WELCOME HOME. This is what the sign reads when you enter the church property. This has been my testimony for almost 15 years. This church is my home, my (spiritual) family.
My husband and I joined NCCB a month after we got married. This church has been the common denominator for most of our married life. This is where we learnt how to be married, forged life-long friendships in the trenches of serving the body of Christ together, had our three babies, watched as our babies and our friends’ babies grew up into vibrant little people. We have cried, celebrated, and prayed together. Church is more than a Sunday service, and through our involvement at NCCB over the years, we have discovered that WE, the people, are the church.
Top on my list of my favourite church memories is water baptisms. There is something ethereal about being included as eyewitnesses to the moment a person publicly demonstrates that their life is surrendered to Jesus Christ. Whether I know the person or not, I am brought to tears (of heavenly joy) when I watch as this son or daughter of my God, surrenders and gets immersed into the water. You can see awe-inspiring elation and deep wonder on their faces as they are brought up out of the water, when they know they have been joined with Christ in His death and now are raised to life (see Rom 8:4; Col 2:12; Gal 2:20) just as Christ was.
In that moment, as we gather around the school swimming pool on the property, we join the great cloud of witnesses in heaven and watch this supernatural illustration. I can almost hear the celebration taking place in heaven when a person takes this step of faith and obedience. Must be why God chose this moment to declare “This is my beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased.” (see Matt 3:17; Mark 1:11)
And every time a person is water baptised, I am also reminded of the Fathers love for me.
As mentioned, all three of our children were born during our time at NCCB. I can remember the first service attended with each new baby. After experiencing the life changing event of giving birth, walking into the church foyer feels like a home-coming every time. Beautiful chaos at home with another newborn, and then a reminder of why we do this when I walk into the church, as if for the first time, again.
I remember clearly returning to church after giving birth to Lujah Mia Bella (which means praise God for my beautiful), now 5-years old, but forever my baby girl. I walked in with this tiny little person, too small for her big pram, as the congregation was worshipping to the song Good, Good Father by Chris Tomlin.
You’re a good, good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am
I was overcome by extreme gratitude; a depth of joy experienced anew when you feel unconditional love for your child, and you understand how much more than unconditional He loves us. He is a good, good Father.
Back to water baptism… After witnessing many beautiful water baptisms, I had a growing anticipation for the day when one of our own children would make the decision to publicly declare their acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice.
On 1 March 2020, our eldest, Daniel, decided it was time. He had actually decided it was time a few baptisms prior to that day, but as parents we were hesitant. What if he didn’t really understand? Is he ready? What if he back slides one day? Is he too young? Thankfully, while all these questions were floating around in my head, I had coffee with a dear friend. Upon asking her what she thought, she replied without hesitation: “Dunk that kid!”.
We read in Acts 8 how Philip overhears an Ethiopian man reading from Isaiah 53. This sparks a conversation about the meaning of the passage and Philip proceeds to tell him about Jesus. As soon as the man grasps what he was reading and accepts what Jesus did for him, he sees a puddle. “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” he asks with faith like a child. Philip agrees and there and then he is baptised.
This is one of my favourite passages because of the passion and child-like faith of this brand-new believer. But here I am as a mother, tasked with raising this child to be a disciple of Jesus, doubting my own child’s zeal. At the age of 8, my child might not comprehend exactly what he is signing up for, but if we follow the pattern of scripture, baptism is to follow shortly, if not immediately, after salvation. It is a public declaration of something that happens in your innermost being. We might not always have all the answers and complete understanding but waiting until we have all those things isn’t the pattern modelled in scripture. First century believers would not have had all the human understanding either. They did not even have the New Testament to explain it. They had the prophets’ words and Jesus’ example and that was more than enough.
So, we, the parents, got out of the way and let Daniel do what his heart desired.
My husband got the privilege of baptising our first born (the next one is mine unless its winter of course 😉 ). I stood on the edge of the pool, in awe. It was a holy moment. My child, without our prompting, has chosen Jesus, and he has chosen to follow His example and be baptised. As parents we desire many good things for our children but knowing that my child will one day enter eternity with me, is the greatest prize. Jesus mandated us with discipling the nations and baptising them (see Matt 28:19-20). This is a great and earnest privilege for sure. But what is the use of seeing multitudes saved however your own children are left behind?
Suffice to say, I did not have an angel for a child after he got baptised. I hoped, but alas. He is still naughty, cheeky, immature and a child. There are many years ahead where he will be challenged in his faith. He might stray. But he will have this memory, this moment in time, where he chose for himself. He decided to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and wherever his feet take him in his life on earth, Jesus’ footsteps will guide him back.
By Chantal Janse van Vuuren