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Share the Gospel and Carry a Big Stick

KEvin kitch's story of growing as a leader through iron men of god 

 

Spiritual leadership is an important part of being a godly man. In today's society, strong, godly leaders are necessary to help grow others in Christ and with each other. Iron Men of God is a Men's ministry that is shoulder to shoulder discipleship transforming men by increasing spiritual habits and disciplines. From there, they are taught to lead in all aspects of life with a focus on the Lord. Kevin Kitch is one of the men involved in Cottonwood Creek's Iron Men of God ministry and through his experience, he has grown in both discipleship and leadership.  

 

Kevin was saved at the age of 17 when he was invited to church by a friend from school. Kevin started attending church, worship, and youth. "I had tons of questions," Kevin said. "I didn't grow up in a home of believers so it wasn't the lifestyle I grew up in." Kevin had all the typical questions, such as, 'Why are we here?' "After I attended church with my friend, I had answers that meant something beyond the typical 'It is what it is'," Kevin said. "Through that year of going through youth and having people be patient with me and go through the Word of God, I accepted Christ at 17 and was baptized the same year." 

 

Kevin got involved at Cottonwood Creek after he and his wife, Kelly, got married. They had both grown up in the Tarrant County area, but after getting married, commuting to work was becoming an inconvenience. "We began looking at houses in the Collin County area and once we got settled, started looking at different churches," Kevin said. "We went to one other church and then Cottonwood and it was the right fit. We've been here since 2006." 

 

Kevin's journey into Iron Men of God was a natural progression. "We started in Worship services, then Life Groups," Kevin said. "A couple of guys in our Life Group had been through Iron Men of God." Kevin was curious about the ministry, but with having to travel for his job, he had a comfortable excuse to not do it.  

 

It wasn't until the third year of men prodding and encouraging him, that Kevin finally got involved in Iron Men of God. "That year, God grabbed a hold of my heart," Kevin said. "I was comfortable in my walk with God. I would come to church, go to Life Group, occasionally a Bible study."

 

Realizing that he was complacent in his walk with God, Kevin knew he needed to do something. "I was convicted and wanted to become more consistent with family devotions at home, praying with Kelly, and even in my own quiet times," Kevin said. "I would try through my own efforts, but each time failed. Because of those reasons, God convicted me to go through Iron Men of God."  

 

Kevin finally began his eight months of Iron Men of God. "The ministry covers everything from studying the Word and prayer, to being a leader in your home and everywhere else," Kevin said. "It teaches you how to evangelize and how to be bold and confident enough to go out there and have those conversations with people about the Lord." 

 

Part of joining the Iron Men of God ministry is a discipline of obedience. "You want to surrender your own comforts," Kevin said. "During your rookie year, you get the opportunity to wear a red rookie shirt and carry a stick." The stick was twofold for Kevin: it meant he was being obedient and surrendering to God in terms of his spiritual growth, and also sharing with others that he was submitting to Him. "For me, wearing the shirt and carrying the stick wasn't a big deal because I knew I needed to change my spiritual habits," Kevin said. 

 

Kevin had an exciting experience where he was able to share Iron Men of God with a new couple at church. "The wife stopped me and asked what the stick was about," Kevin said. "I then met the husband and they ended up joining our Life Group. That next year, the husband joined the Iron Men of God ministry." 

 

Since being involved in Iron Men of God, Kevin's relationship with God and with others has changed drastically. "As an individual, not growing up in the church, I've always felt confident in my relationship with God and being saved by God," Kevin said. "One of the areas that has really helped is once I got married, became a husband, and now a father, my relationship with God was still kind of my own."

 

One of the things Iron Men of God changed was Kevin's boldness and confidence of having more structure in how he and his family talked about God at home. "I have become more consistent in my quiet time," Kevin said. "It really has given me the confidence of what those spiritual disciplines are. I'm not perfect, but I do know how to get back on track through those disciplines. Iron Men of God has made me more confident and bold with my family and with others." 

