Garcia Family Update: South America Pt. 3 – Brazil

Hello Friends!

Who knew that one missions trip would require three updates for me to scratch the surface of everything God did with our team in South America! But alas, here we are at update #3 to talk about my time in Brazil, the final leg of our South America trip.

Drinking out of a coconut!

While some of my greatest spiritual warfare happened in Peru, Brazil was the toughest portion of the trip for me both physically and emotionally, despite the fact that (praise God!) my sickness did not follow me into the Amazon jungle. Physically, the pounding heat and humidity of the jungle wore on me over the first two days there, and emotionally, due to the length of the trip, I was really missing my family the most in Brazil, especially in the jungle where I had zero contact with them.

But we’ll start with the good… the Miller family, our missionaries in Brazil, are amazing! The four of us pastors quickly bonded with their kids, and good thing, because we would all be in close quarters for our five days in the jungle! The Millers were super hospitable upon our arrival in their home city of Manaus, which is a sort of hub for missionaries who serve in the Amazon jungle of Brazil. We spent a day in Manaus just getting to know the Millers, and doing some shopping with Brad Miller in the city in preparation for our trip, which was an adventure in itself.

These bananas are heavier than they look… I was struggling here!

The next day, we took a 2 hour drive to Manacapuru (say that 10 times fast…), the port city where we boarded our speedboat. That little speedboat would take the nine of us to the Apurina people, the tribe that the Millers minister to, in 11 hours down the Amazon river. The view was beautiful, but between that and the return trip, I’m not looking to board any more boats any time soon…

Beautiful view on our boat ride

The Apurina people are amazing, and the Lord is doing great things among them through the Miller family. Brad typically stays there in the village for three weeks at a time, sometimes alone and sometimes with his whole family, before going back to Manaus for a few weeks, and then doing it all over again. While there, he does a church service every evening on top of Sunday mornings, as well as Bible classes for a few of the men every morning, and a children’s ministry program on Saturdays. But perhaps the coolest thing is that some of the leaders Brad is raising up, who take over services for him while he is not in the jungle, are now preparing to go to other tribes to be missionaries there. It was amazing to watch God’s plans for unreached people groups unfolding before our eyes!

Group shot with the Apurina tribe in their church building

The brutal jungle environment did wear on me physically and mentally. Praise God He sent lots of rain while we were there, which did have the effect of cooling things down slightly, though the humidity was still overwhelming. One night, as I lay in the pitch black in my hammock, missing my family as all of the jungle noises made their best effort to lull me to sleep, the words of Martin Luther’s hymn played on repeat through my mind…

Let goods and kindred go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God’s truth will triumph still
His kingdom is forever

While I certainly wasn’t facing death, I realized in a deeper way than ever all of the comforts of home and family and friends and hot water and A/C and the English language, etc., that missionaries give up, because they count lost souls as worth that sacrifice. They care so much about God’s glory, about the eternal state of the souls of the lost and unreached, that they are willing to leave everything familiar to them. And believe me, in the jungle, there is very little that is familiar to us! I praise God for this insight, and that night in my hammock, He began the process of dealing with some of the idols in my own heart.

A typical jungle house
Me and Pastor Tim’s room, with a mosquito net-covered hammock

As seems to be typical in foreign countries, the locals love English worship, so I played plenty of songs for them. I also had the privilege of teaching their children’s program Saturday afternoon, as well as teaching their Sunday morning service! I will always treasure those special blessings.

Teaching the kids with Veronica Miller, age 9, translating for me!

When our time in the jungle was over, we went back to Manaus, where Pastor Trent got to share some ministry vision with Brad, and we got to bless the kids with some fun times, including a trip to see pink dolphins!

