Forming Spiritual Friendships and Embracing Personal Growth
Norma Jeronimo began teaching the teen Sabbath School class at the Hot Springs Seventh-day Adventist Church in the summer of 2020. A year later, she was invited to attend an early morning prayer group that met by phone. The group had participants from across the United States and beyond, and was a blessing to Jeronimo. “Most of the group members are moms, like me, and we have a lot to share and pray about,” she said.
After a year of attending the prayer group, Jeronimo spoke to a friend who also attends about what a blessing it had been for both of them. Her friend had an idea: Would Jeronimo’s teen class be interested in starting their own group, just for them, for prayer and fellowship? Jeronimo brought it up with the teens the next Sabbath. To her surprise, the teens were very interested and took charge of the idea immediately.
They woke up at 5:30 a.m. each morning and called into the group line. They began with reading together for 15 minutes before sharing testimonies, prayer requests and praying. They first read Messages to Young People by Ellen G. White, and have since worked through seven books. They are currently reading Prophets and Kings.
The group has about 10 young people on the call, with Eden Briones at 15 as the newest member. Briones is thankful for the blessings and lessons found within the fellowship of the group. A dedicated student, athlete and leader at school, Briones feels strengthened by God’s guidance.
“God has shown me countless times that He is the one who does everything. God works in different ways, and this is one way He will work with me. It is all up to me, with the help of God, to continue forward in life,” said Briones.
Jeronimo’s daughter, Chelsee, also a member of the group and a junior in high school, has found spiritual maturity and discipline in waking up early to attend and lead the calls. She says she’s found a sense of her identity in Christ and a best friend in Jesus.
“High expectations have always been a part of me. At school, everyone expects me to be the ‘best’ student. At church, I have always felt as if everyone expects me to lead and guide others. At home, my parents expect me to be the perfect daughter. I have expectations that I feel I have to meet, or in my eyes, I will be deemed worthless and of little value,” she said.
She was hesitant to join the group because of how early they met, but said, “It was possibly one of the best decisions I have ever made. Waking up with God and with my church friends was truly a blessing. I have learned so much of God’s love and grace, and I finally felt as if I wasn’t carrying the huge burden of expectations by myself. In fact, while I was already a good student and daughter, my grades are now better, and I feel as if my character is slowly starting to mold into who Jesus wants me to be. While I still have a lot to change in my life, I know that I am not alone for I am a child of God. Now, with full assurance, I can safely say that Jesus is my best friend,” said Chelsee.
Chelsee says that members of the group have formed spiritual bonds and friendships that she hasn’t experienced before and hopes will follow throughout their lives.
Another member of the group, Jazmell Gervacio, appreciates the fellowship as well as the opportunity for deeper reflection and personal growth.
“Being able to be a part of this daily call among the youth of my community has been and continues to be a great blessing. Having other people to read with helps me and is an encouragement to join the call. Everyone is patient, kind and understanding. After each reading, we take time to talk and reflect upon what we’ve read, which has helped me think deeper, see different points of view and understand more. It is not always easy. Sometimes the message you read calls you out on things in your life that have become a norm, and changing will not always be easy. However, through prayer and asking God for strength, I’ve been able to take steps to change for the better,” said Gervacio.
Jeronimo has seen the growth in the teens of her Sabbath School class and praises God for His guidance. She invites any who feel called to join the group’s phone call, but also encourages them to start a group in their own community. If any teen is interested in being added to the Hot Springs group’s call, contact Norma Jeronimo at SeleneJeronimo77@gmail.com.
By Jessica Lozano. Lozano is a freelance writer based in Northwest Arkansas. Norma Jeronimo is a member of the Hot Springs Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference.