Winners Through Faith

Mike Cekinovich's Story of Sharing the Gospel Within the Sports World 

Testimony Tuesday 9/26 - Mike Cekinovich from Cottonwood Creek Media on Vimeo.

There are many outlets to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Some of them are in the most unlikely of ways. Sports play a big role in today's culture and sometimes can be seen as an idol. Cottonwood Creek's Mike Cekinovich grew up playing sports and has found a way to instill the gospel while he plays, as well as teach others how to play with the mindset of Christ.  

Mike grew up in western Pennsylvania, but after the divorce of his parents at age 12, he moved down to Texas. After moving to Texas, Mike was blessed to meet a family who attended church and invited him to go with them. Soon after, at the age of 13, Mike accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. 

Mike has played sports for as long as he can remember. He played football, basketball, softball, and baseball for Richardson High School, as well as rec leagues, city leagues, and sports organizations.  

Mike first started getting involved with incorporating the gospel through sports when he started playing softball. "We would pray after each game and try to share a good word," Mike said. "It was always something encouraging." Mike then began getting involved in a sports reach ministry in prisons. Mike and his team would play softball with the inmates, and then after the game, share the gospel with them. "In a prison, you plant the seed and it's a one-time presentation," Mike said. "Some aren't getting out. So, we do our very best to let them know about the saving grace of Jesus."  

Mike usually waits until after the game to start sharing the gospel. "It's after the game where we get the opportunity to pray with the players," Mike said. "Whether you're using sports as a mission field or not, try to be Christlike while playing. Don't take it personally when you lose and be a light in a field that is most of the time so competitive." Mike also teaches players to encourage one another with uplifting words. "Lift up your fellow teammates with 'Nice hit!' or 'Good catch!' as opposed to 'Win, win, win.'" 

Mike believes that any sport can be used to incorporate the gospel. However, one of his favorite sports to use is football. Mike plays football with a group of younger men on Sunday afternoons. "At half time, I give them a pep talk," Mike said. "During that time, I'll utilize something from my job as a firefighter towards who Christ is, what an admirable relationship looks like with Him, and the importance of prayer." Mike will then draw comparisons of the game of football to a relationship with the Lord. "If you're playing football and you execute the plays, good things will happen," Mike said. "If you read the Bible and execute what we're taught, God blesses our lives."  

Through his sharing of the gospel, Mike uses different passages of the Bible to encourage others. If people want to talk about religion, he directs them to John 14:6: 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 

If Mike shares with others about heaven, he turns to 1 John 5:11-12: 

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 

For people who want to confess sin, Mike encourages them with 1 John 1:9: 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

Ultimately, Mike wants everyone that he shares with to always remember what Proverbs 3:5-6 says: 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. 

Whether it's sharing the gospel during a football game half time, or after a softball game, Mike's ultimate goal is to use the sports venue as a gospel presentation to others. "You will run into someone and see where their life is ten years later," Mike said. "It's amazing to see those who have followed Christ and made Him a priority. If we're trusting the Lord and following Him, He's going to direct our paths." 

Faces of Inspiration


One of the most exciting and inspirational parts of mission work is the people you get to encounter. It is amazing to learn about the impact God leaves in their lives, even if they are struggling or living in rough circumstances. Laura Tyler was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Kenya with Cottonwood Creek's mission team this summer and the people she met there truly touched her life.  

Laura first felt the call to ministry through missions when she was young. "I loved it and always wanted to be a part of it," Laura said. "I was involved in high school and early on in my marriage." After she became a mother, Laura kept looking for opportunities but being away for almost two weeks on a trip was something she couldn't do with young children.  

Six years ago was when Laura felt the prompting to go to Africa. She shared her thoughts with her husband, Keith. "At that time, my oldest daughter, McKinley, was in the sixth grade," Laura said. "She came up to me and said, 'Mom, I want to go on a mission trip and I want to go to Africa.' It was fun for me to hear that sweet confirmation that the Lord was doing the same thing in my daughter's heart that He was doing in mine." The fact that a mission trip to Africa was on McKinley's heart as well as her own made Laura want to do it even more.  

Laura began looking for opportunities but nothing felt right. Then, one morning in church, Bob and Julie Mendonsa of Naomi's Village spoke at Cottonwood Creek. "I started crying and knew this is where we needed to start," Laura said. "At that same moment, McKinley leaned over from four chairs away and whispered, 'Mom, we need to go!'"  

