website).

This is Brian Kanyike. Pastor Brian is a dear friend who pastors Arise Christian Fellowship in Uganda

In the middle is Matt Harris, who I had the privilege of meeting last month. He hopes to head back out to Uganda soon with his wife, Noelle, and their two kids (and one on the way!) soon

Pastor Mike and I are also planning a trip in July to take our church’s high schoolers and young adults (ministries that Pastor Mike and I lead, respectively) to a special needs orphanage in Mexico that one of our missionary families runs.

It was such a privilege for me to take a trip out to this special needs orphanage with our youth group a couple of summers ago. I can’t wait to go again in July!

Finally, we are heavily praying about an opportunity to go to Cuba to do some missions training. We’ve had a couple of meetings so far, and as this would be a new area and work for SGWM, we are moving forward prayerfully. But, I’m excited about the work and my hope is that we can head out to scope the landscape and do some missions training with a passionate church body in Cuba!

Pastor Fernando came out to tell us about the ministry in Cuba and their need for missions training. We are praying about our involvement, and I’m praying about the prospect of being a part of this exciting venture!

I ask that you would keep all of these trips in prayer. I do need to raise additional funds for these trips, and I am continuing to work on raising monthly support to continue to fill my role with SGWM long-term and have the flexibility to go on more trips like the ones I hope to head out on this year. If you would like to make a one-time donation online or become a monthly supporter, please click the button below:

Or, you can send a check directly to made out to Saving Grace World Missions, 17451 Bastanchury Rd., Suite 203, Yorba Linda, CA 92886 with “Garcia Family” in the memo line.

Our kids on a recent venture out into the Southern California “cold.” Aren’t they adorable!?

And finally, if you’re not signed up already, feel free to sign up for our monthly newsletter here! Love you all and thank you so much for your continued prayers and support!

Love,
Joel, Amy, Maggie, Harrison, and Jude

Missionary Spotlight Article for the Miller Family: It’s a Jungle Out There!

One of my favorite aspects of my job is interviewing missionaries and writing up articles describing their ministries for SGWM’s monthly newsletters. I’ll post some of those here on my own blog from time to time to give an example of what I’m doing to help promote the work of SGWM and our missionaries. Here’s an article I wrote a few weeks ago about the Miller family. If you’d like to become a supporter of our ministry, please see below this article for some instruction on that.


It’s a Jungle Out There!
by Joel Garcia

For many Americans, just the sight of a “Daddy Long Legs” spider showing up in the corner of the tub for our morning shower is enough to send us running down the street ready to burn down our whole house to get rid of the thing. I had this experience just a couple of nights ago with a giant silverfish bug at the entrance to my apartment. It took me a good five minutes to build up the courage to crush it with a shoe. Not my proudest moment.

So imagine a world with giant fly-looking creatures that are seemingly wearing “Iron Man” style armor and are ready to eat you alive; a world with an array of bats, giant flying cockroaches, poisonous snakes, and malaria-carrying mosquitoes; a world where the beady little eyes of crocodiles sometimes poke themselves out of water lurking with piranhas and electric eels where you wash your clothes! For Brad and Melissa Miller and their children, this is just normal life for them in the Amazon jungle in Brazil. And for the Millers, these sometimes unnerving inconveniences are well worth dealing with in order to see the Gospel spread amongst the Apurina people.

If the Millers could sum up their specific calling in one mission statement, it would be to bring the Word of God and leadership training to the indigenous Apurina people. The Millers followed the Lord’s leading to Brazil about seven years ago, when they took over for the very first missionaries to ever contact the Apurinas and translate the New Testament into their language. They have been going hard ever since, pastoring a church in one village with a vision to reach many more of the over 100 villages up and down the river. In fact, they were just able to plant another church in a different village this past July, and there are opportunities to plant three more churches in different villages over the next two years. The harvest is plentiful in the Amazon jungle of Brazil, but it hasn’t been without challenges.

Apart from the challenges of large bugs, difficult weather, and lacking the luxuries and commodities we so often take for granted in the United States, there seem to be two main challenges to what the Millers are doing on the field. One of those is simply the ability to communicate the deeper things of the Gospel to the Apurinas after they receive Christ. “By simple faith, we bring the Gospel to them, and they receive it by faith resulting in a changed life,” Melissa says, “but where they have difficulty is in growing via written content.” Abstract Biblical concepts aren’t always easy to teach in certain cultures. Take, for example, Jesus’ teaching that He is the door (John 10:9). Up until about five years ago, the Apurinas didn’t even have doors, and the doors they do know of now are set up to protect electrical equipment and other things, so they are locked and meant for keeping people out. This doesn’t allow for easy application of Jesus’ proclamation that He is the way to salvation by use of the door metaphor! Many times, the Apurinas don’t even necessarily have a category for integral Christian concepts like, for instance, confession. But the Millers have worked hard in this area with the people, tirelessly pouring into them. As Brad puts it, their goal is to “teach them how to read with understanding so that they can go out and reach other people in the same way.”