All in all, this whole trip was an amazing experience. I was so happy to go home to be with my family again, but I also came home a changed person, with the many things the Lord taught me and ways He showed me I need to grow. Most of all, I saw the importance of trips like these. SGWM is committed to not just making decisions from a desk in Yorba Linda about what is going on in the nations, but actually being willing to get our hands dirty, so to speak, and actually connect with the work the Lord is doing through our missionaries. That way, our partnership with them is more informed, our fellowship with them is all the sweeter, and we can carry back the great news of how the Lord is using them in order to stir up the church in America for missions. And that was more than worth it for a few days of me letting goods and kindred go.

Garcia Family Update: South America Pt. 2 – Huacho, Peru

Hello Friends!

I’m excited to bring you all part two of my South America trip update. Our time with the Tippie family in Huacho, Peru, was the shortest of the trip, only covering a couple of days. But boy, were they packed days!

Upon arriving back in Lima via a short flight out of Cajamarca with the Tippies, we took a three hour drive that got us into Huacho (pronounced “Watch-Oh”) near 11pm. I observed that Peruvians seem to be night-owls, and they eat late! We were tired, but Pastor Craig didn’t want to send us to bed with empty bellies. I was glad for that after a delicious meal of roasted chicken, aji sauce (think Chick-Fil-A sauce with a little south-of-the-border kick), and french fries. Peru LOVES their french fries, with their almost 4,000 varieties of potatoes that grow there! I could definitely have gotten used to that.

Gorgeous view of a Huacho sunrise from my hotel room

The four of us stayed at a hotel in the city just a couple of blocks from Pastor Craig’s house. Accommodations were so cheap that we each got our own room and bathroom! This should have made for some good sleep, but Huacho was where I experienced some of my greatest spiritual warfare of the trip, including some spiritually dark dreams and a pretty bad stomach bug that plagued me the entire time there. Huacho is the witchcraft capitol of Peru, and we were there to do some work for God’s kingdom, so these kinds of things are to be expected, especially after our focus on the armor of God at our prayer retreat in Cajamarca!

Our first morning in Huacho consisted of a four-hour meeting planning our upcoming youth group trip to Huacho in June, on which Pastor Mike, Pastor Tim, and myself will return to Huacho with 40 people for various outreaches including a surf camp, VBS, music, soccer, and more! It was eye-opening to see the necessity of traveling so far for such planning, as all that we accomplished could never have been done over phone or Skype. I gained valuable experience for planning future trips as Pastor Mike led the way with his expertise in this area.

A silly picture at Pastor Craig’s house, where I’m failing at the Hang Loose sign!

That night, I was radically blessed with the opportunity to preach the gospel to a few dozen youth at a youth outreach at Pastor Craig’s church! I taught on the woman at the well from John 4, and showed them that Christ is the only one who can fulfill our longing for joy and satisfaction in life.

The next morning I had another amazing opportunity to lead a little “Gringo Worship” (as Pastor Craig calls it) for his church’s Sunday morning service! (You can check out video of that here on Facebook) One of my favorite parts of international travel is to worship with people of other cultures and languages. English worship was cool for them, but I really love the fun, lively, community-driven worship of the Peruvian people!

Preaching the Gospel at a youth outreach

In the midst of all this activity, we also had the opportunity to check out a beach similar to the one we’ll run our surf camp at in June, as well as tour around and work through some other logistics for the trip in Pastor Craig’s super cool bright orange VW Bus! The trip ended with a sweet get-together at the Tippies’ house, a surprise party for Pastor Craig where seemingly the whole community came out to celebrate the life of this man who’s done so much for the Gospel in Huacho.

The making of a purple corn and purple sweet potato drink called Chicha. Not bad!

Huacho may have not been the hardest part of our trip, but between the spiritual warfare and my stomach illness, I really wanted to give up and go home, especially when I considered the possibility of carrying my stomach illness into the jungle. But the Lord was really teaching me a lesson on endurance, and the fact that missionaries endure this kind of spiritual warfare on a regular basis. Part of being a missionary is learning to endure through that and fight the good fight of bringing the Gospel to the nations. The Lord was teaching me what our missionaries go through, and was preparing me for a deeper level of that on the next leg of our journey in Brazil…

Garcia Family Update: South America Pt. 1 – Cajamarca, Peru

Greetings Friends!

