By Marilyn Stewart, Regional Reporter
NEW ORLEANS – The phone call Alexis Leslie received from Calvary Baptist School in New Orleans last year began with words every parent loves to hear.
“I have awesome news,” Leslie said the principal told her. But when Leslie heard her 11-year-old son Liam had made a commitment to follow Christ, she was not sure she understood.
“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know a whole lot about the Baptist religion. I’m Catholic,” Leslie said. “I really wasn’t quite sure what ‘saved’ meant.”
The unusual phone call was followed by an unusual baptism when Liam Leslie, a fifth-grader, was baptized Oct. 28 in front of the entire student body, K-8th grade.
The school is a ministry of Calvary Baptist Church in New Orleans, and when a Sunday morning baptism could not be worked out, the church approved the baptism during school hours, a first for the school.
“We couldn’t seem to find a perfect fit for a Sunday baptism date with the family,” said Laekan Carter, the school’s children’s coordinator and a chapel teacher. “Liam asked me weekly, for months, when he could be baptized.”
Liam’s commitment to Christ had come months earlier after Carter had shared during a school chapel program what it meant “to have a relationship with Christ.” When the children were invited to approach her with questions, Liam wrote out a note asking Carter what the phrase “relationship with Christ” meant.
As Carter met with Liam and answered his questions, she realized he was being moved by Jesus’ love for him.
“What resonated with Liam was that he was created for a purpose and that God’s Son would die for him,” Carter said. “The magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice made an impression on him.”
For Liam’s parents, baptism in a pool baptistery was something they had never before seen, Leslie said.
“I was a nervous wreck,” she confessed. “I put myself in his position as to how nervous I would be [to be baptized] in front of all my classmates. I asked Liam if he was nervous. He said, ‘A little bit.’”
Pastor and school headmaster Michael Carney, aided by Carter, performed the baptism in a ceremony that Leslie described as “beautiful.” Though Leslie said the family has not been active in church, she was glad her son wanted “Christ in his life.” Leslie said a sister in Alabama who is Baptist also helped her understand what Liam’s commitment and request to be baptized meant.
“When they told me, I didn’t realize it was that big of a deal. Since then I’ve come to find out that it is a big deal,” Leslie said. She added that when her son asked to be baptized, she “immediately” said yes.
The day of the baptism, Carney explained to the students its meaning and purpose. In addition, an accompanying video provided an explanation geared toward children.
“My students were so excited to watch the baptism,” said Jennie Gartman, a second-grade teacher. “Afterwards, there were lots of questions about why he was baptized.”
Carter said Liam Leslie has a sweet, teachable spirit.
“It was an honor to be a part of that and to see it impact our community,” Carter said. “It was a privilege to walk with [Liam], sharing Jesus with him and seeing him baptized, but also walking with him and discipling him and watching him grow.”