“For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17
Four baptisms since reopening
Since Bethlehem Church in Middle River, Maryland, began reopening in early June, they have celebrated four baptisms.
Luann Sudbrook and Lou Root had been taking membership classes prior to the COVID-19 restrictions and continued on Zoom. When they returned to the building, the couple made a decision to follow through with believer’s baptism.
Sudbrook accepted Christ earlier in her life but drifted. When she began attending Bethlehem Church, she said she was very comfortable and returned regularly. “It became ‘something more,’” she shared. Christened as a child, Sudbrook felt led to take the next step in her Christian walk.
Lou Root had also been taking the new member classes prior to COVID-19. Root said he too had made a commitment years before but wasn’t where he wanted to be spiritually. “I really didn’t follow it,” he said of his walk with Jesus. “Now, I’m really into the Lord and I felt (baptism) was right and another part of my life to do.”
Curt Baker grew up regularly attending a church in South Carolina. When he was eight, he and his brothers talked to their pastor and
and Baker said he “went through the motions” of accepting Jesus, but really didn’t understand salvation. As an adult, he met his wife, Amy, who was teaching in Maryland and was friends with Bethlehem Church Pastor Matthew Robinson and his wife Sarah. When Baker and Amy married, they began attending Bethlehem Church. Baker was convicted by the Holy Spirit, committed his life to Jesus, and made the decision to follow in obedience in baptism.
Thirteen-year-old Vincent Klock thought he was saved as a younger child, but after being further exposed to the Gospel through church and youth meetings, he and his parents, Bill and Shanna, felt he didn’t completely understand the plan of salvation. Shanna led Vincent to the Lord before bedtime one evening, and Vincent made the decision to follow through with believer’s baptism. Cody Cooper, his youth minister, baptized him on Father’s Day.
Asked whether the pandemic has had an effect on the baptism decisions, Robinson said “yes” immediately. “The Lord has been using this all along, moving in people’s hearts. It’s part of the process. He’s been going through, using it all for His good.”
“We are the caregivers. God is the cure giver.”
Sharon Bible Fellowship Church (SBFC) in Lanham, Maryland, has started a Stephen Ministry, providing one-on-one care to those going through various difficult situations in their lives.
Gail Tucker, a deaconess at SBFC, first heard of the organization while attending Lancaster Bible College. One of her professors, Fredrica Brooks-Davis, led a Stephen Ministry at REID Temple and shared about it with her students. Tucker was intrigued. “I thought, Lord, this is something we can do at Sharon.”
Tucker and four others attended an informational meeting. “We were amazed by it and thought it was something doable and necessary,” she remembered.
“It’s lay care,” she explained. “We don’t diagnose or prescribe, we just walk alongside of people in need, regardless of the situation. Some people think it’s just about grief. In many ways, people are grieving someone or something — whatever it is.” Stephen ministers walk alongside of that person who needs help, being there, listening, providing support.
With SBFC Pastor Victor Kirk’s approval, Tucker and church members Carolyn Bowden and Juanita Durham, traveled to Dallas to be trained as Stephen Leaders. Before they were able to train other SBFC members, COIVD-19 restrictions went into effect.
Rather than postpone the training, Tucker proposed that they do the training via Zoom and utilize Zoom Rooms for breakout sessions. They’re about halfway through the training.
“One of leaders already has a care receiver and they connect by phone. The good thing is that this ministry allows you to do that. Preferably it would be face-to-face, but in a time such as this, people still need care. They need support. Some have experienced death in their families and haven’t been able to grieve or have proper funerals; people are lonely and they need someone to talk to. They’re hurting, angry and they need someone to come alongside them for a few weeks or months. That’s what we’re equipping our ministers to do,” Tucker explained.
Other Stephen Ministries are impressed with the church’s decision to move forward through Zoom and have contacted Tucker for more information.
Tucker emphasized that Stephen ministers aren’t counseling or giving advice. Rather, they’re walking alongside people, gently encouraging them, and sharing as the Holy Spirit leads.“We wrap our arms around people and show them Jesus,” she said.
Quoting a key Stephen Ministry phrase, Tucker said, “We’re the caregivers but God is the Cure-giver.”
The connections make all the difference
Grace Baptist Church (GBC) in Cumberland, Maryland, has online worship services weekly, but the congregation has been meeting in-person every other week. Pastor Keith Aguila said the leadership team will continue to meet monthly to determine the right time to restart weekly meetings. Aguila said though they are taking precautions, the limited meetings add another layer of protection and allow time for the COVID-19 virus to die.
Aguila’s son, Abraham, is serving in the military in Japan. Aguila said he was surprised and excited when Abraham told him that he was watching GBC’s worship services online.
Though that was a very special connection, all connections make a difference, Aguila said. He knows a woman at the post office who does not attend church and she asked about services. Aguila shared that they were airing online and she said she would watch. Knowing the person — the personal touch — helps draw people in, Aguila said. They may not watch a well-known, popular preacher, but they may watch you, because they know you.
“Joy Kapper will be the first summer missionary to be sent by the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) to the Ontario Southern Baptist Association as part of the BCM/D’s Canada partnership.” (BaptistLIFE, June 1988)
“Maryland City Church had VBS – Blast OFF! with games, clowns, train rides, moon bounce, a giant slides, puppets, and NASA exhibits.” (BaptistLIFE, June 1988)
“In the winter of 1957, a group of five families began meeting and praying together about the need to start a Baptist church in the part of Newark known as Ogletown. Then, on March 19, 1960, Ogletown Baptist Church, in Delaware constituted as a church …” (“From Age to Age,” by Champ Thornton).
“We believe a healthy pastor can build a healthy congregation. Health is the issue. Ministers want, need, and deserve for themselves and their families, all the help we can give.” Charles Barnes (BCM/D executive director, 1993-2000)
Cover photo submitted (Matt Robinson and Curt Baker).