 

For more information about Iron Men of God, click here 

Growing Through Grief

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Jim Johnson's Story of Growing in His Faith Through Grieving the Loss of His Son 

 

Grief is one of the most difficult parts of life. It has many stages and there isn't one stage that is easier than the rest. Cottonwood Creek offers Grief Share, a ministry that doesn't let people walk alone in their grief. Jim Johnson is one of the many that has been through Grief Share and now teaches the class. Through his own loss and experience with grief, he has grown in his faith and has been blessed with the chance to walk alongside many others during difficult times. 

 

Jim grew up in a secular family. Growing up, he always had an emptiness in his life without knowing the Lord. "I had a great family, but I was searching for a faith," Jim said. "However, it wasn't until the attacks on 9/11 occurred that a light switch went off. I became a Christian six months later at age 48." Since then, Jim hasn't been a passive Christian either. He takes advantage of every ministry opportunity. "I always want to grow in my faith," Jim said. "Back then, I wanted to walk with the Lord as quickly as possible." 

 

However, Jim's faith was truly put to the test years later when his son, Matt, passed away. "Matt had a wonderful skillset," Jim said. "He went off to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder to double major in international baking and Chinese. I thought he was doing well with his reporting of good grades and evidence of progress," Jim said. "Somewhere in there, however, nobody knew that Matt had lost himself and who he was. He was going through depression." 

 

Four years later in 2007, Jim traveled to see Matt graduate from college. Jim had talked to him five times the day of his graduation. "He was supposed to graduate with a dual major and he sounded fine on the phone," Jim said. "However, he didn't show up at graduation and his name wasn't on the program." Jim hurried to Matt's apartment to find it depressing and disheveled. "What should've been a dad's best day was the day I found Matt with a gunshot wound in his temple, dead," Jim said. He had arrived about 20 minutes too late.  

 

Matt's death started a very much unwanted new chapter in Jim's life. "Before becoming a Christian, I probably would've exited the 10th story window of that Colorado hotel that night," Jim said. "However, being a new man in Christ, I called a minister named Bill Peal who stayed on the phone with me all night. I had to get the images out of my mind, so Bill worked with me."  

 

Two men Jim worked with picked him up the following day. "My entire church came around me and I had such a support at work to see me through the first phase of that process," Jim said. "I had been so active in my church for five years and kept thinking of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: 

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 

 

I knew I needed to exhibit my faith at that time," Jim continued. "I gave myself time to initially grieve, but at his memorial, I had to take that opportunity to witness to people that God will comfort us."  

 

Jim moved through the process of the first phase of grief: shock. "It was a traumatic loss," Jim said. "If someone has been sick terminally, you expect the illness to take their life. For Matt, his psychological issues were every bit as terminal for him." Matt's suicide came as a total shock for Jim because Matt never asked for help. "He had written me a suicide note that morning," Jim said. "It wasn't that Matt wanted to hurt me, he just wasn't well. Technically, he was mentally ill and not the mature, young man that he made himself out to be."  

 

For the first three to four months after Matt's passing, Jim and his wife traveled to Europe. "We hid on the road in England, Spain, Portugal, and Italy," Jim said. "It was nice to not have a big bullseye painted on our backs. The amenity of being away was comforting, but the anxiety and stresses of grief didn't go away, so we came back." 

 

 Jim's wife began to feel that Jim was in a fragile place, so they decided to go through Grief Share, six months after Matt's death. "Grief Share is a thirteen-week program where you meet with a group of newly bereaved people who are in really rough emotional shape," Jim said. "When I first went, there weren't any others grieving from a suicide, but grief is grief!" 

 

Jim and his wife, Brenda, began Grief Share at Christ Fellowship, where they attended church at the time. "While Brenda took notes on every page, I was shell shocked," Jim said. "I was there, but didn't fully participate. I knew I was on the right path and I was starting on a long journey." 

