Flourishing Story: Joyfully Serving

By Envoy Belsy Martinez
Bellflower Temple, CA Corps – Southern California Division.

God always answers our prayers.

I was born in Colombia, South America and came to the United States in the year 1998 seeking a better life for my family. I am completely sure that God by his never ending mercy and love brought us to The Salvation Army where we have been serving Him together ever since with my husband Manuel and our daughters Angie and Kelly.

It was always my prayer to God that He would guide us to a ministry where we could serve people in many different areas, meaning not only in their spiritual needs but also through counseling, emotional help as well as material assistance.  God answered my prayer, and that is how He guided us to Santa Ana Temple Corps where we were welcomed by the Officers and remained serving the Lord there for 11 years. 

I am grateful because Santa Ana Temple Corps has been a place which the Lord has used to equip and prepare Latino believers to serve Him in ministry. It was a wonderful time and opportunity that the Lord allowed so we could get involved in ministry. Not long after, we became Soldiers, and we started to receive training and the opportunity to help in different programs and activities at the Corps.

I still remember the first time I rang the bell as a volunteer; it was a great challenge, but it was the program which the Lord used to make me fall in love with our great Army. When I understood the importance and the outreach of the Christmas Kettles I never stopped helping. Praise the Lord, mission accomplished, soon it’ll be 25 years supporting this great program.

My family also served in different ministries at Santa Ana Temple and through those ministries we were able to learn better the different challenges that Latino families faced. I have been greatly blessed because after our time at Santa Ana Temple, the Lord sent us to serve Him as Ministry Leaders at the Santa Fe Springs Corps and at Bellflower Temple Corps, where we currently serve Him together with our daughters, our sons in law and our four grandchildren. These have been beautiful and enriching experiences in the pastoral ministry as well as in the social service ministry. 

As a leader I have been able to help women in a personal way, as a minister, a friend and a counselor. I have been able to witness how the Lord tends to the needs of many families through women who are willing to allow God to use them as an instrument to bring His love, His word and His promises into their homes.

It’s not about providing them with help to fulfill their material needs, but also
about listening to their life experiences, learn about their struggles, being aware of their worries and knowing how to guide them to trust in God’s promises. Now I can say that more than 50% of the women in our congregation have been reached through our Social Services programs. 

When women come through our doors seeking assistance, I have been able to pray with them, and invite them to join us as volunteers, and later to be part of our women’s meetings. By the grace of God some of them have become soldiers y continue serving God as active members of The Salvation Army. 

In the same way, in my personal experience being involved in our social services, I have been able to see day after day God’s hand working in families and individuals. It has been a beautiful opportunity to interact with the community in helping to fulfill their material needs and also help with their spiritual needs. It’s great to see one of our well known motto come to life in giving “Our heart to God and our hand to men” and see the impact it has on people. 
I am very grateful to God for bringing my family to serve Him in this great Army as we have been greatly blessed throughout these years serving in all the different communities. 

April 2023 Flourish Newsletter

Spring has sprung and this year we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior in April. It is a great time to be filled with joy. Flourishing in the joyful season is the focus of this month’s newsletter.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said…” Matthew 28:5-6

Download this month’s issue:

Need previous issues of the FLOURISH Newsletter? https://usw-womensministries.org/march-2023-flourish-newsletter/

Previous issues of the Inspire Newsletter are still available on our website: Previous issues of the Inspire Newsletter are still available on our website: https://usw-womensministries.org/september-2022-inspire-newsletter/

April 2023 Craft: Floral Letter Decoration

By Lt. Stephanie Philpot
Inglewood, CA Corps – Southern California Division

Spring is near, and it is almost time to bring out the spring décor. Floral letters are a great way to bring a pop of color into our homes, and together we are going to create something beautiful. The best part about this project is majority of these supplies needed can be found at your Corps/ Home League closet. If you are unable to find these supplies you can easily find them at your nearest Dollar store, Michael’s, or Hobby Lobby.

Materials Needed
⦁ Wood letter of your choice or if you want you can trace out your letter from carboard/foam board.
⦁ Faux flowers, colors of your choice
⦁ Scissors or wire cutters
⦁ Glue gun
⦁ Ribbon or picture frame command strips


Step 1: Get your wood letter and let’s get started! however if you do not want to purchase one. You can cut out your desired letter using carboard or foamboard.

