Filled to Capacity

Our first taste of Mexico.

We have made it to Mexico! Thank you for your prayers. The trip here went smoothly and we have hit the ground running since we arrived. Our daily routine is filled with times of devotion, classroom learning, outreach, and prayer, with lots of amazing food in between. The opportunity to learn from active missionaries and missions-minded pastors has our brains filled to capacity. Getting to serve, love and pray with people who have so little has filled our hearts to capacity. And fellowshipping with the other like-minded students and staff has our stomachs filled to capacity.

One of our first outreaches was visiting a part of East Tijuana where a fire had destroyed a row of ‘houses’. We were able to spend time with these families who were still living in the hollow shells of their homes. We got to hear their stories and empathize with them, as well as bring them groceries and share the hope found in Christ as well. We met a man named Napalito, who’s house was completely gone. He and his family were living under a piece of plywood leaned against the charred remains of an exterior wall they shared with their neighbors. Even though he had lost everything, including a flock of chickens that were a large part of the family’s income, he had incredible hope and was not broken in spirit. He told us about the night the fire happened, and how the Lord had woken him up in the middle of the night. He usually sleeps all night, but because of the Lord’s warning, he was able get all six of his family members out just in time. He sees this as the Lord’s mercy and has hope in God having a bigger plan. We came to bless him, but his faith ended up blessing us.

We built a stage for a church plant in Tijuana.

We have been learning about the biblical view of missions and church planting this week, and the fire to get to the field burns hot. We have seen first hand how hard it is to share the gospel when you don’t speak the language. We had already planned to get in language school, but now we know it’s non-negotiable. These types of first hand lessons could only be taught to us down here, so praise the Lord that He has opened this door for us.

Praying for the nations.

If you would like to partner with us monthly as we work towards making disciples in Japan, you can do that on the SGWM website. Thank you all for your continued prayers as we continue to seek God’s will for us, and watch for these updates weekly.

Praise report:

  • We made it through another long drive and are safe here in Mexico.
  • The school is going great and has exceeded our expectations.
  • We are still on a high from our time with Daphne and are thankful to be able to talk with her regularly

Prayer requests:

  • That God would show us the next step towards Japan.
  • That we would be able learn more Japanese from our self-learning.
  • That the next five weeks of school would grow us in the areas we are weak.

Love you all, Jeff and Alishia

The Soul’s Paradox of Love

June has been a sweet time of leaning in the Lord, being with family, and visiting our church in Montana. It’s been great having Daphne with us on the farm, and she’s been enjoying it as well. The chances to get to Montana are always special and this one was no different. The fellowship with our church family, the encouragement and direction from wizened saints, the tens of hours of driving where the Lord ministers to us, all of it makes these trips so valuable. And we’ve done seven trips in 2020 eighteen hours or longer, and each one has been a blessing. It would be easy to think of the numbers (140 hours at the wheel) and think what a waste of time its been, but honestly, it’s been some of the most profitable time I’ve spent this year. And the great thing is we get to do another one this weekend.

Daphne and a chicken

We are less than a week away from the start of our time in Mexico. A.W. Tozer famously wrote “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.” That really is our focus for our time south of the border, to pursue Jesus a fraction as earnestly as He pursued us. We believe that He is going to speak to us down there, and we are excited to learn what our next step will be. Please keep us in prayer for these next six weeks, as we listen for His voice and grow in the knowledge of His grace.

We will be sending out these updates with more frequency while in Mexico, so be watching for one a week for the next month and a half. Also, we are starting to raise monthly support so we can get to Japan. If God has put it on your heart to support us, please use the link below or you can mail a check to the following address:

Saving Grace World Missions                                                               17451 Bastanchury Road #203                                                           Yorba Linda, CA 92886                                                                                                                                              Just make sure to put a note with it that tells the accounting department who’s account to deposit in.

Alishia and Fern

Praise Reports:

– We had a great and safe trip to Montana and Idaho

– We have had a great couple of weeks with Daphne

– Our time on the farm has been just what we needed

Prayer requests:

– That God would make the next step for us very clear

– That we would allow God to do the work in us needed while in Mexico

– That God would pour His Spirit out on the nation of Japan

We would love to hear from you if you have any prayer requests or encouragement. Love you all and God bless

He is Faithful

In Kyoto attending a tea class.

This update will be short and a little different, as we are still on the farm in Nebraska and things haven’t changed much. We have been blessed with the ability to see much of my (Jeff’s) family over the last several weeks, and will be seeing more in the next few. We don’t know when the Lord will send us to Japan so making these connections has been so important.

