Exodus recently celebrated the baptism of five young believers, all of them between the ages of 8 and 10.
For parents who are new to our gathering, new to the faith, or who have not yet had one of their children baptized, these baptisms may have raised questions, such as:
- How can we know our children truly believe, if they can’t express it in adult terms?
- How do you know if your child is ready to be baptized?
- How can we help our kids develop a faith of their own?
Each of those newly baptized children has their own unique story, but they all share something in common—their parents felt they could see evidence of God’s work in the heart of their child.
They share these stories as encouragement for other families at Exodus, and to bear witness to God’s grace in and among his children.
Jannie Lou Painter
Jannie Lou Painter was the third of Aaron and Elle Painter’s children to be baptized. God has worked in different ways in each of them.
“We’ve tried to look for evidence of God working in their hearts apart from us,” Elle explained. “We’re able to see they have a desire or a draw to the things of God—they are curious about Scripture, wanting to understand things more, being willing to accept instruction from God’s word…All of those little things are just signs of real belief.”
For example, if Jannie gets in a fight with one of her brothers, Elle explained, “[we talk] about how we’re called to love, to confess sin, and how we’re called to forgive, and [we’re watching to see] her respond to those things. Even though sometimes it’s a struggle, there’s still an openness to that sort of instruction or direction.”
Even as they watch for these signs of belief, Elle said, as parents, they ultimately have to entrust their children to God, knowing that he alone can see what is in a person. “As best we can tell, your truth has worked in his heart, but we’re just going to trust you with the other half of this.”
I don’t remember a time I didn’t believe in Jesus. I’ve learned about Jesus in church and when I do Bible study. I’ve always believed in my heart these things are true. I know I have sin and I can be unkind. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sin and I believe He is always with me. I feel in my heart that Jesus wants me to be baptized. I want everyone to see my faith in Jesus and I want to promise that I will always have faith in Jesus.
Aubrey Lee first began asking to be baptized two years ago, but her parents Adam and Kristi Lee spent time watching, waiting, and teaching her to make sure she would be able to better understand and remember this important moment.
Aubrey was 9 when they first began to feel confident she was a believer, Kristi said: “There was never one time that we can pin down as an obvious conversion; rather it was more gradual over the past two years.” They looked for evidence of the Spirit’s work in her, such as repentance for her sin. “When it got to the point she was broken about it, crying; when she realized that she was sinning against God — that was a big factor,” Kristi said.
They were also able to watch Aubrey learning to trust God. Kristi said, “One of her biggest things is fear; [we were] seeing her learn to pray through her fears and see God answer those prayers with giving her courage.”
Kristi said she and Adam seek to be faithful in teaching their children and pointing them towards God, but they recognize that he will be the one to create faith in their hearts. “We were just watching for and waiting for fruit in her life,” she said. “It’s humbling—we know that we can’t save her, so to see God working is really neat..seeing how he’s taken a bit of our imperfect faithfulness and used it.”
“I believe that God rules the earth and he made it and that I am a sinner and I need help from God and he sent his only son Jesus Christ to die for our sins and he rose from the dead and someday he will come back and I will live forever in the hands of God.”
My life before Jesus–
“Instead of praying I would try to do things on my own. I would fuss a lot about random things and I would be scared if I had to go upstairs by myself.”
How I met Jesus-
“We started doing catechisms and devotion and we prayed that my and my sisters would meet Jesus and God answered that prayer. I started praying to God about things that I needed help with and I prayed to God to forgive me for my sins and God answered my prayers.”
My life since I met Jesus-
“I have been praying to God and I have been loving church. Although there is still problems in my life God helps me with them and I know that the Holy Spirit is always with me now and I am ready to take Jesus as my Savior.”
Rebecca and Luke Adams encouraged and prayed for their son Micah as he struggled through understanding what it means to be a sinner. “He didn’t know how he could overcome, or would ever overcome feeling like he had to be good enough for God,” Rebecca said.
But over a period of about a year, Micah came to the point that he was ready to confess his sin and receive God’s grace, Rebecca said. Shortly afterward, he asked to be baptized. This was a big step for him, she explained, because he is shy about getting up in front of other people. But what Micah wanted most, she explained, was to obey God’s command to be baptized, and to share what God has done in his heart: “He wants people to know.”
