Baptized!

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

“Kenya Jayne Washington, if you bounce one more time, you can just go to church with one undone braid!” Nairobi exclaimed. One of Kenya’s beaded braids had fallen apart in her sleep, and her big sister was trying to repair it.

“I can’t hold still!” Kenya protested. “I’m too excited!” But she tried really hard. Today, of all days, she couldn’t go to church with one braid sticking out like a haystack! Today, Kenya, Morgan, Mother, and Dad were all being baptized!

Kenya didn’t have any trouble standing still when she thought how disappointed she was that Nairobi had decided not to get baptized with the rest of the family. When her sister finished the braid, Kenya hugged her hard.

Nairobi hugged her back, but looked surprised. “What was that for?”

“Just because I love you.” Kenya wanted to say more, but Dad had made it very clear that if she started arguing with Nairobi again she would regret it. Anyway, she knew he was right. Nairobi shouldn’t be baptized because her sister wanted her to be. She had to be convinced, in her own heart, that God wanted it. And that was the Holy Spirit’s job, not Kenya’s.

Kenya skipped toward the kitchen for breakfast. “So hurry up and convince her!” she whispered under her breath.

Finally, everyone was ready to go. Dad and Morgan looked handsome in their fine new ties, and Mother had let Nairobi braid her hair in fancy designs against her head. “Now you won’t get all messed up when you’re wet,” Nairobi had promised her mother.

At church, Kenya thought Sabbath School would last at least a year! But, the lesson about Paul and Barnabas teaching non-Jewish people about Jesus was interesting. Up to that time, most Christians were Jews.

“I guess,” Kenya said to Ms. Kimoto, “they felt everybody had to be Jewish to be saved.”

“Some of them felt that way, at least,” the teacher agreed.

“That’s kind of like saying you have to be Seventh-day Adventist to be saved,” Susannah pointed out.

Kenya looked at her in surprise. She had been almost feeling as if Nairobi didn’t love Jesus because she wouldn’t join this church.

Ms. Kimoto wrote the word “CHRISTIAN” down the side of the board, one letter under another. “What is a Christian?” she asked. “Who can tell me something starting with C that tells what a Christian is.”

“Kind!” Matt exclaimed. Then his face turned red. “Oh, no, never mind.”

Everybody giggled. “That’s OK, it sounds the same,” they told Matt.

“Caring!” Susannah said. “How about caring, Matt? That’s kind, right?”

Matt’s face cleared. “Yeah, caring! That’s what I meant.”

Kenya was unusually quiet. Nairobi was caring. Look how she had fixed Mom’s hair, and Kenya’s too.

The class moved on to H.

“Happy!”

“Helpful!”

Nairobi was both those things.

“Good!” Ms. Kimoto said. “What about R?”

“Rejoicing!” Kenya thought of how excited Nairobi had been when Kenya got straight A’s on her report card.

“What about I?” Ms. Kimoto asked.

Everybody was silent. “Uhhh . . .”

“Immortal,” Susannah said.

The class looked at her. “Cool!” Mike exclaimed.

Kenya was thinking. She knew that Nairobi had accepted Jesus into her heart and that she loved Him very much. That meant Jesus had given her His eternal life. The only reason Nairobi was unwilling to be baptized was that she wasn’t yet sure it was what Jesus wanted.

“Forgive me, Jesus,” Kenya prayed silently. “I didn’t mean to judge my sister the way some of the Jews judged the Gentiles. I know she loves You and I know You love her. Help me to love her the way You do, and to be patient, the way You are.”

When Sabbath School was over, Kenya and her mother went into a special little room at the front of the church. Aunt Rose, who was a deaconess, went with them. Dad and Morgan and Mr. Patterson went into a little room on the other side. Kenya and Mother got dressed in white robes. Kenya was shivering, not because she was cold, but because she was now too excited even to bounce.

Clinging to her mother’s hand, Kenya climbed down the steps into the deep, warm water, where Pastor Lewis was waiting for them. Dad and Morgan were coming down the other steps, dressed in black robes like the pastor’s. Pastor Lewis’s smile made him look as if he was almost as excited as Kenya.

“Brothers and sisters, we are gathered for a very special event today. The Washington family has decided to show their commitment to Jesus by being baptized.” Pastor Lewis took Kenya’s hands and arranged them on his wrist. She hung on so tightly she could see her fingertips turning pink. He raised his other hand over her head. “Kenya, because you have shown that you love Jesus and want to be His child, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Putting a cloth over her mouth and nose, the pastor lowered Kenya under the water and stood her up again, wiping her face. He held her while she got her feet under her and then gave her a hug. It was over so quickly!

As Pastor Lewis turned to Morgan, Kenya looked out over the side of the tank and found Nairobi in the congregation. Was Nairobi crying? She looked up at Mother. She was crying too!

Kenya watched as Morgan, Mother, and then Dad were baptized. Looking back out at Nairobi, she saw that her sister was smiling through her tears.

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