Expect Nothing and Appreciate Everything

imageHi, my name is Elyssa Zapata. My husband, Jared and I are missionaries in the Philippines and Mexico. We have three beautiful blessings, Gabriella (5), Ezekiel (2) and Kamila (5 mo). Our ministry is called Reaching the Next Generation and our goal is to start children’s homes in different countries, connecting them to a local Baptist church, with high hopes that one day the children growing up in the homes will serve the Lord with their life. All they need is the opportunity, if only given to them!

As I was thinking about what to write, I came across this quote, “Expect Nothing And Appreciate Everything”. And I thought to myself, how true that is!

Growing up in the States in the society we live in, it’s reversed. We expect so much and appreciate so little. It’s not until we step out of our comfort zone do we realize how blessed we really are! Going into the mission field I didn’t know what to expect. But in reality, I didn’t need to expect anything. God already had a plan and He placed me in this particular ministry for His purpose. I knew He would take care of my needs and in the process I’ve learned to appreciate everything He has given me. Whether it be a gift, a friendship, time spent with loved ones, etc.
What are some blessings in our life that the Lord has given us when we don’t expect it? Do we appreciate it as much as we should? For example, the first time we visited the Philippines it was an adjustment for me. Everything was so different from what I was used to. And I cannot begin to count the times that God would send me a hug through someone, showing me He was taking care of me. On that particular trip, I was able to build friendships with some of the ladies that I didn’t expect to have! One lady in particular raised money with the class that she taught so they could buy me a dress! The amount of the dress was about $20 American currency. Twenty dollars for a dress may be a good deal here in the States but for them it was a lot. But it wasn’t the amount that overwhelmed me, it was the love they put into it. Now every time I wear that dress I remember the elementary class in the Philippines who gave what little they had to be a blessing.

Often times it is easy to forget to be thankful for what we have. Especially during the trials that come our way. But God may be using our trial to make it a blessing. Maybe our finances are not where they should be or it seems like every time we get on our feet, something else comes up. How many of us have been there? I know I have. There have been many times my faith has been tested while on the mission field. But then I have to stop and remember that God is good ALL the time and I have to reevaluate what is truly important in the current situation. There is always someone who is struggling more than I am. All around me there are children who either don’t have parents and if they do, the parents want nothing to do with them. When I stop and think about it, I realize my life is not about me, it’s about helping the children that come to our children’s homes. It’s about working along side my husband to be his helpmeet in every aspect of our marriage. It’s about fulfilling what God wanted me to do without any expectations. Sure, there are times I get homesick. I’ve had my share of tears. Yes, I do miss certain comforts of home. But a short time away from my family and the comforts I miss would mean an eternity in Heaven for people who need the Lord. And when I do receive a blessing, it holds a deeper and much sweeter meaning; and definitely teaches me to be so much more thankful for what I do have. 1 Thessalonians 5:18a “In everything give thanks:”
Being in center of God’s will isn’t always easy. Yes, there are times of trials and struggles. II Samuel 22:31,33 says “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect.” God is good ALL the time. Therefore, when we expect nothing, we learn to appreciate everything!

