Billy Graham saved me. Well, that's not exactly true. Jesus saved me. But he used Billy Graham to get the job done. When I was a youngster, my parents took me to a Billy Graham crusade at Mile High Stadium in Denver. I was always a tender little gal, so when Billy gave the alter call, I went down the bleachers with hundreds of others, and I prayed to accept Christ as my Savior.
But though I became a Christian at a young age (my parents can't actually remember how old I was - perhaps 5), I wasn't baptized until later in life.
I went to a secular college, and to this day I am so glad I did. I was forced to get out of my Goody-Two-Shoes bubble and make choices. I made good friends with the people in my dorm, and from the beginning I had two groups of friends: My party friends who got drunk and did all those college-y things (who, by the way, I really like and am still friends with), and my church friends. It forced me, in a way I had never had to before, to make a clear decision about how I was going to live my life.
Those first months were intense and I reevaluated and scrutinized my faith - holding it up to the light to see if I still really believed what I said I had so long ago on a football field with Mr. Graham. I decided that I did.
There seem to be times and movements in the church in which big things happen. I, through no doing of my own, got to be swept away in one of them my freshman year of college. There was a small group of about 8 college students at a church who really wanted to share the gospel at our university known for binge drinking and setting couches on fire. (Go Rams!)
I believe the Holy Spirit swept through Newsom Hall and did something amazing. A good number of students who had never heard the gospel before heard it and made decisions to follow Christ. A good number of freshmen Christian who had never left the safety of the nest before made the choice of whom they would serve in life. This church group is still going strong and has changed hundreds of lives up in the Fort.
So in October, a couple of months after we'd arrived, our growing little student group took a weekend trip to Grey Rock Mountain, one of the popular hiking spots up the Poudre Canyon. We hiked in at night and set up camp. We made a big fire and gathered around it while the pastor, Steve, talked.
Steve was one of those incredible people you meet only a couple of times in life. He was smart. He knew everything about the Bible. And he was one of the most influential speakers I've ever heard. People would travel thousands of miles to conferences to hear him speak. We got to hear him several times a week. He would sometimes preach on campus; others times he would publicly debate philosophy professors; and once a week he would study the Bible in-depth with us. At these weekly meetings, I learned to love the Bible and love plumbing it for truth.
Years later, I moved to Amsterdam with Steve and a group of people to plant a church. Sadly, after a while in Amsterdam, Steve left his wife and left church altogether as well. But I bring Steve up because of the profound influence he had on my faith - and baptism.
So on this chilly October night we sat by the fire, warming our hands and listening to Steve talk about giving your life to Christ. He challenged those of us who never had to take the step of being baptized as a sign that we had chosen to follow Christ. I was with Katy, a girl who lived across the hall from me. She had never heard the gospel before.
After Steve had finished, he said to let him know if we wanted to take the step of being baptized the next day. I decided that yes, I did. Katy also said she wanted to be baptized. This caused a conundrum. Linda (a wonderful woman) asked her, "Have you ever received Christ as your Savior?" "No," said Katy. So we arranged to wake up bright and early the next day to talk.
Katy and I slept wrapped up in our mummy bags looking up at the stars over Grey Rock. At dawn, we got up and met Linda in a meadow. She had her worn Bible with her and she shared verses with Katy about how Christ had come to Earth in order to die for sinners, that we might be forgiven for our sins. Katy accepted Christ as her Savior and we knelt our bundled up heads and prayed together.
Once everyone else was up, we had to scramble up the rocks to the tippy-top of Grey Rock, where there is a small lake.
It was a cold morning. I hadn't planned to get baptized, so I hadn't brought any clothes for it. Someone was kind enough to lend me a T-shirt and shorts. About 6 to 9 of us were baptized that morning (I can't quite remember how many). The water was so cold it was hard to breathe. My memories of baptism are memories of ice, though at this particular baptism, we didn't have to break the ice to get in like we did many other times on the frigid Poudre River.
Steve baptized me and then baptized Katy. Several of the other people baptized that morning had also just gotten saved and several of them have gone on to become pastors.
On the hike back down, we were exhilarated. I remember being worried about the wet white T-shirt I was wearing, excited by the experience I'd just had, and so happy to have found this group of friends.
For me, my baptism marks when I made an earnest decision as an adult to follow Christ. It stands as a memorial to me of my choice about what and whom I will live for - no matter how many times I fail or forget, it is my primary Ebenezer.
In case you're wondering, Katy is one of the people I moved to Amsterdam with. I was in her wedding, and she was in mine. Now she lives in Denver with her three kids.
So what is your baptism story? Where and when were you baptized?