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Celebrating 40 Years of Ministry in Japan

In 1984, Encompass’s first global workers to Japan buckled their airplane seat belts, looked at each other with tears in their eyes, and said, “We are really going to Japan to share Jesus.” That was 40 years ago, and God is still doing Japanese ministry through Cecil and Debbie today. Celebrate with us as we reflect on all the amazing Encompass workers and partners God has used to reach Japan through the decades.

1984: Cecil & Debbie

After leading a fruitful international student ministry in Long Beach, California for four years, Cecil and Debbie started Encompass’s first effort in Asia with their church-planting ministry in Tokyo. By 2001, Encompass leaders saw God working among Japanese Returnees in the US, and asked them to plant a new ministry in the Los Angeles area. This ministry has equipped many Japanese believers to start new ministries in their home country. The initiative has been so fruitful in Long Beach that Encompass is now exploring the possibilities of expanding to the Columbus, Ohio area.


1984: Ike & Nancy

Shortly after Cecil and Debbie went to Japan, God led Ike & Nancy to Osaka where they planted a church. After 10 years of fruitful ministry, they returned to Ohio where Ike served as lead pastor at Orville Grace Church where they continue to serve today. 


1987: Ted & Kristin

Ted and Kristin joined the church planting effort in Tokyo. Ted was especially gifted in teaching God’s Word, and he helped many grow stronger in their faith and knowledge of God. After 12 years of ministry in Japan, God called Ted in 1999 to serve as lead pastor at Grace Fellowship in Mililani, Hawaii where he continues to minister today. 


1995: Ralph & Joan

Ralph and Joan met Cecil and Debbie in the early 1980’s and expressed a lot of interest in Japan. By 1995 they moved their family of three children to join our team in Tokyo. They hosted a church in their home and led a number of Bible studies introducing many Japanese to Jesus. Ralph also worked on an anime outreach project and led a summer camp on the island of Iejima before God suddenly called him home in 2023. After Ralph’s passing, Joan returned to the US where she continues to serve with Encompass and will assist with short term trips to Japan.


2003: Ken and Sanoka

Ken first met Cecil at a Japanese Returnee Conference in 1997, and they reconnected when Cecil started doing returnee ministry in 2001. Shortly afterward, Ken and Sanoka relocated to Long Beach so they could volunteer with Cecil’s ministry. They have been instrumental partners who still volunteer today.


2004: Ray 

When Cecil brought a Japanese gospel choir to the missions school Ray founded, everyone was intrigued to see how much the students loved it! As a professional gospel singer, Ray now visits Japan twice a year to lead gospel workshops and participate in concerts with over 300 Japanese choir members. Today there are about 60 choirs all over Japan who have introduced hundreds of Japanese to Jesus through their gospel music. This ministry has become one of the biggest evangelistic ministries in Japan, and we’re thankful for their partnership with Encompass’s returnee ministry in Long Beach.


2004: Nao & Chiko 

After Nao met Cecil in 2003, they spent two years studying Biblical principles for planting a church. In 2006, Nao started the first House Church associated with our Japanese returnee ministry. Nao also started a fruitful surfing ministry where he met his wife, Chiko. Today, they have two children, and still lead the house church. 


2008: Junko 

Junko is a Japanese believer from Tokyo who met Cecil in Long Beach during her ministry internship in 2008. God led her to join Encompass’s returnee ministry a few years later. Her ministry was extremely effective and she saw many trust in Jesus. While returnee numbers declined during the pandemic, God led Junko to move to Atlanta where she now works with Second Level, one of Encompass’s Japanese ministry partners. 


2010: NorthStar Ministry Staff

Located in the central alps of Japan, NorthStar is an adventure sports outreach that focuses on evangelism and discipleship to youth and interns. The Encompass staff who served at NorthStar over the years were Dan & Tina, Brade & Michie Waters, Dan & April, Phill & Bethany, and Kenji. The pandemic made it too difficult to maintain the partnership between NorthStar and Encompass, but NorthStar continues their great work of reaching Japanese adventurers.


2016: Julio & Joanne

In 2016 God led Julio & Joanne and their two children to Long Beach to join the Japanese returnee ministry team. They used their experience in adventure sports to reach many Japanese. By 2021, the pandemic had drastically lowered the number of returnees, so God led Julio and Joanne to join a new ministry team at Ride Nature where they are still sharing the gospel.


2017: Matt & Jen 

After a vision trip to Japan in 2016, it was determined that Matt and Jen would lead a new church plant in Osaka. Although God called them back to the US in 2023, He used their courage and leadership to lay a strong foundation for the future of our Osaka ministry.


2014: Matt & Mai 

After about four years of Japanese ministry with Encompass’s Long Beach team, Matt and Mai deployed to our Osaka church-planting team where they are still serving today. They have done an especially great job at connecting with returnees from the States.



2022: Kyler & Claire

After serving on a number of short-term trips to Japan, God led Kyler and Claire to join our Osaka team. They’re still in their first term of ministry, but have already made a big impact. They continue leading trips, facilitating English camps, and sharing Jesus with Japanese families they meet through their two children.


2022: Kenji 

After spending a few years with NorthStar, Kenji moved to a mountainous region near Tokyo where he introduces people to Jesus through rock climbing. Though his ministry is just beginning, God is blessing his relationship with a local church and providing many opportunities for outreach.



Future Workers

God continues to move in Japan, as we are currently preparing to deploy several more workers there! Allana is training to join the Osaka team. Will and Emma are also considering deploying with us to reach more Japanese for Jesus. If you know someone who has a heart for reaching the Japanese, connect them with our Mobilization Director, Dave Pacheco.