Caring Moments Create Ripples of Love
“Any little thing might be the spark that someday brings someone to Jesus,” said Brianda Duque. “Inviting someone to church on Sabbath, sharing a small book, just talking to someone about Jesus…I think that can spark something. It did with me!”
Duque grew up in a family that did not regularly attend church. She knew little about Jesus, until one day a teacher invited her to church. That invitation planted a love for Jesus that would remain with Duque forever, even though it did not grow for many years.
That teacher, Elizabeth Cobos, attended church on Saturdays, which seemed strange to the seven-year-old Duque. Nevertheless, she agreed to attend. “I remember learning that Jesus was my Lord and Savior,” said Duque. “And I remember going to church on Saturday, not Sunday.”
Sometimes, Duque spent the weekend, or even the entire summer, with Cobos in Georgia. They became like family. Cobos encouraged Duque to open up about her feelings, something that she didn’t do much with her biological family. “I kept everything inside and didn’t talk at all,” said Duque. “I’m sure the teacher noticed that I wasn’t opening up when something was wrong. They would encourage me to talk and I felt better afterwards.”
Cobos’s brother and sister in law became Uncle Franklin and Aunt Kathy to Duque. In all that time, Duque did not learn the name of the church she attended. The Cobos family never forced anything on her. They treated her with love and gave her a space to learn about God.
About three years after that first invitation to church, Duque’s family moved to Oklahoma. At first, Duque visited the Cobos family often. They even invited Duque to live with them for an entire year. After that, though, they slowly lost touch as time passed.
Duque never forgot Cobos, the teacher who was like family. She simply became busy with life. She grew up, met her husband, Roberto, and they had their first child, Ariela. “He and I always talked about going to church,” said Duque, “But we were young and we just didn’t do it.”
Life developed into a comfortable rhythm. A few years after Ariela was born, the young couple had a son, named after his father. Duque worked hard to build a strong relationship with her children, so that they would feel safe opening up to her. She remembered how impactful that had been on her own life.
Then, one day, Ariela started asking big questions about God. She was about six or seven years old, a similar age to when Duque first attended church. Duque didn’t know how to answer the questions. So, they decided it was finally time to attend church.
Immediately, Duque wanted to go to church on Sabbath. Her husband studied the Ten Commandments and also became convinced that they should find a Sabbath church.
“Yes!” She said to Roberto. “But, I don’t know what it’s called.”
“I didn’t have anything from my childhood,” explained Duque. “We moved a lot. It wasn’t a very stable environment. The Cobos family showed me stability and love.”
So, Duque searched for the name Elizabeth Cobos online and found her phone number. After over a decade, she called and left a voice message with her old teacher. “It is emotional reconnecting with them,” said Duque. “We are planning a visit to go see them this year. I feel like I’m a kid again when I talk to them.”
Cobos told Duque that she attended a Seventh-day Adventist Church. So, Duque found Hope Adventist Fellowship, a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Moore, Oklahoma, and started attending. Brianda and Roberto were baptized just a few years later.
Now, Ariela is twelve years old. Little “Robbie” is seven, and they have a daughter, Catalina, who is three. In January, Ariela dedicated her life to Jesus through baptism. “I chose to be baptized because I was so grateful for everything that God has done for me in my life,” said Ariela. ‘To me, getting baptized is like one step to a stronger relationship with Him. When I got baptized, it was the most amazing feeling ever.”
When Elizabeth Cobos invited a young Brianda to attend church, she had no way of knowing the impact that invitation would have for years to come. “It’s all the pieces working together that make a difference,” said Wes Via, pastor of Hope Adventist Fellowship. “From Brianda’s childhood to now.”
“Now, I see the Holy Spirit working in my life,” said Duque. “I had felt the Holy Spirit as a kid but I didn’t recognize it until now. I see God working with my kids, as well. They already have so much faith and trust in our Lord. If you think inviting someone to church doesn’t make a difference, know that it really does.” a
By Makala James. James is a freelance writer based in North Texas. Brianda Duque and her husband, Roberto and their children Ariela, Roberto and Catalina, attend the Hope Adventst Fellowship Church in Moore, Oklahoma in the Oklahoma Conference.