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"And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him, because of the word of the woman who testified."
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony..."Revelation 12:11
Executive Director and Founder
Sitting here, drinking Russian tea, in my beautiful “Tree House” on Signal Mountain, looking out over the lazy Tennessee River with Lookout Mountain silhouetted in the background and the city of Chattanooga nestled below, memories flood back to me, reminding me of my many days of living and traveling abroad. In Taipei, Taiwan, my son and I lived in Wellington Heights up on a mountain similar to Lookout Mountain. There were 150 wives whose husbands, like mine, with the Embassy and State Department, were serving in Viet Nam. With our children, we lived in 150 large rambling white Spanish villas, with red tiled roofs, that overlooked the little sleepy village of Shu Lin in the valley below. There was always a warm tropical breeze blowing from the azure blue ocean nearby. I can still hear the music of the wind chimes from the hundreds of balconies.
These are all beautiful misty water colored memories that come back to me.....
I’ve walked the shorelines of many oceans and seas. Awakened to the sun rise over Rome, giving the ancient city an illusion of golden gleaming amber and bronze, with the Vatican and Sistine Chapels silhouetted in the background.
I’ve watched the sun set over the oldest city in the world, Istanbul, listening to the haunting chant of a Moslem prayer, echoing from the gracefully domed mosques with slender minarets, reflected in the Bosporus Sea, between the Black Sea and the Sea of Mamara.
I’ve traced the footsteps of Paul where he once preached Christianity on the
At night I’ve ridden in the romantic horse drawn carriages down the streets of Paris, along the beautiful Seine River, as floodlights shone on Paris’ many magnificent palaces and monuments. This gleaming beauty of Paris has given it the name “City of Light.”
I’ve sat on the shoreline beside the Mediterranean Sea in Madrid, building sand castles with my beautiful baby daughter.
Strolling the cobblestone streets of London, along the River Thames, I marveled at the grand architecture of famous buildings, that were reminders, linking the present to the past, reminiscent of exciting scenes out of English literature and drama I loved so much as a young girl.
My son, and I, have seen many of the wonders of the world....Visited the famous art museums including the Louvre and the Prado.
Once you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Tokyo Tower in Japan, visited the Buddhist and Chinese temples and pagodas, explored the Turkish Mosques where sultans, their harems and children are buried, with rolls and rolls of carpet eerily, hauntingly covering the caskets and tombs...Once you’ve seen all of this, you can’t help but change and grow...To reach out and touch the world, and be touched by the many cultures of foreign lands. God expands your perspective, boundaries and horizons unbelievably so.
I’ve seen the reputed head of John the Baptist... And the largest uncut diamond in the world... Seen famous treasures, jewelry, priceless gems and artifacts, solid gold and diamond egg cups, diamond, emerald and ruby crowns, all thousands of years old, from the Turkish Ottoman Empire. I’ve gazed in wonder at the lovely statues, jade carvings, cloisonne, porcelain and bronze artifacts from the Ming, Tang and Sung dynasties, a glimpse of the Orient’ s ancient past and history.
How could one ever forget the magnificent snow covered Alps in Switzerland? Or the National Palace in Madrid, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and the stately Buckingham Palace with the royal changing of the guard in London?
Sights...Smells... Sounds all take me back from time to time to the mysterious beautiful Orient. The lush jade green island of Taiwan. The sweet smell of the delicate white ginger flowers and jasmine. The pungent aroma of garlic, onion and peppers cooking in peanut oil in the open air fruit and vegetable markets. The wrinkled, smiling faces of old men crossing the crowded, busy streets with flocks of geese, oxen carts, and hundreds of young men in pedicabs, rick shawls and bicycles carrying “honey-buckets.” The beautiful, graceful, glistening sampans and the sleepy little fishing villages along the ocean coast.
The young couples held their elders in such high esteem for their wisdom. Grandparents would care for their babies and children, while the young men and women worked all day in the hot sun in the rice paddies, with coolie hats on their heads, and bare feet in mud up to their knees.