 

Several years before Matt's passing, Jim had been working with a division of Campus Crusade for Christ called Military Ministries. Having always been a big supporter of the military, he was one of the volunteer workers with the soldiers. "I was treated to a front row seat to some really stout Christians and began to learn about what I was going through," Jim said. "Previous to Matt's death, I hadn't worked with post-traumatic stress disorder victims." After Matt's death however, Jim had a passion to help service men and women who suffered with PTSD. "I took it upon myself to start getting trained in it, going to various programs and workshops," Jim said. "Of course, I had a case of it myself since a traumatic stress had occurred in my life. It was not a battlefield, but it was full of the smell of gunshots and blood, and it was a loved one." 

 

Jim then reached a sort of rocky plateau. He related it to Gideon in Judges 6:11: 

 

Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 

 

"Sometimes we aren't equipped for what we need to be doing," Jim said. "I was treading water. I wasn't crying every day, but I wasn't getting better or moving forward. I was stuck and this had now been four years since Matt's death."  

 

One of the final parts of Jim's healing process from his grief was listening to Matt's iPod. "There were 5,500 songs on it," Jim said. "I listened to that iPod through and through, trying to figure out what he was thinking. I was stuck there." During that time, Jim met a woman whose son was serving in Afghanistan. "He had asked his mom to send him music," Jim said. "He liked Texas red dirt music. That's what Matt's iPod had on it, so I gave it up to the next person who needed it." Giving that iPod up was the thing that Jim needed to do and graduate to the next part of recovery, which was now helping and comforting others.  

 

During that time, Jim and Brenda had also changed churches and started attending Cottonwood Creek. "This church makes your faith life come alive," Jim said. "I started attending Bible studies and eventually did a 9-month long ministry called Iron Men of God and attended Pastor John Mark's Tuesday morning men's group." During that time, Jim was asked to start serving at church. Jim decided to go back to Grief Share. "I introduced myself and told them that I was still struggling with grief after four years," Jim said. "I told the Grief Share leader that I was there to serve as her assistant." Six months later, Jim inherited Grief Share and took over. 

 

"That was how I came to be a Grief Share group leader," Jim said. "At first, I had the feeling that I was doing it at great personal expense. Sharing about Matt was painful." However, over time, Grief Share became simpler for Jim. He began to see how God wanted to use him. "As I tell the story of Matt's passing to people, it opens a window or doorway where it can relate to others what they're going through," Jim said. "I sat in their chair at one time. When people first come to Grief Share, they're completely broken, so it's a delicate process." Some people are fast learners, while others are slow. However, Jim guides the class to be actively leaning into each other and finding comfort in God. 

 

Jim realized that God had comforted him over the four years of grieving for Matt. "God brought people into my orbit and it was through them helping me and me learning to help other people that I started to find meaning in my life," Jim said. "I've taught Grief Share now for four years. I've had approximately 125 people go through these programs where I'm a group leader." Jim knows the ultimate healing comes from God. He is only a facilitator. "Grief makes sense to me," Jim said. "We grieve because we loved. [Tennyson] said it best: ''Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.'" God uses Jim profoundly now, which is where Jim finds his comfort.  

Battling With a Purpose

Julie Carlock's Story of Finding Her Purpose in Christ Throughout Her Battle With Cancer

 

 

Cancer is a life-altering journey that affects many lives. It comes in many different forms with different outcomes of each diagnosis. The month of October recognizes cancer awareness.

Listen to the story of Julie Carlock, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and through her battle, discovered that God still had a purpose for her. "I know mine was to help others... that's what God had done this for," Julie said. "I knew I just had to follow this journey and now be the blessing that He wants me to be." 

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. For those who have suffered or are suffering with any form of cancer, Cottonwood Creek Church wants you to know you are not alone. The Cancer Care Ministry at Cottonwood Creek seeks to provide Christ's love, support, hospitality, and listening ear that you deserve. The support that is offered is designed to help families navigate every phase of cancer and face the challenges associated with the diagnosis. Being part of a support group means you do not have to face cancer alone. Many of the individuals involved are cancer survivors and caregivers who understand firsthand what patients and their families go through. 

The Cancer Care Ministry meets the first Sunday of each month from 4:00p - 5:00p in B118. 

For more information, email .

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

LAURA TYLER'S STORY OF ENCOUNTERING THE INSPIRATIONAL PEOPLE OF KENYA 

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."  

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