Leslie Basham: Denisse Cabrera tells women that the Christian life needs to be lived in community with other believers.
Denisse Cabrera: You should be able to establish relationships in your church where, when you’re struggling with something, with a temptation, you should be able to go to an older lady that’s mentoring you and share with her. You should feel loved and taken care of, because that’s what it’s supposed to be. We’re supposed to be a family.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 101, for March 29, 2019.
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Most of us don’t like it when others make assumptions about us. Nobody likes being “put in a box.” But oddly enough, it’s something we do to ourselves all the time. Anytime we think, I could NEVER do that, or when we say to God, “I’ll serve you in this way, but don’t expect me to serve You in this way,” we’re imposing limits on ourselves that God may want to remove.
In fact, in my own experience, it seems that God often puts me into situations where I feel helpless, desperately needy, so I’ll be dependent on Him to do whatever He’s calling me to do. I think that’s a good thing! That’s exactly what happened to Denisse Cabrera.
Yesterday she shared with us that, as a young pastor’s wife, she felt inadequate and unqualified to minister to the women in her church. But as her husband sweetly and patiently kept shepherding her heart, God began to awaken a desire in her to share what she was learning with others.
If you missed yesterday’s program, you can listen to it at ReviveOurHearts.com. Denisse and her husband Felix are originally from Puerto Rico. They’ve spent much of their married life planting a church in Oklahoma. And now, as you’ll hear today, God has a new work for them to tackle. Let’s listen to more of her story.
Denisse: In 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
Nancy: This is Revive Our Hearts Ambassador, Denisse Cabrera.
Denisse: All the towers were down, so there was no communication. I couldn’t reach my aunts; my husband couldn’t reach his parents. We were just seeing what they were reporting over here in the States.
Nancy: In September of 2017, Maria struck Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of over 150 miles per hour. It flattened homes, flooded villages, and wiped out the island’s aging power grid.
Denisse: There was no electricity. And when I mean no electricity . . . when we flew in from the United States to Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico is usually lit up. It was completely dark!
Nancy: Initial reports set the death toll in Puerto Rico at sixty-four, but roughly a year later that number was updated to almost 3,000. It was the deadliest natural disaster to hit the island since 1899! None of Denisse’s extended family lost their lives, but all her relatives who lived in Puerto Rico were affected.
Denisse: I had an aunt that, almost five months passed without us having any contact with her at all. We didn’t know anything about her! We knew that the people in the region were okay, but we weren’t able to speak to her. That was the main problem after Hurricane Maria.
Nancy: Two weeks after the storm had passed, Denisse and Felix went back to Puerto Rico to visit.
Denisse: We packed our things and went to visit the island with our two daughters. It was devastating! Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico is always green. Blue skies. It’s always green! And when we got there, it looked like a fire had gone through! Everything was just brown and burnt. It wasn’t a fire—it was a hurricane!
Nancy: This is Denisse’s husband, Felix Cabrera
Felix: Each sector of the country was affected by Hurricane Maria. It looked like a bomb had gone off!
Denisse: All the poles were on the ground . . . the houses were destroyed . . . the beaches didn’t look anything like they were. And we went two weeks after they had already done some of the work.
Felix: People were totally disoriented, lost, hopeless.
Denisse: But there was still a lot of work to be done. There is still a lot of work to be done! We went there we and helped and worked alongside our pastors there.
Felix: At the same time, I think the hurricane is what God used to show this country and its inhabitants that, not only their economy, but also their lifestyles were founded on things that are not lasting or permanent, rather temporary, like material things.
So Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico caused the rug to be pulled out from under our feet, to help us see our spiritual, emotional, physical, political and financial need.
Nancy: The physical needs everywhere seemed overwhelming!
Denisse: The hardest thing was coming back to the States, because that night when we arrived . . . just turning on the switch for our lights, it was devastating. And just turning on the water and knowing that back home there were millions of people—including our family!—that didn’t have water . . . not to take a shower, but to drink! It was hard!
Nancy: But the Cabreras were struck by another pressing need, one that takes a more discerning eye to notice.
Denisse: There was the need for sound doctrine; the need to know the gospel.
Felix: The biggest problem there is in Puerto Rico is that the majority of people think they are Christians, but they’ve believed in something, sadly, that is not the gospel. Puerto Rico is a country that needs to be re-evangelized.
