By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ZWOLLE (LBM) – Adelyn Penfield experienced a double blessing during her recent baptism, when both of her grandfathers simultaneously baptized the eight-year-old inside the First Baptist Church, Zwolle, worship center.
For Adelyn, the day in late July was “special and unforgettable.”
For the two grandfathers, the event marked the first time they baptized a grandchild together, a rarity they do not take for granted.
“It’s neat to see your granddaughter coming in there for baptism,” First Zwolle Pastor Jerry Penfield said. “It’s hard to hold back your tears of joy. She was so excited and was fired up, which made us pretty proud grandfathers.”
Fellow grandfather Steve Neesley, who recently retired as pastor of the Church at Marksville and is a chaplain for a hospital in Alexandria, said baptizing Adelyn brought back fond memories of leading her to repent for salvation the month before.
During his visit to her home in Many, she said she wanted to take that step of faith, Neesley said.
“She walked in and said, ‘Paw Paw, I’ve been thinking of getting baptized,’” he recalled. “I asked are you ready to ask Jesus in your heart and she said, ‘Yes.’ She was just ready. I got to be there for both her accepting Christ and getting baptized. It’s a highlight of my life.”
Adelyn is the seventh person the church has baptized this year — the most in a single year since the congregation baptized 10 in 2014, according to Annual Church Profile statistics.
Jerry Penfield admits discouragement set in when several months passed without a single baptism among the congregation that averages 110 in attendance for Sunday morning worship services.
Baptizing a group that included his granddaughter greatly lifted his spirits, he said.
“We hadn’t baptized in a long time, so all of a sudden we have seven come forward,” he said. “It’s pretty discouraging when you go through those dry spells.
“You can sense an excitement among our people now,” he continued. “They are on fire for what the future holds for our church.”
The majority of those new believers made professions of faith during Vacation Bible School in June, where the plan of salvation was presented multiple times, he said.
Like many Louisiana Baptist congregations, VBS is a major evangelistic tool First Baptist Zwolle uses to reach its community with the love of Christ.
Penfield said all the newly baptized believers have joined a Sunday school class, and are receiving in-depth discipleship on an age-appropriate level.
“For the 10 years before coming to the First Baptist Church in Zwolle, 25 years ago, I had served as a minister of education in two different congregations. I had a high regard for Sunday school as the primary outreach, assimilating and discipling arm of the church; and, I viewed Vacation Bible School as a part of this Bible teaching program,” he said. “I believe Sunday school is the church organized. Our Sunday School places a high priority on teaching, evangelistically, and on laying the foundation for the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of our young children.”