Our training down in Mexico is just a month away now, and we are very excited for what God will show us and work out in us during that time. Please keep us in your prayers during that time, and watch for these updates regularly.

After Mexico, our next step will probably be a vision tour to visit some of the ministries we’ve made connections with in Japan. Please be praying about the timing of this trip as well as if you’d like to help support us financially to help us get there. We’re seeing some news that Japan may open to foreign travel soon, even though our trip is likely months away, please be praying that it does.

Shubuya Crossing in Tokyo, 50 million souls cross here everyday.

When we started this journey, we didn’t know anyone on the ground in Japan, and we didn’t know anyone else called to Japan. This wrongly created a bit of possessiveness over the calling in my heart. We were God’s Japan missionaries, and He was going to send us because we were all He had to send. Over the last year and a half, we have met so many missionaries serving in Japan, people working towards going to Japan to serve, and been part of or watched several online conferences for missionaries in Japan. At first it was a little hard to grasp that my calling wasn’t as special as I thought it was, but what a blessing it’s been to realize that God is raising up workers for Japan. We aren’t His only option, we aren’t His best option, but we are AN option, and that’s all He requires from us. We are still excited to serve Him in Japan, and while the vision we started with has morphed, we can see clearer now what the next steps are.

We pray that you are safe and healthy during this time. Hopefully we will see you soon and be able to fellowship with you. If you have any questions for us, please feel free to respond to this email. We would love to share our heart for Japan with you, to pray with you, or just encourage you in any way.

Feeding Macaques in Kyoto

Here are our prayer requests again:

-Pray for the School of Missions that we’re attending in July in Mexico. For God to work in us and through us during that time, and for clear direction moving forward.

-Pray for our future vision trip to Japan. When we should plan on going. That it would be made clear where God would have us land over there, and for the financial provision to get there. That Japan would open up to foreigners soon.

-Praise Him for all the amazing people He has connected us with, who love Japan and have a similar calling to us. Lord willing, we will serve along side these people for years to come, and we are so thankful for what we see the Lord doing in the hard soil that is Japan.

Love you

Love in a Time of Quarantine

Alishia and her friends Hope and Mackenzie

I hope this update finds you heathy and safe during a time seemingly defined by disease. We made the decision in late March to take advantage of the lockdown in California, to visit family in Nebraska. There are few places that are more suitable for isolation and quarantine than the farm where I (Jeff) was raised. There are also few places more suitable to us for a time of recharge and seeking the Lord. The older I get the more I miss the lifestyle and pace of this place and Alishia loves coming here in the spring when new life is springing forth from animal and plant alike. It seems that someone failed to tell the cows and rye that this new world we live in is no place to start a new generation. And so, it is with the Christian, that even though they may find themselves in a place that seems more dangerous than before, a new generation of believers will be birthed and come to maturity in this reality. With this on the foremost of our minds, we make sure that this time isn’t wasted. What better time is there to be in the word and spend time in prayer. I can practice my homiletics with cows as with my fellow interns. We can learn skills that can be helpful on the mission field. And so, the preparation continues and the call draws nearer.

Ellie. Most cows don’t get names but this was does so she must be special.

I also wanted to give a praise report and praise the Lord for His provision. Last month our letter was about a six-week church planting and cross-cultural missions school that we are planning to go to this summer. Your generosity has made it a reality. We now have the support to cover the tuition cost. So, when the school happens (it may get postponed, but we will go as soon as its safe to do so) we will be a part of it and we can’t begin to thank you all enough.

Alishia feeding Gilbert, the bottle calf.

We know that our church families are hurting right now, and we pray for you all often. Please respond to this email with any prayer requests you have that we can lift up. Farm life can be tough but it does leave us with time to go before the Lord often, and in this time, we would love to be able to pray for you in any way that you need.

Some frosty cows.

What’s Ahead

For our update this month, we wanted to update you on where the Lord has directed us and how the vision has morphed. During our visit to Montana, we met with our church leadership. They allowed us to cast our vision, and asked us lots of questions. This time was invaluable to us and we believe the Lord spoke to us through them. We returned to California with a lot to pray about and plenty to discuss with the leadership down here. As the last month passed, we feel that doors have closed and others have remained wide open that we can see God’s fingerprints all over.

We have decided to postpone our vision tour to Japan for the time being. We still feel one hundred percent called to minister to the Japanese people, and we are confident that the Lord will send us when we are ready. In the mean time we will prepare ourselves to be as effective as possible once we get there. Please continue to pray for the Lord’s leading as we follow Him on this journey.