Step 2: When using faux flowers, it is easy to pop the bloom off the stem, if not you can use your scissors/wire cutter to cut the bloom from the steam.

Step 3: Once all your flowers and greenery is cut, you can start gluing them on to your letter. Using your glue gun place a small drop of glue on your flower and place your flower on your letter, holding it down for a few seconds. I started off with my bigger flowers and then repeated with the smaller flowers, until my entire letter was covered.

Step 4: Once my letter was mostly covered, I went and added greenery in some areas for extra filler.

Step 5: Once complete and everything was dried. I cut some ribbon to my desired length and glued it to the back of my letter. This step is optional since you can hang your letter, or have it propped up and if you do not want to use ribbon you can also use command stirps for picture frames.

Download printable of instructions of this craft:

April 2023 Bible Study: Living in the Fullness of God

By Lt. Melissa Jones
Seattle, WA Social Services – Northwest Division

On a recent trip to New York City very early in the Spring, I went to one of my favorite gardens in Central Park. However, I was a few weeks too early to see the garden as it began to bloom. Yet as I sat down, I began to notice that the buds on the trees had just a hint of green in them. From a distance they could appear dead and lifeless, but the trees, and plants and flowers were all very much alive. They were simply being prepared to properly bloom. In the same way God uses the various seasons of lives to prepare us for the full lives he intends all of us to live. When God chose us as His children he always intended for us to grow and develop into the fullness of all He has for us and the Church. In Ephesians 3:14-19 we find a beautiful prayer by Paul for the development of the church body. While he sent this prayer to the churches in the city of Ephesus and the southern region of Asia, this is a prayer we can all pray and take note of for ourselves and the global church.

Paul’s Letter to Ephesus
The book of Ephesians is one of Paul’s many letters to the churches he planted and discipled throughout his ministry. While Paul never met Christ, his conversion experience was so powerful that he became a primary apostle, church planter, and disciple of the early church. Most of the books or letters in the New Testament were written by Paul, and he played a major role in the development of the early church at its theology. His letters were often for encouragement, discipline, or to address a specific issue within the church, but Ephesians was very general. Although it was specifically titled to the church of Ephesus, most scholars believe that the letter was intended to be passed around to all of the churches in the region surrounding Ephesus. Ephesus was a major hub of the Roman Empire, similar to a major city like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York, and had a major influence on the surrounding areas. So sending this letter to such an influential place was very strategic. Paul also knew that the people of Ephesus and the surrounding areas would need this letter and this prayer so that they could withstand both the external and internal struggles that they would face. Please take some time now to read through Paul’s prayer for the church so we can begin to discern what it means.

Paul’s Prayer – Ephesians 3:14-19

  1. Read through Ephesians 3:14-19 once. Then read it again taking careful note of words, phrases and ideas that stand out to you.
  2. Write down the parts of the prayer that stand out to you, give you hope, or resonate with you the most.
  3. What does Paul do before he begins this prayer?

There are two major parts to this prayer, but before Paul begins, he does something very significant, he bows his knees before the Father. There are many prayer positions that are mentioned in the Bible. Many Jewish prayers take place standing up, while others are mentioned lying prostate on the ground in full surrender, and David is seen dancing and praying before God. Daniel, who prayed three times a day to the Lord while in Babylonian captivity, also knelt before God each time he lifted up a prayer. In The Salvation Army you may find our members and soldiers kneeling before the Lord at the mercy seat as an act of surrender and repentance, and that is likely what Paul as doing here. Before bringing his petition before God, he knelt in surrender acknowledging his power and majesty. Paul also mentions that the Father is the source from which every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, to reiterate that Salvation is for everyone.

Paul’s Prayer – Ephesians 3:14-19

  1. Read through Ephesians 3:14-19 once. Then read it again taking careful note of words, phrases and ideas that stand out to you.
  2. Write down the parts of the prayer that stand out to you, give you hope, or resonate with you the most.
  3. What does Paul do before he begins this prayer?

a. Paul first prays that – according to the riches of God’s glory that we may be strengthened in our inner being with power through the Holy Spirit. The main thing he asks is for the church/people to be strengthened in power, but how is that accomplished? First, we can see that the power is according to the riches of God’s glory. Think for a moment about how powerful, vast, all knowing, and all containing God is. Imagine everything God has created and spoken life into. This is the same power that God is strengthening us with. Second, we are strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the trinity and has always been present, but until the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we could not be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. And now Paul is praying for this power to fill us and strengthen us to do mighty works for the Lord.