As many of you know, I (Joel) just returned a few days ago from an 18-day trip to South America. Two countries, eight airplanes, over 24 hours’ worth of boat rides, dozens of new friends, three new languages, weird foods (cow heart, anyone?), weird animals (pink dolphins, anyone?), rain, hail, heatwave, and real RAIN… Joy, lots of laughing, lots of tears, lots of worship, lots of prayer, lots of Bible, lots of missing my family, lots of physical ailments, lots of sights and sounds and tastes and… This was a PACKED 18 days. Our bodies, minds, and souls went through a lot, more than I’m used to, and while it was hard, my calling to be a part of this movement of God amongst the nations was only confirmed all the more.

And so, because this trip, which really felt like 4 totally different missions experiences rolled into a three-week period, was such a massive undertaking, I’ve decided to roll out my update in three installments over the next month or so (which is probably about the time it will take for me to somewhat process all of it anyway!). I pray you’re encouraged along the way 🙂

With such a big trip, there were multiple purposes for myself and three other SGWM pastors to head to South America and see our five missionary families there. For this installment, I’ll focus on our time at the Calvary Chapel Bible College located in the Andes Mountains in Cajamarca, Peru.

Left to right: myself, Pastor Mike, Pastor Tim, and Pastor Trent
View from the Library at the beautiful CCBC in Peru

We really had one goal in Cajamarca: to bless our four missionary families in Peru with a prayer retreat. I discovered firsthand the fact that missionaries do not get the fellowship and community with other believers that we often take for granted here in the U.S. They are called to lead, to teach, and to pastor, and while they love the nationals of the countries in which they serve with all their hearts, it is so refreshing for them to get to share their joys and struggles with people from their own culture and language. We got to hear about the triumphs and trials of our missionaries’ lives and families and ministries, and perhaps the sweetest time was when each family took their turn having hands laid upon their shoulders and prayers spoken over them on their behalf.

Group shot with our Peru missionary families! Roughly left to right: The Kilgus family, the Buescher family, the Tippie family, and not pictured, the Gunderson family

I was extremely blessed to be able to use my gift of leading worship to lead these sweet saints in singing to Jesus. Live English worship is a rarity for them, so it was a huge joy for me to be able to serve them in this way, and a privilege to worship with these men and women I look up to greatly. On top of this, we were able to teach some short devotions through the armor of God in Ephesians 6, to pray over them, and to pastor them in ways that simply don’t happen over the phone or Skype. Our hearts are now connected in a deeper way to those we serve in Peru, and we feel that our ministry alongside them will be all the sweeter and more effective as a result.

Leading worship for our missionaries in Peru

As is typical, while God used me and His gifts through me to bless our missionary families, I feel that I received more than I was able to give, that I was more blessed and challenged through this experience than I could have imagined, and that my calling to be a missionary serving long-term missionaries was all the more deeply confirmed. Praise God for His grace!

Peruvian food is a new favorite of mine! Lots of french fries and… Beef heart (pictured with the fork in it)? Not bad!

Culturally and mentally, this was the “easiest” portion of the trip, as we were surrounded by other Americans and I wasn’t missing my family too badly this early in the trip. It was with bittersweet sorrow that we left three of our missionary families in Peru to head to Huacho with the Tippies, but we are praying for and will continue to fellowship and serve with the Kilgus family as they seek God’s will for them with Venezuelan refugees, the Bueschers as they teach and disciple young students at the Bible College, and the Gundersons as John pastors a local church and they open their home and hearts to the people of Cajamarca. Look out for the next two installments of the trip with adventures in Huacho, Peru; Manaus, Brazil; and the deep Amazon jungle!