The next step for us is a cross-cultural missions and church planting school this summer. This school is specifically designed to train us for what awaits us in Japan. It will help us hit the ground running, and will give us the tools we need to keep from burn out or flame out. It will equip us for ministry in a non-western context, as well as allow us to seek the Lord and His direction for six weeks.

The school is based in Rosarito, Mexico from June 10 to July 22. We will be working directly with a church that was planted from our church in Yorba Linda. They have also planted several churches all over Mexico. We will see how to plant a multiplying church. Current missionaries will come from around the world to teach and pour into us.

The cost of the school for the two of us is $4600, so we will need some help. We are so appreciative for the way that you all have gotten behind us. If you feel led to partner with us, please use the link at the bottom of this email. Thank you for your prayers, they are the most valuable thing that you could possibly give us.

Also, if you know of anyone who has a heart for cross-cultural missions, but don’t know how to start, here is a link to the website for the school. The application process is pretty straight forward and this school is unlike anything else that is available. We’re very excited for what the Lord is going to do through the school.

We have also decided to not go on the Nepal mission trip. We will have a better idea what is next after we return from Mexico, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it.

We also have a new address:

15030 Ashwood Lane

Chino Hills, CA 91709

Closer Each Day

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

– James 4:13-15

The new year has brought us new opportunities to walk faithfully, after Christ, one step at a time. We are thankful for that at times, and frustrated by that at other times. Thankful that we don’t have to be overwhelmed by the whole picture, and that we can trust Him with everything that we don’t need to worry about right now. But sometimes we wish that we could see three or four steps ahead, and have a better idea what His plan is. We can rejoice in the fact that we serve a God that is so much smarter than we are. The current step has been great so far, and we will be well prepared once the next step comes.

On January 5th we celebrated Missions Sunday with Calvary Chapel Saving Grace. The church prayed over us and allowed us to have a ‘Japan’ table at the church BBQ where we could share our heart with the congregation. Whenever we get the chance to tell people about Japan and what God is doing there, it’s a great blessing to us. I also need the practice at sharing with people, so it was a double blessing in that way.

Our table at Missions Sunday representing Japan.

Later that week we had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Chizuo from Tokyo. He was able to give us a better picture of what the spiritual terrain of Japan looks like, and gave us great advice on how to arrive over there and be successful and as little of a burden as possible. We have had the chance to talk to several missionaries on the field in Japan via Skype as well. These conversations are invaluable, and we praise God for those that have blazed the trail ahead of us.

I am actually writing this letter from Montana. Thank you to everyone who prayed for us on this trip. We were able to bring our friend Isaac with us and he has been a huge blessing. He gets to experience winter and we benefit from his help to get our tasks accomplished that we came here to do. Thank you to our Montana church family for housing us and letting us share our burdens with you. From our small group bible studies to the church leadership, we were able to cast vision and hear input. Alishia was especially blessed by the trip, and is sad to head south again, but I’m sure all of you in the frozen parts of the country can exhort her when you see her.

Alishia and her dear friend Shayla enjoying a typical day in Montana.

We would like to tell you all exactly where we’re headed next, but we only know the current step. Thank you for your prayers as we continue to move forward. We are continuing in prayer about a vision trip to Japan later this year, if that be the Lord’s will. We also desire to go to the school of missions and church planting this summer in Mexico and Nepal. If you feel led to give to either of these trips, please use the link below or you can mail a check to us at Saving Grace World Missions.

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

– Proverbs 3:5-6

We love you all.

Jeff and Alishia

Where We’re Going, Where We’ve Been

As we wrap up another year closer to serving the Lord among the unreached, we are happy to regale you with stories from our joyous Christmas season. At the start of December, Alishia hosted a table at the ladies Christmas dinner that Calvary Chapel Saving Grace has each year. The theme was ‘Christmas Around the World’, and Alishia did the Japan table. The ladies loved the origami that Alishia folded, as well as the bonzai that one of the church couples loaned her. I was asked to coordinate the food for the event, and although I was in over my head, the ladies didn’t seem to notice and my team picked up any slack. It was a great evening with music and dinner and a gospel message from a missionary serving in Nepal.

Alishia’s table at the Women’s Christmas Dinner.

The next week Alishia set up and served at a Christmas dinner for Voice of the Refugees. In a previous letter I told you about this ministry and the work they due among displaced people here in Orange County. This dinner was a great opportunity to share the reason for Christmas with a group of refugees that were mostly Muslim. The ministry has a large impact because it shows practical love to people (especially women) who are isolated here in the US, and this night was no different.

Calvary Chapel Saving Grace’s Pastor’s wife Debbie and a Muslim woman at the Voice of the Refugees Christmas dinner.

