Class assignment leads to baptism

Christie Eisendrath decided to be baptized after studying the Bible with three students taking Union College's personal witnessing class from Pastor Robert Martinez. He baptized her on January 26, 2011, at the Lincoln Northside Seventh-day Adventist  Church. (Photo courtesy John Treolo/Kansas Nebraska Conference.)

Many teachers will testify that the best way to learn more about a subject is to teach it. Natalie Peralta, a junior biology education and theology major, proved this old adage when an assignment in personal witnessing class last fall led her to rediscover the power of the Bible in her own life while leading a new friend to Christ.

A few weeks into the course, which is designed to boost students’ confidence in giving Bible studies and leading others to Christ through conversation and personal example, Peralta was surprised when Pastor Robert Martinez, the course instructor, announced that each student would be required to give ten Bible studies.

“His announcement panicked me,” Peralta admitted. “I wasn’t looking forward to giving Bible studies, especially not ten of them. I didn’t feel prepared or qualified and wasn’t convinced I’d make any kind of impact.”

Martinez, the pastor of the Lincoln Northside Seventh-day Adventist Church, suggested Peralta connect with his son’s girlfriend for Bible studies. As a child, Christie Eisendrath had attended church a handful of times. When she decided to move from Canada to the United States after her junior year of high school, Eisendrath’s mother had one condition. She had to go to a Seventh-day Adventist academy.

 “My mom had grown up Adventist and had gone to an academy in Ontario,” explained Eisendrath. “She wanted to make sure someone would keep an eye on me, and I would be safe.” After graduating from Campion Academy in Colorado in 2004, she followed the majority of her class to Union College and started working toward a degree in English and literature. Martinez felt the two women’s similarity in age and backgrounds would create a comfortable study atmosphere.

Peralta took fellow classmates Brittany Nunez and Chelsea Mastrapa to the first Bible study and the three quickly put Eisendrath at ease. “We were able to laugh and enjoy each other’s company,” she said. “They were always prepared and had a thorough understanding of the material before we’d meet, but they never made me feel intimidated or too embarrassed to ask questions.”

As the weeks passed and the group continued to study, Peralta developed a clearer picture of what Eisendrath was searching for. “Most of her questions were ones I had struggled with too,” Peralta said. “Christie knew the Bible stories, their morals and the basic fundamental beliefs of Adventism, but she wanted to know why those texts and fundamentals were important. She needed to know how interpretations had been formed and validation that they were true.”

Toward the end of their studies, Peralta realized that this experience was having an impact on her own life. “One night, Brittany was explaining a verse’s interpretation to Christie,” she said. “I had studied this particular interpretation and had rejected it in the past because it conflicted with my other beliefs. When I interjected my point of view, Brittany approached it from a different angle, a perspective I had never heard before. Her going the extra mile allowed me to see not only that Bible verse, but my personal walk with God in a new light.”

Although they never talked about baptism during the studies, Eisendrath decided to commit her life to Christ. “I’m not sure why we never talked about it. It was something Brittany, Chelsea and I were excited to hear, but never felt the need to discuss,” said Peralta after her instructor shared the news. “Maybe it was because I don’t feel that we led Christie to baptism, but rather helped her gain the knowledge she needed to be confident and comfortable in making that decision.”

But Eisendrath credits the group’s dedication with helping her make the decision. “In the past, I had tried to study with people, but the meetings would usually fall through,” she said. “But these women never missed a lesson. I know they were doing it for a class, but I think it became so much more than an assignment to all of us. We began to build relationships, and I looked forward to discussing such important material with friends. Being comfortable with each other and meeting regularly helped me ask more in-depth questions and gain a clearer picture of Christ.”

“We have a unique friendship,” said Peralta. “It’s a different type of closeness than with my other friends.” As a silent supporter, Peralta went to Eisendrath’s baptism at Northside Church on Saturday, January 29. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” she said.

Peralta believes this experience helped her realize the importance of studying the Bible and the willingness to share with others. “I feel more comfortable talking about spiritual ideas and referencing the Bible now,” she said. “I’m excited to learn more and lead in Bible studies with my future students.”