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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

In God’s Perfect Time

By John W. Kennedy
May 8, 2011

When Annabel Navarrete Lopez married at age 20, she looked forward to starting a family through lessons learned by the spiritual foundation laid by her own parents. Isaias Navarrete and Maria Elena Navarrete not only taught at Latin America Bible Institute in El Paso, Texas (before the school moved to San Antonio), they also pastored Templo Sion where Annabel grew up and served as pianist from age 14.

Annabel’s new husband had attended the church with her for 10 years. After the couple wed, he served as Royal Rangers commander and youth director.

The couple tried to start a family, but Annabel couldn’t conceive. Doctors found nothing wrong medically with either Annabel or her husband. For five years, Annabel couldn’t get pregnant.

“I prayed to the Lord and poured out my desire to have a child, but it seemed that the Lord would not hear my prayer,” Annabel says.

Her husband worked at an electronics company in El Paso, but the firm moved him across the Mexican border to a branch in Juarez. His attendance at worship services began to dwindle.

“When he started missing church, I knew something was wrong,” Annabel says. “When he stopped coming home at night, I knew something was very wrong.”

Annabel’s husband finally confessed that he had moved in with a 17-year-old girl who worked with him at the Mexican plant.

“I was devastated; my heart was torn in two,” Annabel says. “I did not understand why I was going through this.”

Annabel’s mother, Maria Elena — who had given birth to a daughter who lived only an hour when Annabel was 9 — comforted her, telling her that God had everything under control. Then Maria Elena delivered what her troubled daughter found to be an ironic prophetic word: Annabel would give birth to children.

At 26, Annabel didn’t see how this could happen. She didn’t believe in divorce, and her husband had no intention of returning. She believed God had closed her womb for a reason.

Annabel moved to San Antonio and began attending One Way Chapel, the Assemblies of God church where her sister Mabel and brother-in-law David Segovia pastored. Then came devastating news.

Seven years after Annabel’s marriage, her husband was killed in a head-on car crash. A friend, slightly injured in the collision, reported that Annabel’s husband repented of his waywardness just before he died.

“My heart ached as it never ached before,” Annabel says. “I loved my husband, regardless of what had happened.”

At One Way Chapel, Annabel kept her faith in God. There she met Tony Lopez, the congregation’s youth director.

“I admired that everything he did he did with all his heart,” she recalls.

Tony, who had only been a Christian for two years, heeded his mother’s advice of praying to find a woman of godly character as his wife. He asked Annabel to be his girlfriend. After the couple had been dating for two months, Tony asked Annabel to marry him. She was 29; he was 22.

Annabel told Tony she couldn’t have children, but he said that didn’t matter.

“She had a lot of concern that she couldn’t have children,” Tony recalls. “I told her, ‘If God wants us to have kids, we will have kids.’”

Three months after their August 1990 wedding, the couple attended a youth ministry conference. The evangelist leader, Tim Storey, issued an altar call to pray for infertile couples, and Tony and Annabel responded. Annabel conceived that week.

“I then remembered that I had prayed for this child, and God now answered my prayer,” she says. “God knows the perfect timing.”

In August 1991, Annabel, then 31, gave birth to Robert Erick Lopez. In 1993, at 33, she gave birth to Jeremy Isaiah Lopez.

“They are the miracle children that we have been blessed with, and they know that they were sent for a special purpose,” Annabel says.

Segovia, who has been Annabel’s brother-in-law for 26 years and pastor for 20, says she is the epitome of a godly, loving mother.

“She takes every opportunity as a teaching moment for her children,” Segovia says. “She also has a lesson to be learned from every kind of experience. She holds firm to principles and faith and tries to transmit that to her children.”

In 2005, Annabel became anemic after suffering from heavy bleeding. Her doctor recommended a hysterectomy because of fibroid tumors. But an X-ray revealed a more serious problem. The surgeon told Annabel he was 99 percent sure she had lymphoma. Tony and Segovia believed in the 1 percent and laid hands on Annabel and prayed for her healing.

During surgery, doctors discovered a football-sized tumor weighing five pounds had attached itself to and wrapped itself around one of Annabel’s kidneys. She needed a blood transfusion and nearly died on the operating table. Although Annabel lost a kidney, she had no cancer elsewhere.

“We serve a God who is powerful enough to change any diagnosis,” Annabel says. “As I look back on my life, I see the Lord’s direction.”

“She believed in God and never doubted,” says Segovia, who pastors the church now named El Salvador since a merger with One Way Chapel in 1992. “She’s a victor; she refuses to be a victim.”

Segovia commends Annabel for serving as a Sunday School teacher, girls ministries leader, youth pastor and worship team member during her years at the church.

In April, Tony — who graduated from Bible school in 2007 — and Annabel began serving as pastors at the new English-speaking church plant of El Salvador. Robert plays bass on the worship team at the new church, and Jeremy operates the PowerPoint presentations.

Tony believes Annabel was blessed to grow up in church with godly parents, who now live in Big Foot, Texas.

Although Isaias Navarrete is retired, he still preaches occasionally, and Maria Elena continues to teach Sunday School. Annabel’s three sisters — Mabel Segovia, Elda Escobedo and Elsa Espinosa — all graduated from Latin America Bible Institute as well as Southwestern Assemblies of God University and are now involved in ministry.

“Annabel’s faith is much stronger than mine,” Tony says. “A lot of the time she straightens me out, pointing out that God has pulled us through much worse than what we might be going through now.”

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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