Jennifer and Alissa have led two very different lives. Yet their stories are intertwined, and their discipleship journey has led them to a shared resolve and a lasting friendship.
“In some ways, I could have been the classic Western Christian cliché,” said Alissa Funk. Born into a family with generational Christian roots and educated in a private Christian school setting, Alissa always felt safe, nurtured and protected in her faith. Then a family mission trip to Thailand to serve Ricky and Karen Sanchez helped her realize, at age twelve, that there was a world full of people who did not have that same story. Later, a school mission trip in her grade twelve year took her to India.
“Those experiences opened my eyes,” she shared. “I wanted mission to become my everyday life.” That desire led Alissa to get involved with Multiply’s SOAR Vancouver. It also led her to Jennifer.
A second-generation immigrant from the Philippines, Jennifer Mascardo grew up in a part of Burnaby, B.C. known for it’s demographic of low-income refugees from all over the world. “I thought it was normal to hear so many different languages in one elementary school,” she said. “I didn’t really see many white faces until I went to high school!”
In high school, a friend invited her to get involved in the youth group at Willingdon Church. “I was always a super high-achiever,” she related, “so I volunteered for everything, all the time. The youth leader began to disciple me, saying that I had leadership skills and suggested I take some classes. In one of them, I was asked to articulate the Gospel. I had no idea what that even meant!”
Shocked, the youth pastor realized that Jennifer had only a rudimentary understanding of the Gospel. She laughed at the memory. “He said to me, ‘What? I didn’t know that you didn’t know!’ Then he led me to Jesus right away!”
Soon after, Jennifer was baptized. Then, on the day of her sixteenth birthday, Jennifer went on her first mission – SOAR Vancouver. “It was my moment,” she said. “God met me there. One day, I opened my Bible randomly to Jeremiah 1:5. I cried when I read the words, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart.’”
During a worship night on SOAR, another young woman came up to Jennifer and began to pray over her, speaking words that caused Jennifer’s tears to flow. “It was Alissa,” she said, smiling. “That was how we first met.”
Although their paths diverged after SOAR, in many ways they paralleled each other. Alissa joined Youth With A Mission and littered her passport with international stamps from Norway, Hong Kong, Belize and other countries. Jennifer joined a short-term team from her church and travelled to Cuba. During their adventures abroad, both girls grew in their desire to bring the missional experience back home into a local context.
“I wanted to not only reach out,” explained Alissa, “but to reach in.”
Jennifer also experienced a desire to grow in cross-cultural skills and to apply them in her home context. Following God’s leading, both Alissa and Jennifer ended up enrolling in Columbia Bible College, in the Intercultural Studies program. Their paths had converged yet again.
Thrilled to re-connect, they are now studying together as they prepare for a future in mission, whether local or global. Jennifer is involved with Athletes in Action, and Alissa volunteers with Youth Unlimited, ministering to new immigrants in Abbotsford’s Punjabi community. Although uncertain where their paths will lead, both are sure of their trajectory—they are resolved to follow the Holy Spirit on mission wherever he takes them.
By Nikki White (Contributor for Multiply’s Witness Magazine)
This story was originally written and published in Multiply’s Witness Magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print version of Witness magazine..