These are the golden, gleaming, memories of warm sunshine days and cool breezy tropical nights and of cherished friends, places, and foreign cultures that have changed my life forever.
My children’s father worked with the Agency For International Development with the State Department. We lived and traveled overseas where we entertained and were entertained royally. We attended Embassy dinner parties, where I was introduced to foreign ambassadors and dignitaries. I was so enthralled by it all, as “a little hick from Alabama,” that played “ the little hick from Arkansas,” Nellie Forbush, when I was member of a professional theatrical group, and worked with directors and actors from all over the world.
I was member of both the Taiwan and Turkish American Theatres and sang with the Turkish National Symphony. I remember thinking, like the lines of the song, “If they could see me now, that old gang of mine!”
Born and raised in the South, the middle daughter, with four sisters, my Mother, now 91, is a true Southern lady. She would bathe us every Saturday night in a big tin tub, next to a Warm Morning coal stove, which heated our big house. She would roll all of our long hair into ringlet curls, and dress us on Sunday mornings in lovely pastel dresses she had made, sitting up long hours of the night. And she would march us down the aisle of a small Southern Baptist church, seating us in a row, beside her. If any of us misbehaved, talked or wrote notes, she would pinch us on the shoulder with her long nails. Then we would really get it when we got home! My mother is five feet of dynamite. She has very short arms. But somehow she would reach those arms down the bench to the very last one of us to correct and discipline us. I still smile about that to this day. And while living and traveling overseas, if I was even tempted or thought in any way of doing something in the least bit wrong, I’d still feel her stinging “pinch” across the thousands of miles!
At seven years old, I remember being touched by the Holy Spirit, drawing me to Jesus. With no prompting at all from anyone, I found my shy little self walking down what seemed to be a very long aisle, to the altar of our little church. I knew exactly what I was doing when I was led in a prayer to receive Jesus into my young and tender heart. I knew without a doubt how much Jesus loved me. My sisters and I would all sing “Jesus Loves Me” and other children’s songs and old hymns together. Although shy, with all of us together on a stage, I felt very strong and confident! And I continued studying vocal and music throughout all the years. This led later to a professional career in Vocal and Stage Performance, both as actress, singer, teacher and instructor. Several years ago I was Director of my own Performing Arts School.
Although I have many good memories of childhood, and my sisters and I were very loving and close, our family was in reality very dysfunctional. In later years, my oldest sister said, “We took the ‘fun’ out of dysfunctional.” My father was an alcoholic and when my baby sister was six, he abandoned my Mother and his five daughters. My Mother went to work as a nurses aid, and many times it was difficult for her to put food on our table. I was born with a very joyful, vibrant, free, creative spirit, always with an optimistic smile on my face, and looked at the world through “rose colored glasses.” But by the time I was in sixth grade, my nickname from the boys, as children can sometimes be so cruel, was “Smiley.” Because I never smiled. I was a straight-A student. An overachiever. And a perfectionist. Also a bit obsessive-compulsive about order and cleanliness. I have since learned as I advise my students, “Aim for excellence, not perfection.”
Throughout these years, while I was not often encouraged in creative art or writing which I loved, there were teachers that saw the creative talents God had given to me. And although at times, I felt very unloved or unnurtured at home, I knew that Jesus loved me, with an everlasting love. I understood how hard life with five little girls was for my Mother. Unfortunately, she had no idea who she was in God, nor who He was in her. Nor did she understand the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit, nor understand God’s promises to give her an abundant life, filled to overflowing with the fullness of God. She was angry and depressed much of the time. This plus the hardship of working, took up most of her time and drained her energy, so she had little left to give us.
