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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rebecca Veloz

      Rebecca is a missionary in the church I attend. I have been praying for her on the last few trips she has taken and was so blessed by how hard she works to be able to do what the Lord has called her to do. She faithfully lives by the words of Jesus in Matthew 28 that tell us to: "Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this-that I am with you always, even to the end of the world."  I think she may be an inspiration to you as well. Here is her story.
     "I was raised in the church. When I was 11 years old, our church was planning a mission trip to Mexico for Jr. High students. My mom wanted my brothers  and I to see and experience how other people in the world live, so we all ended up going together as a family: my mom, dad, two brothers and myself. It was only for a weekend, but ever since then, we continued to do Mexico missions trips on a regular basis. I think that I have always had the gift of helping people, and I enjoyed helping with various outreaches that ranged from making and serving kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, to building as outhouse for a family.  Oddly enough, my favorite thing to do was construction work, and I actually took the skills that I learned and turned it into a business later on in my life. Currently, I am a house flipper. I buy a house, fix it up, then sell it. I am so grateful to God that He has given me a job where I can have the flexibility to do short term mission trips."
     "When I was 20 years old, I felt called to go to Africa, and began to pray about going. The following year, I stepped out and went. That first overseas trip stretched me in areas where I was not comfortable, such as teaching children and dealing with a culture that was foreign to me, but I loved the whole experience. God really does place us in ministries where we can use both our strengths and weaknesses. For me, I love the travel and working as a team, and I don't mind hard work or going without the comforts most of us are used to, yet sometimes I struggle when it comes to teaching a Bible study or even sharing the Gospel with someone. However, I know that it is though my weakness, that Gods strength becomes evident. The most important thing, is that I am obedient and available to be used by Him. My favorite verse is Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It is so simple, but the idea is so powerful."
    "Because I knew that I loved doing missions so much, and God provided me with the means to pursue that ministry, I decided to take advantage of every opportunity for as long as God allows. Since then, I have been blessed to go back to Africa several times and have also traveled to Haiti and the Philippines multiple times. Each trip is unique, and every country is unique, but for me, it is amazing to worship with other believers, knowing that we serve the same God, even if we don't speak the same language. It blows my mind to think that some day we will be together in heaven with no barriers such as language or culture."
     "I don't really know what God holds for my future, but I know that He is using this time to prepare me for whatever it is. Whether God wants me to continue working and just do short term missions, or He calls me to get married and do missions full time, I want to remain faithful to His great commission. The way I see it,  He chose His final words before leaving the earth to give His disciples
the great commission, so it must be important. And I am blessed to be one of the few to actually go out in the world and make disciples."
     "I realize that not everyone is called to be a missionary overseas, but as believers, our goal should be to see the great commission fulfilled. Anyone can be involved in missions through prayer, encouragement, or financial support. One important thing to remember is that missionaries are just the tip of the spear, but the encouragement and support from others is necessary for any missionary to be effective."
     "My goal in sharing my story is to get believers more involved in missions, because there are many needs in the ministry. Prayer groups for mission trips are often deficient. In addition, there is always a need for financial support for both long and short term missionaries. And of course, there is the opportunity to serve in the mission field, whether it is at home or abroad. I would encourage anyone who has the desire to participate in a missions trip to just take the first steps: pray, attend an interest meeting, and talk to someone who has already done a trip. It truly is an amazing experience. I find that I am not only able to bless others, but I always end up being blessed myself." 
     If you are interested in being a part of the missions team, follow Rebecca's advice and take those first steps. Obedience to God always brings blessings.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Teresa Ellis

