Local Ministry Stories

By: Reality SF

In this blog, we regularly add profiles of our Local Missionaries and Local Ministry Partners, whom we offer partial financial support through Local Ministry.

Joanna Clark
Young Life San Francisco


Share about what you do in your current ministry.
My current role is the Area Director of Young Life San Francisco. I get the privilege of overseeing a group of amazing volunteers who give their time to be a part of the lives of kids. We go together to public middle and high schools in San Francisco and help kids with whatever is going on in their lives. Through our friendships with students, we get to become their friends, confidants, and share both the Gospel and our lives with them. Most of the kids that we work with in San Francisco have never stepped foot in a church and they have often not heard anything about Jesus and don’t know what they symbol of the cross means. We have clubs and camps where kids get to be kids, feel safe and loved, and laugh — and I think that is what makes all the difference for them to understand and experience the love of God.

What do you love about this work?
I love that my job is relational. I get to work by caring for people and seeing the ways that God is working in their lives. Even if a person thinks that they are far away from having a relationship with Jesus, I get to talk to them about where they are at or what they believe and don’t believe. I love watching kids’ and leaders’ lives change because of participation in the life of Christ.

Describe something God has shown you during your time serving as a missionary.
Since I have moved to San Francisco to work for Young Life, God has shown me that He does not move or work in any particular formula. When I first moved here, it seemed to me like all these students were so far from starting a relationship with Jesus and all I would do as a missionary was throw seeds and keep throwing. I never expected to see growth when the response I continually kept getting was, “I am a teenager and I have never heard this before. It is too hard to believe. No I’m not a Christian, but I liked learning about it.” However, just days or months later sometimes, the Holy Spirit will completely change these kids’ hearts and perspectives in unexpected times. It doesn’t matter what the Young Life structure is set up for. The Holy Spirit will move and inspire someone at any time!

What has been your most memorable experience serving as a Missionary?
My most memorable experience has been thinking of individual students who have had transformative moments with me. I think of a student named Jenna who told me she was Buddhist and didn’t want to be a Christian. However, after I had been in her life for a year and a half, she came to every event that Young Life had to offer and she would always say to me, “I can’t wait to hear about Jesus!” Although for the next three years she would say that she wasn’t a Christian, she was falling more and more in love with Jesus and trying to follow Him with her life. It reminded me so much of what the disciples were like, because they were following Him for a long time before they realized that they were Christians. It was after three years that they knew that changed their identity. Jenna now is at college and started going to a church and a Bible study on her own, and she has become a leader in the things that she is involved in. Four years ago, her life looked completely different, and I got to witness God transforming her through our relationship.

To learn how to support Joanna’s ministry, please email her.

Jonathan Newman
Athletes in Action, UC Berkeley

Jonathan_05 (1)

Briefly share about what you do in your current ministry.
I have been ministering to college students for the past six years with Cru, and have recently transitioned to a branch of the organization called Athletes in Action, where I will be serving at UC Berkeley. The main focuses of my ministry will be to help student athletes grow and thrive in their faith, help them make disciples and build spiritual movements on their teams, and to pursue “Oneness in Diversity” in our ministry so that we reflect and honor the image of God well and can have a compelling corporate witness.

What do you love about serving as a Missionary?
I love the relational aspect of it and the privilege of the opportunity. It’s really neat that I get to not only be in the field directly mentoring and pointing people to Jesus, but I also get to multiply my efforts by helping others do the same. There’s so many ways and opportunities to invite people into God’s family and Kingdom purposes, and I’ve built some of the closest and most meaningful relationships with people I’ve been blessed to serve alongside.

Describe something God has shown you during your time serving.
He has shown me that I matter to Him and am loved by Him apart from what I may or may not accomplish. While it’s easy to fall back into a performative mindset, that’s what I keep coming back to. He has also shown me how much His heart breaks when the image of God is being denigrated, and how much He cares for those who are marginalized or feel invisible. And that doing justice and restoring dignity to the image of God is as essential a part of His mission as things like evangelism.

What has been your most memorable experience serving as a Missionary?
It would definitely have to be when I was a missionary to college students with Cru in East Asia my first year out of college. I was on a team with five other 21-23 year olds —  so we were basically spring chickens — but despite having a difficult language barrier and navigating a very unfamiliar place, my teammates and I were by the grace of God able to thrive there in our friendships with each other and see God use our often clumsy efforts and hilariously awkward interactions in our ministry to East Asian students to draw people to Himself who had never even heard the Gospel.

To learn more about Jonathan’s ministry and how to financially support him, click here.

Mateo & Gabby Alzate
YWAM San Francisco and Because Justice Matters

Gabby Alzate

Mateo is on staff with YWAM San Francisco as part of the operations team, serving the YWAM community with tools and the environment they need to be able to do what God has called them to do in the city. He is also building a ministry to elementary-aged and middle-school-aged boys in the Tenderloin. Gabby has been on staff with Because Justice Matters for the past 7 years, serving as the Youth Director and on the BJM Leadership Team. She loves being part of the Tenderloin and being involved in the lives of girls in the community.