Initially, the Tylers were scheduled to go in the fall of 2013, however the trip was cancelled due to unrest and unsafe travel in the country at the time. Instead, they rescheduled for the following June. Since that first trip in 2014, Laura and the rest of her family hold a special place in their heart for Kenya. 

This summer, Laura and the team were blessed to meet many people with inspirational stories. Whether they personally knew God or not, it was evident that He was still working in their lives. "Most of the days, we were just loving, ministering, and meeting people wherever they were," Laura said. 

This year, the team delivered beds, writing desks, and solar lighting to families in need. With every visit to a family in need, Laura was touched by who she encountered. What was even more touching was the fact that she could already see God working within the families.  

One of the inspirational people Laura met was a woman named Grace. "She was a leader in Mwi’ Hangiri," Laura said. "Mwi’ Hangiri was a village whose people were put in an IDP camp after they were forced to leave because of political unrest in 2008. That year, many villages were attacked and abandoned and many lives were lost." The government issued tents for these IDP camps and declared that everyone was taken care of. This specific group of people from Mwi’ Hangiri were so far back off the main roads, nobody knew they were there. "They were discovered four years ago in plastic tattered tents and coverings that had been issued," Laura said. "Grace is a leader and true prayer warrior of that group."  

When Naomi's Village first discovered the people of Mwi’ Hangiri, the people said they needed a place to worship. Naomi's Village helped build a church for them and, over time, homes. "During this past trip, we were able to see that many families share a home or dwelling in a big rectangular concrete home," Laura said. "Grace shared her testimony and stories about God's faithfulness with us." One story Grace shared with the team was about the people not having food and fearing for their lives. "Someone gave them goats to provide, then the goats got stolen," Laura said. "It was story after story of difficulties but they remained so thankful." Grace said to the team, "The people in my own country do not come visit and you have come from across the world in the United States. You care and want to hear our story and show us your love." Laura was extremely moved by Grace's words and truly saw the importance of relationships for everyone, but especially for believers. 

Laura and the team had the chance to meet another incredible woman and hear her story. One particular afternoon, the team broke up into small groups and Laura's group was given the opportunity to visit a woman named Rachel who had four children. One of the children went to Cornerstone Prep, Naomi's Village's school for the community. "The Naomi's Village children go to Cornerstone, but children who show potential in the community can go there as well," Laura said. "Rachel didn't speak much English so we had a translator with us. Ultimately, the goal for us was to show her love and also deliver a bunk bed, writing desk, chair, and solar lighting." When Laura and her team showed up, they realized that Rachel's elderly mother was living with them as well. "The family had just been given a concrete dwelling to live in," Laura said. "Prior to that, they had been sleeping in the goat pen right outside." With no man involved, Rachel would go do day labor all day and leave her elderly mother at home. 

"At one point, I asked Rachel if she knew Jesus," Laura said. "She said she didn't and our hearts just sunk. So, I took a deep breath and at the moment, I heard an audible voice that said 'bracelet, bracelet, bracelet!'" Laura looked down at her wrist and saw that she was wearing her gospel bead bracelet that they had made with the children from Cornerstone four days prior. "I asked if I could share the gospel with Rachel," Laura said. "The translator said I could." Laura asked Rachel if she had seen the bracelet before and she said her daughter had brought one home from school the week before. "I said to Rachel, 'I would love to share a beautiful story with you and the bracelet helps me do that,'" Laura said. "I walked through each bead and at the end, I just left it with the hope we have in Christ. I explained to her that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and trust in Him, we have this hope that surpasses our daily struggles, wants, and needs." Laura didn't necessarily do anything big, she just shared the story.  

Rachel started talking to the translator, smiled big, and said she wanted to accept Jesus. Laura and the team were overjoyed. Laura put the bracelet on Rachel's wrist and they all huddled together and prayed. "It was such a sweet moment and it all just started with showing up and meeting a physical need," Laura said. "We couldn't have planned that."  

