Natalie’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

Oct. 4 006

When I first came to the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, 11 years ago, Ailyn (left) and Alexander’s (Middle) mother asked me to have baptism studies with Ailyn, who was about 12 at the time. Shortly after Ailyn’s baptism her mother introduced me to another family in the neighborhood that wanted to have Bible studies. And thus begun my longest continuous study group ever, lasting 9 years!


Gus, Ana, Eneida, Natalie, Stephanie and Kimberly are the family Ailyn and Alexander’s family introduced me to. This picture was taken back in 2007. Kimberly, the youngest did not know how to read when we first began studying, and would bring her picture Bible to our studies. When I would have everyone turn to a verse, Kimberly would ask me to show her the verse in her picture Bible. Of course the verse was not in her picture Bible but I would find a suitable picture and tell her that was the verse, and she would be satisfied. Kimberly recently turned 16. She still talks about her picture Bible and me helping her find the right “verses.”


Over 9 years our study group had many other members, and venues. Here you can see Natalie, who was just recently baptized, in blue, enjoying my enchiladas at my apartment after one of our Bible studies back in 2008.


Occasionally our group would take advantage of the Florida scenery for our Bible study venues. This picture was taken in 2007. While Natalie already has found the verse, you can see Stephanie helping Kimberly find the right verse in her picture Bible.


On November 8, 2014, Natalie, her friend Leo, and family went to Chilis to celebrate Natalie’s sister Enedia’s birthday. The fact that Eneida was actually 1,400 miles away in Texas, serving for us in the military did not keep us from still celebrating her birthday. During our 9 years of having our study group together, there would be short periods of times that members would get distracted and we would stop studying together for a while. Were will still family though, and would keep hanging out together. Eventually Natalie’s family would tell me while we were hanging out that they wanted to start the Bible studies back up and again and we would.

Once, after Natalie and Leo graduated high school I met them for lunch at Taco Bell. Being the “grownup” I assumed I was paying. I was used to always paying when hanging out with the youth unless their parents paid. I was very impressed when Natalie and Leo insisted on buying lunch that day. I appreciated the fact that they valued their time with me, and saw me as a friend. They were hanging out with me because they treasured our friendship and not because I was “paying.”

Natalie is already quite mature and responsible. Last year when we were celebrating her sister Stephanie’s graduation, their mother told the waitress to put all her kids on her ticket. Natalie, said, “No. I am twenty. I pay for my own food.” I told her, “Don’t tell my parents about that rule!”

Even at an early stage of her adult life, Natalie has learned financial responsibility, and has a mature and sincere appreciation for family and friends.

When this picture was taken above, after 9 years of Bible studies, Natalie’s family was coming to church. It was at this dinner, while we were hanging out that Natalie asked to be baptized. This is why friendships and relationships are so important. It was not during a Bible study that she asked to be baptized, but while we were just enjoying our friendship hanging out together.


So Natalie and I began our Bible studies preparing her for baptism! We used our cell phones to study the In Light of The Cross Bible Study Guides. 

Natalie writes:

I want to thank William for baptizing me and for being my friend the past nine years. He was not only a friend but a follower of Christ who brought me closer to the Lord. He influenced my decision to live the rest of my life for Christ who died for our sins. Before meeting William, I did not know too much about what it meant to be a seventh day Adventist and how important it is to seek God for every situation but now I know how important those two things are. One day at Chili’s with my family and William, I decided to become baptized and I told William about it. Every Thursday morning after that, William and I studied many important concepts in the bible such as death, salvation, stewardship, and etc. These study guides were tremendously helpful and I learned lot from reading and studying it with William. After we were done studying the study guides, I was ready to complete my commitment to Jesus. On April 11th on a Saturday morning, I was baptized and it feels amazing to know that I had accepted Jesus into my heart and that I have a brand new family, the church.