For parents who are waiting to see faith evidenced in their children, Rebecca offered encouragement to pray, especially when your kids can hear. “We pray separately, and together, in front of our kids: ‘God, guide our children, God, give them faith, help them to see you for who you are,’ she said. “Pray big prayers and use big words, then explain the words … it’s so important for your kids to know you’re praying those things.”
Before I was walking with Jesus–I thought I was perfect and that others were wrong if they ever questioned that. If my parents ever corrected me, I was just annoyed. I was rude to my siblings. I wasn’t very interested in God or the Bible. I would think, ‘I don’t really want to do this,’ if my parents talked about it.
Then I began to realize that I was being rude and not doing what I was supposed to do. I asked for forgiveness. And asked God to please help me not to do all these bad things.
Now that I am walking with Jesus,I am more aware of others and compassionate towards others who are hurting. I am more interested in the Bible and things like that. I am interested in memorizing scriptures. I am praying more on my own now. I still sin but I ask for forgiveness and try not to do it again.
God doesn’t always work in children’s hearts in predictable ways or at convenient times, as Ben and Cathy Hoersch have seen with their own kids.
Carter, their second oldest, began expressing faith in Christ at a young age, shortly after his older sister was baptized. Ben said, “We remembered two moments—not a ‘pray a prayer’ moment—where we’re driving down the road and Carter is saying, ‘I believe in Jesus,’” he said. “It seems genuine and it seems clear.” These times caught his parents by surprise. Ben recalled them asking themselves, “‘What’s happened? We’re in a mini van driving down the road!’…These moments don’t always happen at what we consider opportune times, but God’s at work in the heart of this young person.”
Ben explained that he and Cathy spent time watching for evidence of faith in Carter, and spent time talking to him about God to so they could have confidence that he understood what he believed. They were looking for “a clear faith that we were confident was his own, that wasn’t prescribed by mom and dad, that had grown over time. We had seen the Spirit’s work in his life, true repentance for sin—sorrow for sin, not just over being caught.”
Before Jesus, I was a troublemaker. When I got in trouble, I didn’t reflect on it much, and I didn’t want to talk about the gospel or God very much. I didn’t think about my actions before I did them. A lot of the time, I was annoyed with my brother and sisters, sometimes I would get in arguments for no good reasons. It was kind of our hobby.
And then a few months ago, I started spending time in God’s word and in prayer. And I thought, “If you are a Christian and say you are, your actions should reflect it.” It made me think, “Are you really a Christian?”, because my actions didn’t reflect it. If God came and died for me, then I’m just wasting it, because I’m acting this way. I knew that God’s the one who rules the world and made it, and we’re ignoring him if we just disobey. He has the power to put us to death. I told God that I was sorry that I had disobeyed him for so long and asked to please forgive me for my sins.
Now, I am not ashamed to talk about God. I do look more like a Christian, but I still sin and need God’s help to forgive me. The reason I want to be baptized is that I’m not afraid to let people know that I love Jesus anymore.
Kathryn La Prade
Kathryn La Prade was 7 years old when she started asking to be baptized.
“We were surprised and not quite sure how to respond at first,” said Konrad La Prade. He and Joy hadn’t expected Kathryn to be able to clearly express her faith or a desire for baptism until she was older. But after spending time in her room one evening, she came downstairs and said she wanted to tell them something. “She said, ‘I love God,’” Konrad explained. “She was so excited for us to know this. It was clear that God was at work in her heart in some way.”
Kathryn began asking to be baptized that night, but they waited for a year so she could better understand what it meant. During that time, they had discussions with her about what it means to believe in God and be baptized, and also watched for evidence that God was changing her heart. Genuine repentance was one of those things. Konrad said, “Instead of just being upset about the consequences for disobedience, she was becoming sad about her sin.”
As they work with Kathryn to help her develop a more mature understanding of her faith, he and Joy are trusting that God is doing the work of transforming her heart. During her interview process for baptism, she told them, “I love God and I want to follow him the rest of my life.”
Before I loved God I didn’t care if I did something wrong. But now I feel bad or upset when I do something wrong so I say that I’m sorry, but I can remember that God forgives me. I knew that I loved God when I wanted to follow him.