“When God changes your inside, it also shows on the outside,” shared Dr. Juan Ariel Sanchez. Ariel is currently a student at Grace School of Theology while also serving as Director of Spanish Admissions. Over the past year, he has embarked on a journey of personal discipline that truly transformed him both inside and out.
Ariel grew up in the Dominican Republic with his parents and two younger sisters. He became a Christian when he was 17 years old after attending an evangelistic meeting in a local church. “At that point in time, I was struggling as a teenager to stay on the right path,” shared Ariel. “Because of my salvation, with God’s help, I was able to turn my life around and began the process of developing my faith and understanding who I am as a child of God.”
In 2004, Ariel moved to the United States where he met his wife, Kristen. They have been married for 11 years and have a daughter, Ariela.
Before attending Grace, Ariel earned his Doctorate in Law in 2004, followed by a Master’s Degree in Christian Leadership. He has also acquired several certificates in different areas including ministry, music and sound engineering. Drawing from his education, he has served in many different fields prior to joining Grace. Most recently, he had the opportunity to work as a high school teacher for underprivileged students, instructing them in History, Bible, Music, Social Studies, and Foreign Language.
Dr. Fernando Abella, Director of the Spanish Bible Program, personally recommended that he attend Grace. “I had a deep desire to continue my ministerial education, and Grace is the perfect match to meet those needs,” said Ariel.
Ariel enjoys being a student at Grace, particularly the relationships he has forged. “The staff and professors have gone above and beyond the call to make me feel valued as a student and staff member,” Ariel shared. “The mentorship I have already received has impacted me at such a deep level, and I will forever be grateful for this time and experience at Grace.”
While attending a class entitled Spiritual Life, Ariel felt the need to evaluate several areas of his life. One requirement of the class was to write devotionals daily. Ariel began to reflect on his life and what “dying to self” meant to him.
“I started to look in me to determine what’s stopping me from having a deeper relationship with God. How am I going to serve Him?” Ariel asked himself. “That’s when I realized that weight is a limitation.”
Ariel felt limited in his capacity to serve God when he was not physically fit. He knew he had to change some habits and focus on practicing what he has learned at Grace. It began with a burning desire to have a deeper relationship with God. He committed himself to having the proper discipline, first in his spiritual life and next in his physical life.
Challenged to better care for his body in order to have the physical energy and strength to serve God passionately, Ariel began his own personal weight loss program. “It wasn’t a fancy commercial weight loss program,” said Ariel. “It’s simply an application of the principle of dying to self, disciplining yourself for God so that He can use you better. We have to learn to assume change with joy, not just because the doctor told you.”
While he worked on spending more quality time with God and His Word, he also worked on eating healthy and exercising regularly. It was difficult at first, but soon it became a family effort. Ariel’s wife and daughter were motivated to participate and encourage him along the way. As a result, he has lost more than 30 pounds since he began this journey.
“There is nothing more fulfilling in the life of a believer than when you actually see the results of your commitment to God,” Ariel said excitedly. “I have experienced God’s grace over and over again, and I have already seen the fruit of this process in my family’s life and in mine.”
Ariel and Kristen are both involved in worship and music ministry in their local church and conduct conferences and training seminars. “One of the greatest challenges of working in this specific ministry is the times we have seen a lack of understanding of the theology of worship as a crucial part of Christian living,” Ariel shared. His education from Grace has provided him with important and practical tools that he can use in his ministry. He values the various opportunities he has been given over the years to train other music ministers through the Word of God, teaching them the importance of worship and the application of music in the local church.
Now, God is using Ariel greatly in expanding the reach of Grace’s Spanish Bible Program. On a daily basis, he is involved in marketing, promotion, admissions, advising, mentoring, recruiting, and more. Ariel continues to be amazed by what God is doing in his life. “I am located in Florida, but I am able to establish relationships and connections with people from Chile, Honduras, and other Hispanic countries as well as here in the United States,” said Ariel.
Recently, Ariel was thrilled to return to the Dominican Republic and bring with him the vision of Grace. Around thirty students from this country are now taking courses online. “I can’t even begin to understand the dimension of what God is doing through Grace, but it is beautiful for the Kingdom of God.”
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