 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. Galatians 3:26-27 NLT 

When we first began our study group with Ailyn and Alexander’s family, Natalie was 11 years old. When Natalie was baptized this April she was 20 years old. I thank God for the privilege of being a part of Natalie’s family for these 9 years and the joy it has given me to see her grow up making such wise and mature decisions all the time. I think this was her best decision ever!


The story does not end here. My Bible study and friendship with Ailyn and her family led me to meet and begin a 9 year Bible study group with Natalie and her family. After studying for several years with Natalie and her family, they introduced me to their cousins, and we have now been studying on Friday nights for two years now. We have up to 11 members in our study group and a few of them have just recently started coming to church on Sabbath!

If you are in the Tampa Bay area and would like to start a study group like the ones you have just read about I would be glad to help you. Just email me at If you are not in the Tampa Bay area still contact me. I can find a study group for you in your neck of the woods!

Growth Group Lesson #4 Need

by Pr Denis Sand –

Objective of today’s dialogue: Challenge the group to accept Jesus as their personal Savior and recognize Him as the solution for our greatest need.

Additional resources: Desire of Ages, chapter 61, Zacchaeus 552-556. Bible study on the plan of salvation. 

Welcome (15) – Fellowship
• What was your greatest need when you were in elementary school?
• What do people say is their greatest need today?
• What is your greatest need that you have been struggling to fill?

Worship (15) – Worship
• Read Psalm 95:1-3
We want to see
Mighty to save
• Ask your group to pray together giving thanks for those things that God has done in their lives.

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read Luke 19:1-10
• What kind of man was Zacchaeus according to the text?
• Why do you think Zacchaeus was so desperate to see Jesus that in order to do it he is willing to climb a tree and make a fool of himself? v3,4
• Why do you think Jesus says “I must stay at your house today” v5?
• What is our greatest need according to this story? Consider v9,10
• What is our greatest need according to the following passages? Romans 3.23; 6.23
• What is the solution for our greatest need? John 3.16; Luke 19:6,10
• Review His Story (the gospel presentation): explain it in your words
o GOD is the Creator, is loving, holy, and just
o US we were created perfect, but became sinful by our choice, we deserve death, and we are spiritually helpless
o CHRIST is God, and became also a man, is perfect and without any sin, he died as our substitute, and offers his forgiveness as a gift
o YOU & I must respond, ask Christ to be our forgiver and Master, the result is spiritual transformation, obedience and a new life
• Make a call to accept Jesus as our Savior:
o How many here recognize we have a problem with sin, that you have tried to change many times and it hasn’t worked, that you and I need help from above, salvation from God?
o Do you want to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?
• Pray for those who have accepted Jesus as Savior.
• Invite those who accepted Jesus for the first time to commit to get to know Christ personally through Bible Studies.

• To do: Write now on a small card the key text of this week Luke 19:10. Carry it in your wallet or pocket, place it in your fridge or car and memorize it during this week.

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• Do you know anyone who desperately needs to find a solution to their disoriented and lost lives? share their names and pray as a group for them.
• Call them tomorrow and tell them of God’s plan for their lives.
• Invite them to next week group meeting

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Find the way to get to know people while eating something. Remember, build relationships.

Growth Group Lesson #6 – Cost

by Pr Denis Sand –

Objective of today’s dialogue: Challenge people to give it all for being a disciple of Jesus no matter the cost. To have Jesus as our top priority in our lives.

Additional resources: Read and study the material on the following pages about how to consecrate ourselves completely and be willing to pay the price.

Welcome (15) – Fellowship
• What was the cost you have to face when you decided to go to college, or move to the U.S? Or even getting married?
• What made you think it was worth it?
• What helped you be willing to pay the cost?

Worship (15) – Worship
• Read Psalm 33:1-3
Shout to the Lord
Above all
• Give thanks as a group for the things God is doing in the world and in your life.
• Pray together.