At fifteen God called me into full-time Christian Ministry. All I knew or was told in those days in the fifties was that young men were called to be ministers and young women were called to be missionaries. No one told me I could be a missionary wherever God planted me. No one told me that I had my own unique divine design and destiny. God had blessed me with talents in music, art and drama. And I didn’t know how He could use those talents in the deepest darkest jungles of Africa, where I just knew He’d have me go! And also I loved the fact that God had created me a female, with a love for fashion, interior design, homemaking, and I looked forward to being a wife and mother, first and foremost. Even at that young age I loved baking, babies and beautiful homes. And to me this was the essence of who I was, and of being a woman. I wish that someone had told me about the true essence of Jesus living inside me. That Christ would empower and equip me with all I needed to succeed in doing His perfect will and carrying out His plan for my life. And that as a young woman, I had the authority to claim and call forth things that were not as though they were.
So, fearfully I ran, simply because no one, parents, pastors, teachers, counselors advised me of what I now know. God created each and everyone of us unique individuals, and for a divine purpose that only we can fulfill. God’s plan would have been to use my talents and gifts in Christian music and drama ministry. Or I could have pursued a career as a music drama teacher. God can and does bestow just as much anointing on teachers (and all in the marketplace) as He does on missionaries or ministers. I also knew nothing about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, because in our Baptist Church, we were taught that these gifts had ceased.
It was just at this time that I started dating a young man who was not a Christian. I have written and taught a Christian Charm Course for many years to young women and have told them, you can love a non-Christian as well as a Christian. But God does not want us unequally yoked. And so I ran, not understanding God’s perfect will or plan for my life.
Years later we were married, and while we were in school at Auburn University, our first child, a son, was born. You would have thought I was the first woman on God’s good Earth to have a baby. I loved being a Mother. We moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where my husband worked with Shell Oil. Then a few years later, when my son was two, my husband took a position with Agency for International Development with the State Department and we moved to Washington, D.C. From there we lived in Bogota’, Columbia, South America, Taipei, Taiwan, and Ankara, Turkey.
We traveled extensively and vacationed in Paris, Rome, London and Lisbon. I learned much about entertaining, protocol and social graces from wonderful older friends and mentors. I studied the language, culture, art and cuisine of each country and became a gourmet cook. We collected wonderful original art, Oriental and European treasures, and originally designed and handcrafted, ornately carved teak and rosewood furniture. I had wonderful jewels, haute-couture fashions from Paris, and a live-in maid, cook and ampere. In Ankara, I studied oils and watercolors with renowned artist, Gerasim’Bey, a white Russian. And I took Chinese brush painting in Taiwan.
While living in Ankara, a few days before my son's sixth birthday, I gave birth and welcomed my beautiful daughter into my exciting and somewhat glamorous world, making my dreams come true, as I had always wanted two children, a son and daughter. Her name is Celtic and means “love and grace.” And she has always been full of God’s love and grace. I thanked God for my beautiful children, then as I do now each and every day. I had so much time to devote to them. I marveled and reveled in motherhood.
My life of luxury and contentment could have been perfect! But sadly it was far from it. I felt so far away from my country, my family, and especially from my God. Although I loved professional theatre, and threw myself into it each time I performed on stage, when the curtain came down, I felt empty and drained. Finally I came to the end of myself and knew that I had to quit running from stark reality.
This seems like another life time ago. With all the Embassy dinners, parties and entertaining overseas, the alcohol flowed. And much to my horror I realized that my children’s father was an alcoholic. He refused to go through rehabilitation, although the State Department was very lenient and offered professional counseling. For many years, our lives had been chaotic and in great upheaval. The enemy tried to steal and kill and destroy. With all the stress, strain, instability and uncertainty, my health began to suffer, physically and emotionally. I lost weight down to a very anorexic ninety eight pounds and I am a tall woman. After trying to take care of an alcoholic, in a co-dependent relationship, I knew that I needed to first of all take care of myself, so I could take care of my babies. I came to the grave conclusion that I would have to leave my husband to assure that both my children and I were in a safer place, and to give them more peace, stability and security. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.