Denisse: Right now there’s a need to re-evangelize Puerto Rico.
Felix: When you point out this spiritual problem, some probably are bothered by it. But the truth of the matter is that we have a lot of people talking like Christians, but living like any person of the world. So the big problem that Puerto Rico has is that they need the gospel, and they need to be re-evangelized.
Denisse: There are a lot of churches preaching and teaching unbiblical stuff. For instance, people teaching that what God wants you to do is to prosper and to have possessions. And people teaching that you cannot get sick because that’s sin. They’re believing all these things!
Nancy: These are misinterpretations and wrong applications of certain passages of Scripture to the exclusion of many other passages. As I mentioned yesterday, this so-called “prosperity gospel” has a strong foothold in Latin America.
Felix: A message has been sold that, because of your condition as a supposed child of God, you should “name it and claim it,” that all of your benefits (which have been interpreted as physical riches, physical goods, properties, houses, money) and not the gospel that Christ modeled and preached (which is denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Him).
Based on that reality, what the prosperity gospel has done is created a false message that God wants us to be rich and that we should cancel and reject suffering and our realities.
Denisse: And it’s sad because it also depends more on all the stuff that they could do and they don’t rely on the work of Christ on the cross.
Felix: And what you see in Puerto Rico is what you see in the rest of Latin America, that the ones who actually prosper are the ones who are preaching this message, but not the ones who listen to it or follow it.
I see Hurricane Maria as the instrument God has used so that Puerto Rico would be at the threshold of a revival, and that the people would respond because of who God is and what He is, not for what He can give them.
Nancy: Felix and Denisse felt a particular burden for the pastors in Puerto Rico.
Denisse: They were tired, and they needed a refreshment. That’s why Felix organized a conference called Refreshment, and we took the pastors. There they had time with their families, many of them for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-many months after Maria.
And then from there, that fellowship grew, and every certain time we have an activity for the pastors. Having done that, then we have the wives and the ladies. And when I was there I was always talking about knowing their needs, and, “Have you listened to this program?”
Nancy: She was referring to the Spanish version of Revive Our Hearts, which is Aviva Nuestros Corazones.
Denisse: “Have you ever gone to Aviva Nuestros Corazones and seen the resources there? Here! Let me help you. Let me give you this.” We spoke about that, and there were some ladies in that pastors’ conference that knew about Aviva Nuestros Corazones.
Nancy: The strong response from the pastors and their wives planted some seeds in the minds of Felix and Denisse.
Denisse: We started dreaming, and we said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we can bring some of the resources? And wouldn’t it be great if it could be in this season when there so much hurt and so much need?” My husband took that, and he contacted Laura González.
Nancy: She’s the director of Aviva Nuestros Corazones.
Denisse: We started just seeing the possibility of doing something in Puerto Rico! I was thinking that it would be a conference where we would have 200 ladies, because one of the things that is interesting about Christian women in Puerto Rico is that it doesn’t matter. If it is labeled “Christian,” we will go! So that’s a plus for us, right?
And that’s exactly what happened! They started signing up and registering. And my husband would say, “We have 400 [ladies]. 500. 700. 900. 1,000. 1,200!” I was just amazed! So in October 2018, we were able to have that conference in Puerto Rico.
Nancy: Patricia de Saladín reflects on that conference.
Patricia de Saladín: When we gathered there in that room, with over twelve-hundred-and-fifty women, I was amazed how many of them were ready to receive the Word and how God put up a conference for them in a beautiful church, in a beautiful setting! Everything was ready; everything was well-ordered!
Patricia: Good morning! I truly feel moved. I’m overwhelmed that we serve a sovereign God, and a good God!
Denisse: Patricia Saladin is the lady that does the “voice” of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth in Spanish. So for every Spanish speaker . . . that’s Nancy! That’s the voice that we hear.
Patricia: And I was really humbled, because it’s not up to us to decide where we’re going.
Actually, we need to pray and follow God’s guidance through His Spirit, because He took us to Puerto Rico. He organized everything through human agents in Puerto Rico, but actually it was all His doing!
Patricia [speaking at conference]: Even though it seems like all of us are born as free citizens, we’re born into slavery under a regime of lies that has only one way of escape: the truth!