Another challenge the Millers face is that of lacking resources. They have a huge vision for the Gospel in the remote jungle villages of Brazil, but this requires both financial and material resources, and people willing to go out. Brad and Melissa are trying to raise up the nationals to go reach out to their neighboring communities, which would be more efficient with a much smaller cultural gap to hurdle. But the first generation of Christians in these villages had some cultural qualms about evangelizing their neighbors, something that seemed too intrusive to them. However, through the work of the Millers and their supporters, the Holy Spirit is doing what He does best: transforming the hearts and outlooks of the next generations of Apurinas, opening them up more to take the gospel out to their neighboring villages up and down the river.

And that’s a good thing, because part of the danger of preaching the Gospel to a village is that if the missionary isn’t able to stay to disciple the people, other pseudo-Christian groups tend to move in and teach dangerous unbiblical doctrines to them. So the Millers are praying for continued resources to come in and for the Holy Spirit to lead others to go out and provide lasting biblical leadership as they plant churches all around the area.

The Lord is doing amazing things through the Miller family, and their response is a humility that is part of the reason they are so effective. “We constantly feel ill-equipped,” they told me, “but we also constantly see God working despite our weaknesses. We are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit.” And I don’t think they, or the Lord, would want it any other way.


If you’d like to become a financial partner with us, so that I can continue to work at promoting the work of SGWM and our missionaries through articles like this one and other means, please click the button below. Thank you all for your support and prayers!

Missionary Spotlight Article for the Gaona Family: Home is Where the Mission Is

One of my favorite aspects of my job is interviewing missionaries and writing up articles describing their ministries for SGWM’s monthly newsletters. I’ll post some of those here on my own blog from time to time to give an example of what I’m doing to help promote the work of SGWM and our missionaries. Here’s an article I wrote a few weeks ago about the Gaona family.


Home Is Where the Mission Is
by Joel Garcia

Just a quick look-over of Bond and Heather Gaona’s travel schedule is an exhausting experience. If you’ve ever travelled internationally, you know that even one long international flight can be tiring. Jet lag alone tends to throw off your body’s schedule for a few days. I remember my own Missions Pastor telling me about the sensation of feeling so tired that it hurts; after returning from my last trip to South Asia with him, I vividly understood what he was talking about.

Pastor Bond Gaona, his wife Heather, and their two-year-old daughter Breanna, however, are pros at this by now. Breanna has been doing this her whole life, and her parents say she’s a better traveler than they are! This was abundantly evident to me a few weeks ago as I sat across from all three of them at a taco restaurant; they had just returned from Nepal barely 24 hours earlier and I knew they were exhausted, but they handled themselves with ease. Almost every time they land across the ocean or in the States, they hit the ground running. The Gaona family has responded to a specific call from Christ on their life that doesn’t really allow them to plant firm roots anywhere. As missionaries for SGWM, they split their time each year between three different continents. They’ll leave their home base here in the United States to spend a few months in South Asia and then head to Nepal, or to spend a good chunk of time in African countries like Uganda, and then return to the United States for a couple of months, only to go out on the field all over again. It’s a whirlwind experience that they wouldn’t trade for anything. In 2008, God stirred their hearts to start reaching the nations with the Gospel in a greater capacity. So now, they submit to a travel schedule that is, to most people, a bit dizzying. The Gaonas never seem to settle down, because for them, home is wherever God is using them to advance His kingdom.

“There was no specific goal in mind when we started,” Pastor Bond says. “We just didn’t like the idea of staying in one place forever.” In those early days, as the Lord was beginning to give Bond a broader vision for the nations, his wife helped ground his outlook in the Bible by reminding him that this was exactly what Paul did. The great Apostle to the Gentiles has become somewhat of a model for their own missionary work.

The Gaona’s game plan is to go to the unreached and preach the Gospel to them, disciple those who come to Christ, and raise up leadership among that group to take over the work there for them. Then, they do their best to return there every year or so to see how they’re doing and help with any of their practical and spiritual needs. Sound familiar? It looks like a modern day layout for exactly what Paul did all through the book of Acts. While many missionaries are called to go out and plant roots in a new country to establish churches and disciple people, the Gaonas feel called to have a further reach. Raising up nationals to continue the works they begin allows them more time and freedom to reach other unreached people groups. Another upside, says Heather, is that “the people don’t become as dependent on you; they’re forced to step up and take leadership.” And this leads to fruit that lasts and multiplies itself in the areas the Gaonas evangelize in.

