By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
METAIRIE, La. (LBM) – Mateo Alvarez experienced plenty of fun and games at the 2019 CentriKid summer camp, but in the end also came away with something much greater – the gift of salvation.
During an evening worship session at Timber Creek Camp in Polanski, Mississippi, Alvarez, who was 10 at the time, realized the need to confess his sins and stepped forward to publicly declare Jesus as Lord.
“The decision just made sense,” Alvarez told the Baptist Message. “That evening was something I never will forget because that was the day that I shared with everyone there that I am someone who is a new creation in Christ.”
Alvarez had completed the church’s foundational course on discipleship and subsequently set a date to be baptized in the spring.
But COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings interrupted his plan.
Finally, on July 5, Alvarez was able to step down into the baptistery — with the double blessing to have his mom, Mary, by his side. She had accepted Christ 20 years ago, but was baptized then under another denomination’s doctrinal beliefs about baptism.
She wanted to follow through in believer’s baptism — an act of obedience symbolizing her faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, as well as her own death to sin, the burial of her old life, and her resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus.
“This day allowed for an extra special connection,” she said. “It reaffirmed we are going to the same place. Not only are we mother and son but brother and sister in Christ.”
The baptisms were the first for Memorial Baptist since they stopped meeting for in-person services in mid-March. Pastor Dan Pritchett said the baptisms were an encouragement that reminded him God is moving despite the uncertainty of COVID-19.
“The day when we had the baptisms was like a party,” he said. “How exciting it was to have two people come and say they need to share their faith through baptism.”
The congregation’s enthusiasm for Christ has not been limited to the baptisms.
Since March 12, the church has broadcast its services online, even while gathering for drive-in services in May and worshiping inside their facilities in early June. Technology also has allowed small groups to remain connected through use of the Zoom video conferencing platform.
COVID-19 has not stopped ministry efforts around the community, either. Members have repaired the home of an elderly couple, distributed roses to widows on Mother’s Day, helped pay rent for needy individuals and handed out paper towels and toilet paper to neighbors throughout the last several months.
“Our members have kept their ears to the ground and been receptive to needs,” he said. “There is a holy restlessness by our people. We won’t be held back and will serve no matter what. People have really sacrificed to give and minister and get the Gospel message out. They understand the opportunities at hand and don’t want to miss what God has before us.”