i. Have you experienced the power of the Holy Spirit?
ii. Read Acts 1:8 to hear Christ speak of the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit.

b. Secondly Paul asks that Christ may dwell in the hearts of believers as they are rooted and grounded in love.

i. Read John 3:16, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Luke 10:27 – what do these scriptures say about love?
ii. Why is it important that Christ Dwell in our hearts? Before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the presence of God only dwelt in a physical temple. During the reign of King Solomon in the Old Testament the temple, or The Tabernacle was built according to instructions from God so that His presence could dwell there. When King Solomon built the temple, the Spirit of God powerfully descended upon the temple, filling it and even overflowing out of it. But God’s presence remained in the physical building accessible to only a select few. God is now offering us this same gift and presence. When Christ died the curtain that separated us from the presence of God in was torn in two, and it became possible for Christ to dwell in all of us. We, both individually and the church body, are now the temples or Tabernacles where God dwells, representing God here on earth. But we must be prepared for Christ to dwell within us, offering Him a Holy and surrendered place.
iii. Do you feel as though you are offering Christ a holy place to dwell in? If not, what changes can you make in your life to help you get there? (Ephesians 4:17-5:5 has some suggestions if needed)
iv. Why do you think it is important for the church to be rooted in love? Do you think Christians show love like we should?

Part 2 – Ephesians 3:18-19

  1. Read Ephesians 3:18-19 – slowly and sit and bask in the depths of God’s love and power.
  2. This is the second part of Paul’s prayer and in it he illuminates the majesty, power, might and glory of God. Why do you think it was important for the church fully comprehend, experience and know the breadth, length, height and depths of God’s love and power?

Earlier it was mentioned that Paul wrote this prayer to help strengthen the church from both internal and external factors that would come against it. Ephesus was a major influential city in the Roman empire, and it was also a center of Pagan worship. Ephesus was deemed the guardian of the temple for the pagan god Artemis, and many of the converts to Christianity used to practice some form of pagan worship. Which meant that they purchased icons and statues, and spent money on other forms of worship. And when they stopped buying those items, the people that profited from their sin became very mad. So mad that an angry mob chased Paul out of the 25,000 seat stadium in the temple for Artemis several years before he wrote this letter. While Paul left, the churches and Christians who had converted had to remain in this hostile environment every day.

In addition to the people in and around Ephesus, Paul knew that the church would also have to live through the persecution of the Roman government. Paul was writing this letter while sitting in a Roman prison for preaching the gospel, and many other Christians had already been tortured, imprisoned, and even killed for preaching the gospel. The Romans saw themselves as gods, and any devotion that came before devotion to Rome was a threat to them and Pax Romana, or Roman peace and control. And the Ephesians and south Asia would not be spared from their violent rule.

Lastly, Paul prayed this prayer so that the church might be unified where there once had been discord. Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles, but many Jewish people had converted to Christianity and were not always welcoming to the Gentiles. Prior to Christ there as a lot of hostility between the Jews and Gentiles and this did not disappear once they were converted. Some Jews thought the gospel was just for them, while others expected Gentiles to continue to uphold strict Jewish rules and principles in order to become Christians. Paul had to remind them that they were one in Christ, brothers and sisters under a new Covenant. They were under one God and one Church, and that the old had to pass away as they became a new family.

And this new family, this new church of believers needed a prayer and a reminder of the all powerful, all knowing, expansive God that they served. They needed to know in their minds and hearts that their God was bigger and more powerful than any human or pagan god could ever be, and that they needn’t worry about these earthly attacks. There was no government authority, ruler or business person that could stand a chance against their God. They needed to live and breathe that truth from the depths of their being so that they could withstand the trials and tribulations they would face. They also needed to deeply know and experience the love of Christ in a way that would make every division amongst them fall away. Because when you act out of the overwhelming love of Christ it changes you. Paul reminds them that the love of Christ is so vast that we will never understand it, but we must try. Especially when it concerns our brothers and sisters in Christ. And Paul reminds us that we can and must pray for these things.

  1. What are some of the issues facing the church today? How can this prayer help them?
  2. Take some time now to contemplate the vastness of God’s power and love. Sit in it, reflect upon it, experience it in a mighty way. Let it overcome and overwhelm you until it cannot be contained. Let this love be your driving force as you grow deeper and deeper in Christ.