Love in Christ,
Joel, Amy, Maggie, Harrison, Jude, and Clara Garcia

A Land Full of Potential

Hello Friends!

We pray you are all doing well, and thank you for taking a moment to read our latest update! I (Joel) have been reflecting lately on what in the past has been, quite frankly, my least favorite portion of scripture: Joshua’s dividing up of the land to Israel after they entered the Promised Land. The list of boundary lines and cities is not a thrilling read, but I was assigned to teach this to our Bible College students in South Asia (via Skype) through the book of Joshua as I finished up my portion of this semester’s teachings. As I approached this text, I noticed that the future of Israel’s rich history was represented in what was, at that time, cities and lands full of potential. This potential for them was the choice between honoring God with the land and seeing His blessings in it (with places like Shiloh and Jerusalem), or offending God with idol worship and receiving the curse of disobedience (as with Ben-Himmon or Dan). As we move forward in our lives of following Christ, the same pregnant potential lies in front of us at all times. Will we reach out and receive His promises in faith and obedience, or end up heaping trouble on our lives with sin, laziness, or cowardice? Praise God that for us, above all of this, stands His great and faithful grace!

Joel giving his last teaching of the semester for South Asia Bible College students

This last month has been a great one! I (Joel) got to lead worship for the church’s men’s retreat, which was an amazing experience to be a part of. It is such a privilege to have a front-row seat to seeing the men of our church lifting holy hands in prayer and worship.

Joel leading the worship team for CCSG’s men’s retreat

I’m also looking forward to traveling next year. Sadly, I will not be able to go to Jordan and Israel as I anticipated due to the proximity of those dates to Amy’s due date. However, that gives me a little more flexibility regarding another potential trip at the beginning of the year. I have learned to on hold loosely to plans for short terms missions, since I’ve discovered those plans can change in an instant! But once things are more firm for this particular trip, I’ll give you all some more details. I am excited about the prospect!

On the home front, the kids are doing great! Maggie is flourishing with homeschooling and loves to learn. Jude is starting to walk all over the place more and more. And Harrison is jumping in and learning lots of things alongside Maggie. It’s always an adventure with those three, and we can’t wait to add one more!

Speaking of #4, please continue to keep Amy in your prayers through this pregnancy. She’s doing great, but experiencing all of the fatigue that comes along with pregnancy and being the amazing, active mom that she is.

We also ask that you continue to keep us in prayer to find a larger home that fits our limited budget, as well as the additional funds needed for a move. We’d love to have a three or four bedroom house to have more space for the kids to run around, room for the new baby, and to be able to practice more hospitality and host more church gatherings.

Finally, please pray as I enter a busy season of running two of our church’s biggest events: our Halloween Front-Yard Outreach Parties and our all-church Thanksgiving Potluck. These are a lot of work, but are super rich and fruitful events, and we have an amazing group of servants at the church who step up to lend their giftings.

Love you all, and please feel free to let 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, Jude, and Baby #4

Big News and Full Plates – Joel & Amy Garcia Update

Hello Friends and Family!

I pray that you are all doing well, and we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking the time to read this quick update and join us in prayer!

First of all, we’re excited to present our big news to you all: Amy is pregnant with our 4th child! We’ll be introducing our newest little one into the world in Spring of 2019. We are blessed that the Lord has allowed us to have a “full quiver” of children so close in age so that they can grow and learn and be friends together. Amy and I celebrated our 7th anniversary of marriage this past month and are blown away by God’s faithfulness to us!

Enjoying a coffee/Scrabble date on our anniversary

Baby #4!

With this big news also comes a busy season in our lives. Joel has been teaching a weekly Wednesday night class through the book of Joshua to some of SGWM’s Bible College students in South Asia. It is such an honor for him to play a role in training up future leaders for Christ in a country where biblical resources are scarce and the need for the Gospel is great.

