We’re getting excited for our next Baptism Weekend – July 29 & 30! We’ve started to gather stories from the individuals getting #dunked, and we invite you to check them out.

My name is Ariana Cassard, and I’m 23 years old. I grew up in Ellicott City, graduated from the University of South Carolina, then moved back and have been working as a graphic designer for the past two years.

The word I would use to describe my life before Jesus is… good. I grew up in the suburbs with a loving family, I never experienced tragedy, and I never really felt the need for anything else. I’m the youngest of three kids around the same age, and I always felt a bit different from my siblings. They were both more outgoing and confident and sometimes a handful for my parents, so I think I developed this “background” nature. I found my identity in my ability to stay out of everyone’s way. I tried to be a good enough kid to avoid trouble, but not so good that I would be noticed. And things went pretty smoothly this way – I don’t remember God ever crossing my mind as a kid.

My sister came to faith when she was in high school through the ministry of Young Life. She was all in about this thing, and I was so curious about it. They began a middle school group when I was in eighth grade, and I went “religiously” because I felt like I was supposed to, but I felt very indifferent towards the messages we heard at the end.

The next year, I was in high school and was able to attend Young Life with my sister. I enjoyed going to the Bible studies, but on more of an academic level because I loved learning new things and pretty much everything in the Bible was new to me. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but my sister wanted me to know Jesus so badly. She wanted me to have the full life she found in Christ, and I was still totally ignorant to the idea that there was something greater than me and my life.

November of my freshman year of high school we went on a weekend retreat to Northbay. Being away from my normal distractions for a weekend, that Saturday night I really heard the Gospel for the first time. I heard the speaker say that Jesus lived the perfect life and gave it up for us, and he would have done it all if it were just for me. Hearing that there is a God who knows me and loves me deeply made all of this personal. The head knowledge I’d gained made a move into my heart this weekend, and I released control of my life to the Lord.

I remember thinking that night, “yea but nothing’s going to change in my life. I get good grades, I’m not mean to my parents or friends, and I don’t do anything ‘bad.’” What I didn’t realize is that life is about so much more than being “good.”

Looking back on my life before Jesus, I just see an empty shell of a person. I had no purpose or direction in life. Now I know that Jesus has saved me from my mistakes and shortcomings, my indifference and blindness. I remember being in a Bible study in high school and one of my Young Life leaders brought in two branches from outside. One was withered, brown and dry, and the other looked healthy, colorful and budding. He told us that although the second looked better, neither branch was alive because neither was connected to its source. We read John 15:5, in which Jesus says,

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

I’ve always held that memory and verse close to my heart, because I feel like it describes my walk well. Everything looked fine on the outside, but I wasn’t truly living because I was disconnected to the true source of life.

Because my nature is to keep to myself, I used to just live day to day for my own comfort. Over the years the Lord has called me to give my life away bit by bit, for His glory. I became a Young Life leader when I was in college, a time I got to really serve high school girls who are as lost as I was. Through leading I was able to listen to and get to know girls who have lived through such brokenness, and point them toward a Savior who can redeem all of it. I think college is when I most saw Jesus’ effect on my life. I think if I had no faith in God I would have, by default, adapted to the typical college lifestyle. But I got to live this totally counter-cultural life because I have confidence in something greater.

Recently God’s pushed me even further out of my comfort zone, calling me to serve with Capernaum, Young Life’s ministry for students with special needs. I never would have thought I’d be in this ministry, but through it I’ve been given the opportunity to communicate the foundational truths of the Gospel to a group of people that’s often overlooked.

I became a follower of Jesus almost ten years ago, and every time I’ve thought about being baptized as an adult, I came up with some reason not to. I didn’t do it in high school, because I was scared. I didn’t do it in college, because my family wouldn’t have been able to witness it. I didn’t do it right when I moved home, because I didn’t know who I wanted to baptize me. Now, I am a member of a church that feels like a steady community, my family will hopefully be in the audience, and my sister, who was so instrumental in me coming to faith, has moved back home and is baptizing me.

Baptism is another way the Lord is pushing me to what He wants for my life. Honestly, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t get on stage in front of hundreds of people and get dunked into a pool of water. But the Lord calls us to publicly proclaim our faith and I’ve finally given up my stubborn disobedience. It’s time to get #dunked.

Baptism at Grace

During all worship gatherings on Baptism Weekends, we celebrate the very reason we exist as a church: Christ’s mission to make disciples, baptizing and teaching in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28: 19-20). We share testimonies of how Jesus changes lives now and for eternity. And the best part… we baptize with a joy that’s out of this world!

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