Questions for Reflection & Summary

  1. As you read through this prayer again, what one thing stands out to you the most?
  2. After reading this prayer, have you realized areas in your life that need to change? Have you been influenced by the world too much lately? Are you letting outside forces weaken your faith? Are you upset with another brother or sister? How can you take these to God in prayer?
  3. How can you pray specifically for our country and the Church to be more loving and kind, more filled with the power of God, and a true place for Christ to dwell?

Download a printable version of this Bible study:

April 2023 Devotional: Planted in Joy

By Captain Aimee Docherty
Retired Officer’ Representative & Order of the Silver Star – Southern California Division

I know I’m not alone in this. I know I’m not the only one who took on some sort of new activity during the Pandemic because we were home all the time. While some took on running, or cleaning the garage out, or perhaps even knitting…I took on gardening. I took these little seeds, lovingly germinated them in the Instant Pot and planted them in the freshly toiled soil in my raised garden bed that my husband built for me. I took great pleasure in watching my baby plants sprout. It was a process that took patience. Every day I would stroll out in the morning with my cup of coffee and watch for signs of the little green sprouts which would become my cucumbers, beans, peas, or my favorite…a perfect little pumpkin. I gently tugged any weed out that threatened my baby seedlings. Faithfully watering them throughout the long dry Summer. Allowing the water to seep deep to the little seeds, even when I wasn’t sure what was going on under the ground and whether they had survived the planting process. I was intentional and careful with my “plant babies” watching them grow and flourish with a happy heart, and then harvesting my precious garden with so much care. It was so satisfying and joy giving.

And then a whole year passed, and this Summer arrived, and things have changed again. The pandemic has seemingly gone away, and we are no longer home all the time together. Instead, we are busier and our hearts are distracted by all of the things in our lives that have so easily snuck back into our lives. So, what of my garden this year? Well, it’s not so lovingly tended any more. I’ve no seeds that I’ve germinated planted with care. I’ve not planted, visited, watered, and lovingly tended. You would imagine that my garden might be barren, empty, and full of weeds. And it might be so…

However…All the work I invested in my garden last year has allowed seeds that I didn’t purposely plant to spring back to life. My marigolds, which last year I had planted to prevent pests, came back in full bloom all over the whole garden making my garden a lush wonderland! The strawberry plants which had failed last year came back to thrive! We have gorgeous strawberries to eat without investing a moments work! I even have one little pea plant which has made its way back all on its own, sprouting and growing, and maybe it might even produce some yummy peas in time. Of course, the weeds made their way back too, so I’ve managed to spend a few moments weeding here and there. By investing those minutes in weeding I’ve been rewarded with a flourishing garden that has allowed my heart to flourish as well.

As our hearts and lives get busier with post pandemic life, what will we allow to take root and flourish in our hearts? It’s surprisingly easy to fall back into that distracted state of busyness. Lack of focus in any one area because we are busy in all the areas. God falls into the back seat because we’re too distracted to notice. Our hearts become hardened, and the weeds pop up taking root. We’re no longer intentional in caring for the garden of our hearts. Worry, anxiety, anger, frustration, disappointment begin to take root and flourish. But, just like my surprise garden, God is there. Working. Waiting. Seeking our attention. Calling us by name. When we stop and look to see what He has to whisper into our hearts we will discover the joy and love that He has for us. The words of His love are like those strawberries on the plants I didn’t tend, waiting to be harvested. The beautiful Marigolds like the work of His hands are blossoming everywhere in front of my eyes, but will I stop, rest, and soak in their beauty? Will I stop to recognize the work of His hands? He is inviting us into His presence. He is calling us, come to Him so that He can fill our hearts with the joy that we seek so that our heart will flourish in His beauty.

In John 7: 37-38 Jesus extends an invitation to our dry gardens “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Let’s take a deep drink and allow the waters of His love to refresh our soil, bathe our dry roots, and restore our wilting hearts. Let’s take a deep drink and find healing and wholeness where we feel dry and distracted, let’s take a deep drink and find love blossom in replacement of anger, let’s take a deep drink of His water and find Salvation take root and grow in the unlikeliest places. Let’s take a deep drink and allow our garden to blossom and bloom so that others can see His work in our lives and might know His beauty.

Download a printable version of this devotional: