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From Tragedy to Legacy | Q&A with World Changer Patty Moreno

Last month we put out the call for nominations for our second-annual World Changer Quest. We asked you to tell us about sisters you know who are acting as world changers right where they are. And you did not disappoint! Thank you for sharing the names of those women you’ve watched take the next step, who’ve done that hard thing in order to be a world changer for good.

We count it our great privilege to introduce to you one of these World Changers, Patty Moreno has used a personal tragedy and a spirit of faithfulness to touch the lives of thousands. 

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Patty, welcome to the blog! First, please tell the Sisterhood a bit about yourself: where you live, the people you love, and what you love to do.

Due to our most recent adventure, we’ve recently made apartment-living our fun reality in Liberty Lake, Washington. I have been married to my sweet husband, Gary, for thirty-four years. We have four grown children, three of which are now married. In the past five years our family grew from six to fifteen human beings. I would be lying if I didn’t say Moreno madness is a ‘real thing’ thing. We have six grandbabies, ages four and under. It doesn’t take a huge imagination to picture family gatherings around our home. My favorite things in life are hunting for great coffee spots with my husband, jogging down a trail, camping and boating in God’s glorious creation.. Any chance I get, I take off on long bike rides with a few friends.

You used a tragic, life-changing event to help other women walk through grief. Can you tell us more about that?

We all face those days in life that change the rest of our days! My life changed forever the morning the high-pitched wail of an approaching ambulance ripped through a still winter hush. Neighbors lined the streets like people watching a parade. Why was an ambulance arriving at the home of the youngest couple on the block? Our seven-month old, perfectly healthy Karissa—our only, beloved daughter—had become entangled in her blankets at some point in the night—blankets that stole her last breath. The paramedics’ failed attempts to resuscitate our baby girl left me to navigate life in a cruel and colorless world, carrying with me the remaining, misshapen shards of a shattered heart.

Yet, it was during those black and suffocating days that Jesus demonstrated my irreplaceable value–even in my ugliest brokenness. My experience through suffering—more importantly, my intimate journey towards wholeness in Christ when He carried me moment by moment through the chaos—has become a doorway of hope for hundreds of women. This doorway has helped them find courage to inhale Jesus’ pure oxygenated grace and place their own shattered lives into His capable and unfailing hands. This doorway has allowed a generation to see the way Jesus can rewrite futures from the foulest of circumstances.

(Editor’s note: More of Patty’s story can be found here.)

What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?

I spent months searching for a reason for our suffering. Why Karissa? Her life had been a divine miracle in my non-functioning body. Two tumors on my pituitary gland prohibited my body from developing or generating a monthly reproductive cycle. So, when Gary and I discovered we had conceived, we knew, without a doubt, God had a very special calling on this child. As an infant in my arms, I sensed the Holy Spirit whispering to me her life would reach thousands. The day Karissa passed away, I was convinced Jesus MUST raise her from the dead. His work through her life wasn’t finished. He would, most definitely, be glorified through her resurrection. It was the only way I could rationalize His ability to make good on his promise.

What I know now is that God’s ways are so much higher than our ways. Not one of His good promises will ever fail. Karissa’s life was not snuffed out one day or one moment before God’s intended purpose. Psalm 139:16 says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

I am convinced when Karissa arrived home in heaven, she heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into my rest.” Her life had accomplished every purpose He created her to complete. She has reached more lives around the world than I can number, not in her living, but through her dying—through Christ’s work alive in me. When we feel most forsaken, like our lives have been hidden from God’s love and care, He declares, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Even if she could forget, I cannot forget you,” declares the Lord. “See I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands. Your walls are ever before me.” Isaiah 49:15-16.

What I know now is God has a tat, and my name is on it—by the way, so is yours! He will never forget us!

At the Open Door Sisterhood, we like to encourage women to do the hard things, to be world changers for good “right where they are.” As one who has done just that, what specific encouragement would you give women looking to take that next step toward what God has called them to do?

