Last week, I had a birthday.
And as I began the 23rd year of my life, I found myself reflecting on the freedom that has been found in the last 12 months.
Freedom in knowing that God is in control of all things. That He has a plan for our lives.
I read Psalm 139 on the beach in Abidjan (we were there to pick up Heidi’s boyfriend, Taylor, from the airport). I’m pretty sure that psalm was meant to be read on a beach in West Africa! I’m blown away that the God who created the universe also decided to create me! Makes me feel really small… and really loved.
Well, we got back to Bouake last weekend and the whole team celebrated together with a Christy Miller themed Murder Mystery party. You may be wondering, “What is ‘Christy Miller’ anyway?” Christy Miller is a Christian book series for girls ages 12 and up (sounds awesome, I know) and all the girls (+ Jason!) have read them all! We love them. I can’t really explain why we’ve been so captivated by it, but it’s been so fun for us to read together (yes, out loud!) haha!
Anyway, we had a great time being back together in Bouake again! AND we have 2 new teammates! So excited for Tricia and Kelly to start their own journeys here in Cote d’Ivoire.
Pastor Keo came down from Korhogo to lead a seminar on the book of Acts this week. We talked through Acts in regards to Mission, Salvation, the Church, Prayer, and the Holy Spirit. It was awesome and refreshing!
On our last day of the study, something started moving and shaking in me. As Keo started speaking of the Holy Spirit and baptism, I started feeling this intense rumbling somewhere in me- like butterflies having a wrestling match in my stomach. Something prodding me to ask a question. I couldn’t sit still. I felt as if I would jump out of my seat if I didn’t just speak up! I asked, “Pastor Keo, I need to ask you about baptism.”
Now, I was baptized as an infant- this was the choice of my parents to raise me with a knowledge of Christ, as I see it. I’m so thankful to them for that! I was also confirmed in the Lutheran Church when I was 14, claiming my faith as my own and choosing to learn more about the church. But something hit me last year in a bible study with Pastor Bruce that stirred me to question if I could be baptized as an adult. The passage I remember reading in that room at Clovis EVFree was the very same passage that Pastor Keo led me to. He pointed me back to Act 19:1-7. Baptism must be in the name of Jesus Christ.
Then I read Acts 8:26-38. There is a man who is riding back to Ethiopia from Jerusalem. He is reading from the Book of Isaiah. Philip, one of the disciples, is walking along the same road when the Holy Spirit tells him to walk alongside this man’s carriage. Philip hears the man reading aloud from Isaiah 53. Philip asks if he understands what he is reading, but the man says , “how can I unless someone instructs me?”. Philip rides with him and explains that the very passage he is reading is the Good News of Christ.
“As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look!, There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?’ He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38).
I felt the tears of intense emotion brimming. “Why can’t I be baptized?” ringing in my ears. I didn’t want to put it off any longer either. I had avoided the question and prodding toward adult baptism for more than a year. I wanted to declare it! I wanted Pastor Keo to take me down to the river and dunk me!
And that’s what happened! Pastor Keo and Rod, all my teammates, all our Ivoirian friends on campus: Bakary, Clana, Sarah, Benjamin, and Tenena; we all walked down to the little river behind Village Baptiste and I was “washed by the water”! Steph was feeling the same stirrings and was baptized too! We sang in Dyula, Tyembara, French, and English! Pastor Keo asked me to proclaim my faith in Jesus Christ and I answered with a resounding “OUI!” There was so much joy! PLUS: we were the first Americans Pastor Keo had ever baptized! And it was all in French!
Baptism is a declaration of our faith in Jesus Christ. Just as He died for our sins and rose again, our sin and brokenness are buried in the water and we raise to proclaim our new life in Him.
This past year has been full of new freedom. Freedom from sin. Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from political crisis. Freedom from expectations.
Freedom to live for Him.
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
I’m 23 and feeling free.