Patricia: The theme of the conference was Lies Women Believe, based on Nancy’s book.
Nancy: I had the joy of watching parts of the livestream of this conference from my home in Michigan. What a joy it was to see these hundreds of hungry-hearted women receive God’s Word!
Patricia: We were eyewitnesses of how over 1,200 women with thirsty hearts were ready to embrace the teachings on biblical womanhood!
Nancy: Patricia was just one of the speakers. She was joined by other members of the Aviva Nuestros Corazones team. Betsy Gómez . . .
Betsy Gómez [speaking at conference]: He is the Good News! Jesus Christ is the Gospel. He’s the true Temple, the true Prophet, the true King, the true Lamb and Sacrifice, the true Light, and the true Bread.
Nancy: And Elba Reyes . . .
Elba Reyes [speaking at conference]: God has a design for marriage. Marriage was not invented by man. Man wants to redefine marriage, but man can’t redefine it, because God is the Creator of the marriage covenant.
Denisse: I was able to have a part also in the teaching. It was an amazing time to see all those ladies gathered. It was the first time where we had a massive conference or a massive activity where we had all these ladies listening to biblical truth!
Denisse [speaking at conference]: And when someone develops relationships within the church, between women, with the goal of living out the gospel together, we can see the church as that safe place where I can grow and where they truly love me as the Word says.
Nancy: As she thought about how the women at this conference were going to respond to the truth of God’s Word, Denisse Cabrera had to admit she was a little bit apprehensive.
Denisse: I thought, I don’t know how are they going to react to this? They’ll probably stand up and go . . . or I don’t know, a reaction something like that. But, no. It was totally the opposite! It was more, “I am listening to this for this first time, and it’s bringing conviction to my heart. I am embracing it!”
And for us to be up there, able to see that in their faces, it just brought joy to our hearts!
Nancy: Yesterday we heard, as Denisse shared, that at one point in her life she didn’t have a clear picture of what her own role could be in the lives of other women.
Denisse [speaking at conference]:. . . because I didn’t feel equipped, and my past tormented me.
Nancy: She didn’t have a Titus 2 older woman mentor, and she wasn’t being that kind of mentor for anyone else.
Denisse: Well, my husband was very wise and patient. He was helping me, and among the resources he put in my hands was Revive Our Hearts.
Nancy: We heard how God used her husband’s encouragement and what she was reading and hearing through Revive Our Hearts to give her a vision for how she could help other women. Again, here’s Felix.
Felix: I bless the Lord for Revive Our Hearts, for the ministry of Nancy, for the ministry of Patricia translating for her, for the ministry of Laura and all the sisters who work there. I give thanks to the Lord that He gave me the opportunity, not only as the husband of Denisse, but as the pastor of many women in my church, to have found that resource and for having given me the patience and wisdom to be able to introduce her to these materials, books, audios, devotionals, and blogs.
For me as a husband and pastor, Revive Our Hearts was a resource that I give thanks to God for. I recommend to every pastor and every husband, to be able to expose your wife and your daughters to it.
I have two daughters and right now one is doing Lies Young Women Believe. My fifteen-year-old daughter is in a group with her mom. Other young wives are doing True Woman 101: Divine Design.
We believe that [the lack of] Titus 2 is a great deficiency in our homes and in the Spanish-speaking world, including Puerto Rico, but also in the church. I’ve been able to see the result of Nancy’s influence so that Denisse can be the wife she needs to be, the mother she needs to be. She can accept her design, her role, and she can be my helper in the ministry God has given me in my home, but also in the pastorate and in serving the church.
Nancy: Now at this conference, Denisse was living out the transformation that God had brought about in her own life.
Denisse: What I talked about was the woman in the local church. It was on Titus 2. When one of us suffered, we all suffered. When one rejoiced, we all rejoiced. When one is sick, all of us are there. That’s what He wants to develop in our churches!
It was challenging for me to teach on this, knowing the audience that was there. Because one of the things that I was teaching was that we cannot read Titus 2 and think, That’s for this lady to do that, because she is an older lady or an elder lady. We should all start getting to that role because we will always be a step ahead of someone—which would make us older. And we can be underneath somebody else, so they can mentor us. There’s a great need in the local church for that!
