A woman finally discovers the blessings of Baptism.
Alicia A. Neumann
“I just want to go to heaven,” says 74-year-old Pat Ensign, when asked why she wanted to be baptized.
Pat’s baptism was not only a blessing to her, giving her new life and forgiveness of sins, but it was also a blessing to her church family.
A busy life
Growing up, Pat knew the importance of going to church. “I lived with my grandparents, eight of us kids,” she says. “Every Sunday we walked five miles to church and five miles back home.” Later, she got married and started attending a Baptist church.
But then her family grew, and life got very busy. “I quit going to church,” she says. “I always believed in God, but I didn’t attend church for years because I had too much to do, like taking care of my husband, the kids, and the garden. We also owned a business, and I had to help.”
And that was the pattern of her life, until about a year and a half ago when Pat called Spirit of Life, Caledonia, Mich., for help. Although her children are grown up, Pat is still a full-time caregiver. Her husband has Parkinson’s disease, and she also cares for her 15-year-old grandson, Kenny, who lives with her.
“I was looking for help for Kenny, because he is a special-needs child,” says Pat. “He goes to a special class in Caledonia school, but I was looking for more help. And I thought maybe he could get it from a church.” One day she drove past Spirit of Life, which was on the same street as her house, and got its phone number. “I didn’t even wait until I got home to call,” she says. “I had already asked a couple other churches, and they said they couldn’t help me because I didn’t belong to their church.”
But Pat got a very different answer from Allen Kirschbaum, the pastor at Spirit of Life. “Pastor was happy to hear from me and told me to come on in. He didn’t even ask if we belong to the church! He just said to bring Kenny.”
Kirschbaum started meeting with Kenny each week. “Sometimes we’d play Uno, while I talked to him and counseled him,” says Kirschbaum. “One day I showed him the new stained-glass windows in the church. I showed him how Jesus died and came out of the tomb. Then Kenny said, ‘He was dead, but then he walked out? How did he do that?’ It was a great opportunity to talk about sin and grace.” Soon, Pat and Kenny were regularly attending services, and Kenny got baptized.
Pat says she has seen such a change in Kenny. Before they came to church, she says Kenny had started talking about the devil and seemed interested in him. “But now he says, ‘I want to go to see Jesus, not the devil.’ He talks about Jesus all the time and gets the Bible out and reads it to us and tells us about it,” says Pat.
Kirschbaum says it’s been amazing to work with Kenny, who now helps usher at church, but he also wanted to help Pat. “She takes care of everyone and carries the world on her shoulders. By God’s grace, she is helping a lot of people; that’s a testament to her faith in action,” says Kirschbaum. “But I said, ‘Pat you carry so many people – who is going to carry you?’ ”
After Kenny’s baptism, Kirschbaum encouraged Pat to learn more about Jesus and discovered she was not baptized. “I really didn’t understand Baptism; I didn’t understand what it was about,” says Pat.
That’s where Pat’s friends from church helped. Pat attends “Wise Woman’s Coffee Time” with other women from the church. This support group was organized by fellow member Judy Clifton, who says, “I wanted it to be a place women could come and not have anybody judge them—where they could get a prayer or support or whatever they need.” Approximately six to ten women meet each month. “I bring specific topics or questions for us to talk about, and we share stories about things happening in our lives,” says Judy. “Sometimes we go places together. It’s been such a blessing.”
One day, Kirschbaum asked Judy if she’d talk to Pat about Baptism. “I said of course! So, the next time we met for coffee, I waited until everyone else was gone, and I started talking to Pat about Baptism,” says Judy.
It didn’t take much to convince Pat to get baptized. “When Judy started talking to me and telling me that I’d spend eternity in heaven, that’s where I want to go,” says Pat. “But I didn’t want to get baptized in front of a bunch of people. I’m 75, and I was embarrassed to tell people I wasn’t baptized. I felt more comfortable in front of a couple of ladies.”
Judy solved the problem. “All of us women love you. How would you feel about doing it with us?” she asked Pat.
Judy arranged the details so they could have a small baptism service for Pat at the next month’s coffee time. There were eight women there with Pat, and they all lined up around the baptismal font while Kirschbaum performed the Rite of Baptism. “When I got baptized, I felt warm inside; I felt like everything was lifted off of my shoulders,” says Pat. “And now I’m going to go to heaven!”
After the service, they all had coffee and cake to celebrate. “We all gave Pat a big hug and I said, ‘Pat, isn’t this the most wonderful way to celebrate your upcoming 75th birthday?’ ” says Judy. “To me it’s very emotional. Every so often I still tell her, ‘I’m so happy you got baptized and are a child of God!’ ”
Judy says it’s also uplifting to think about the impact that conversations can have. “You don’t really think you’re doing anything special, just talking to someone, but then something like this happens. Pat has so much on her shoulders, but now she can say, ‘I’m going to heaven!’ It’s just a beautiful thing.”
Kirschbaum said Pat’s baptism was special for him too. “We’ve been blessed with a lot of adult baptisms and adult confirmands here. But to baptize Pat in her 70s was a unique and special experience, and I tear up thinking about it,” he says. “I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘I wanted to get baptized so I could go to heaven.’ That makes me feel like God did something really amazing here.”
After her instruction and baptism, Pat became a member at Spirit of Life. “She’s become the welcoming crew. Any new ladies that have come here by themselves, I encourage them to talk to Pat, and she makes them feel welcome,” says Kirschbaum. “Now Spirit of Life has a new member of its youth group and a new wise woman that shares Jesus everywhere they go. Pat and Kenny are such a blessing to our church.”
Author: Alicia A. Neumann
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019