Sometimes Stumbling

imageHave you ever stumbled through darkness. I stumble in the darkness physically every once in awhile when I am the last one to go to bed at night, and mistakenly turn off all the lights before I get to my bedroom. I will sometimes bump into something and bruise myself. Usually I don’t do too much damage since I do know the ropes of my home. But 40 years ago this past February, I was stumbling in the dark spiritually trying to make my way in life, looking around and thinking that there had to be more to life than this. I remember asking a friend in high school who had started faithfully going to church about her new way of life. Her reply was, “Well, I want to go to Heaven when I die,” and with that, she walked off. I was searching and I was still stumbling in the dark because I had no light.
About a year later when I was 18 years old, I told a friend that I had a feeling that I was going to become ‘religious.’ Being raised as a Lutheran (not even a faithful one), I hadn’t a clue about salvation. But, several weeks later on a partly cloudy and cold Saturday, February 14, 1976, a youth director and one of the teens out on teen-age soul winning, nervously knocked on my door. I was seldom home and always on the go; nevertheless, because I had walking pneumonia and my brother was asleep on the couch, and no one else was home, I answered the door. They asked me if I were to die today, if I was sure that I would have a home in Heaven. That day I accepted the Lord as my Saviour and the “Light” was turned on. Because I was sick, I didn’t go to church until the next Sunday but started faithfully attending all services from then on. I was excited (and still am) about being a Christian but my family wanted nothing to do with my new found ‘religion.’ I was the only one in my family that served the Lord for a good while; however, many in my extended family are wonderful Christians now. Hey, it starts with ONE!
After faithfully attending and serving in the church, Faith Center Baptist, Canal Winchester, Ohio, for 6 years, God led me to Hyles-Anderson College at the age of 24. Genesis 24:27, “…………I being in the way, the Lord led me…………” One thing that I had decided as a young person, I was going to leave the choice for a husband up to God. I had seen many seemingly unhappy marriages and I knew that I was not ‘smart’ enough to find God’s choice. The truth is after graduating from college and working on my Mrs……oops……I mean Master’s, My husband Jimmy McCullough found me. We dated for a year and then we were married. When I said, “I DO” to my husband, I Said, “I DO” to what ever God called us to do.
The first couple years of serving in the ministry, we served at my home church where my husband taught and directed soul winning. After that, my husband received a call to candidate in a country church in Mississippi. Honestly, I remember when we were candidating there, I was secretly hoping that they wouldn’t want us! After all, I grew up in the Columbus, Ohio, area. I loved the country but I was from the North and I was a city slicker. But Isaiah 55:8a says, ” For my thoughts are not your thoughts……” And that day, we received a 100% vote and my husband became Pastor Jimmy McCullough at Calvary Baptist Church in Coldwater, Mississippi. We were there for almost 20 years and we worked hard and gave it our best in that town of 1500 and also all the surrounding areas. Sometimes, I joked with friends and told them that I felt like I was a missionary to Mississippi (which really I was). When we had banquets and programs, we tried to make everything as first class as if we were in some big city church. After all, we serve a FIRST CLASS GOD, don’t we? Often, I did wish to go back to my BELOVED OHIO and had pains of homesickness.
Probably seven years ago while still in Mississippi, my husband began to feel a tug to go somewhere else–a larger area. After seeking and praying, God called my husband (5 1/2 years ago) to pastor the Hillcrest Bible Baptist Church, Arkansas City, Kansas, which is in a town of about 15,000. You know what? When I moved to Kansas, I did NOT miss my BELOVED OHIO……….I missed my BELOVED MISSISSIPPI. Now, I am learning to just love my BELOVED KANSAS. A wise lady once said, “Live where you Live!” One of my prayers is that I love the people here. Mathew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Your treasure is what you love. You give your heart to the service that God gives you and you will find that you love where you are. And along the way, you will help others ( the ones you’ve learned to love) to have the LIGHT that they, too, so desperately need!

“When Will I See My Family Next”

image.jpegAs my husband of one day and I pulled onto the highway, this was the thought that was continuously crossing my mind. As excited as I was about entering this new part of my life, the cowardly part of my spirit wanted desperately to remain where life was familiar.

Looking back, almost two years have passed since that emotional day; and I am so glad I did not give in to what my cowardly self wanted. While driving that long stretch between Texas and Florida, the Lord would bring II Timothy 1:7 to mind every time I had a doubt. “For God hath not given the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Since I was a teenager, God had been preparing me to work in the ministry alongside my husband. I knew I could take heart and trust that He was in control.

Over these last two years, I have seen God work and move in amazing ways. There were times when our finances seemed to overwhelm us, but God came through with extra work to provide for our needs. There were times when I became discouraged and homesick; but God came through and showed me as long as I am where He wants me, I will always be home. There were times when nothing we did in the ministry seemed to be showing fruit, but God came through and showed us how He is the One that gives the increase. For everything we went through and thought “What’s the use?” God always came through to show us that He was still using us.