We need to understand that we were not designed to walk by ourselves. We need people around us. We need the fellowship, we need the instruction, we need their encouragement. It is not a message that we’ve been taught, especially in our culture.
It’s more, “I’m living the Christian life by myself. So any struggle that I have with sin or temptation, I have to keep to myself, because, can you imagine if somebody found out?!” That’s how we were instructed.
When I was teaching and saying that you should be able to establish relationships in your church where when you’re struggling with something, with a temptation or with sin itself, you should be able to go to an older lady that’s mentoring you and share with her. You should have that trust within the body of Christ so we could pray, so we could work in action, so we could provide the first aid, so we can guide you to different areas where you could feel loved and taken care of. Because that’s what it’s supposed to be. We’re supposed to be a family.
This is something that we have learned, and it’s what my husband teaches. So, for me, I’m just sharing what has been taught to me. But it was amazing to see that for many it was their first time to hear this. So I was thankful the Lord put that in my heart to share it.
Nancy: That doesn’t mean she wasn’t nervous, though.
Denisse: When I speak in English, there’s many words that don’t come to mind. But when I’m speaking in Spanish, the same thing happens! And we’re a tough audience! But God gave me everything I needed! I mean, I couldn’t feel my legs!
Nancy: Denisse told the women the same story we heard yesterday. She had heard me using an illustration about salmon, explaining that sometimes we need to swim upstream, around the lies that our culture is telling us.
Denisse [speaking at the conference]: I was washing dishes, and I remember having the sponge in my hand, saying, “I want to be a salmon! I want to be a salmon!” Nobody was there to witness that crazy moment!
Nancy: That phrase turned into a fun hashtag from the conference.
Denisse: #queremossersalmon. “We all want to be salmon!” I don’t want to be swept away by what the world is offering. I kept being convicted and encouraged and exposed to the gospel. But it was the gospel in day-to-day life!
Nancy: The huge needs in Puerto Rico, both physical and spiritual, caused Felix and Denisse to stop and pray. They came to a point where they felt that God was calling them to make a major move.
Denisse: We’re going back to plant a church. Right now we have a core group, and we are meeting several times a month. There are four other families who are heading [there] with us.
Nancy: So this past December the Cabrera family left their home in Oklahoma to return to Puerto Rico.
Denisse: What we did in Oklahoma, we’re doing that Puerto Rico. We’re starting from scratch! So that’s a new adventure for our family and for these four families that have said “yes” to the Lord. We are very excited, and at the same time . . . We have grown with a church family here for almost seven years. So it’s . . . did I tell you I cry a lot!?
Nancy: Could I ask you to take a moment to pray for Felix and Denisse Cabrera and their two daughters? Ask God to bless this new work that He’s called them to. And pray that many would look to Jesus alone as their only hope for this life and the life to come, as a result of their ministry there in Puerto Rico.
Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been telling us about Denisse and Felix Cabrera and their willingness to say, “Yes, Lord!”—to set aside their comfort and serve Him wherever He calls. Everyone has a different role to fill in the body of Christ. We are so grateful the Cabreras are sharing a message of revival and biblical womanhood in Puerto Rico.
We’re also grateful for the Revive Our Hearts Monthly Partner Team, a group of listeners who help us invest in the lives of women like Denisse. As donations to the ministry go up and down for a variety of reasons, Monthly Partners provide a solid base of support, and we could not continue without them!
All this month we’ve been praying the Lord would raise up new Monthly Partners, and I’m so thankful for those who have answered that call. It’s the final weekday of the month, and if you’ve been thinking about joining the team, today’s the day to take action!
As a new partner here in March, we’d like to send you a welcome gift. It’s a True Woman tote bag packed with resources, including Nancy’s books Adorned and Lies Women Believe. And each month you’ll receive updates from the ministry as well as a daily devotional made just for Monthly Partners.
Each year you can attend one Revive Our Hearts conference on us, including Revive ’19 in September. So I hope you’ll get all the details at ReviveOurHearts.com. There are so many women like Denisse whom we want to equip to serve other women.
It starts with one woman willing to get involved. It starts with you! Get all the details on joining the Monthly Partner Team at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.
You hear confused and confusing messages about sexuality all the time. On Monday, Dr. Juli Slattery will be here to take us back to God’s Word to have a healthy view of sexuality. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you do great things for God’s kingdom. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.