But this lifestyle has not come without some personal cost to the Gaonas; the call of Christ is never easy. There are, of course, the cultural issues that all missionaries face. It takes a lot of work to learn a culture well enough to overcome issues of language and, even amongst those who speak your own language, the interpretation of what you are trying to say (Pastor Bond calls this the “box of confusion” phenomenon). And the Gaonas are juggling this issue in multiple countries!

Another difficulty fairly specific to Bond and Heather is that they aren’t able to create a real “home” for themselves anywhere. This can be particularly hard on Heather as a mom and wife. But Heather is intentional about doing the best with what she is given, and understands that even with this unique issue, other missionaries who plant themselves in a specific country face problems that she doesn’t have to. The Gaonas do a fantastic job with taking things in stride and with a proper perspective.

Bond and Heather have greatly valued the relationship they have with Saving Grace World Missions. The number one thing they appreciate about their sending organization is pastoral care and guidance. Bond cites Proverbs 15:22, stating that “There’s just more wisdom and counsel available to us with different pastors and leaders on the board.” They have a team to run big decisions and vision by. Heather has really appreciated guidance and counsel from SGWM pastoral leadership, particularly when both her parents were facing health issues and eventually passed away. She was advised to give herself time to stay home and grieve her loss, and  received counsel through that difficult time. The compassion and freedom she was granted during that season was a huge encouragement to her that she’ll always hold onto.

Life on the field (or, for the Gaonas, on multiple fields) is never a breeze. But, as Pastor Bond says, “When you’re called, nothing seems too hard to handle. It’s when you’re not called that you start running into issues that are beyond your grasp.” The Gaonas know that they are called to what they are doing, and their unwavering faith in Christ through it is strong evidence to that fact.

Sharing the Good News About the Really Good News

Hello friends and family! Here’s a quick update on how things have been going in my now 3-month old position as a full-time SGWM missionary. In summary, things are fantastic, and I feel more settled into my role than ever before. I still fulfill a hodgepodge of tasks for our ministry as we all work together, but my official role is Director of Communications. What does that mean? In the business world, we’d probably refer to it as “Marketing,” but I don’t think that quite fits the bill of what I do for SGWM. We’re in the work of facilitating the spread of the Gospel through our missionaries and endeavors; my job with SGWM is to let the world know about what we and our missionaries are doing. In a nutshell, I’m spreading the good news about how our missionaries are spreading the really Good News!

Missions training in Pakistan via Skype with Pastor Mike

Why is that important? I think that, above all else, we want to inspire people to get involved. To pray, to support financially or otherwise, or to go out themselves. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a concept far to prevalent when it comes to missions; my job is to keep SGWM’s work and missionaries in sight and in the minds and hearts of people everywhere through some of our culture’s most powerful mediums like email and social media. One of my biggest projects in this area is SGWM’s new monthly newsletter updates, which I put together each month to let people know about all the amazing ways God is using SGWM and our missionaries! If you’d like to see the work I’ve put into our inaugural edition, check it out here!

Of course, I still get to do a lot of other amazing things for SGWM. I’m still teaching on occasion for our Pastors’ School in South Asia via Skype (sometimes with these amazing young men from the young adults group Amy and I lead for our church!). That is always an incredible honor!

Teaching our South Asia Pastors’ School via Skype. Sometimes our young adults group joins us!

We also recently held a Missions Sunday at our church, Calvary Chapel Saving Grace, to talk about all of the work that goes into facilitating missions through our home office. People don’t typically think of people working from beautiful Yorba Linda, CA as missionaries, but the fact is that we at the home office have dedicated our lives to making sure international missionaries have all the tools they need to fulfill their part in the Great Commission.

Missions Sunday at CCSG. I participated in a panel discussion, and we had a great info table set up in the courtyard

We ask you to continually pray for us during our first year in this role! Pray for constant vision and that we’d continue toward raising all of the monthly support we need. We love what we’re doing and would like to continue in this work for a long time as the Lord sees fit. If you’re not signed up already, feel free to sign up for our monthly newsletter here!

If you’d like to become a financial parter with us, the best way to do that is by signing up here to become monthly supporter. Or, you can send a check directly to Saving Grace World Missions, 17451 Bastanchury Rd., Suite 203, Yorba Linda, CA 92886 with “Garcia Family” in the memo line.

Thank you all for your prayers and support!

Love in Christ,

Joel, Amy, Maggie, Harrison, & Jude

Around the World (No Planes Required!)

