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Florida Conference of Seventh Day Adventists

God has Always Walked with Us

For almost two years now, we have faced new and unexpected challenges. Yet, instead of losing faith, the Lord’s church continued to grow, adjusting to ministry in an ever-changing world.

Florida Conference is blessed with more than 80 lay pastors, volunteer pastors who work fervently to fulfill the Lord’s mission of ministering to a broken world, planting churches, and growing disciples. Here are just three of their incredible testimonies:

600 Days of Prayer – In Spirit and Truth

On March 14, 2020, our spiritual world was impacted by life-changing news. COVID-19 was here; it was aggressive, contagious, and deadly. We got the news that our churches needed to close, and suddenly everything changed. For more than 10 years, we had been praising, praying, and breaking bread together as a Christian family. How would we face the unexpected? How would we reinvent ourselves in such painful and challenging moments? How would we continue to minister to the church when we were vulnerable to a deadly virus? How would we turn weakness into strength, from a distance, without our place of worship?

God used Celeste Urena, who told us about an online service she used for her Sabbath school leaders. To keep our entire church united, it had to be functional for children, youth, adults, and the elderly. With her recommendation, we tried a free conference call platform, and, Glory to God, the whole church could participate.

From the very next week, this is how our church remained connected. God took absolute control, and we continued to trust in Him. Our online network was far-reaching; we connected with other states and several other countries. Wounded and lost hearts were rescued, several were baptized, others sought churches in their states, and many spread the gospel to their families.

In 2021, we completed more than 600 Days of Prayer. Every day at 6:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., we joined in prayer as a church family. God has manifested Himself every one of those days. We’ve had to face moments of pain due to the loss of our friends and church members. We could no longer afford to keep our church building, so we had to give it up. It was then that we experienced true worship, in Spirit and Truth. Several of our church members were hospitalized at various times, and when they connected to our prayer line, their doctors and nurses were so touched to see how many people were actively praying for them. Some nurses cried when they heard our heartfelt prayers, and many doctors would wait to speak to the patient if they were connected to the prayer line. One day, the local news reported that telephone lines in our area were down. We thought we’d surely miss our prayer line that night, breaking our continuous record, but they were fixed right before we were set to connect.

We have been so blessed and loved. Our church is stronger than ever, strengthened by the Word, with no doubts or fears. God intentionally let His presence be felt in us every day. Although these times have been painful and sad, we can say that we truly are a blessed people.

– Daily Sosa, lay pastor, North Miami Beach Spanish SDA Church

 

 

A Life Renewed & A Young Leader

On August 14, I was not feeling well, so I went to the doctor and received a COVID-19 test. The test indicated I was negative for the virus, so I thought everything was okay. My family had quarantined, thinking the worst, but we hugged and were very happy with this news. The following week, I was getting worse, so I went once again to the doctor. A chest X-ray and another COVID-19 test confirmed I was now positive for coronavirus. The virus had caused pneumonia and significant damage to my lungs. My oxygen levels were dangerously low, so I was admitted immediately. I remember that I couldn’t breathe, and nothing after that.

I don’t know how many days I was on oxygen; the oxygen was so strong I couldn’t speak. When I could finally stand, they had to teach me how to walk because my body had forgotten. When I left the hospital and went home, my wife had to buy me a walker, and I’d lost my recent memory. At one point, I thought I was losing my mind; but God restored me.

While hospitalized, I felt like I was losing my spirit, so I asked God to change me. I asked Him to make me a better father, minister, husband. Right away, my spirit was renewed, and I had a dream where I saw Jesus. He told me that to make impactful change, I’d have to share tasks with others and train members of the church, passing the torch to others. I still had terrible pain and prayed for Jesus to take it away. The next day I waited for the pain, and it did not come. All the while, God kept reminding me to do His will and His will only.

I would call my daughter, Esther Joy Pierre, from the hospital to sing to me and pray for me. At twelve years old, Esther continued to lead children’s ministry, and she and my wife took over the prayer line in my absence. When my wife’s health also declined from COVID-19, Esther stepped up and led the prayer line herself. She kept the church engaged, and we were all blessed by her willing spirit and leadership.

The Lord pulled me out of sickness, renewed my spirit, and blessed me with an amazing family and church family. When God has done something for you, it is not for you to keep. It is for you to share and tell others that God can do the same for them.

– Garry Pierre, lay pastor, Nerija of Vero Beach Company

 

The Lord Opens Doors

In 2004, my wife Beth Frau-Velez, who attended the Lake Wales SDA Church, began translating the Sabbath programs for a young Mexican man named Jesus Torres. Jesus, in turn, invited his cousin, and his cousin invited his girlfriend.

The small Spanish group met in the mother’s room, but God blessed the group, and it grew rapidly. One Sabbath, when I went to pick up my wife at the end of the service, the group went out to the parking lot to greet me. I liked the gesture, and soon after, I started taking Bible studies. Pastor Onelio Alfonso baptized me, and Pastor Amado Luzbet continued to prepare me, then anointed me as an elder.

A few months later, I was made director of the Spanish group. God continued to bless the ministry, and we had to move away from Lake Wales. Wilfredo Martinez remained as director of the group until lay pastor Jose Escobar was appointed.

In 2019, Beth and I retired from a community service ministry, Helping Hands, which she began in 2001 before becoming Adventist and later integrated into the church. The same day we decided to retire, Beth felt impressed to ask, “Why don’t we begin the work of planting a church?”

We’d heard requests for a Spanish church in Titusville for many years. That same week, we met with three couples who had also expressed interest and got to work. We found a small room in a cultural center and, between all of us, paid for it ourselves. We had to carry all of our equipment and were very restricted with our time there, but the Lord blessed us greatly, and soon we had more than 60 people coming regularly. Of those, 20 were visitors who were not Adventist.

Beth and I lived right next to a Nazarene church, and one day we were impressed to talk to them about renting their building for our growing group. Beth walked in one Sunday and met with the pastor, who heard our request and asked one question, “What denomination are you?” When she told him Seventh-day Adventist, the pastor exclaimed, “Oh, I know you guys! You do so much work in the community.” He also shared that he’d attended an SDA church with his grandmother in his youth.

God opened this door for us, and the Nazarene church board unanimously approved our request. When we asked the pastor for the price, he said, “Nothing. You are in the same business we are, the work of growing a church.” We were astonished, with renewed confidence that God was leading our path. We paid only our portion of the water and electricity usage for many months, and when we continued to grow, Florida Conference helped us acquire a contract.

Like for many others, the pandemic brought challenges and uncertainty to our church. Yet, by the grace of God, Titusville Spanish was officially recognized as a Mission Group on May 29, 2020. We praise the Lord for how He has provided for us; we received an incredible outpouring of donations, equipment, supplies, and much more. I have no doubts that God wants this, His church, to continue to bless His people.

– Cristino Velez, lay pastor, Titusville Spanish Mission Group, and wife Beth Frau-Velez