Teresa and I met through a mutual friend about five years ago. Although she seems quiet at first, don't be fooled. This lady is a powerful, strong, and wise woman of God! She is a great example of putting your family first, but always makes time to bless others as well with her gift of encouragement. I went to an exercise class she and her best friend Danya were running last summer, and it was there that I realized what an encourager she really is. Teresa has the ability to not only encourage, but to push you out of your comfort zone. She helps you to find a strength you didn't know you actually had. A strength and power that only comes from complete dependence on God. And all the while, she gives God the glory!
     Teresa grew up in Fontana, with five brothers, one of whom is her twin, and one sister. Although her father went to church with the family on special occasions, it was her mother who took the children on a regular basis. When she was in High School, she remembers reading through the book of Revelation and being so scared that she didn't open the Bible up again for many years.
     Her husband was saved before she was and would often read the Bible to their family. On July 26, 2001, he took them to a "Somebody loves you" crusade and it was there that she realized she was in need of a Savior. That day, she gave her life to the Lord.
     When I asked Teresa who her biggest encourager's are, she said one is her husband who always encourages her to do what is right, to run to God always and to keep her eyes on Jesus and not her circumstances. She says that her other big encourager is her youngest daughter Kayla who often leaves her little notes and pictures with scriptures where she will find them. If Teresa is having a bad day, Kayla prays for her, and if she is having difficulty with exercising, Kayla reminds her that she will do better tomorrow.
     Teresa has a passion for running that began when she was struggling with her weight and lack of energy. She had a friend who was willing to go with her and found that to be a great encouragement. It was in the midst of training for a half marathon, that running became something far more valuable than simply a way to become physically fit, it became a "Platform for prayer and worship." A place she "Longed to be at, where I can just talk to God, where I could enjoy His beauty and where I can work out my problems talking to Him." It was also at this time when she began to see parallels in running with her spiritual life.  Running her first 5k was such a huge encouragement, that she decided to continue and has been running ever since.
     She takes very seriously the mission field of her family, and holds dear the ministry of serving them. Always there for them, encouraging them in their activities, helping when they need it, and being their biggest cheerleader. She enjoys every minute they spend together. Staying on top of her schedule and learning not to over commit helps her to do the things she needs to do and is called to do, with a joyful heart. As she always says, "Family first."
     I asked Teresa what some of her favorite verses were and she said Philippians 1:6;
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  "I am thankful and grateful that God is not finished with me, nor will He give up on me despite my shortcomings. My Savior is a finisher and I need to be as well". She also loves Philippians 4:8, Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. She says that she struggles often with not being a positive person and because her mind tends to wander, this verse reminds her where her thoughts need to be.
      When asked how she would encourage someone with a similar gift, she says, " I would encourage others to look beyond themselves, their situation, or their circumstances, and look to serve those around them. To look past their friends and acquaintances and look for opportunities to do things for others, compliment others, or simply smile and say hello. God always gives us opportunities to serve Him, we just need to not be so consumed with ourselves that we miss the opportunity."
      I hope and pray that each one of you who reads this, has a Teresa in your life. Someone who will encourage you to do your best, to push you when you need it, and to lift you up. Life certainly is sweeter with the gift of encouragement delivered through a true friend. God laid heavy upon my heart  the need to encourage women to use their gifts to bless others and to bring Him glory, just as Teresa does with her life. May He richly bless you today as you minister to others in His name.



Teresa Salazar

     When interviewing Teresa for this article, she proudly told me that she is one of the few people here in the High Desert who was born and raised in Victorville. She went on to tell me that she teaches for the very same school district that she attended when she was a child. This has afforded her the opportunity to give back to her community in a powerful and meaningful way. She works full time as a special education teacher, and says that she is "Honored to have the privilege of working with my students and their parents."
     Teresa's job as a teacher is how I came to know her. All three of my children attended the school she teaches at. She is truly interested in each student and their parents. This interest enables her to remember facts about each one, which makes them feel loved. Although her job is in itself  a ministry, today I want to focus on her other ministry, leading worship.
     "Music has always been a huge part of my life," she recently told me. As a child, she could be found most Saturdays in her room, singing into her hairbrush. As an adolescent, she was involved in chorus and marching band, and was the lone female saxophone player in a sea of boys, and sang in an ensemble choir in High School called the Emeraldaires. Preferring to sing alto, her choir director Mr. Howard Potter insisted that she was to sing first soprano. She was not pleased. Her choice was to sing along with Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Bonnie Raitt. However, she was informed by Mr. Potter that he did not need another alto, and if she didn't want to sing soprano, there was no need for her in the choir because he did not tolerate divas. Since his offer was one she could not refuse, she accepted. Thankfully she did, because she now has a four-octave range.
     In her senior year of High School, Teresa came to a saving knowledge of Jesus. But it took several years before she had a "Full grasp of the nature of my salvation." In her late twenties, she began to understand true grace, and "the need to develop an intimate relationship with the Savior. When I first started leading worship, I had the same attitude toward it as performance choir, so I didn't really get it.  It took time to understand the purpose of worship, and the personal responsibility involved."
     Indeed, this truly is a heavy responsibility. To lead worshipers into the presence of God, and to help them to prepare their hearts to receive His word, is not a thing to be taken lightly. She shared with me that is all too easy to take the admiration of musical gifts personally, instead of turning them toward God. But sitting with her for even a few minutes will bring you to the realization that she does indeed, give God the glory He deserves. Teresa has a humble spirit. Quickly praising God for His gifts, and His provision.
     I asked her how she manages to balance her career, with her family life, and her ministry, and she admitted that her teaching job is a ministry in every way, but it can become all consuming, if she lets it. She tells me she is "Careful to try and balance my time. I spend a few hours each day after school to prepare my lessons and do my paper work before coming home, because it is important to me to be here fully  for my family and not off somewhere grading papers. My commitment to the worship team at church requires a commitment from my entire family because it takes me away from them for several hours each Sunday. They are incredibly supportive because they understand that it is a calling from the Lord, so we plan ahead and make the best use of our time. The Lord has shown me that the main focus is always on relationships, so if I am managing my time, then I am purposefully investing in my relationships with others."
     Teresa leaves us on this note, "I would encourage anyone with the gift for music, to take the calling seriously, but to take yourself worth a grain of salt!!!Too often, musicians get sucked up into the fame and fortune of performance and make it about themselves, and I've seen far too many of us destroyed by the very talent that was given to be a blessing. When we use it for our own glory, the enemy can sell us every counterfeit he can think of to keep us from lifting our voices in the praise of our Savior-it's like nails on a chalkboard to him, and he will do anything to stop it! But when we see it for the gift it is, thank the Lord for the privilege, and hold it loosely, He can move mountains in the lives of others, because it's all about Him!!!"