What do you love about this work?
I would say both of our greatest joys is being able to see kids find life in Christ and have hope for the future. We love seeing God revive dreams in the lives of kids and their families, and to see them believe again for the good plans that He has for them. We believe that new life is being breathed into the lives of the next generation of influencers and world changers, and we are excited to be part of it!

Describe something God has shown you during your time as missionaries.
We are learning all the time what it means to completely trust in God. He is constantly showing us deeper places where we can trust Him more and surrender new places in our hearts. Whether it’s trusting Him for the healing of people’s hearts, our finances, or anything in between, He is showing us His faithfulness and goodness.

What has been your most memorable experience  so far?
Every summer, we get to take a group of teenagers from the Tenderloin out on a week-long houseboat trip. This past June was particularly memorable. It was such a powerful week where there was salvation, freedom from bondage, genuine, pure worship, and so much joy! We could go on and on about how brave each kid was in choosing life, forgiveness, and courage!

To learn how to financially support Mateo and Gabby’s ministry, please email them.

Kelsey Verrill
YWAM San FranciscoIMG_6938

Briefly share about what you do in your current ministry.
I work in the Discipleship Training School (DTS) and am part of our Communications Department here at YWAM San Francisco in the Tenderloin. I also run a weekly food pantry serving over 300 patrons in the area every Thursday. My role in DTS looks like walking with students through spiritual growth during our 6-month program. I facilitate lectures, host a small group, and I mentor 3-4 girls weekly. We serve alongside our students in YWAM’s drop-in center, the women’s ministry (Because Justice Matters), and are part of other local ministries and outreaches in the area. We also get the opportunity to lead teams overseas to places like Lesvos, Greece, to serve the refugee crisis, and we take teams to Southeast Asia to teach English and partner with local churches. In the YWAM Communications Department, I run social media, shoot short videos and photos of what’s happening in all of our different ministries, and also help with our capital campaign to pay off our nonprofit’s building fund.

What do you love about this work?
I love so many things about being a missionary. I definitely feel more humble and messy. I feel very aware of my brokenness, and sometimes that really scares me. But all in all, I feel like I am constantly put in positions where I have to trust God. I also really love serving in so many different facets. I have learned that ministry isn’t just the face-to-face interactions or physical needs being met. It’s also the administrative side of things. It’s also marketing and advertising. It’s finances and building maintenance, and it even allows me to tap into my creative side, giving me opportunities to shoot photos and promote videos of stories and people who I love. It’s really cool to see God’s heart for the city through so many different perspectives. Being a missionary just means being willing to serve.

Describe something God has shown you during your time serving as a missionary.
God has shown me that being a leader doesn’t mean that you have it all together. He’s shown me that just because I’ve learned something once doesn’t mean that I can’t learn it again more deeply. He has shown me that He cares about ALL people. Not just the people that I “have a heart for” but the people that no one else sees. God has shown me the power of prayer and that I can’t do anything before I kneel and get His perspective. He’s taught me that I am incapable to love perfectly, but that He’ll help me get better. I feel more loved. I feel more broken… but I also feel more whole.

What has been your most memorable experience serving as a missionary?
My most memorable experience serving as a missionary was my opportunity to spend a few months in Lesvos, Greece, serving in a refugee camp. There were things that I saw and people who I met that broke my heart immeasurably more than I could even write. It was one of those “I can’t ever unsee this” moments. It opened my heart to seeing, serving, knowing, and loving immigrants and refugees in a whole new way. It taught me about advocacy and fighting for people beyond my own strength. We served the basic needs that people fleeing from other countries need (blankets, dry clothing, food, etc.) and I learned about culture beyond myself and how beautiful the Middle East is — despite what we read on the news. It really rocked me and shook me and woke my heart up to pray and petition. I’ve had a lot of memorable experiences as a missionary, but it was then that I really got to start seeing things from God’s perspective. Greece did that for me. The refugee camp did that for me. I am definitely ruined for a normal, comfortable life now. But that’s a really good thing.

To learn how to financially support Kelsey’s ministry, please email her.

Heiko Timm
YWAM San Francisco


Briefly share about what you do in your current ministry.
At YWAM San Francisco, I serve as the Director of our Outreach Department. My main job is to hang out with visiting youth and college groups and to teach them how to share the love of Christ in tangible ways so when they go back home to their own communities, they know how to love and serve those around them better.

What do you love about this work?
I love discipleship. I love that even though I am often with these teenagers for only a weekend or week , I can encourage them, pray with them, empower and equip them, and disciple them to find their true purpose. I believe that can happen just as much in a week as in a lifetime.

Describe something God has shown you during your time serving as a missionary.
Man, God has been showing me His ultimate Goodness and mercy. Literally, no one is too far away from Jesus to be saved. I see that daily in the Tenderloin and with the people we seek to reach, but also in the groups that come through to serve with us.