We had a wonderful Christmas, although we missed many of you, celebrating with new friends and being thankful for our Savior. We are so grateful to everyone here in California that took us in and loved on us this year. Everyone was so generous towards us and we felt like we were home even if we weren’t. Alishia did a fundraiser for our Japan vision trip where she made floral centerpieces that people could order. She did a great job on the arrangements and the response was very positive.

A Christmas celebration with our small group.

This year has been one of the most trial filled years of our lives and we rejoice in it. We can see very specific ways that the Lord is preparing us for the mission field and while its hard day-to-day, the path we can look back on is clearly marked and faith building. We don’t expect this year to be easier, in fact we are just running with footmen, the horses are still on the horizon. The floodplain of the Jordan beckons and we will need to be strong when we get there. Love you all and happy New Year.

“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you,

Then how can you contend with horses?

And if in the land of peace,

In which you trusted, they wearied you,

Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?

Jeremiah 12:5

Prayer requests:

-We are traveling home to Montana in January to see our church and take care of some things. Please pray that the trip goes well.

-Please continue to pray about our Japan trip this coming spring. That God would provide direction and favor with all the details.

-Please pray for the learning opportunities that we have for next summer. Eight weeks in Mexico and Nepal learning to plant churches.

Proverbs 16:9

It is interesting for me to look back and see the way the Lord has gotten us to where we are today. It gives me peace about where we are to know at some point, I will look back on where ever I am, whether I can see the Lord’s leading in the situation or not, knowing that one day I will see his fingerprints even in the small things.   When Ryan (My first husband) was still alive there was a time right before his death that he felt just burdened to go to Northern Canada and to make a considerable amount of money. I didn’t understand this desire in him because everything before this had shown me that he had no desire to leave my side for any reason.  So, he went for one month, one time, two weeks before his death. He left me with more money then I had ever seen because this sacrifice. Fast forward a year, Jeff and I were planning to go on a honeymoon. I had told Jeff “I want to take you on an international honeymoon.” He had never been out of North America. I had been holding onto the nest egg Ryan had left me, I felt that this trip was the reason I had the money.  It was this trip that lit a fire for the Japanese people in both of our hearts. It was not until a year later that we got the call to be missionaries over there. I look back and can see how God used Ryan to get Jeff and I over to Japan. It’s neat to think about the impact Ryan has had in us becoming missionaries.

For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

On Tuesday nights we have the great opportunity to serve with an organization called Firefighters for Christ. It is a highlight of our week and a huge blessing in our lives. If you are not familiar with the ministry, people from across the US and around the world order CDs and DVDs and we ship them to them free of charge. Jeff and I start each week filling orders and packaging them for shipment, then we help put labels on the CDs and package them. Then we all share a meal and have a bible study to end the night. The man that oversees the ministry, Pastor Steve, always tells us we’re already missionaries because we’re helping to reach people all over the world. Getting the chance to pray for fledgling believers by name who live in closed countries is incredibly encouraging.

A few of our friends at Firefighters for Christ.

For Halloween, the church hosted several trick-or-treat locations around town. We helped with one of the locations, on a very busy street that saw 1200-1500 kids come by in the three hours we were there. We manned the cotton candy machine while other people handed out candy and tracts, gave out popcorn and hotdogs, helped with the bounce house, or did street witnessing. It was a little bit of light on a very dark night, but every kid that wanted cotton candy (all of them) were told that Jesus loves them and all you can do it plant the seeds.

Ready to join the circus.

Thank you to you all for praying about my job opportunities. I took the job at the coffee shop and also ended up getting a job at a flower shop as well. Praise the Lord.

Sorry that this update is a little late, but we have big news to share for the future. In the next several months we are going to go on a vision trip to Japan, and attend a missions and church planting school in Mexico. We will pass on more info about the dates of the vision trip next update, and the school in Mexico is in July and August.

Prayer requests:

– Please pray for our vision trip to Japan. That the Lord would speak clearly to us and give us direction.

– Pray that the Lord will provide financially for the two trips we have coming up in the next eight months.

– Alishia is feeling a bit homesick without snow for Christmas, pray for her comfort.

Settling In

Persimmons, common in Japan, growing in Yorba Linda

When we moved down to Orange County a little over a month now, we were stepping out on faith.  We arrived in Yorba Linda without a place to stay or jobs, and God provided both for us in short order. Our first day in town we attended one of the Life Groups that meet in the homes of several members of the church. No sooner had we met everyone there that one of our fellow interns, Jim, had offered to let us stay with him at his house! The next day Alishia and I went job hunting, and I applied for a bakery position at a Japanese grocery store up the street from the church. They said that it would take 1 to 2 weeks to process the application, but I got a call back two days later to schedule an interview. At the interview the they said that I would hear within ten days if I got the job or not, this time they called the next day and I started the next Monday. Alishia put in applications at a few places in town and was able to secure work at both a coffee shop and a memory care unit that connected to a retirement home here in town. Please pray for her as she decides which of the two jobs to take, or for strength if she decides to do both.

