By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
WEST MONROE – A few hundred members of First West recently celebrated the baptism of 31 fellow members down by the riverside.
One of two river baptisms the church holds each year, First West held River Fest on a mid-August afternoon that resembled a true celebration by the Ouachita River. Nearly 600 people were present to witness the baptisms and take part in games, music, inflatables for the kids and a catered catfish supper.
“There was a lot of energy, as people were super excited to get baptized,” said Christopher Trombatore, student pastor at First West. “We had people from every age range and socio-economic class. It was just a really neat day for our church and the people who were baptized.”
For Trombatore, River Fest was extra special.
The last person he baptized was Caleb Adams, a member of the youth group when Trombatore was student minister at Tom Hebert Road Baptist Church in Lake Charles. Now an intern for the student ministry at First West, Adams believed he had made a decision when he was younger and was baptized. However, as a teenager, Adams realized his true need for Christ but had not followed through with believer’s baptism.
Adams told Trombatore he knew the river baptism event was approaching and that it was time for him to participate in baptism.
“He said he wanted to be baptized to be obedient,” he said. “I told him he would give freedom to those who have that fear.
“We have people who make a decision to accept Christ but years pass before they get baptized, so he isn’t the first to do this,” he continued. “To see someone in leadership over them take that humble step is a really cool baptism story.”
Adams said taking that next step before his entire church family was very humbling.
“No one expects staff to need baptism, but after a lot of praying and conviction I knew I had to follow through with it even though I was saved over seven years ago,” Adams said. “I would not have chosen any other way or setting to experience the baptism. Outside in the river and surrounded by friends and family was such a great time that I will never forget.”
Becoming a Christ follower
Kelly Moravek decided to take the step of baptism by immersion along with her husband, Christopher, during River Fest, many years after experiencing baptism by sprinkling as an infant in the Catholic church.
When the couple discovered First West after a series of moves to other states, they connected with a Bible study group, participated in mission trips and learned of the importance of believer’s baptism. It was then that the Moraveks decided that getting baptized by immersion at River Fest was what the Lord was leading them to do.
“With our church family and friends, there, in the midst of pouring rain, my husband and I were baptized, together, side-by-side, in the Ouachita River, by several of our pastor friends,” she said. “Amazing is always the first word that comes to mind when asked what it felt like. I always feel this warmth throughout my whole body when I think about it. We publically professed our faith and dedication to God in the presence of many – it is not something I will ever forget.”
So far this year, First West has recorded 158 baptisms. They are on pace to baptize 175 people before the end of 2015.
River Fest provided a time for both of its campuses in West Monroe and Fairbanks to come together and celebrate another milestone of baptisms this year, said Dwight Munn, discipleship pastor at First West.
“Now that we are one church in two locations, our River Fest (river baptism) serves as a great way to bring both campuses together in fellowship and celebration of those God is adding to our church family,” Munn said. “We have jumpers for the kids, a