While her Navy husband is overseas defending our freedom, military wives like Tessa Cruz are at home making sacrifices of their own.
Tessa never dreamed that she would be a military wife. In fact, when her husband joined the military, she tried to talk him out of it. "I tried ... but God had other plans. My dad told me that I cant take a mans dream. It was like God spoke through my dad."
Tessa's husband joined the Navy. Their first military stop-- Virginia Beach. There, they had a normal family life. Tessa calls it "Cupcake Season."
And even though we were thousands of miles away from our families, she was able getting to know God again through their church.
They moved to San Diego a few years later. The Rock was one of the first churches Tessa visited. She still went to visit 12 other churches before she decided to call the Rock her church home. "I liked the Rock because it was a doing church.."
Tessa couldn't help but notice that there wasnt a specific place for military wives. While they fit into a lot of groups, there was nothing that ministered to their unique needs.
"I would come [to meetings] and sit in the back. I checked out ministries, but nothing really fit. I tried Pebbles because I had worked with youth before. But I kept hearing God say wait."
Tessa started meeting the wiwves of her husbands co-workers. In August 2005, they started a weekly Bible study. The eight women studied how to be a military wife from a biblical perspective. The Bible study group grew closer because none of them had family in the area. They would babysit for one another, give rides, and cook meals together. The small close-knit group grew to 15 small groups.
Out of the small groups, Tessa and the other wives started a 'meet-up group'. They planned outreach-focused activities to do together including cooking classes, craft days, and movie nights. They share and communicate through prayer and message boards. Currently, there are more than 175 people that come to the meet-up group.
"The biggest challenge is that everything is so temporary. People leave on deployment or new people will come. The group is constantly changing."
Everything was running smoothly for the military small groups. Then the storm moved in.
There was a wave of deployment. Many of the husbands are Navy Seals, so they were serving in dangerous situations.
The challenges of maintaining a home while their husbands were away took the women to an even deeper level with each other and their relationship with God. They prayed together, cried together, and picked each other up.
Tessa recalls one of her breaking points, "During this time, I broke down in front of one of the leaders that I mentored. She was there to comfort me. It was then that I saw the real picture of what this ministry is all about."
It was also during this time that the group started experiencing conflict. There was criticism, gossip, and division. Tessa was experiencing her own inner conflicts and sunk into a mild depression. But even in the midst of this storm, she knew to stay obedient to God.
"I desperately wanted to quit and go back to cupcake season, where everything was so easy. I learned to be obedient even when other people questioned the vision God had given me. When I was going through this tough time, other women stepped up and continued to do ministry."
When Tessas husband returned from deployment she says the adjustment was difficult. But they both refused to quit on their marriage or on God. She now looks back on this period of her life as a blessing. She now has a perspective what 90% of military families experience. She finds she has much to share when she ministers to them.
"God has shown me to serve where you are at and whatever season you are in-calm or crisis-and to be obedient to Him."
In April 2008, God restored Tessa from her depression. A few months later, Tessa once again accepted the challenge of leading the ministry. God provided her with an amazing group of leaders, who spearhead the nine segments of the Military Ministry.
The military ministry has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of troops and their families. The ministry collects and assembles care packages. Sends Bibles overseas. Serves as big sisters to new military wives-- basically they come along side military families where ever they are needed.
Tessa's experience shows her where the needs are even before a family asks for help.
"I didnt wake up and say I love the military. God has shown me to serve where you are at and whatever season you are in-calm or crisis-and to be obedient to Him."