New believer energized by service to others
SPRING VALLEY, Calif. (BP) -- Tina Flores remembers every step of her baptism at New Seasons Church.
Her experience at the Southern Baptist church in Spring Valley, Calif., was so different from the childhood sprinkling she received at the church where her family went on holidays and special occasions. Flores, now a wife and mother, appreciates that her baptism followed her public profession of faith of Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
"I was baptized when I was around 4 or 5 in the Catholic religion, but I had not been baptized as a Christian," Flores said. "It's something that I'm choosing to do. I'm choosing to truly be washed of my sin and truly give my life to Christ, and that's what happened."
Her preteen son Peter was baptized two years after Flores' decision.
"I asked whether he understood what it means and he said, 'Yes, Mommy. It means that I want to live the way Christ lived and not the way everybody else lives.'"
Flores' husband Eugene also was baptized, drawn to the church because of Tina's emerging commitment as a volunteer.
"He actually was going through a very rough time at one point. He really wasn't understanding what I was doing and why I was here so much.... I literally dove head first [into Christian service]," Flores said. "I was here as much as possible and my children were right next to me serving while my husband was at home."
New Seasons pastor A.B. Vines explained to Eugene the concept of service and offered the father and husband salvation.
"This is why your wife is here," Vines told him, "because she gave her life to Christ and she loves serving -- and God put us here as His servants."
Their younger son Anthony also attends church with the family.
Flores' affinity for community outreach was sparked in her first visit at New Seasons.
One day when she and Anthony, then a toddler, went to pick up Peter from Bancroft Community School across the street from New Seasons, the three attended the church's after-school snack program. As she left, she noticed a sign that implored, "Don't go to church, be the church."
"I guess it meant we're not just a building, you are the church that is within you," Flores said. "I really wanted to show my son that even though times are rough right now, that we're still blessed, because we have a roof over our head and we have clothes on our back."
She and Peter participated in a neighborhood clean-up outreach; just two weeks later, he asked if he could return to the church "on Sunday, like the other people do."
"I ended up bringing my son here. To me, it was just amazing, just from like the minute I walked onto the campus. People were ... welcoming me and hugging me ...," Flores said. "I admit at one point I didn't feel really comfortable, because I was like, 'OK, why are these people hugging me? Like, I don't know you.' It was so funny; I mean, it's sweet, but I'm not used to someone just walking up to me and hugging me. Normally they'll shake my hand."
Flores has been attending New Seasons ever since, saying, "I can't imagine anywhere else I'd be."
Four years later, Flores is employed as a receptionist and administrative assistant at New Seasons; she volunteers in the church's women's and feeding ministries; and she has frequent opportunities to witness for Christ.
"I literally went from just being a mom in the community to just being fulltime here," she said. "I can't imagine doing anything else but being God's servant."
In her relationship with Jesus, she said, "Everything I do I always want to make sure that I'm doing to make God happy and not myself happy. The longer I have more of a relationship with Him, the deeper I get with Him, the more I want to make Him proud.
"At one point it was like, I wanted to make my grandpa [Frank Perez] proud or I wanted to make my children proud. And now it's, no matter what, I always want to make Him proud. And that's definitely what's changed for me."
At New Seasons, in the Sisters Walking in Faith Together ministry, Flores helps prepare meals and shares Christ with homeless women in a transitional residence. Many of them have been addicted to drugs or alcohol.
"We don't just serve the food and go about our business. We stay with them and talk with them and ask them if they have any prayer requests," Flores said. "We actually go downtown to them. We share Christ with them. It's a really awesome opportunity because ... a lot of these women, you don't know where they're going to be tomorrow."
In New Seasons' Wednesday feeding program each week, Flores also helps in preparing and serving local residents in the church fellowship hall. The visitors are encouraged to be seated as the church volunteers serve them a hot meal.
"On a weekly basis, myself and several other people here are able to also serve the community, showing them ... who Christ really is," Flores said. "I always say, 'We serve you like you're in our home because you're in our church home.'"
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' staff writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).