I met Christian and church leader Sandra Cerda quite by accident (or by divine appointment). She is the leader of New Life Ministries in Southeast Texas and an active evangelist. She hosts a television program “Reverse The Curse” and is the author of several books including the devotional Water Me, Lord. We met through our LinkedIn connections and started a conversation. I found her smart, interesting, but most of all, authentic. I truly excited when she agreed to take time out her busy schedule to do an interview. Her answers are in bold.
Where do you call your Hometown? I’m a Texas girl born in Hondo, raised in the hilltops of Kerrville, as a child. Before moving to Houston in the late 70’s, I attended school in San Antonio from 2nd grade through 7th; but Houston is my hometown!
You had a rough life. You are open about it and share your many incredible testimonies to inspire others. When did I receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior? As a four-year-old in Kerrville, my daycare teacher was a Christian and I remember her prayers for us and talking to us about Jesus. After praying with her, I remember again in the 3rd grade, receiving Christ publicly for the first time at Huisache Baptist Church in San Antonio. My grandfather planted churches in Texas for people migrating from Mexico. He was a Baptist preacher. I was raised Catholic, converted Mormon, practiced witchcraft and black magic prior to truly surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
How did you get started in ministry? My start in ministry began immediately after pastor/evangelist Benny Hinn called me out of a 1000+ member choir, as the power of God fell, in San Antonio, Tx. He laid hands on me, prophesying, and I believe imparted an anointing. Two days later, I was asked to share my story and preached my first message. I had been serving in my church Children’s ministry as a teacher of 125 four-year old’s every Sunday morning, because I wanted to be where there was a need, and evangelically to the homeless for a few years by this point. I was serving in Helps at that powerful San Antonio Crusade that night. I began with a hunger to serve; waiting on the Lord with nothing but desire.
The late, great John Osteen ordained you himself. What did it feel like to have such a man of God personally send you into ministry? What an honor! I have known that he would regularly delegate that area of ministry over to others in the church leadership structure. But John Osteen did not hesitate! He was always so supportive of our work before sending us out, for example when I served as City Organizer for the Global March for Jesus (1994,1995) for the City of Houston; by being so generous as to review my first manuscript on the horror of suffered sexual assault, and so much more. We were sons and daughters to him, as are many of us who were so ordained. I can only hope to fulfill the calling of being sent by such a globally experienced man of God, who humbly served our Lord. It was through his ministry that I was introduced to a personal relationship with Jesus, and how important it was to introduce others.
When writing books do ideas come in singularly or flood in? How do I organize? I’ve learned to always have something to write on that is devoted to my notes in writing; not something I have to squeeze important thoughts or impressions I believe to be from God, captured on the same paper my grocery list is on, for example. Most often, I will capture something that comes through so strongly, and with a flood of detail and important points that if I’m best prepared, I can come away with a really good outline, and foundation to build on in writing. Chapters can come from this! I cannot afford to hope to better organize it later, with so many other pressing areas of need, in daily life alone. Organization starts from the start!
Is there a particular book or devotional you’re proud of? They are all so special to me for very personal reasons, but in choosing one I would say, “Water Me, Lord!” is my heart. It’s a collection of writings that reflect years of trials, tragedies and triumphs, and all throughout one can see the strength and availability of God. The Chapter that sparked the book is written during a very dark and difficult time, when my life collapsed for multiple hardships and deathly encounters involving my children and church. The Chapter entitled, Touch My Coffin, Lord! was written for what happened at that time, and based on Luke 7:13-15 in the Bible. Water Me, Lord! became my prayer, after suffering such a parched place in being diagnosed with Major Depression, hence the title. It’s also the book that I believe the Lord used to launch me into this new time and season I am in.
Any new or upcoming new books coming late in 2016 or 2017? Currently on the table, I’ve been working on a book to directly address the sex crimes on campus, that would double as an informational weapon for campus students. Also, my first Children’s Book Series has just hit the sketches, in partnership with my 8-year-old granddaughter, Alize Joy. This is very exciting to me, personally, as I work toward leaving a legacy for my grandchildren, and new great-grandchild.
Who are some pastors or theologians you enjoy reading? Watchman Nee is an old favorite. The book I read that changed the way I pray, is John Osteen’s “There’s a Miracle in Your Mouth” … in less than one month of incorporating the structure learned in that little book, I was Divinely healed, after suffering for 30 months! I tend to gravitate to authors of subjects on the ministry gifts, anointing and presence of God.