Joel teaching an overseas Bible class via Skype

In addition, Joel is going to be attending our church’s School of Ministry every Thursday night for 3 1/2 hours for the next 8 months. This is a great opportunity for him, as he has never had any “official” ministry training. He will also be acting as a pastoral mentor for others taking the class in the ins and outs of ministry. Needless to say, between those two things, family, leading Life Groups and Worship Ministry, teaching Young Adults every Friday night, and running two big upcoming church events, our plates are quite full!

Joel announcing CCSG’s School of Discipleship/Ministry

On the home front, Maggie is beginning her homeschool/charter program, and is totally nailing it! We couldn’t be more proud of her, and of course Harrison can’t help but join in on the learning action occasionally. Amy continues to be an amazing mom and excels in the role of teacher for all of our kids. And finally, we know many of you were praying for us in past months for Jude (1) to sleep better through the night. His sleep schedule has been great for many weeks now, so thank you for your prayers; God answered them!

Harrison at a doctor’s checkup

Cute Jude (who’s started walking a bit more lately!)

Maggie at a recent princess birthday party for a friend

We ask that you keep the following in prayer:

  1. For a safe and healthy pregnancy for both the new baby and for Amy, as she juggles the difficulties of pregnancy with raising our three others while I’m at work during the days.
  2. For continued financial support. We are praying that the Lord provides the resources and opportunity for larger housing for us (specifically, we’d love a house with a yard for the kids to play in). This seems impossible in Southern California, but we trust God will provide us with it if He sees fit for us to have that for His glory.
  3. For increased energy and balance with all of the ministry on our plates. We want to do not just many things for the Lord, but we want to do many things well for His glory while maintaining a healthy family life.
  4. Please pray for Maggie (as well as Harrison and Jude) to continue to develop a love for learning, and for Amy and I to receive an ever-increasing vision and plan from God for educating our children and making them disciples of Christ
  5. Please pray for the many upcoming opportunities for Joel to travel for SGWM. He is planning on, Lord-willing, three fairly big trips in 2019, so we need wisdom on what opportunities he should take and for additional financial support to go on the trips the Lord would have him go on. (Hopefully more details to come on those opportunities in future updates!)

Thank you all again for your continued prayers and support, it means the world to us! And I know we usually end our updates with this, but we sincerely ask that you would respond to us with any prayer requests of your own. We love you all and are delighted to partner in prayer with you, not just your prayers for us, but our prayers together for the Gospel.

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

Garcia Summer Update #2!

Hey Friends & Family! Here’s another quick Summer update along with some prayer requests for those of you who are following our ministry. Thank you all so much for your prayer and for faithfully partnering with us!

Last week, I (Joel) got to go on my first youth retreat in a couple of years. It took some mental preparation to get back into “Youth Leader Mode,” as it’s been over 2 years now since I stepped away from being the church’s Jr. High Leader to being our Young Adults Leader. I was honored to lead worship for the majority of the trip and give a couple of teachings, one on God’s holiness and one on God’s mercy. What a blessing to see these students worshiping God with their whole hearts! One of my biggest takeaways was the effect that past retreats have had on these students. Youth retreats like this produce lasting fruit that many of them will look back on as spiritually defining moments in their lives, and that was what I was hearing from them on this retreat.


Of course, all of this awesome ministry I got to partake in comes along with other youth ministry shenanigans, like having them drench you with (thankfully, waterproof) paint! But I have to say that at the end of the day, I kind of miss that sort of thing, messy and exhausting as the games and running and chaos can be.

As I write this, tonight will be my first night of teaching via Skype in South Asia for nine straight weeks through the book of Joshua. I am really excited to jump back into this ministry! This is, however, a busy season for me since I also teach our Young Adults weekly (currently through the book of James), as well as leading a Life Group (our church’s home groups) and helping facilitate our September New Believers’ Class, on top of worship ministry. My plate is full, but I can always ask the Lord for a bigger one, and he’s faithful to do so 🙂

I am also planning on going to Israel in the Spring of next year with our church to further my education as a Bible teacher, as well as to scope out some potential ministry in an adjacent middle-eastern country. I’m glad my travel schedule is finally starting to shape up for 2019 after some previous plans fell through, and I’m planning to help lead a Peru trip for our youth and young adults next Summer as well!