Christina Lynn

     I have been blessed with the privilege of witnessing Christina grow from a teenager, into a confident, strong, and intelligent woman of God. I met her when she and my son became friends many years ago. She is so dear to me, that I consider her part of my family. A multi media artist, she not only writes, paints and sings, but is  also a talented photographer. Some of my most treasured family photographs exist because Christina was behind the lens.  
     Over the past couple of years, I have seen first hand how God has literally directed her path, and His provision for her. This has increased her faith as well as my own. Here is a little bit of her story and her journey across the Atlantic ocean to her beloved England where she is currently living.
     In her own words, Christina was, "Born and raised in the dry deserts of Southern California where my mom and dad taught me their faith from the time I was young. That faith became my own after I suffered from a mental illness, rejected God out of anger, (He didn't answer my prayers to take the illness away) and then slowly came back to Him as I discovered that His plan for my recovery was much more real and effective than anything I could have picked for myself." Although she had reclaimed her faith, she was, "Not intellectually engaged with it yet. God inspired me to pursue it in even more depth and passion. As I started to really become an individual in my faith, my passions for film, art, photography, and writing led me in many different directions. After graduation, I initially attempted a film degree, but about six months after beginning the course, God sharply turned a corner that pushed me right out of the dry desert and straight into the green countryside of Northern England, where I now live and study English and Creative writing. The rest, as they say, is history."
      Christina uses her gifts in combination with her place in the work force and school as a chance to share her faith with friends who are not believers. She recently told me that she lives in a culture where Christianity is often associated with religious judgment. Many children are often educated in Church of England primary schools where they are forced to pray and in some ways, forced to believe. "When these kids get a little older, they start to question why they believe in something when it was forced on them rather than them having chose it. For those who stray away from faith and those who remain believers, a barrier suddenly comes up. Both groups feel like they are being judged by the other, both groups can be condemning and aggressive. I've seen this happen on both sides and I've experienced the tension myself. In that way, it is my discernment that has allowed me to share the beauty of God's love story in a way that isn't aggressive, condemning, or threatening, and I feel that God has blessed me with this opportunity to show people what His love looks like. I often recognize what it is a specific person needs to hear, and how they need to hear it, and then I do my best to deliver the good news in a way that is specific to the listener. We all experience the revelation of God differently, and I personally feel that God has purposed me to show His love to others quietly, consistently, and intentionally through my relationships."
     I find great inspiration through today's women of faith, but Christina shares a special place in my heart. I have seen her valiantly fight mighty battles, always leaning on Christ and rightfully giving Him the glory. Through steadfast faith in God, a maturity beyond her years, and a profound love for humanity, this multi talented young woman has learned one of the most valuable lessons that a Christian possibly can, that is to share the hope of heaven and the light of the world in a way that speaks to individuals, right where they are. Mark 16:15 tells us to: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," and she does exactly that. I am challenged by her testimony, to look around at the people I come in contact with on a daily basis, and share the love of Christ in the same way, right where I am.
     To see some of Christina's work, you can visit her web site here:

        In His love, Jodi