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read Luke 14:25-33
• What did Jesus mean with “hate” father, mother, children, brother, sister and own life? v26
• In your words and practically, what is the cost of being a disciple of Christ? v26
• What happens when a person doesn’t count the cost of being a disciple?
• What is the meaning of the phrase “carry his cross and follow me” in v27?
• What lesson about the cost of being a disciple, can we draw from the parable of building a tower and the king going to war? v28-30, v31-32
• How do you feel about the cost of being a disciple? v33.
• Why is it really worth it to follow Jesus? Read Luke 9.23-25. Explain
• What costs of following Jesus seem high to people today? And to you right now?
• How can you apply Jesus’ counsel in v33?
• Read Gal 2:20 and see how Paul pay the price and was living his life
• Testimony: Share what price you had to pay to be a disciple of Jesus.
• What is God telling you tonight?

• To do: Write now on a small card the key text of this week Luke 9:23. Carry it in your wallet or pocket, place it in your fridge or car and memorize it during this week.

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• Do you know anyone who is struggling with paying the price of being a disciple of Christ?
• How will you help this week that person to see it’s really worth it?
• Call or visit them and tell them why for you it’s really, really worthy to be a disciple.
• Don’t forget to invite them to next week growth group meeting!

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Remember to talk to visitors! Learn their names, find what they do, what they passionate about, their worries and challenges
Additional Resources:  Steps to Christ – Chapter 5 – Consecration

Growth Group Lesson #12 Rejoice Lesson #13 Share

Dialogue  # 12 –  Rejoice  (Please Scroll Down for Lesson 13)

by Pr Denis Sand –

Objective of today’s dialogue: Challenge the group to live life to the fullest remembering that God will ask us to give account of everything we have done

Welcome (15) – Fellowship

  • What was the most exciting and fun thing for you to do when you were an early teen or teen and why?
  • Is there anything you did in those days that you regret now or that if you could go back you would do different? Could you share what and why?

Worship (15) – Worship

  • Read Psalms 34.1-3
  • Shout to the Lord
  • Above all
  • In groups of three, share what God has done in your life that fills you with peace, joy, happiness.
  • Pray together in those groups giving thanks for what has been shared.

Word (30) – Discipleship

  • Read Ecclesiastes 11:9-12.1,13,14
  • Why is God, trough Solomon, telling us to be happy, rejoice, follow our ways and the desires of our hearts and eyes? 11:9
  • How can we have fun, rejoice in light of the judgment, as found in the second part of verse 9?
  • Why is Solomon saying we should cast away all anxiety and troubles of the body? v10
  • How do we usually forget our Creator in our youth? 12:1 How should we remember Him?
  • Why do we need to remember and honor God before we get old? What’s the difference? 12:1-7
  • How do you feel about been judged for all you do?
  • How does the reality of judgment and eternity affect our daily decisions? 11:9; 12:13,14
  • What changes should we make to our lives in order to remember/honor Him now?
  • What did you hear God telling you tonight?
  • To do: Challenge the group to memorize Ecclesiastes 11:9, and live it!

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism

  • What changes do we feel we need to make in order to have real group life?
  • If you haven’t been able to multiply, what would it take to make it happen?
  • How can this group pray for you tonight?

Refreshments– Fellowship

  • Ask informally for people who might be invited to the new groups.

Dialogue  # 013 –  Share

by Pr Denis Sand –

Objective of today’s dialogue: invite the group to give themselves completely out of love and to live as a family of God in their group.

Worship (15) – Worship

Welcome (10) – Fellowship

  • What kind of sacrifices did your parents have to do for you?
  • What kind of things were you willing to do, even sacrifice, for your loved ones?