Where do you go to find inspiration to write or prepare a sermon? Straight to my Bible first. If not to study a particular subject, then at least to stay filled with the Word of God so I can get the inspiration and revelation. It’s more information we need than inspiration. Inspiration comes from the information we have and know to be true, I believe. If I make the mistake of gathering from other individuals who have been inspired, I may resound their thoughts through what I write… I would rather go straight to the Source and resound what I receive, through what I write; meditating on those truths and how they can and will change people’s lives. The same goes for inspiration through televised programming; I would rather hear someone on television confirm through preaching, something I have already preached and not the other way around.
How did New Life Ministries come about? Halfway through my first book on my personal testimony, I “felt the baby jump”, so to speak. It jumped up in my spirit when writing the close of that book, not even having any recognized ministry at the time, and having no ordination. It was very fluid, and natural the way it came about; we were very active in helping people, especially the homeless. Our first church with a pulpit was located under the overpass of Houston’s US 59 at Congress where the George R. Brown Convention Center now stands. In fact, they booted us out! Homeless people built our first pulpit; prostitutes and train jumpers (Ho-Bo’s, as they called themselves), with our children at our side. This continued for at least three winters. Short story: one eventful Saturday in working with the homeless, we were told that we were going to have a visitor. A new man in the area. Come to learn he was one of America’s Top Wanted Fugitives known as the Hammer Man; having murdered his wife, and her parents and other family members up North, with the hammer he was still carrying; he had been on the run for years! Sure enough, he came to our church gathering for the homeless, under that bridge, gave his life to Jesus, and asked my husband to take him to turn himself in. Which he did.
Why the name New Life? What does it signify? It was a very definitive and fluid moment, when the name came to me. It captured the very essence of what we need, so often: a second, third, fourth chance; a fresh start and opportunity to make the wrong thing(s), right. A new life! I was at the end of my book, writing the About the Author page, when I titled an About the Ministry page; but there was still no ministry. It just fell in place.
How did the TV Ministry come about? A great door of opportunity opened through TBN in Houston (CET), followed by interview invitations to travel to Virginia’s 700 Club and Heart to Heart with Sheila Walsh, Daystar Network in Dallas with Joni Lamb and Daystar in Houston (English and Spanish). I worked at the Houston station for a while, working closely with many of the personalities we see today, continuing to travel and give televised interviews, LIVE! An opportunity with a small station starting out in Houston, presented itself. This allowed me to produce, design and direct the program I co-hosted with my husband, to the Spanish speaking Christian community (only we did it in English, with great success). I believe in gleaning as much information as I can, when given opportunities like this, and the accumulation of years working and being around studios, allowed me to help bring it to my ministry.
Why do you think healing is still relevant today? Far too many people are experiencing Divine healing, for it to be irrelevant or continually debated and ignored. One’s personal experience cannot be explained away. Healing is so needed. If Jesus said, ‘your faith has made you whole’ (and He did), then I would reason that the same lack-of-faith has made us everything but whole. What is one supposed to say when God’s power heals a person? It was said in Bible times those things came about by an evil power; yet, no good is found in evil. Healing is good!
What do you say to those who say the supernatural went away with the apostles? I say, then why are we still witnessing and experiencing the supernatural? We are surrounded by the supernatural, evil and good, and by those who operate in a supernatural ability with super-supernatural gifting’s and endowments from God. As for going away with the apostles; they never went away. The proof is all around us.