The transition into being full-time missionaries with SGWM, becoming intimately connected with facilitating worldwide Gospel work and raising support as missionaries ourselves, has been quite a whirlwind. But there’s a peace in the midst of the hurricane, and we’re finally settling in to see what this is going to look like for our lives in the long-term after the completion of two successful church events I got to head up: our Halloween Front-Yard Parties and Thanksgiving Potluck. (If you’re curious, planning a potluck for 150+ people gives you a taste of both delicious food, mass chaos, and an incredible display of community in your church family). I’ve been a bit more freed up now to dive into the missions side of things. In the past month-and-a-half, I’ve had a chance to make contact with ministry in Uganda, Pakistan, and South Asia, with no air travel required!

One highlight has been spending some time with our brother Brian Kanyike from Uganda while he was here in the States. It was such a blessing hearing how he is doing as a human being, a husband and father, and not “just” a missionary. On top of that, we were able to help launch a campaign in which our church body came together to purchase some cows for the sake of advancing his ministry back home. What a privilege it was to hang out with this man of God (and help facilitate his very first selfie! Not sure if I should actually be proud of that…).

One of my favorite moments of each week is the missions training class we’ve gotten to do with our brother Pastor Nadeem in the Middle East via Skype. These Thursday mornings were designed for us to train him in how to facilitate missions work from his own home base. The result has been that we have all been blessed, encouraged, and built up in the process by each other’s fellowship!

 

 

 

Finally, we have some amazing work going on in South Asia right now. I’ve been teaching our Pastor’s School in South Asia over Skype every Sunday night. It’s been an immense privilege to teach these dear brothers through the book of Ephesians (with some of our young adults from my church joining me on occasion). It’s wonderful to be a part of their training to go out and bring the gospel to their own unreached villages. Also, as we get closer to the opening of our Bible school there, we got to interview, via Skype, a graduate from another campus in South Asia to become a SGWM missionary and serve at the new school we’re building.

On a more personal note, we’re loving being a family of five, and it was such a blessing to have Jude dedicated at our church, Calvary Chapel Saving Grace, last month. All three of our children have been dedicated by Pastor Trent now, and it’s always an incredible opportunity to re-establish who we are as part of a larger family in Christ with our church community. We couldn’t do any of what we’re doing without our church family’s love and support!

Please continue to pray for the Lord to grow our financial support so that we can continue our work as missionaries with SGWM. Please pray as I step into my main role of helping create the “face” of SGWM (more on that in our next update!).

If you would like to partner with us financially for the spread of the Gospel or sign up to receive our newsletter updates via email, visit our SGWM missionary page

Soli Deo Gloria!
Joel, Amy, Maggie, Harrison, and Jude
joel@sgwm.com

Broadened Vision through a Narrowed Scope

Coming into this new venture of what most people call “full-time ministry,” I knew to expect the unexpected, but I suppose I still didn’t necessarily expect what I would stumble upon my first week. As an SGWM missionary, I’ve gotten to experience some really cool things this first week and a half at our headquarters, including the beginning of some training for one of our dear brothers in a sensitive country to direct some of the vision he has for sending missionaries out from his own ministry! I’ve been a part of some meetings on how to best bless our missionaries and get their stories in front of the body of Christ. And of course, I’ve been getting really excited preparing to teach through the prison epistles to one of our schools of ministry in Asia via Skype starting in a little over a week. How incredible that I get to be a small part of reaching the nations!

However, one of my first jobs here has been the organization of my church’s annual Front Yard Parties for Halloween. On a holiday where many unsaved people literally come knocking on our doors, our church had a vision to have different groups around the communities where our church is represented to serve the community with fun, food, and a safe place for kids to play and neighbors to chat over coffee. What a way to open up doors to share the Gospel!

 

I love this picture that one of our brothers in Christ captured at my Life Group’s Front Yard Party from this week on Halloween. I think it portrays exactly the goal of these parties: to be a beacon of Christ’s light in our communities on what can be a very spiritually dark night.

With five different parties going on in one night with lots of food, candy, machines, and bounce houses to go out, you can imagine that this event can be a chore administratively. There was a lot of work that went into this and a lot of really helpful hands from amazing people. I was tempted to think that making grocery store runs for hot dogs and calling bounce house vendors is maybe not the most important “Kingdom Work.” But the Lord has really used this experience, especially as I’ve seen how all of these parties have played out, to broaden my vision for missions by narrowing my scope into our own backyards. As I’m working with and praying for brothers and sisters overseas in hard-to-reach areas, I can sometimes miss that our communities need the gospel too. And so, as I’ve seen all of the fruit coming from this event, all of the Gospel conversations and neighbors feeling the love of Christ from us, I can truly say it’s been an honor to play a role in these Front Yard Parties. And no less than some of the other responsibilities I hold with helping to train and equip servants of Jesus worldwide, this first project of mine has very much been a missions project.

Working the popcorn machine at my own Life Group’s front yard party

Soli Deo Gloria!
Joel, Amy, Maggie, Harrison, and Jude