I grew up through my teen years hearing how much people in the ministry are tried by the Lord. Because of this, I did not enter into the ministry naïve to that fact that there would be hard times. However, I do think I was ignorant of how much your faith grows when you stick with the Lord’s plan. We have had tough times, and we will have more come our way. Yet, those tough times only remind me of how great my God is. Just as Dr. Hyles said, “A tribulation gives you the opportunity to test a truth you have always believed.” I cannot wait to test my beliefs in the Lord’s goodness for years to come.

“Fastened to the Rock”

imageMy name is Chelsey Linares, and I just took on this new title in January, when I married my husband José. We are recent Bible college grads headed into full time ministry. We currently live in Corydon, Iowa. Serving at Victory Baptist Church is one of our favorite pastimes, specifically working with the children and music ministries. The past few months have been like a dream come true for me. I found my Prince Charming; we both love serving the Lord and pursuing a future on the mission field. While I feel so blessed by all that God has brought into my life in the past year, it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve learned many lessons of trust along the way, and often have to remind myself to keep relying on my Savior, my unchanging Rock!

Through high school and college, my life followed a pretty predictable pattern. I lived in the same town for nearly my entire life, surrounded by family and my sweet church friends. While part of me wanted life to stay the same forever – serving the Lord in our small Kansas church, fun family gatherings at my grandparents’ farm, weekend shopping trips with my two sisters – a part of me knew God had a specific plan for my life. From the time I was 13, God had burdened my heart to serve Him on the mission field. That burden only increased through high school, and in college God confirmed that He wanted me to serve Him in the Spanish speaking world. I definitely wanted to follow God’s leading, but sometimes when I was dreaming into the future, it seemed far away, and not completely real. I was content to know where my life was headed, but I still enjoyed the comforts of my family and home.

My senior year of college, God brought José into my life. We had been friends throughout college, but that year working together in the Spanish ministry at our church we became more than just friends. God was bringing us together to serve Him – it was pretty amazing to see how God had given us so many of the same dreams and passions. When José proposed to me that summer, life took on a whole new flurry of fun – planning a wedding! Amidst all of the wedding planning, I seldom stopped to think about just how much my life was about to change. Yes I knew we would be moving to Iowa, about 9 hours away from my hometown, but I knew it would be an exciting adventure together. It would only be for a limited time anyways until we started deputation. We had a lot of unknowns, but we knew God would put the pieces together, just as He had thus far.

January came and brought the best day of our lives – our wedding day. The day was absolutely breathtaking – I felt like a princess. Surrounded by family and friends, we committed our lives to each other. Following that day we had nearly two weeks together relaxing on the beach, sightseeing, and just having a blast together on our honeymoon! It was the drive back from our honeymoon that reality began to set in for me. We stopped by Kansas on our way to Iowa, and I said goodbye to my precious family. The day had come – I was really leaving home. I knew I was in the center of God’s will and I was so excited to begin my life with José, but that didn’t stop the tears from streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t expect the bombardment of emotions that flooded me. Here I was, my dreams coming true: married to the man of my dreams, heading out to serve alongside him in the ministry. Yet the changes of leaving my sweet family that I loved so dearly weighed heavily on me. The Lord softly began to minister to me, reminding me I could trust Him and His plan for my life. I started counting my blessings too – the drive from my new home to my parents could be done in a day, and in a few short years we will be living in a foreign country! God knew I would need to take things in baby steps. I praised Him for allowing me to adjust slowly! My family is always a phone call away, and already we’ve taken turns visiting back and forth. I made a choice to trust God and rejoice, knowing that His will is always best. I want to say along with the psalmist, “He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved” (Ps. 62:6). I know that my circumstances cannot dictate my joy; I must find that joy in Jesus Christ! When I am in the center of His will, He gives true joy and peace.

