Monday, July 1, 2013

Tested by Fire

Kelley Latta, Heather Budwell, and Juliet Sharrow
Tonight I had the best night! It was a God night. Ever have one of those? A time when you know without a shadow of a doubt that God ordained every detail of the event? Well, my God moment started a few months ago when I received a message via Facebook from an old high school friend whom I haven’t seen in over twenty years. I attended high school in Pennsylvania and haven’t returned since graduating in 1991. Thanks to social media I have had the opportunity to re-connect with several people from the past that I have not had the opportunity to see in many, many years.
My girlfriend, Juliet Sharrow, messaged me and excitedly informed me that she and her friend would be traveling to Saint Louis this summer to attend a conference downtown and wanted to know if I lived close enough to the city to have a reunion. I was ecstatic to think of seeing my friend again and yet fearful at the same time that it probably wouldn’t work out due to the busyness of life and schedules not coordinating and…well…kids! The months passed, the day arrived, and the schedules coordinated; the husband arrived home on time from work to watch the kids, and the reunion commenced! It was a wonderful evening of indulging on delicious gourmet tapas, fine wine and great conversation.
My girlfriend and her friend were in town attending the International Christian Retail Show. Juliet’s friend, Kelley Latta, is a dynamic Christian speaker, author and motivator to women all over the world (thanks to the Internet). I never knew Kelley during high school because she is from New Hampshire, but I did know her husband, Steve, and felt an instant connection to her as soon as I met her.
After sharing the stories of our lives and families, I realized they would make a great team to interview for RUBY! Here is what I discovered about their ministry and want to share with you.
Juliet Sharrow and Kelley Latta
Tell me about yourself, Kelley, and your ministry.
  • I live in Hanover, PA, with my husband, Steve, and our two teenage sons. My husband owns the local Ford dealership, and I was a stay-at-home soccer mom until I followed the Lord into ministry. I grew up in a Christian home and asked Jesus to be my Savior around the age of six. I had a very loving family who loved the Lord and each other, but I grew up frustrated in my Christianity, wondering why I didn’t experience any of the promises I heard about in God’s Word. After my husband and I had our first child, I was participating in a small group Bible study where God posed a question through the author, “Do you love Jesus?” I started to answer, “Yes,” without even thinking. I knew the right answer: of course! But at that moment the conviction of the Holy Spirit fell over me, and I saw what He saw. I didn’t love Him. I had been a pretender, living a lie. Through my entire life, I had not really known the Lord at all. I had Him in my head, but not in my heart. I could recite many bible verses, had the best church answer to any question, could hold my own in a religious debate, but I had never really encountered the Son of God. With a trembling hand, I confessed to the Lord, “No, I do not love you…but I want to.” Then I discovered the truth of John 5:39-40: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
As I pursued Jesus through His Word, Scripture began to come alive, and I began to change. I finally experienced the promises of Scripture coming forth in my life, and God began to stir a passion in my heart for His church. I remember returning to church and looking at the all people in the pews around me, and my heart broke for them to the point of tears thinking that they may be in the same boat I had been. Were they, too, missing the most precious relationship created because they were striving so hard to participate in religion? Were they as lost as I had been? I had been guilty of Matthew 15:8, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,” and I was fearful they were living the same way. It is my passion to encourage people to press in for God’s best. Don’t settle for allowing Jesus to remain a distant God who deserves worship, but is not known. Knowing Him is EVERYTHING.

  • How did your ministry develop?
My family attends Hanover First Church of God where my husband and I are both in leadership roles. I began by leading a Bible study in my home, and then I started helping out in women’s ministry. Soon I was teaching a ladies’ Sunday school class and speaking at some retreats and events. Through a God appointment, I was asked to speak at a new Christian woman’s conference in Florida. I had written a Bible study for our woman’s ministry team to go through together that was intended to deepen our faith individually and as a team and lead us into God’s plan. I felt God leading me to print the study to take to the conference to offer the attendees as a follow-up to what they learned that would keep them in the Word. That is where my book, Tested by Fire, was first released. It was God ordained and appointed. It was not my intention for this Bible study to go beyond our ministry team, but God had other plans.

  • What is your vision for the future of your ministry?
God has proven to go beyond our wildest dreams with this ministry. At this point, we are self-published. I guess the next step is to see if it is God’s will for the book to be picked up by a publisher. That is one of the main reasons we have traveled to Saint Louis to this convention. We are getting great exposure to many publishers and distributors. The feedback from our booth and book has been fantastic. We are just waiting on the Lord for our next step.

  • What is your role in the ministry, Juliet?
My role is to be Kelley’s right-hand woman and her traveling companion. I attend all her speaking engagements and help set up the booth, sell books, help with the ministry blog, bookkeep, and set speaking appointments. We are a great team. I have a story of God’s grace and redemption over my life as well and God has opened the doors for me to share my story at a woman’s conference where Kelley was speaking this past year. I know this is God’s plan for my life, and I look forward to seeing where He is taking us and the lives that will be changed for His glory though this ministry.

  • How can we learn more about your ministry?
You can visit our website  Kelley Latta Ministries for information on speaking topics and events. There you can also receive weekly encouragement from my teaching blog, Kelley’s Word on Wednesday, or purchase the Bible study, Tested by Fire, and our prayer journal/devotional book, Conversations with God, from our on-line store. You can also enter your email address to receive updates directly from our ministry. We will soon be launching a free online Bible study of Tested by Fire, and you can register to participate there as well. We believe God is calling us to bring His people back to Him. It is our prayer that you all would join us in this calling though participating in the Bible study and joining us in prayer.
Heather Budwell

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