I’ve never been far from the church. At three weeks old, I was baptized in the congregation where I learned what love and support looked like at their best – a moderate voice in a conservative branch of the Lutheran church who surrounded me with grace, quiet but committed faith, and love in abundance, with heart connections that continue to this day. It was everything infant baptism is supposed to be – claimed by God, marked by the Holy Spirit, sprinkled into a community of faith who raised me in faithful Christian practice until I chose the faith for myself of my own accord.

    Graduation from Fornalha seemed to come too soon – the work God sealed in me came after Carlos called my name, after I was handed a certificate, not before. The Spirit of God began working in me the night of graduation a new heart, and by the Spirit’s power through the hands of so many wide open vessels that night, I cried and rested and laughed my way into something new that I’m still discovering. What I knew, though, was that something had changed. I leak tears even now as I type for the grace that seemed to have swept into me, for how full of Jesus I knew I was meant to be and was starting to become, for the newness of Life and Joy and Courage I was experiencing. And so – baptism the next day? Yes. Not because the first one didn’t count, but because I was never so sure of resurrection – for even me.

    I waited eagerly in line, cheering each one baptized before me, all the while receiving prayer and blessing for mais e mais from each praying leader and fellow student, and when my turn came, all I could do was run to the water. Run toward the death for the joy of resurrection. And I can still hear the words ringing in my ears, “Keri, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I realized later that I didn’t even think to turn and hug them when I splashed up from the water. I ran again, full of Hope and Joy, toward the waiting world. Because all I knew was that I had come to Life and that I had so much Life to live.

    – Kerri LaBrant