We live in Iowa, where José’s father is a pastor. We’ve been working alongside him in the ministry learning valuable lessons. José told me right before we got married that he didn’t feel like God would keep us here for long. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but he thought the Lord might move us elsewhere. We hadn’t even been married 4 weeks, when José received a call from a pastor he had interned under for two summers in college. This pastor asked José if he would come and assist him as a youth pastor! The special thing is, this church isn’t an English-speaking church; it’s a Spanish church located in North Carolina. My husband is half Cuban, and he speaks conversational Spanish. I studied Spanish in high school, but without practice I’ve lost most of that. We were both thrilled with the opportunity to be immersed in the Spanish culture, work on our language skills, and gain ministry experience. After seeking the Lord’s face to find out whether this was God’s next step for us, we both knew that God was saying yes.

Shortly thereafter, it sunk in. I would now be more than double the distance away from my family. That fact tugged at my heart and tempted to open the floodgates again, but the Savior gently spoke to my heart. Baby steps – one step closer to serving the Lord in Colombia. I could trust Him. My husband has been a rock for me as well; he always knows just what to say to cheer me up! I’m so thankful that God brought him into my life to be my life-long companion through all of these adventures.

While I feel like my life has been a whirlwind of change in the past year, there is one facet that has never changed – my unchanging Savior. When I am fastened to that Rock that never moves, He lights my path and gives me complete contentment and joy. When I faithfully cultivate my relationship with Christ and draw closer to Him, He calms the storms that arise on the horizon of my heart. Remaining in my small Kansas town close to home, family, and the only life I’ve ever known may have been the “easy” route. If I would have taken that path, though, I never would have known the joy of trusting Christ. I never would have seen what God could do through my life as I follow Him and impact others. I know that I’m very young and have so many more lessons to learn in the ministry, but I know one thing for certain; I can trust my Jesus, my unchanging Rock.

“Loving My Perfect Life”

imageHello! My name is Sarah Ortiz. I am married to my best friend, Danny Ortiz III, and we have two beautiful children, Kristiana and Silas. I live in Frederick, Maryland, where my husband is an Assistant Pastor and Youth Pastor at Frederick Baptist Church.

Being a perfectionist is by no means a part of my personality. I love when things are perfectly cleaned,polished, and put away. However, I am not one to pull my hair out if they are not. Whether that is good or bad is not my aim with this statement. Rather to share that though I am by no means a perfectionist, when it comes to how I want my life to unfold I can tend to be one! I will find myself looking at my life and getting discouraged when everything is not falling perfectly in place.

However, I do not believe I am the only one who finds herself in this situation. We live in a world of social media platforms that provide for us a false sense of reality. Our every picture is filtered, altered, and re-filtered and re-altered until it reaches our standard of perfection. We tend to leave out all the imperfect pictures and parts of our lives. {after all who would take a selfie with a dirty load of laundry right?} No one wishes to show off anything but their “good” side. I am not saying this is bad! However, if I am not careful, I will begin to compare my life with all its imperfections to what is being shared by others.

As wives and ministry wives, we all walk into our lives with an idea of how we would love life to be. We have thoughts on the ideal age to marry and have kids, the ideal number of kids, the ideal ministry and the way to run it, and the list goes on and on. We have a filter by which we wish to pass our life through to achieve that perfect picture of life. This is dangerous grounds to tread as it can and will eventually lead to frustration, anger and bitterness.

When my husband and I got married, one of the things in my filter of life was having kids right away. I had always dreamed of having babies right away and maybe even having my own little clan of 5-8 children. I miscarried two months after being married and my heart was shattered. My obsession with becoming pregnant overwhelmed my every day and I began neglecting things in my very new marriage. The Lord allowed us to become expecting again and I just new this time I would have this baby. I had achieved my goal of being expectant! Once again the Lord saw fit to take this child with Him to Heaven. I was crushed, and angered. The thing that I had wanted most was once again taken away from me. My expectation of how I thought life would be was pulled from under my feet. My first week after losing our baby was rough, I struggled with everything. But, I had to ask myself whether this was my life or God’s? Was my disappointment based off His plan for me or mine? Was this really about having a baby or was it more about having the perfect little family I had always wanted? I had to lay down my filter for life and pick up God’s filter and pass my life through it. The Lord would miraculously bless us with a little girl and it would be two more miscarriages after her that would take place before God would give us our son.