Word (25) – Discipleship

  • Read 1 Thessalonians 2.1-12 
  • Why Paul says that his visit to Thessalonica was not a failure? v1,2
  • What was the double motivation behind their visit and what should be ours in our group? v3-6
  • What is and how can we accomplish the two-fold mission of our group? v8
  • How do we get to have this love for people as our motivation so we are delighted to do it? v8
  • How can we have the kind of commitment Paul had, especially for the members of our group? v9
  • Why do you think Paul mentions the kind of live they lived among them? v10 Any teaching for us here?
  • How can we accomplish the job described in v11-12 in our group?
  • What changes do we need to make in order to apply today’s message?
  • What did you hear God telling you tonight?
  • To do: Challenge the group to memorize and live our GG key text: 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Works – Witness (20) – Ministry & Evangelism

  • Leader, this is the time to shared the vision with passion! invite everyone to join the vision not simply a group meeting. Invite them to become the family of God that reaches for the lost.
  • Being this the first meeting of this new group, reflect with the group on how are we going to make this group not only work but multiply?
  • Talk about details: when will we meet, where, who will be invited, how are we going to work, who are the leaders, what are our responsibilities?
  • How can this group pray for you tonight?

Refreshments– Fellowship – (all groups together)

  • When you talk, concentrate on praising God for what He has done with our group!
  • Get to know people.

Growth Group Lesson #15 – Wise

by Pr Denis Sand –

Objective of today’s dialogue: Invite members to analyze their way of living and to choose to be wise by following God’s advice.

Welcome (15) – Fellowship

• What do people consider foolish in our days?
• What was one of the most stupid things you have ever done and why?
• What could have made you not do it?

Worship (15) – Worship
• Read Psalms 106:1-2
Blessed be the name
Above all
• Have a popcorn prayer giving only thanks to God for the wise decisions He helped you to make in your life.

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read Ephesians 5:15-21
• Why do you think is so important for a Christian to live a “wise” life? v15
• How can we “make the most of every opportunity”? v16
• Paul urges us not to be fools, but to understand what God’s will is. How can we get to know and understand God’s will? v17
• Why is it so important to be filled with the Holy Spirit and not with other substances? v18 How do you know the Spirit is controlling your life?
• Why do you think it is so important for a wise Christian to sing, praise God and talk to others about it? v19
• How can we fulfill the command to “sing and make music in your heart to the Lord’? v19
• What is the relationship between giving thanks always and for everything to God and being wise? v20 How can we do it?
• What does it mean to submit to another out of reverence for God? v21 Why is this wise?

• How will you apply this year what we have studied today?
• What changes is God calling you to make?

• To do: Be wise and memorize any verse from: Ephesians 5:15

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• Talk to the group about their not so wise friends who need to know God. Ask each one to write their names on sticky notes and pray for them as a group.
• Remember to ask the group: How can we pray for you tonight?

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Direct the conversations during this time to how to live out what we have just studied.
• Talk to people, and listen.

Growth Group Lesson #16 – Understanding

by Pr Denis Sand –

Objective of today’s dialogue: challenge people to be ready and willing to help others get to know God and understand his Word..

Welcome (15) – Fellowship

• What kind of things were hard for you to comprehend when you were in elementary school and why?
• Who helped you understand and how did he do it?
• What is hard for you to understand now?

Worship (15) – Worship
• Read Psalms 8:1-9
I’m a friend of God
• What are some of the joys that God has given you for which you are thankful? Pray fervently giving only thanks.

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read Acts 8.26-40
• What kind of Christian was Phillip considering the fact that an angel gives him a mission and he rapidly obeys it? v26,27
• What kind of a man was the one sitting on the chariot? v27-34
• How does staying near  people help us to fulfill God’s mission? v29 How should we do it?
• When should we ask people if they understand? v30 Give examples.
• How can we help people “understand” the Bible, God and current events? v31,35
• What are the four principles found in Acts 8.35 that we need to follow when helping people understand the Bible? (Principles: begin where they are; explain it with the Bible, show how it’s good for them; center it all in Jesus)
• How prepared are you to help others understand the Bible? How could you be ready to help others understand the good news? v35
• Where can we get help so we understand?
• Why do you think the man asked for baptism? What is necessary to be baptized? v36-38
• What is the relationship between rejoicing in life with accepting Christ and being baptized? v39 How have you experienced it?
• What do you think God is trying to tell you tonight?
• How would you apply today’s message from now on?
• To do: Memorize a verse on how to teach the Bible to others: Acts 8:35

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• Ask someone from the group to share the vision of our group.
• Ask group members if they feel ready to help others understand? what can we do as a group to be prepared in the basics of faith in order to help others?
• Do you know anyone who wants to understand more about God, the Bible and current events? Write down the names and challenge group members to invite them to our group.
• Finalize asking: How can we pray for you tonight?