And so sadly, reluctantly, when my children were eight and two, the officials with State Department, encouraged and helped me to leave Turkey. I packed up my bags, my babies and my dog, Shia Bai Gou, (little white dog in Chinese) and came back to America. I had only $25.00 in my Gucci bag. Somehow although my life and dreams were shattered into a million pieces, at the lowest most devastating time in my life, I knew that my God would see me through. He gave me strength, courage and hope to face a painful divorce. God promises that He will never leave nor forsake. My life’s scripture had always been, “For with God nothing is impossible.” Matthew 17:20 I clung to Him, His Word and His promises that I love. My only hope was in God.
God blessed me abundantly. He opened doors for me in advertising, marketing and television and radio communications. I will share at another time all the things God did to bless and sustain me throughout this time. Although I still most certainly do not in any way condone divorce, for those of you that have gone through it, I understand and want to tell you there is hope and healing in the Lord.
For many years I have written many messages and have taught and counseled on marriage God’s way. As a younger woman I taught and counseled teen age girls. Eventually their Mothers and Grandmothers asked for seminars. From these messages God has poured into me for many years, will come other messages for Aspire Ministries. I have a heart for children, and young women. My heartfelt desire is to mentor and reach out to women of all ages in celebration of the coming together of generations. This is God’s commandment to us older women in Titus 2.
I mentored women for years, before I understood the full meaning. God has been preparing me for a time such as this. Throughout these years since returning to the States, I have taught all ages in Sunday School, led Children’s Choirs, and served in many capacities as teacher and leader within church ministry.
God blessed me with a wonderful husband, Alexander Theodore Bontemps whom I have been married to for thirty-teo years. He is a very gifted, talented creative writer, cinematographer and producer/director of television. Together he and I have adapted many Christian musicals to television. At the present time we are producing, directing and filming a script for redefining Children’s Ministry in the 21st Century.
Nine years ago, I received Baptism of the Holy Spirit. God manifested Himself to me in such a powerful way that it totally changed my life forever. I will share this with you sometime. There was such healing and restoration from grief and guilt that I had carried for years since my divorce. Too many women remain victims all their lives, instead of taking back their rich inheritance in who God created them to be, that the enemy stole from them. You too, can take back your dreams and aspirations! It was at this time that I totally surrendered my life to God, making Him Lord of my life. Spending intimate time with Jesus, the lover of my soul, every day.
This began a new journey into the very heart of God for me! And this is when God gave me the Mentoring vision which has now become a reality. God loves us with an everlasting love. And He is a God of second chances. And He completes the good work within us, when we learn to hear His voice and we are obedient. I began to want God more than anything. The Bible tells us when we draw near to God He draws near to us. And to “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
Seven years ago, God gave me an awareness of a new movement on the horizon. There is a great and mighty wave of His Holy Spirit crossing America. God is calling forth the mature “spiritual mothers” women of wisdom and spiritual maturity to come forward in the body of Christ. I have written more on this in my dedication to Ann Platz, on “Guardians of the Gate”.
And it was six years ago that I met Ann and she gave me a powerful impartation, as Holy Spirit gave her words of knowledge that she graciously and lovingly spoke into me, encouraging me for my next level of anointing. Ann told me that God was raising me up a Deborah, with a new calling on my life. I had always related to Deborah, as a singer, song writer, poet, teacher and counselor. I did not understand anything about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, nor that of prophet. So this challenged me, because I never considered myself bold or courageous, to become a “mighty warrior woman of God.” I began a quest for more knowledge, wisdom and counsel from God, and to understand more fully the gifts of His Holy Spirit, seeking Him with all my soul, spirit and mind.
I attended John Paul Jackson’s Stream Ministries, “The Art of Hearing God,” and “Dreams and Visions.” Then I studied and taught Mark Vickler’s “Communion With God.” God was stretching me. He opened up my spirit, heart, eyes and ears to hear Him. God wants that kind of close relationship with us. And He wants to walk and talk with us each and every day.