My perfect life filter did not include issues with having children but God’s did. And you know what? This imperfection in my life when seen through God’s filter is oh so perfect! The beauty of seeing my life through God’s eyes reveals to me that I do live the perfect life! I really and truly do! I have learned there is:
1. Perfect grace for every trial 2 Corinthians 12:9
2. Perfect peace for every storm John 16:33, Isaiah 26:3, I Peter5:7
3. Perfect mercy for every failure 1 John1:9, Hebrews 4:16
4. Perfect love from a perfect Saviour. John 15:13

My ministry may not seem great in comparison to others, my marriage, my children, my life in and of itself may not. However, when I see my life through God’s eyes I am beautifully reminded that I live the perfect life. Why is it perfect? Because its everything God wants it to be and how could anything but His will be better?! I love my life and all the things that come with it! There is no one I would trade mine with and there’s no one for you to trade yours with either! Just remember when you find yourself discouraged about something not going the way you would have it that God’s filter for your life will produce the most beautiful and perfect picture that you could ever ask for!

Let me finish by reminding us that He has promised in Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” He will not leave you alone, He will not leave anything undone, He will finish whatever task He has begun in your life. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says it so wonderfully, He hath made EVERY THING beautiful in his time:… So go ahead, get up, and start today enjoying your perfect life!

Bloom Where You’re Planted

imageHello, my name is Idaly Ortiz. I am married to David Ortiz who serves as a Youth Pastor at Iglesia Bautista Fundamental in Lewisville TX. We met at Commonwealth Baptist College, dated for three years and married on August 15, 2015. We are still honeymooners! 🙂 I am from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, but after getting married, I moved 14 hours away from home to Texas to serve at Danny Ortiz’s church alongside my wonderful husband. We now work with the youth, while I am also the Mission’s department secretary. Although everything is absolutely wonderful, it has been quite the adjustment for me.
Every lady is different of course, so what was a challenge for me might not be a challenge for others. Some ladies move away from home and are not affected by it at all while others battle with “homesickness” or battle with all the changes in their life. Moving away from my family was a tough challenge I had to face and am still facing to this day. Do not get me wrong, I am truly enjoying my “dream come true” with my husband, but when I moved to Texas I missed my family, my home, and everything I was accustomed to so very much! There were many days and nights that my homesickness would begin to overpower everything. It would cause my spirit to be gloomy and at times I would just spend my days moping around. I realized though, that in order to fulfill my role as a wife, friend, or servant as God intended, then my pity days HAD to stop! This did not mean stop missing my family, but what it did mean was stop handling my “homesickness” in an incorrect way.
One evening on our way to Wednesday night church, I had just talked to my mom and was left missing her a whole lot. I knew that I had to clean up the tears and put a smile on my face before I walked into church. Before going inside, I asked God to help me control my spirit because at that point I was very down. So I gave myself a pep talk and I purposed to talk to every single lady I came across in church and find out something about them I did not already know. I clearly remember that Wednesday, I learned that many ladies were carrying heavy burdens in their hearts. Some were going through financial trouble, some had families who were falling apart, some had spouses or kids in jail, and others were losing a loved one to an illness. Ever since that Wednesday I decided that any time I was about to get homesick, I would put others before myself and make my day about serving others. I decided that I needed to bloom wherever God has planted me. I realized that when we occupy our mind with other’s needs, we empty it of ourselves.
I soon understood that God chose me to be here in Texas, away from home, for one reason only and that is to serve. John 15:16 reads, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” Our purpose as ladies is first to serve the Lord, serve our husband, so in return we can serve the Lord and others with our husband. Wherever God has placed you, there is a purpose. Just let that really sink in… GOD CHOSE YOU! Why? Because there is someone right where you are that will need you. It might be a lady who needs a friend for encouragement, it might be a little bus girl who craves love, it might be a teen who is battling with depression, or it might be a soul who is longing for hope. It sure was a “big bam” when I realized that it was not about me and my homesickness but it was about making a difference wherever God has placed me and to bloom where I was planted. Anytime I get down because I am homesick, I immediately start doing something for someone. I fill my days with writing letters to our teens, reading missionary letters, going soul winning, calling/texting people to simply tell them I prayed for them, doing a little extra at the church, talking one-on-one with a little bus kid on Sundays or simply listening to a mom tell me about her life. It’s those little things that makes a big difference. I do not say these things for glory or anything like that, but to share with you that this truly helped me deal with the changes in my life and moving away from everything I knew. Serving alongside your husband is your calling wherever that may be, in Texas or all the way across the world, and being in the middle of God’s perfect plan is where you will find true joy.
This one thing has helped, but I could never have gotten to the point where I am now without my wonderful husband! At first, I did not want my husband to see that I was struggling and I did not want to tell him what was wrong. But when I learned to communicate with him it helped me so very much (as a new wife I am still learning this. J) Your husband is not there to criticize how weak you are, or question you, or make things tougher. He is there to comfort you, to make you laugh, to reassure you and to love you! Every time I am having a weak moment where I miss my family, I go straight to him and he honestly makes everything so much better.
Yes, I still miss my family, but I have not let this get me down, take my joy, or change my spirit. It was very important for me to learn how to control my emotions when I began getting homesick, because I knew I was not fulfilling my ultimate purpose in life, which is to be a helpmeet to my husband. Many have told me that, “homesickness” goes away with time of getting used to your new life. But if we think about it, our life is always changing, so it is vital to know how to deal with change. So through my personal struggles, I have learned to cleave to my loving husband and have allowed him to become MY HOME! There is still so much learning for me to do, but right now, I am truly experiencing the sincere joy of leaving home, following my husband, and living in God’s will! We need to learn to bloom, to make a difference, wherever God has planted us!