Laura also got to reconnect with a little boy she had met on a previous trip. The Tylers had met him before and since that initial meeting, they had been in constant prayer for him. "God brought this boy into our hearts," Laura said. "He prompted our hearts to love this little boy. I can't even begin to explain the relationship established with him just through prayer." Laura felt such a burden and connection for this child, that she really had to talk herself down at first. "He's seen so many people who ultimately mean nothing to him," Laura said. "So, there was a chance that even with our prayers and thoughts of him for the past year, it wouldn't mean anything to him. Walking in, however, and seeing the bond he had with us that God had established through faithful prayer was such a blessing."  

The inspiring people Laura met made a completely lasting impact on her life. Her hope is that more of the Cottonwood Creek family will get to meet people just like the ones she met. Laura encourages everyone to just go. "Whether it's Kenya, Dominican Republic, or Rio Grande Valley, just go," Laura said. "It's easy for us to know God and know of Him here in America where we have so much privilege, freedom and opportunities. However, going elsewhere has opened my eyes wide to the power of God."  

Hope for Houston

An Update On How Cottonwood Creek Has Reached Out to the Houston Area Since Hurricane Harvey


Hurricane Harvey Update from Cottonwood Creek Media on Vimeo.

In late August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Houston, Texas and its surrounding cities. The hurricane caused many deaths and left many homeless. According to the director of FEMA, Harvey is probably the worst disaster that Texas has ever seen.  

Cottonwood Creek Church has eagerly stepped up to help those in the Houston area during these desperate times. So far, two shipments of supplies and materials have been sent to Houston.  

The first shipment was a partnership with Collin Baptist Association and Parkway Hills Baptist Church in Plano. A truck was sent with ten pallets of goods, such as diapers, water bottles, and other items that Cottonwood Creek has been collecting. Those items were then delivered to Second Houston.  

The second truck was sent with six pallets of materials in partnership with Engaged Partners which was sent through Manna Worldwide. Ryan Jones took an 18-wheeler and 4 different churches filled it with supplies. They then went to Houston North West.   

Cottonwood Creek has provided different opportunities to reach out and help those who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey. While the Cottonwood family looks forward to going down to serve, there are other ways for those to help out that are unable to go, through prayer, donating, and giving items 

Text HURRICANE to 77978 for updates on how Cottonwood Creek continues to support the Hurricane Harvey victims, as well as get first word on trips to Houston that will be planned.

Chiapas, Mexico Mission Trip Recap  


This summer, Cottonwood Creek teamed up with Mexico Ministries to assist with construction of a church in Chiapas, Mexico. Cottonwood Creek's team of 14 men had the incredible chance to minister through others through not only helping build the church, but also by interacting with the Mexican people.  

Originally, the team expected easy travel until a storm came through and shut down the entire airport. "As frustrating as it was for us, God used it to bring our group really close, relationship-wise," Missions Pastor Keith Tyler said. "It set us up for the rest of the trip and prepared our hearts for what we were about to experience."  

After 28 hours of waiting at the airport, the team finally caught a flight and headed to the Mayan Indian mountains. They soon arrived in the city of Chenalho 

"We came alongside Mexico Ministries to build this church in the middle of the mountains," Keith said. "It is only through love and support of our church and their giving towards missions that allowed this to happen."  

Much of the work on the church was already completed. Walls were constructed and a roof was already put on. The team's job was to lay foundation and build pews. "The joy of serving with these men bring the gospel to life," Keith said. "We were able to go and share Jesus and serve to those in need by providing a place of worship." The team experienced many obstacles such as delayed flights, rainy season, mud, and more but the joy they experienced in serving their Mayan Indian friends outweighed any difficulties they could have ever experienced.  

On the team's last say, the entire community joined together with the pastor of the church to dedicate the church building. "It was a powerful movement of God," Keith said. "Each of us prayed to the Lord, thanking Him for the blessings of providing this community a place of worship."  

Keith and the rest of his team are so thankful that the Chiapas community now has a place for preaching, discipleship, weddings, and a true beacon of light. "If it were not for the ministry of Pastor Carlos, Pastor Alex, and Mexico Ministries, this tremendous work wouldn't be possible," Keith said. "Thank you, Cottonwood, for your love and support and we look forward to seeing you in Chiapas next year." 

If you would like to get involved with serving alongside Cottonwood Creek, visit us online


Intern Story: Brady Tucker

Brady Tucker: Young Adult/College Intern



What did your life use to look like that would relate most to the non-Christian? 

