For them, there's not a mission impossible

Evangelists: A couple who have sacrificed much have ministered in many nations and are teaching others in their church about mission opportunities.

July 14, 2000|By Dahlia Naqib | Dahlia Naqib,SUN STAFF

Mike and Terrill Esposito's commitment to religion hasn't come without some sacrifices.

For the 13 years they have been married, the Espositos -- who attend the nondenominational Covenant Community Church in Harper's Choice in Columbia -- have lived for God, not knowing where they were going to live or sleep, or if they were going to have a full meal or any food at all.

She gave up an $80,000-a-year pizza business, and he quit a profitable job with benefits when they met and married in New York and entered the ministry full time.

They have evangelized and worked with struggling youths by teaming with churches around the world -- including the four New York City boroughs and along the East Coast, to Cuba, the Philippines, Taiwan, and most recently, in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Randallstown residents

They live in Randallstown and work as directors of Baltimore's division of Youth with a Mission, an international missionary program.

They choose to drive 30 minutes to church for Covenant Pastor Randy Reinhardt's "sound Biblical teaching" and the church's close-knit family and community-oriented congregation.

The Espositos run a program at the church to prepare members of the church for missions. A few weeks ago, they took 24 church members to Mexico, where they helped to clean an orphanage and build a school for it.

Linda Reinhardt, wife of the Covenant pastor, said she is thankful for everything that the Espositos have done for the church members.

`A new dimension'

"They've added a new dimension to missionary work," said Reinhardt. She said they've inspired people of all ages to become missionaries. Five families and four single people went on the mission to Mexico.

The Espositos' religious fervor stems from years of sacrifice. But they say that it's all been worth it.

"Another life would have been more financially stable, but not as fulfilling," said Terrill Esposito, who remembers the hard times -- or at least the really hard times -- fondly.

In New York, the Espositos lived in a tiny church apartment free of rent -- and sometimes heat -- in exchange for janitorial and volunteer work while Mike Esposito was being trained by the church pastor to enter the nondenominational ministry.

Cramped quarters

They had to climb over the bed to get to the bathroom, and every Sunday morning and on random weeknights, people would walk through their bedroom to adjust controls in the church's sound booth.

The Espositos have constantly been on the move, traveling at the last minute to meet new challenges, and always with temporary housing. If they are not on a mission, they are training people for missions to other states and countries.

"It's difficult because it's unconventional. Your role is never defined ... you have to mold yourself to the occasion's demands," said Matthew Misselbeck, 21, who attends Covenant Church and has been on a few mission trips with the Espositos, including the one to Mexico. He sees missionary work as something he could commit to for life, as have the Espositos.

Experience of a lifetime

The missionary trip to Mexico was part of the regular Esposito lifestyle, but for the church members it was an experience of a lifetime.

"The best part is to be able to see people who have gone for the first time. You see sparks; everything becomes real," said Misselbeck.

Reinhardt said she valued what the missionaries had learned from the children. The trip to Mexico was her first mission.

"I felt like we were able to touch some people's lives. The work was very rewarding," said Reinhardt.

`They were content'

"And you might have considered them poor, but they were content. They had fewer distractions and [so] were very responsive to us. Here, the fast pace takes away from enjoying life and remembering what's important."

As members of Youth with a Mission, the Espositos and those who accompany them raise money to cover their expenses, whereas many missionary programs give volunteers a stipend for their work.

Misselbeck says its difficult for people to understand why he wants to be a missionary.

"You don't get paid, and you pay to go on the trips, but it's what brings me satisfaction, what makes me complete," he said.

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