We exist to see people’s live transformed by Jesus Christ, and that’s exactly what we got to celebrate this weekend as we witnessed 27 baptisms, 27 individuals publicly testifying that Jesus is their Lord and Savior and he is working in their lives.
We still have many of these stories to share with you, and we hope and pray that they would encourage you to think of your own story. Maybe it’s almost time for you to get #dunked.
Neo was baptized Saturday evening during Mission Weekend, and here’s his story of what led him to the water:
In the summer of 2009, at the age of 19, I bought a one-way ticket, from China to America. I was so determined, I myself dragged two oversized luggage, plus an overweight backpack, to the aircraft and traveled across the Pacific all the way to the U.S. Ever since then, the book of my life flipped to a new chapter. I started my journey in America, alone.
First stop: Newark, Delaware.
Here I resided in an American couple’s house, Heidi and Jerry. They are part of the summer home-stay program for international students. During the first dinner at their house, I experienced my first table prayer before a meal. I was listening curiously and at the same time staring at the food, drooling out of control. That was all brand new to me.
Later, Heidi smiled at me and shared, “We are Christians and table prayer is a tradition for us.” I nodded but my whole heart was for the food. Gosh, the lasagna was so delicious, and I couldn’t believe I had three servings that night, three big plates. With excitements and fears mixed, life in a completely different culture began its own course.
Life was quite colorful. Heidi and Jerry took me to the beach to celebrate Independence Day on July 4th. We did barbeque in the back yard, the American way. We also went hiking and biking together. Immersed in the excitements from all the new experience, on a Sunday morning, Jerry knocked on my door: “Hey, we are going to church, would you like to come?”
Without any hesitation, I said: “Sure.” It’s all about adapting and integrating into the local culture, right?
That was my first church experience. I couldn’t understand what the pastor was preaching. But everyone in the church seemed really happy. And I felt happy that they were happy.
Second stop: Ames, Iowa.
Summer was always so short. College started sooner than I anticipated. After farewell with Heidi and Jerry, I officially grew to a young adult. With a full 16-credit schedule, freshmen year had a rather tense beginning. It was a Tuesday night. Because of the midterm exam on Wednesday I had to sit in the library for 4 straight hours preparing for the exam. It took quite an effort to drag my feet to the dorm. Then I heard my roommate, Zach, singing: “Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your glorious name.”
I thought to myself, “That is really a joyful song.” I opened the door and Zach saw my exhausted body: “Hi buddy, working too hard? Do you want to sing a song and relax a little bit? I promise it really helps.”
I shrugged my shoulder: “Sure, why not.”
I started learning my first gospel song. I didn’t really care what it was about at that time. The only thing I cared about was singing this song lifted me up then – and now it always does. With Zach playing his guitar, we both were lost in the music.
Time went by quietly. Holidays knocked on the door in a timely fashion. It was the Friday afternoon before the Thanksgiving week. American students were packing for the long-awaited Thanksgiving break. There is a Chinese old saying “it is on a holiday time that one misses his family most.” Sitting alone in the chair, I was browsing some old photos, blue and sorrowful. There was this sudden home sick feeling pouring into my body. Inadvertently, my eyes were wet. I realized my honeymoon with America was over and what’s coming next would be the real challenge.
At that exact moment, Zach came in and smiled, “So we have this tradition in our family, we would invite people to stay with us through Thanksgiving. Would you like to come?”
Shocked but delighted, I replied: “Yes, yes, I’d love to.”
Later, I was introduced to Zach’s father, who was a pastor at a local evangelical church. Then, I had my second experience going to a Christian church. Zach’s father preached: 2 Corinthians 4:15, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”
Even though I still didn’t understand the complete sermon, I was extremely touched. I said to myself, “God, thank you!”
Third stop: Baltimore, Maryland.
After 4 years of college in the U.S., I had grown to become a multicultural person. I did experience all the good and bad from America, this giant culture melting pot. Life had treated me well. It was all smooth and gentle. Grad school started with my goal to become an accomplished environmental engineer.
During my undergrad years, I had been to church on and off. I wouldn’t call myself a Christian. But I did believe that there is a higher power that controlled the whole world. And the entire universe was created by that power, just like every painting is created by a painter.
On a Saturday evening, I was brought to a campus fellowship by a friend. In a Victorian townhouse, we started the Bible study. The speaker started talking, “Hi, everyone, my name is Dave. And today we will learn and discuss God’s words, the Bible.”
Dave kept preaching, “For so often in America, people claim themselves as Christian and go to church on Sundays, but some of them are doing it just out of tradition. A true Christ follower should integrate their Christian faith into their daily life. Please remember, God knows each and every one of you and wants to have a personal relationship with you. Make it personal, and talk to him. Little by little, your whole life will be transformed by God.”
It was like lightning striking my head. I thought to myself: “For too long, I just walked in and out of Christian faith, living in a completely dissociative state. I do believe there is a God but I just don’t think he has a personal relationship with me.Therefore, I rarely prayed to him, it has been a one-way communication all along.”
Realizing this, I talked to Dave and we prayed together – we prayed God would open my heart and let the Holy Spirit enter my body. That evening, for the first time, I was willingly and actively communicating with God and I prayed: “God, please talk to me.”
Life was so blessed that I almost took it for granted. When life is too smooth you would consider it as boring and wish something exciting would happen. Then that something happened. And then here it goes: Be careful what you wish for.
My working visa got denied by the immigration service because of a letter that was never received. I cried and felt helpless. Only then I turned to God: “Please help me, God.”
Eventually I had to go back to China while my attorney filed a law suit to repeal the decision.
During this stressful time, David and his wife, Nancy, had kept in contact with me. Through texting, I always felt as if they were right there with me. With the encouragement of David, I started reading Bible every day. One day, one chapter. One of them was John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
With God’s encouragement, I deserted my worry and set out to travel around the country and Southeast Asia. A journey of finding myself sailed away.
Final stop: Jesus Christ.
Three months later, I rejoiced to hear my visa issue had been resolved. Full of joy, I was on my knees and prayed, “God, thank you for being there with me.”
Looking back, I finally realized I was actually not alone and God has been there with me every step of the way. He put his people in my life to bless me. It was God through his people that guided me closer and closer to Jesus Christ and led me to the right path. He already had a relationship with me and waited right around the corner for me to discover it. Life took a sudden turn, I turned back and only found God standing right there with his arms open wide. It was unbelievable and indisputable.
Nobody said life is easy. But with Jesus Christ, I believe I will have the courage to handle whatever comes next. I can’t see where the road leads me to. But I do believe God has promised better things ahead. The only thing I have to do: TRUST IN HIM!
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!