I have made it my aim to say “Yes” to Jesus every day. For those who yearn to see God’s power alive in this generation, I am absolutely convinced, He is sitting on the edge of his seat, waiting to include us in opportunities to partner with him daily in God-sized activity. The challenge for me has been to keep a pace where I can pause long enough to recognize those opportunities when they present themselves. I’m really not much of a strategist (I’ve always wished I was wired that way), but I am an opportunist. I hate to miss out on an opportunity staring me in the face. I have learned when I take hold of them, without concerning myself with the outcomes. When I do. I find my feet in places and on pathways I would never dream of. For me saying yes to Jesus has often looked like responding to a stranger whose child was tragically killed, or a wife whose husband died unexpectedly. I pay attention to the local news and newspaper. Often, individuals who know my story, reach out to alert me of an individual who has just entered the inky black journey of suffering. I say yes to these opportunities with the same gusto I say yes when I receive a random phone call from an individual who’s listened to one of my messages and invites me to speak at a women’s conference overseas where women from several countries will be gathered. Jesus has helped me to recognize one opportunity is not more important than the other. The success comes in our obedience to say yes when the Spirit of God prompts us to step up, even amidst our insecurities and doubts.

We are so ‘results-oriented’ as a culture. We measure our success by the results we are seeing from our activity.. I have struggled with this and have often let go of dreams or things I know Jesus called me to simply because I wasn’t getting the results I had hoped for. I am learning to step forward in unquestioning obedience. I want to operate in life with a pure motivation, out of my passionate love for Jesus, laying the results at his feet. It requires daily trust to leave the results with him.

It seems you also know a bit about sacrifice and acts of faith in your quest to follow the Lord’s leading. Would you be willing to share with us some of what has happened in your life these last few years?

Several years ago I ran across a prayer, written in the 1700s by a young man, David Brainerd, “O God, let my life make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.” That prayer is the daily anthem of my life. God’s generous love toward me amidst suffering, and His undeserved favor have ruined my life for the ordinary. I don’t have many goals beyond one overarching one: When I come to the end of my life, I want to be able to say, “Jesus, I held nothing back.”

I probably miss the mark more than I hit it, and a couple of years ago that over-arching goal was tested. My husband and I attended a ministry conference, when the superintendent of the Northwest Ministry Network of Churches felt prompted to share a goal of planting 100 churches in the next ten years. Totally on board with that vision, I quickly began praying for all of the “young” leaders in the room, never once supposing God would include us in this vision. (I did mention, we are now grand-parents, right?) Surely God wouldn’t ask us to give up our secure ministry positions, and the wide influence we were experiencing to start over! Besides the timing was all wrong: my long-awaited book project, When the Heart Shatters, was just getting off the ground. I dismissed the appeal without looking back. My husband, on the other hand, couldn’t shake the notion the Holy Spirit was leading us into a new adventure. So, we sold our lovely home in Idaho, resigned from our incredible ministry positions in Coeur d’Alene and moved into an apartment in Liberty Lake to plant a church in a city well known as A Church Graveyard. What Liberty Lake failed to realize is that Jesus loves to show up in graveyards and breathe life when all hope is gone.

I cannot even begin to describe the ways Jesus continues to show up and surprise us with his goodness on this new journey. We planted Legacy Church one year ago with a desire to see Jesus re-write futures for generations to come. We are now hosting two services every weekend with over 200 in weekly attendance. I have no idea where this adventure is going to take us, but my seatbelt is on and my hands are in the air, enjoying every moment of the ride!

What recent encouragement have you received that keeps you moving toward being a world changer for good?

Like most of us sisters, I wrestle with doubts: Is it too late for me to leverage my life? Do I have what it takes to accomplish God’s purposes for this generation? How does one accomplish anything when financial means have gone from two full-time salaries to one part time salary? I could not continue this journey without a team of dear sisters who hold up my arms every week in prayer and other friends who cheer me on from the sidelines of life’s race, reminding me Jesus has equipped me to do it. Above every other encouragement, though, Jesus has breathed confidence into the dark cavern of my doubts during some quiet moments with Him. He bolstered my courage recently through this promise in His Word:

“So take this seriously—God has chosen you! So be strong and courageous and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged by the size of the task. For the Lord God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to your task is finished correctly. This temple you are building is not just another building, it is for the Lord himself.” (1 Chronicles 28 – 29)

Every day, I ask the Holy Spirit to remind me I am not on this earth to build a name for myself. I live to amplify the name of Jesus. Paul’s words in Acts give me courage every day to get out of bed and do the hard thing that stands before me: “My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Acts 20:24

Thank you, Patty! It’s been our joy to share your story here today.

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Connectpattymoreno.org | Legacy Church

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