In 1944, we were still living on the “river place,” and I was attending school in Marble Rock, Iowa. We attended the Bethel Baptist Church in Marble Rock.
While school was still in session, the church scheduled revival meetings. Back then, it wasn’t just a revival service, it was an entire week of meetings.
The evangelist, John Long, had a very good approach to young people. He scheduled a youth meeting in our school during one of the study periods. Everyone could attend, from grade school through high school. (Today, that would not be” politically correct.”)
Evangelist Long could take us from rolling with laughter to seriousness, with some pointed Scriptures from God’s Word. He set up meetings for the youth each day after school, and they were very well attended. He challenged us to read God’s Word, and started a contest, based on the amount of Scripture we read each day.
Since I was very competitive, I carried my Bible wherever I went, and read during the noon hour, and when I could, in the study halls. I do not remember who actually won the contest, but I was definitely a winner. I learned that I could not go to heaven on my parents experience with God. I began to realize that I would have to go to meet God by myself. I felt so sinful, and listened attentively through the services.
Through those services, and reading God’s Word, I learned there was hope for me, in spite of the times I hadn’t always done what I knew was right. God showed me there was hope for even me.
On Friday night, the invitation was given as we sang “Teach Me to Pray,” which was the theme song for the week. I could not sit still any longer. I nearly ran to that altar to ask the Lord to forgive my sins, and to come abide in my heart. A load of guilt was lifted from my life that evening, and many other of the young people as well.
I wish I could say that I never failed Jesus, but I cannot say that; but I did have His comforting presence, and forgiveness. Whenever I failed Him, He always met me with open arms, and forgave me of my sins.
A couple of weeks later, our pastor made a visit to our home. He asked if our family would like to be baptized. I don’t know about my father, but my mother had been “sprinkled” in a Methodist church. The pastor explained that Christ set the example of being immersed, and if we truly knew Him, we should be baptized as He was.
My brother, Gaylord, had accepted the Lord at camp meeting that summer, and they wanted to baptize us as a family. We all agreed, and the next Sunday, all four of us were baptized.
To me, at thirteen, this was an awesome experience. The ladies had totally decorated the baptismal with grass, borrowed from the local funeral home, and since it was the season for the peonies to be in bloom, all of the ladies brought peonies, and banked the sides of the baptismal.
This was so impressive to me, as it looked exactly like a real grave. At the age of thirteen, this really made the symbol of baptism so real, being buried with Christ, and raising from the life of sin to new life in Christ. These moments have been re-lived many times, and it was so special to be baptized with my brother and my parents.
I realize that baptism would have been useless to me, if I never strove to live a new life with Christ. “Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.”
Am I perfect? By no means, but I am pressing on to be a conqueror of sin through Jesus Christ, my Savior. There are some things that I still struggle with in my life, but praise God, He knows my heart.