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Listen, listen, listen (you can eat too, but keep ears open).

Additional Resources: Acts of the Apostles, 106-111

Growth Group Lesson Plan #18 – Useful

by Pr Denis Sand –

Objective of today’s dialogue: challenge people to make the Bible their guide for life, and to study it daily.

Welcome (15) – Fellowship
• What is the most un-useful gift you have ever received?
• What are the characteristics of a useful gift?
• What is for you the most useful thing in your house today?

Worship (15) – Worship
• Read Psalms 119.89-91
Thy word is a lamp to my feet
• Take time to praise God giving thanks for leading you in times of difficulties, challenges and temptations. Share your praise with the people in your group. Show God is ALIVE and working.
• Pray together

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read 2 Timothy 3.14-17
• What is Paul challenging young Timothy to do? v14
• How can we teach children-youth to really know the Bible? v15
• According to Paul what is the origin and purpose of the Bible? v16
• What are some of the practical things the Bible can do for us? or, what kind of benefit do we get from reading it? v15-17
• What does it mean that the Bible is God-breathed? v16
• Why is knowing the Bible so crucially important as Christians? v16
• How much time are you devoting to reading, studying and memorizing the Scriptures? Why?
• How would your life change if you were to read, study, memorize the Bible everyday?
• How would you summarize today’s study in one sentence?
• What is God telling you tonight to do?
• What changes do you need to make to your daily schedule in order to take full advantage of God’s Word?
• To do: Read together, repeat it out loud, challenge to memorize 2 Timothy 3.16

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• As the main leader of the group, share the vision of multiplication with passion.
• Challenge the group to read the gospel of John during this week. Ask each one to read 3 chapters a day. Ask for commitments. If someone doesn’t have a Bible, get one from church and give it as a gift. Give them also a guide to read the whole Bible in a year so they can mark this week reading and continue from there on.
• Take time to pray for people needs, you can ask: How can we pray for you tonight?

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Keep asking group members to invite their friends to the meetings and group activities.

Growth Group Lesson Plan #20 – Ambassadors

by Pr Denis Sand –

Objective of today’s dialogue: As the leader, help the group discussion concentrate and emphasize the idea that God has chosen us as His ambassadors, that this is a lifestyle to be lived at school, work, with friends, in parties, etc; and our mission is to call people the be reconciled with God.

Welcome (15) – Fellowship
• If you were to be chosen to be an ambassador for a country, where would you like to be sent and why?
• What do you think is the main job of an ambassador?
• Have you ever represented someone? Share with the group how it felt.

Worship (15) – Worship
• Read Psalms 89:1-2
Your love is deep
Amazing Grace
• Take some time to give thanks to God and today concentrate on giving thanks for those who brought to you God’s message of Salvation. Mention who were the key messengers who helped you believe and know God.
• Pray in groups.

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-20
• What does it really means to be a new creation? v17
• What are some of the old things that are gone from your life? V17
• What is the meaning of being “in Christ”? v17 How can we do it today?
• Why do you think God has chosen teenagers, young adults and adults as His ambassadors? V19-20
• How can you be a full time ambassador of Christ in school, work, with friends, in parties?
• What is this ministry of reconciliation that we have received? V18-20
• How should we invite and call friends to be reconciled with God? V20
• How are you going to be an ambassador from now on?
• How would you summarize today´s message in one phrase?
• Ask group members: What have you heard God telling you to do?