For me, before Christ, there was not a whole lot of purpose and I didn't have any meaning in my day to day. I had a "let's just get through today and get through tomorrow" mindsetI didn't have a sense of purpose, and had a lot of unhappiness and sadness. I didn't see the point in each day and each moment and in my existence in general. I found myself in a lot of situations that I shouldn't have been in.  

What did you rely on the most before accepting Christ? Where did your security and happiness come from? 

I'm not sure what I relied on the most, but probably just the confidence in my culture. I just relied on our collective intelligence and our understanding of life. There wasn't a whole lot of security or happiness in that though. I was very insecure and really unhappy. Nothing filled that void for me in my life before Christ.  

When was the first time you heard the gospel and was exposed to dynamic Christianity? What were your initial reactions? 

I've been going to church since I was a kid, so a young age. The first time it really made sense to me was in high school at camp. I just realized that there is a lot more than just going to church on Sunday. I had a lot of different feelings. 

When did you feel the Lord reveal Himself to you and begin to turn your attitude around? 

It happened in my early years of college. I was in a discipleship program at my university and it was just daily and weekly conversations about Christ. It was in those moments that I allowed God to start working in and transforming me. 

What are some specific changes that Christ has made in your life? 

My general outlook on life has changed. I used to be very pessimistic on life and it's now really changed with Christ giving me value and purpose. He's infinite and He's good and that has given me value. Life changes as well, such as addictions and a lot of the ways that I used to live my lifestyle. I have more discipline.  

Is there a Bible verse that you hold near to your heart that encourages you of Christ’s impact in your life? 

"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30. It's been very consistent. That always needs to be on my mind in following Christ. It's given me purpose. 

In what parts of your life do you pray for the Lord to continue to work in? 

Consistently, it's been selfishness. Seeing what Christ has done in my life has shown me what humility is. 

If you could go back and talk to your former self before accepting Christ, what would you tell yourself? 

Stick with it. Following Christ has been incredibly difficult in different seasons but in all those good and bad seasons, just continue to stick with it and be obedient.  

How do you go about approaching non-Christians and telling them about the Lord? 

My professor from a class used, "Seek first to understand before you earn the right to be understood." I do minimal talking in the beginning and just hear where they're at and just listen to their complaints with God and struggles in faith. I then earn their respect and become friends. Then they value my response more and I can have a conversation with them.  

Who are three people connected with your testimony? Why have they been such an influence in your life connecting to your testimony? 

My youth pastor. He always was quick to show grace and love to me in seasons I didn't see any good in myself. He had a great source of wisdom and he was always able to work through the challenges of the faith I had. 

Francis ChanI listened to him on the drive from Dallas to Houston. He specifically opened my mind and my imagination to the infiniteness of God and how there's more to following Christ than what we often hear preached. He's very blunt, honest, and challenging and showed me a God that I wanted to know. 

My current mentor. He's one of the most interesting guys I've met. His intentionality on meeting with me, checking in on me, and he has joy like I haven't seen before. He's taken me under his wing.  

Since accepting Christ, how have you been an influence on others around you? 

Working with this internship has been a big thing. YesterdayHunter called me and encouraged me for partnering with him and stepping in. Working alongside him has been really great and beneficial for both of us. That's from seeing in how we interact with college age and other young adults.  

What initially called you to serve at Cottonwood Creek? 

I met Hunter Ballew at DBU four years ago. Our friendship continued and I was approaching graduation and wanted to get more involved in ministry. I was trying to figure out where God wanted me and Hunter told me about his need for the young adult ministry.  

What called you to serve in the specific ministry that you're currently in? 

It helps that I am a young adult. Most people I work with are my ageIt's a perfect fit in my mind because I’m learning just as much from everyone as I'm supposed to be teaching. I'm just enjoying this age group because people are quick to be friends and I enjoy the moments together.  

What have you learned so far from this internship? What do you hope to gain out of it? 

I've learned that you have to be patient in ministry. Just where our ministry is at currently, there is a lot of waiting and change and moments where you could be quick to give up or get frustrated, but you keep trusting the Lord that it'll work out in His time.  

I would hope to better figure out what God's plan is for me in ministry, whether that's stay in this age group, work in another part of the church, or even outside of the church.  

How have you been able to express your spiritual gifts during this internship? 

One of them is counseling. There's been moments already where I've been able to talk with college students or young adults and hear where they're at and just be able to listen and share with them what the Bible speaks to that.  

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