On the home front, the family is doing great. Jude is happy as a clam as always (though we’re still working on getting the kid to walk!), Harrison just turned three and is doing great learning how to be more responsible in helping around the house (he loves the working vacuum cleaner we got him for his birthday!), and we are in the process of getting Maggie enrolled in a charter program to begin her “TK” schooling. Amy, as always, is an amazing mom, and somehow squeezes in the time to meet with some of our young adult girls to disciple them on occasion. I’m certainly a blessed man to have such a wonderful family!

Here are some prayer needs of ours:

  1. Please pray for our finances. Even with young kids, food for a family of five has been a big expense and we have been stretched. We are trusting God, and praying that He will somehow, even though it seems impossible to us, provide us with a house to rent so both our kids and our young adults group, who meet at our place, have some more wiggle room.
  2. Please pray for wisdom and strength for us as parents, especially for Amy who takes the brunt of things while I am working during the days and often have other ministry at nights. She is a fantastic mother and can use prayer to continue to be so!
  3. Please pray for the additional finances we will need for me to go on the Israel/Jordan trip (over $4,000) in Spring.
  4. Please pray for wisdom in managing my busy schedule, as I am teaching and leading groups quite a bit, and this also requires lots of study time for me on top of other responsibilities.

Thank you so much for your continued support and prayers, and please let us know if there is any way we can pray for you!

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

Summer Update!

Hello Friends!

I pray that this Summer has been treating you well, and if it’s as hot (or hotter!) where you are as it is here in SoCal, I hope you’ve been able to keep cool!

The Summer months have been productive and fun for our family. Our SGWM team returned from South Asia a couple of weeks ago and brought back with them a boatload of vision for how God is going to move in that country in the coming months! One cool way that I get to participate is to bring my experience working in the financial department of SGWM to help our board see what kind of financial support is coming in and what funds are further needed to accomplish what God wants to do in that country. Crunching numbers and finances are not the most exciting part of missions, but it is incredibly vital and I’m so glad to play a role in this important aspect of SGWM.

While the team was gone last month, I got to finally launch our SGWM Prayer E-Book, which you can download in PDF for your Kindle or iBooks app here! Here at SGWM, we value prayer for our ministry and missionaries over all other forms of support, so this tool is a huge deal for us and we ask that if you have a heart for SGWM that you would download this and make it a part of your prayer life. What an honor that I got to be a part of its release! Here’s just a sample of what one of the pages looks like:

Another aspect of my job is representing SGWM outside of our church, and I was blessed to be able to do that with SGWM missionary Rebecca Alaniz a couple of weeks ago at Calvary Chapel Downey’s Missions Conference. It was so great getting to talk to people about who SGWM is and what we do!
Please continue to pray for wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit for our ministry. With so much happening in so many countries for SGWM, different trips are getting added and moved around, so I am praying about which trips I should go on to teach overseas, scope out terrain for new ministry, and encourage our missionaries in places like South Asia, Uganda, and Peru. Please pray for additional financial support to come in to help us pay for these trips.
I will also start Skype teachings for South Asia again next month, teaching through the book of Joshua for one of our Bible schools over there, so I am excited about that!
On the personal and church ministry front, things have been really fruitful as well. Our church is going through a 4-week Wednesday night series and I got to teach the first session on the subject of worship, which was a weighty responsibility and huge blessing! In about 3 weeks, I’ll also get to go lead worship and teach a few sessions for our church’s youth retreat, which I am honored I get to participate in.
Finally, our family got to do another camping trip with some friends of ours, which was a ton of work, but produced some great memories, fun for the kids, and some crazy cute pictures! And, I got to officiate my first wedding, which was a great blessing, and Amy and I cleaned up rather nicely for the occasion 🙂

Last minute pic of Amy and I right after getting ready for the wedding at my in-law’s place 🙂

Please continue to pray for us as life gets busy with three kids and so much ministry; we need lots of wisdom! We’d also ask that you pray for our financial support, as the cost of living is rising as our kids grow and we’d love to eventually be able to afford a larger living space for them to have room for more play and for us to be able to practice hospitality in ways we aren’t necessarily able to at the moment.

