Home of Wheaton Bible Church's Quarterly Magazine
By Dave Thomson
Celebrations are big, upbeat gatherings that create big memories about big things. They typically involve lots of people, open spaces or huge facilities, and larger-than-life presentations and displays. We speak of July-Fourth celebrations, Super-Bowl celebrations, and election-night celebrations for big winners at the polls.
And now—from 2011 on—when many of us are asked to recall either the best baptism services or best worship experiences ever, we will look back to the April 9, 2011, Spanish-English Baptism Celebration at Wheaton Bible Church!
It was a celebration from the start because of its primary focus. We came together to recognize the work of our all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God in the lives of 152 people.
It was a celebration of our multicultural call, at its simplest and most profound level—Spanish-speaking and English-speaking congregations joined as one body by sharing the essentials of our faith, such as baptism.
It was a celebration because of the sheer number of people, about 1,500, who chose to witness 152 baptisms on a Saturday night rather than do anything else.
And it was a celebration as the Holy Spirit used the service elements to touch and unite the congregation. There was enthusiastic applause after each baptism—each person could have been the first. The delight in witnessing their obedience and joy was sustained for two hours. By singing in Spanish and English, we were able to step outside our cultures and celebrate God’s great love of the nations. And the variety and power of the transformation stories from a seven-year-old to a seventy-eight-year-old prompted nothing less than immediate celebration by all.
TESTIMONIES OF TRANSFORMATION:
DAN MANTILLA When I was twelve years old, my mom signed me up for classes at St. Anthony’s church. There I learned how to pray, started reading the Bible, and made my communion. Things were looking good until our neighborhood became flooded with gangs. I was influenced and lead astray from the church by local street gangs. I sinned in disobedient ways and had become part of the problem and not the solution. I took paths that led me away from Christ, questioned my faith, God, and made all sorts of poor choices. These bad decisions were costing me my freedom and nearly cost me my life. I really don’t know how I’m still here today. God must have been looking down on me from heaven. I believe He saw my pain, struggle, and destructive behavior. This is when my family stepped in. Pulled me out of the city and into the suburbs. They introduced me to Christ and WBC, but I refused to listen. And even though I went to a new school, made new friends, and got my first job, I barely managed to graduate from high school and make it into a community college. I didn’t do much with my education because I was still addicted to things like fast money, alcohol, pot, girls, and parties, seeking acceptance and satisfaction everywhere else without realizing this was found in the Lord already.
On one night in 2009, I hit rock bottom. I had been with my friends and got no answers. Deep down inside I didn’t understand how I kept making the same mistakes over and over again and why I couldn’t change. When I work up the next morning, I went to church at WBC, but got to the service late. It was crowded, there was nowhere to sit, and I missed most of the sermon. When I got home I logged onto my computer, went to the WBC website to see if the sermon had been recorded. And sure enough, it was. It was Easter Sunday 2009, and the sermon title was “Jesus Makes Us Alive.”
As I sat alone in my room listening to how the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ can transform lives, tears started to pour down my eyes as I was hearing and feeling the Word of God through Pastor Rob. He pointed me toward Jesus, opened my eyes toward truth, my brokenness, and made me realize how much I need a Savior. At the end of my sermon I asked Jesus to forgive me, confessing many sins, and that I wanted Christ in my life. You see, I knew about God’s wrath but didn’t know about His love or why He would even bother to hear a person like me out, but after praying and confessing, I felt this heavy burden lifted up off of me. I believe Jesus had heard my prayer, and this convicted me to reach out to the church.
Since meeting Jesus, I now have real hope. There are still many struggles in my life, but I’m putting my trust in the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Who knows what’s best for me according to His will. With Christ, the Word of God, the church, my brothers and sisters in Ecclesia, and Bible study, I have been able to abstain from the high life. So far, it’s been four months of sobriety, positive changes in my health, and new doors being opened.
EMMIE BENNER I am eight years old. One night when I was three, my mom and I were reading from a devotional. It had my favorite verse, John 3:16, that says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” My mom explained how Jesus died on the cross to forgive my sins and rose again three days later. So that’s when I prayed that He would forgive my sins and come into my life. Since then He has helped me to do the right thing even if my friends don’t and to not be afraid. Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing by myself, but I know I can ask Jesus to help me. I want to get baptized today because Jesus said to and I want to follow Him and walk in His path. I also wanted to tell everyone the story of how I became a Christian.
BOB CAVALCO I was born 78 years ago and raised as a Roman Catholic. In my 16 years of Catholic education, I never had an opportunity to take a course on the Bible. After a sad divorce from an alcoholic wife of 28 years, I remarried a Christian woman. I agreed to attend her church, Wheaton Bible Church, and my Catholic church every Sunday. I became extremely impressed with the in-depth study of the Bible at WBC. After just a few weeks, we stopped going to my church. It became quite obvious to me that the Bible is the true Word of God. I haven’t had a specific moment when I accepted biblical truth and asked Christ to come into my life as my Savior, Redeemer, and Justifier. All came together for me and what started as an intellectual endeavor continues to grow as a heartfelt commitment. Of course, I still have struggles and worries, but now can turn them over to Jesus. “Be anxious for nothing but by prayer and petition, make your requests known to God and He will give a peace that transcends all understanding and He will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” (see Philippians 4:6-7)