It was at this time also that I had a difficult situation in my life that was very painful and hurtful. I had come to the end of myself, which is what God wants from us, and I knew that I could not “fix” the situation. That only God could. I was crying out to God one day and asking Him how long I had to wait for reconciliation of a broken relationship of a close family member. I heard in almost an audible voice, “Sandra, you need to thank me for this circumstance. You are to thank me for all circumstances!” I cried out to God in total despair and grief, and told Him that I didn’t think I could do that! But again, I heard Him say, “Thank me!” So in total submission and obedience, regardless of my feelings, I began to thank Him out loud. All of a sudden I began speaking in another tongue.
My obedience to God, my thanking Him, released the supernatural power of His Holy Spirit. Not only did I know that God was pleased with me, but what a precious sign, wonder and manifestation of His Holy Spirit. He gave me such a gift! And with the prayer language that flowed amazingly out of my mouth, I felt such release, liberty and freedom. Healing and restoration! I had wrapped myself in God’s glorious garment of praise, and received victory in Jesus! I claimed the promise that restoration was on the way.
It was that very evening also, as I was praying and thanking God for His gift of Jesus, and for my personal prayer language, that He took me to Isaiah 61, giving me a new life scripture, confirmation to my calling from the time I was fifteen years old.
Before this for many years, my life scripture I would give before I spoke or sang, was
Isaiah 12:2-5 “ ‘Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid; For YAH, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’ Therefore with joy you will draw from the wells of salvation. And in that day you will say; Praise the Lord; Call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples. Make mention that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord For He has done excellent things. Let this be known throughout all the earth.”
And so God confirmed and spoke to me through His Word once again, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me. Because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted; To proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn; To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3
These were words for Jesus. And Jesus spoke these words to us. He told us that when He went back to His Father, that God would send His Holy Spirit, to empower us. So we could do even greater things than He did! He commissioned us as his disciples to go into all the world preaching and teaching the gospel, and healing the sick.
God calls us to be rooted and grounded in His love. To have a personal intimate relationship with Jesus. He calls us to repentance and obedience. And Godliness and sanctification, refinement for His Kingdom purposes. God wants to give us edification and empowerment of His Holy Spirit and release all the gifts of the Spirit. God wants us to walk in His holy anointing so He can take us to a new level of authority and effectiveness to share the gospel and love of God to evangelize and further His Kingdom. So we can live the abundant life and know the righteousness in Christ.
Four years ago, God brought Janis Smith and me together. As you will read in her dedication to me in “Guardian of the Gate,” I became her Spiritual Mother Mentor and she my beloved Spiritual Daughter. This has certainly been, as Ann Platz wrote in her wonderful definition of a mentor and mentoree, a perfect “match made in Heaven.” God has given me a keen sense of discernment which I call my radar to recognize and know those younger women that He wants me to personally mentor. God draws me to them and them to me and it is divine!
Janis has become my mighty prayer partner, treasured friend, and now my ministry partner. We both will be sharing the remarkable “journey into the very heart of God” that we have traveled together. It has been quite an unbelievable pilgrimage. Together we have stormed the gates of Heaven, praying “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. On Earth as it is in Heaven.” Matthew 6:10 And praying begets prayer. We have seen such wonderful manifestations of God’s Holy Spirit. He has given us fresh new anointing as He pours out of His Spirit as He promised to do. New dreams and visions. New vitality and passion to honor and serve Him. And we give Him all the praise and glory! God has given us a healing ministry together. And our heartfelt desire is to help women to lead victorious lives, and receive balance and healing, spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Both Janis and I at that time immersed ourselves in the powerful teachings of such mighty anointed prophetic men and women of God including Graham Cooke, James Goll, Chuck Pierce, John Paul Jackson, Bob Jones, Ryan Wyatt, Patricia King, Jeff Jansen, Heidi Baker, Paul Keith Davis and Bill Johnson. Following the teachings of these God chasers catipulted us very quickly forward and accelerated our walk with God. This is what God is doing today, because He is bringing together a mighty army of men and women, who will be totally surrendered, and empowered to bring Glory to His Kingdom in these latter days.