Thank you so much for your continued support and prayers!

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


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


Defending the Faith in a Foreign Land

“When I first heard about Christian Apologetics,” says Darryl Record, SGWM missionary in Cambodia, “my initial reaction was, ‘I’m not going to apologize for being a Christian!’ I had no idea what it meant.” I doubt that Darryl is alone in this experience, as we’ve been trained to view the word “apology” in a very specific light. But Darryl soon learned the true definition of apologetics, and he was hooked on the concept. Bruce Shelley, in his book Church History in Plain Language, says, “the word comes from Greek and means defense, such as a lawyer gives at a trial.” Darryl decided to commit the focus of his life to this defense of the faith, a journey that took him from not even knowing what the word meant to eventually receiving his MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.

The Record Family: Darryl and Kayo with their son Benjamin

But Darryl wasn’t content to remain in the states for his apologetics work, where information and resources already abound. Before receiving his degree from Biola, he had a breakthrough in his relationship with God in which he simply surrendered his all to Christ. He promised not to say “No” to whatever God may ask Him to do. So, God said, in effect, “Go to Cambodia.” After a short-term stint, Darryl returned home to finish his education, during which time he met his future wife Kayo, a first-generation Christian from Japan, who also felt a calling to missions. They married in 2004, went out back out on the field in 2007, and haven’t looked back since putting their hand to the plow.

Darryl noticed that while there were plenty of gospel resources in Cambodia, there was not much material regarding creationism or evidence for the truth of the Bible. But surely the Cambodian people struggled with the same existential questions that had plagued Darryl earlier in his own life, right? For Darryl personally, he says that at one point in his life there was a “gradual flow of evolution and Biblical criticism that was seeping into my worldview from my public school teachers and later university professors. Little by little my faith was eroded.” These problems are not exclusive to western culture. According to Darryl, the Theravada Buddhists of Cambodia “believe that everything came into existence by water, wind, earth, fire, time, and chance.” And evolution is pushed hard in schools there, just as it is in the U.S. So Darryl’s heart is to not only present the Gospel, but also to gently and respectfully help remove intellectual obstacles in the hearts of the unbelievers there.

Darryl with his Cambodia Bible Institute Apologetics Class

Typically when westerners think of apologetics, we conjure up images of men in suites with lots of letters attached to their names trying to win an argument. But Darryl knows that apologetics is not about winning debates. Especially in the Asian culture he lives in, the focus needs to be on relationship and community, so that is how he approaches his broad range of work in his field in Cambodia. Primarily, he teaches Christian apologetics at a Bible school there, but he has also authored and co-authored two bilingual Christian apologetics books, written scripts for Christian radio programs, and is currently working on an exciting project of producing short evangelistic/apologetics videos in Cambodian. In this wide array of activity, he has mastered how to defend the faith with the gentleness of Christ in the way the Cambodian culture receives it best.

Darryl talking apologetics on the radio

Darryl clearly has his hands full, but he also has a laser-like focus. When asked to sum up his ministry in one sentence, he simply quotes Ephesians 4:12 – “for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Or, when put in his own terms, “We seek to equip local Christians to reach their own families and neighbors with confidence in the truth of God’s Word.” This is a vision that fits right in with SGWM’s: training nationals to reach their own people with the gospel in ways a westerner never could. And once he’s equipped nationals with the proper tools, they will be ready to, like Darryl, “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have…. with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)