What has been your most memorable experience serving as a missionary?
It just happened recently. We had a group from San Diego with us for an extended weekend. We hiked up to Grace Cathedral to have a time of worship and debrief. One girl stood up and shared how her mom is in jail and she never knew how to to forgive or love her. But that weekend opened her eyes to how everyone deserves a second chance. After her, so many other teenagers stood up and confessed something in front of the whole group. We were all able to encourage each other, pray with each other, and cry together. That was the moment I knew I will not be going anywhere else. I will stay in San Francisco. Because this is discipleship, and this is what I want to do: see teenagers walk in forgiveness, love, and into their destiny.

To learn how to financially support Heiko’s ministry, please email him.

Jason & Justine Martinez

YWAM San Francisco & Because Justice Matters


What do you two currently do as missionaries?
Jason is the Director of Operations at YWAM San Francisco, overseeing finances, facilities, and office management of the YWAM’s Tenderloin Center. He is also on the leadership council for the ministry. Justine is the HR Director at Because Justice Matters, supporting all of the BJM staff through systems as well as pastoral care. She is also on BJM’s Executive Team.

What do you love about this work?
We love the lens that we’ve been given as missionaries in San Francisco — the way it helps us dig deeply into loving the city in tangible ways. Loving a city brings pain and sacrifice as well as joy and delight. Grieving losses, celebrating miracles, and holding on to the hope and vision of God’s plans for San Francisco has been a process that has enriched our personal faith journeys in more ways than we can count!

Describe something God has shown you during your time serving.
God has shown us unending faithfulness in our financial needs as a family. Some seasons are paycheck to paycheck; in other seasons there has been more than enough to give back. Throughout, we have certainly witnessed His provision in thousands of ways both subtle and extravagant.

What have been some of your most memorable experiences? 
All of our most memorable experiences as missionaries have had to do with listening to the amazing stories of others and witnessing God speaking directly into those stories. We are extremely honored to have been able to witness God speaking to beautiful humans in Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as on the streets of our own Tenderloin. It’s been a precious and transformative adventure for us as a family over the past 13 years.

To learn how to financially support Jason and Justine’s ministry, please email them.


Udom Setthaya
Originally from Thailand, Udom has served with Youth with a Mission since 2007. He currently serves with Restoration Initiatives Ministry of YWAM San Francisco.

Udom Setthaya Missionary

What you do in your current ministry?

I am full-time volunteer staff with RI (Restoration Initiatives) of YWAM San Francisco, which helps to restore, empower, and serve our friends on the streets of the Tenderloin.

What do you love about serving as a missionary?

I love how God uses me in different ways. It is very challenging, and often I don’t know what it’s going to be like! But this ministry leads me to learn how to trust and have faith in God, to be patient, and  to lean on Him when I face difficult circumstances. And I love how God uses my ability to serve and impact others!

Describe something God has shown you during your time serving as a missionary.

God has shown me so much: how to love and care for anyone in my life (family, friends, colleagues, strangers, etc.) even through small acts of giving. It can make a big difference, just as Jesus says in Mark 12:30-31.

What has been your most memorable experience serving as a missionary?

One of my most memorable experiences is having my family in Christ with me everywhere I go. This is a privilege from God. I am so thankful to Him that I have my church and friends — my brothers and sisters — supporting and walking with me on the mission that God has for me. No matter what I have been through, I do know that my family is praying for me.

If you’d like to connect with Udom, you can email him. And if you’d like to partner with him financially, visit ywamsanfrancisco.org/give and enter “Udom Setthaya” when you donate.


Brooke & Karen Butler
Athletes in Action, UC Berkeley


What you do in your current ministry? 

My wife, Karen, and I lead the Athletes in Action staff team and ministry at UC Berkeley. We are involved in winning athletes to Christ, building them up in their faith, training them in how to multiply their lives and sending them to reach their teammates and multiple areas of society after graduation. We also build relationships with and minister to various coaches and athletic personnel.

What do you love about serving as missionaries?
We absolutely love seeing students won to Christ and experiencing redemption and healing! Seeing these students become world-changers who impact their teams and friends is so life-giving!

Describe something God has shown you during your time serving as missionaries.
We served at Stanford for 9 years, Croatia and Bosnia for 21 years, and now at Cal for 4 years. In each of these chapters, we have been shaped and our self-confidence has been chipped away at — so we have learned in much deeper ways what it means to find our confidence in God. Karen and I have become acutely aware that God is always at work and that we are simply being led in to joining Him in His work and plan.

What has been your most memorable experience serving as a missionary?
Probably the most memorable experience was handing over the reigns as Country Director for CRU in Croatia and Bosnia to a Croatian National staff. We set out to work ourselves out of a job and see Croatian leaders raised up to take on the leadership of CRU. And after 21 years of labor and prayer, God fulfilled that calling!

You can learn more about Brooke and Karen and support their ministry here.