God wants to reclaim what is His. Through Jesus Christ His son we receive salvation. And to those of us who know Jesus as our personal Savior and have made Him Lord of our lives, God will give the gifts of His Spirit and His seven-fold Spirit of the Lord, Wisdom. Knowledge. Counsel. Might. Understanding. And the fear of God, translated “awe and reverence.” Now you can receive that break-through and overcome many obstacles that have hindered you for as long as you can remember! No matter who you are, no matter where you have been or what you have done, God will restore you and give you back your dreams, your divine destiny as He has to me!
My prayer is that all of you will want God more than anything in your lives. We are called to be co-laborers with Him. The scripture Aspire Ministries has chosen, as a powerful decree straight from God’s Word, to you, is Ephesians 3:16:21. We pray that you will know the fullness of God’s love, the amazing grace of Jesus, and the supernatural power of God’s Holy Spirit.
In these latter days, God is calling us all to a new level of prayer, faith, devotion, service and ministry. Join us as we inspire you to “aspire to be all that God created you to be.” You can live a remarkable life of faith, to the glory and honor of God.
We want to help teach, train, encourage, motivate, impart and challenge you to claim your rich inheritance in Christ. I am so grateful that God has brought Janis and other women that you will meet and get to know, into Aspire Ministries. We look forward to helping you to walk through God’s Kingdom Gate. There has been a great shift in the Heavens. What God is doing in the supernatural realm He is doing in the natural realm. God tells us in Psalm 24:7-10 “Lift up your heads O ye gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors. And let the King of Glory come in.Who is this King of Glory? The Lord, strong and mighty. The Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates! Lift up you everlasting doors! And the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of hosts. He is the King of Glory!”
God wants to reign supremely as Lord over your lives in stronger and mightier ways than ever before. He wants to rain down his Glory. What infinite possibilities are waiting for YOU just beyond the gate! Lift up your hearts and voices in worship and praise to the King of kings!
With God’s help, and the guidance of His Holy Spirit, Aspire Ministries will challenge, excite and encourage women throughout our community, throughout the nations and across the world, to join together in UNITY as we pass God’s torch down from generation to generation. We are all called to be Kingdom Women Gate Keepers, “Guardians of the Gate.”
Our desire is to see a multitude of women raised up, equipped and empowered to love and mentor other women. I am convinced that if we answer this call, that no longer will so many need to go to counselors. Marriages can be saved. Families restored. Relationships mended. Illnesses go into remission. Depression turn to joy. And spiritual, emotional and physical healing will be greater than anything we can imagine! We may declare and decree it so! In the loving Name of Jesus. And by the authority of His blood and atonement and the power of His resurrection, “In Him we live and move and have our being!” Acts 17:28
In closing I do want to tell you women that as much as I love speaking, singing, writing, teaching, counseling, mentoring and ministry work, one of my greatest loves is being a Grandmother, to my beautiful enchanting Grandblessings.Their endearing name for me is “Ahma.”. They are tremendous blessings in my life, such great joy and precious gifts from God. So when it comes right down to it, women, if you asked me what I love most about being a woman, I will still answer after all of these years, “I love basking in God’s glorious love and spending intimate time with Jesus. I love God’s Word. His Ways. And His Works. They are inseparable. And I love being a wife, mother and grandmother. My greatest joy in all the world is ‘ basking, baking and babies.’ These are the evergreen places in my heart.
Blessings and Grace,
Guardian of the Gate
You may subscribe here to InJesus,
our additional site,
for weekly encouraging words
from Aspire Ministries.