Japanese white bread made by Jeff

At our initial trip to the Japanese grocery store, while I was filling out an application, Alishia met a Christian Japanese woman named Hiroko. They hit it off right away and exchanged phone numbers. The next week, Hiroko asked us to drive her up to the mountains north of here to a time share she has. Since I had not started work yet we happily agreed and it was a pleasure to spend the weekend with her and her friends (missionaries from the Philippines, serving in San Diego).

We were given the opportunity to attend a benefit gala for Voice of the Refugees with the other interns and the pastor we serve under and his wife. It was a great night meeting people and learning about this amazing ministry that serves refugees in southern California. They provide ESL classes for children and adults, as well as helping fill out paperwork, provide food or household items to the needy families, and even teach driving lessons. They share the gospel with families who have been displaced with literally nothing left. No home, no job, no possessions, they have even left their families behind. We were very blessed to be able to attend the event and are looking forward to the chance to work with this ministry in the next year.

At the Voice of the Refugees gala.

This past week we were able to find a permanent place to live near Yorba Linda. With help from our Life Group we were able to meet a couple that had a room to rent. They often rent a room to young people in bible school and call themselves a ‘finishing house’, as kids spend a season with them and then head out to the mission field.

Thank you all for your prayers. Please continue to pray for:

  • An opportunity to minister to the Japanese population in Yorba Linda
  • When to take a scouting trip to Japan, and what ministries to visit on the trip
  • And again wisdom for Alishia as she weighs her employment opportunities  

Walking by Faith

The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet
you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

As you may know, Alishia and I have felt called to serve the Lord in Japan for two years now. That calling has led us to change churches, move to California for training, and ultimately intern here with Saving Grace World Missions in Yorba Linda, California. You may also know that we spent last semester at the Calvary Bible Institute in Yucca Valley, California getting general bible and ministry training. While there, we had a missions class the first and last Friday of each month, which is where we met Rob Douglass, a veteran missionary in Africa and Asia, and Pastor Trent Douglass, the head pastor of a sending church in Orange County. We were two of only a few students in our class that felt called to overseas missions at that time, so we instantly connected with the Douglass brothers and looked forward to our twice a month class with them most of all. They were experienced in not only being and sending missionaries, but in training others in how to be and send missionaries as well. They taught us foundational elements of what it takes to be a cross-cultural missionary; how to not offend your host nation, what to do in awkward cultural misunderstandings, and how to preach the gospel in non-western cultures for example. While we were thankful for the general training we were getting, we longed for more of this specific training and wished we could be part of a school that focused on missions first and foremost. We started praying for an opportunity to be mentored by these men, and another of our teachers as well. In our hearts, these three seemed the reason God had brought us down to California.

Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

2 Thessalonians 3:5

Summer came and we went home to Montana to reassess how the Lord was leading us. We stayed in contact with everyone down in orange county. Pastor Trent and Rob were doing a school of missions in Mexico for the summer and we wanted to be a part of it. However, due to a lack of funds and prior commitments we felt like that door was closed to us. We continued to pray about being a part of their church however, and we talked with the pastor and elders at our church in Whitefish (Calvary Chapel Whitefish). We felt the Lord telling us to move onto Saving Grace from CBI, but I wasn’t faithful enough to commit one way or the other. I needed a sign or a door to close, but none came. Finally, at the end of August we decided just to commit to Saving Grace and let CBI know we wouldn’t be returning, it was then that the Lord moved on the situation.  We let Pastor Trent know of our decision, and he let us know that we could be a part of a brand-new internship that stemmed out of the school down in Mexico. Praise God, HE is faithful!! What a blessing, we didn’t even know it was an option and now we had the opportunity to continue our training in a missions focused church. The internship is designed specifically to equip and prepare the saints to have the knowledge, spiritual maturity, the know how to church plant, and to build a team around us (that’s you) to be able to run the race the Lord has for us.

Back to California!

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

So here we are, in awe of all our prayers and desires being fulfilled. So thankful to be a part of this internship for the next year, and more certain then ever that the Lord will continue to move in our midst. We feel more and more called to Japan as each new chapter unfolds revealing the path the Lord has for us to walk. The Lord is so faithful to fulfill His promises and for us it seems still apparent to us that Japan is His promise and call on our Life.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20