“What’s Mine Is Mine And What’s Yours Is Mine: The Sense Of Ownership

image.jpegI write as a wife of 2.5 years, a mother of a 15 month old boy, and a Christian of 18 years. I am 26 years old with a lot of lessons behind me and a lot more in front of me. With the recent addition of a missionary wife role, I have more lessons to learn than I originally thought. Needless to say, I am a lifetime student.

We began full-time deputation in November to the country of South Africa. More about that can be found at hope4southafrica.com. Before we started, we were serving at a church in Texas. When our apartment lease ended in October, we moved to Pennsylvania and stayed with my in-laws for a few months around the holidays. We have a full schedule ahead of us with over 80 meetings from now until December.

One struggle I faced early on was the concept of ownership. With service to the Lord, there is an understanding of sacrifice and self denial. But there is that last little bit I was trying to hang on to. This affected 4 areas of my life: marriage, family, possessions (what little I have), and space. It seemed like I was already “sacrificing” so much and I was glad to, or so I thought.

We’ll start with my family. The struggle was the balance of maintaining a sense of “our” family while still cultivating relationships. Next, my space and possessions. The struggle was the balance of feeling like I already gave all I could and still being asked to give more. Finally my marriage. All areas of my life affect my marriage. The struggle was realizing how much I didn’t trust my husband’s leadership. Gasp! Sure, I could say I did with things like: when to go on deputation, what churches to go to, and what car to drive, but with the “little” things not so much. Those things were harder like: what to allow our son to experience, what activities our family would be best doing, or even how to pack the car.

I had to come to a point where I had to consciously decide to trust his leadership. I have had to form habits of doing so. I still struggle with this but I’m much closer to where I believe the Lord would have me.

There are two principles that have helped me in these areas:
1) “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. ” (Romans 14:7)
•If my life isn’t my own neither are the things in my life my own. The proper sense of ownership establishes my contentment.
2) “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
•When does this exclude my husband and the father of my children? It doesn’t. He must give an account for himself, our marriage, and our family. Likewise, I will give an account for how I allow my husband to fulfill his role: the leader.
A) I want him to give a joyful account.
B) A joyful account brings profit to me.

My life is not my own, and I have the awesome privilege and responsibility to help my husband live a life that is not his own and to help my children live a life that is not their own all for the glory of God.