• To do: Read out loud as a group, and commit to memorize 2 Corinthians 5:20

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• What could we do as a group to become better ambassadors of Christ?
• Share the names of friends who need to be reconciled with God?
• Pray for each of the names mentioned and make plans to invite them to your group.
• The vision of our groups is to share as ambassadors the beauty and love of Jesus with others. Challenge group members to join this vision!

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Get to know visitors, stay close to them, find out what they do, their passions and challenges.

Growth Group Lesson Plan #21 – Identity

by Pr Denis Sand –

Objective of today’s dialogue: Invite the group to embrace our true identity. Also help the group discussion concentrate and emphasize the idea that we are God’s creatures by simply being born, but in order to become His children there is a choice each one needs to make. Talk also about the advantages of becoming a son/daughter of God.

Welcome (15) – Fellowship
• Ask everyone present to hug four people and to tell them why you are glad they are at the group meeting tonight.
• If you were ever confused with someone else, how did it make you feel?
• If you could be someone else for a day who would you be and why?

Worship (15) – Worship
• Read Psalms 139:13-17
Holy is the Lord
Who am I
• Take time to give thanks to God for the family in which you grew up. Mention some qualities of your family for which you are thankful to God.

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read 1 John 3:1-3 and John 1:12-13
• What is your first reaction in knowing you are loved by God? 1 John 3:1
• What is the difference between being a creature of God and being children of God? John 1:12-13
• What do we need to do in order to become children of God? John 1:12
• What are the advantages and disadvantages of CHOOSING to be a son/daughter of God? 1 John 3:1
• Why do you think we need to choose to become God’s children? 1 John 3.1
• The world tries to define who people are by their race, color, education, passions, for what they wear, or who they listen to, but who should define our true identity and why?
• Since it’s hard for the world to know and understand our identity, what role do our actions play in letting the world know who we are? 1 John 3:1
• What changes should it bring to my life knowing my true identity and purpose in life? 1 John 3:3
• How can we “believe him” and “receive him” tonight? John 1:13
• Are you a son/daughter of God? Would you like to become one?
• Ask people to respond and share: What do you think is God telling you tonight?

• To do: Read out loud as a group, and memorize 1 John 3:1

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• Plan an activity as a group in which you can invite friends who don’t know they need to chose to be children of God.
• Ask how can we pray for you?

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Ask people about their friends who don’t know Christ, challenge them to bring them to the group meetings.

Growth Group Lesson Plan #24 – Invited

by Pr Denis Sand –

Objective of today’s dialogue: Invite people to see that our choices reflect our priorities and will determine our eternal consequences. Invite each one to choose eternal life today.

Welcome (15) – Fellowship
• Why do people in our days attend parties and banquets?
• What makes you decide if you would go or not? Be honest please!
• How do you feel when people don’t show up to a party you have organized? Why?

Worship (15) – Worship
• Read Psalms 81:1-2
Shout to the Lord
Who am I
• Thanksgiving time: What is the most amazing thing God has done for you in your life? Briefly share it with the rest of the group. End praying in groups of three.

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read Luke 14:15-24
• Why do you think Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven with a huge party/banquet?
• Why do you think people excuse themselves from coming to the party? v18-20
• What was wrong with their excuses?
• How do you think God feels when we don’t value or even pay attention to the great feast that He is preparing?
• What can we learn from v21 where the outcasts are invited to come?
• How is eternal life similar and different to this party?
• Why do you think the master wants the house to be full? v23
• What is the role of our choices here? v23,24
• How do you feel with the idea that not everyone will get to participate in the party?
• In what way is our role before God similar to the servant who carried the invitation?
• What kind of changes do you need to make in your life in order to make sure you are not left out at God’s party?
• What do you think is God trying to tell you tonight?
• Pray

• To do: Read and challenge people to memorize Matthew 6.33

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• Think of people who need to be invited to the feast.
• Mention their names and pray for them. Plan to do something so they are invited!
• What is the purpose of our group?
• How can we can pray for you tonight?

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Go around asking for names of people who need to be invited to Jesus Feast.
• Make sure you invite them to the party!

Additional Resourcesby Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, 219-237