You are a ministry leader, pastor, a professional speaker, writer, blogger, among other things. Keeping up with these things must be difficult sometimes. Share some of your wisdom on dealing with each of these things when it is difficult. Stay transitional. More often than not, there is a difficult or challenging thing going on in some area of ministry, added to those already in daily life. Keeping in mind that our first ministry is to those under our own roof, and to our own family did not come naturally, or happen automatically, even though I knew it to be true. I have a very unique situation that has developed over the years, and is due to those very difficulties and learning to maneuver through them. I have been in full time ministry since 1989, when I received the Lord, leaving my job at TBN in Houston after my infant was injured in daycare. Full time, means exactly that, and many financial changes have had to take place to make that happen. Many, many sacrifices; but the rewards have superseded them all. A mistake many well-meaning people make is not realizing the sacrifice that must happen in order to be in full time ministry. This is full time ministry, with absolutely no salary or financial compensation on a regular basis. Fully trusting the Lord and not running to take out bank loans; a faith-walk that God honors. Money and time management have had to stay sharp and priority. Learning to work around babies, raise funds for projects, maintain a fully operational non-profit organization, small publishing branch, my line of natural soaps and products, and more, takes lots of rest and patience, too! Listen to your body! Learning to break away from places of stubborn difficulty, during a project like organizing a Spiritual Warfare Crusade, is so important to pacing yourself for the long road ahead. Volunteers are not compensated, and have to hold down full time employment, so it’s a tough place to continually find yourself in. Volunteers are the backbone of every Non-Profit Organization in our effort to allocate financial resources to complete projects without bank loans, etc. For large projects I work very closely with the clock and the calendar and have no personal phone to distract me. I got rid of my cell phone about 6 years ago! Break away and wrestle with the grandkids, jump in the car and go for an ice cream, do a 20-minute work out for a spurt of energy and get some blood flowing to my brain. Sometimes putting the troubled spot away overnight, helps too. I’m often up at 2 and 3 in the morning working on a project so it won’t cut into the time I need to serve the needs of my family and home. I am currently working on a phase that will launch our first Crisis Home for Young Moms. I just had another one come to me late last night (8/3/16); a single mom of three with a violent boyfriend caught in the red tape of the shelter system in our community, so she only needs a few weeks or so, of shelter. My current priority is to launch this Crisis Home for young moms like this one, who want to go back to school, and need help that is not coming from other resources, like shelters that are in place. Our Home helps keep the kids out of the Shelter-Rat-Race, providing a more home-like environment and personal experience for maximized growth and potential. Shelters cannot provide that. We are also working to acquire a ranch in the Texas hill country that will further expand our work and ability to make a difference in the lives of hurting people.
Tell us a little bit about how God has honed your leadership skills? Oh, gosh! Probably by determination to fulfill a vision others don’t immediately see, regardless of the little or no help situation(s) that come from time to time. If I see something that needs to be done, I was taught to do it. I don’t like to have to stand around and wait for someone to “get it”. It really bothers me and I treat it like the cousin to ignorance that it is. Avoidance bothers me. I am a troubleshooter, a strategist, often tactical. My years as a single mother had so much to do with making me a strong leader. I had to be the mom and dad for three little ones, two in diapers. I suffered stalking and was kept against my will by the point of a butcher-knife overnight, at the hands of a deranged ex-boyfriend. I had to outsmart the man, many times after escaping him, as he continued to stalk me for weeks. Hard and difficult times will force you to stay sharp and take the lead, whether you want to or not. In publishing, I had to take the lead in regards to getting my book in print, after nearly 20 years of waiting for another professionals’ approval. I buckled down, educated myself and founded my publishing branch through my non-profit organization. In addition to publishing books, I help with providing a non-profit organization with Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Charter, 501 (c)(3), Ordination, etc., saving them so much money, they can use on their organization instead.
Sadly, many women ministry leaders come under fire. What do you say to those who think women should not be in ministry leadership? For me, the majority who believe that way live by religious rule and law, avoiding the grace and power the Lord has chosen to demonstrate through women. As one can clearly see, God is not moved or controlled by those who believe that way. Women are greatly endued with power from God that man would prefer we not tap into. Why a full grown man would be so intimidated or feel threatened by a woman’s God given enabling, is beyond my ability to comprehend; but it happens that way nonetheless. There is so much need in this world… I am so grateful to have a husband who is not threatened by the anointing of God on my life, and has continued to bless me, to anoint my head with oil and ask God to use me and work His mercy and goodness through me to hurting people. We need more men of God like that. With my husbands’ blessing, I can run with fire from heaven! He is my covering, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We work together in this, and complement each other’s ministries. We often refer to ourselves as tag-team preachers. We are a husband and wife team, and I can only hope and pray more godly women have the same blessing.
Is there a particular woman in ministry or outside whose life inspires you? I’m always inspired by women who have had to fight their way through to have anything, even peace. Single mothers who sacrifice for their children and others, inspire me. That’s a ministry we have failed to recognized. A woman who refuses to settle for ‘no’ when God has already said ‘yes’, inspires me! A woman who speaks up for those who cannot speak for themselves, inspires me. A woman who takes on multiple jobs to provide for her family, or care for her ailing loved ones, or elderly parents, that inspires me. To be a woman on the frontlines of ministry today, is inspirational!
That concluded our interview. What an amazing story of God’s goodness and what He does through His people. Check out the links to Sandra Cerda’s ministry, YouYube Channel, Amazon page, blog, and also check out her Crisis Home GoFundMe if you would like to get involved.
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