Baptism Stories

Meg Wileczek

Before I knew God, I knew goodness. I was loved. I gave love. And, I never suspected that the longing in my heart had an answer, had a home, had bounds. I thought that discontentment was both, something that all people carried, and mine alone. That feeling kept my feet spinning but I couldn't get any traction. I was unmoored. Last Summer, I began suspecting that this empty spot had a fill. I had come to Providence Church – not looking for Jesus – just looking for a way to keep communication lines open with my children, who had found a home here.

Every Sunday and in the EHR classes, I discussed the word, I heard the sermons, I sang the songs and they held my attention. They opened my heart. I was moved (sometimes to tears). What I was experiencing, sounded real. It felt real. Still, I wouldn’t make the leap of faith. My FAITH required EVIDENCE. I know – oxymoronic. But, God obliged.

The Daily Office, a skill I learned, is a practice of communing with God, which I enjoyed. I just alternated talking and listening, and hoped that if there was a God I would somehow know it. Seven months ago, while working on my Daily Office, I thanked God for His people. And I meant it. I still didn’t understand believers. But, I was surrounded by them. And I was grateful for the light I saw in them. Here’s the part where I marvel at God’s Grace. God gifted me with 4 words that change (present tense intended - because I need Him so many times a day) my life. I heard, “YOU ARE MY PEOPLE.” Even then, knowing that those words came from outside of me, it took me days to accept that I heard God’s voice, over the alternate – I was going bananas. On retrospect, despite pursuing me all my life and that whole summer, sending me sign after sign that He loved me uniquely. Signs that I saw and heard but chose to rationalize away. Until I released the need to have the answer and instead trusted that God does.

So now you know I’m a slow learner and a doubter. It's true. But, I am also, good at loving, serving, and giving. I’m good at seeing beauty and worth, where others see uselessness. I now believe these are Gifts from my heavenly Father and skills handed down by my mother. And I'm realizing that I can be so much more. The fear I’ve held of emptying myself; of not keeping enough to cover my needs; of not having someone to look out for me, keeps me greedy and grudging and it can be insatiable. Finding God, and having Jesus’ heart to align with, reminds me of who I am (God-made), and Whom I serve (hint, it’s not me). And that truth fills this hungry person to overflowing. My cup runneth over.

God’s presence helps me to relax my gripping hands and release those fears and be who I was made to be. And it’s glorious to feel loved and to feel capable of reflecting that love so that others can share in that joy. Before God I thought that being led was a weakness. Who knew that the most real freedom comes from tethering your heart to Jesus?

 

Tyler Johnson

Growing up in a family that attended church every week I knew about the Lord, but all it was was facts and not reality for me. Also, with 3 older siblings with each their own personal traits that made them unique and special (one signed to a record label, another a missionary, and the third the life of the room) I was in search of finding what made me special. This started a journey of trying to prove my value to myself and others as well as trying to “earn the love” that I “deserved.” I had always wanted my dad to just say “I love you.” 
This was evident throughout my whole youth as I was played varsity baseball, worked on multiple mission trips, president of youth group, and saying I love you every chance I could just so I could hear those same words back. “College is the best four years of your life, so live it up.” “You can change yourself to exactly who you want to be.” These statements I heard repeatedly as I entered college so I took them as truth.
 
Finding myself away from my Christian upbringing; I began to search for fulfillment and life by living for the weekend. Drinking and smoking led to more attention from girls and every guy wants to be loved my a woman. As I began to gain more attention from girls, I began to see all of my flaws. I need to change myself in order to “earn love” from girls on campus. I am too fat, not funny enough, haven’t been with enough girls. Beginning to see all of my “flaws” soon brought destruction through an eating disorder. I needed to change every part of who I was. After losing 30 pounds in 2 months due to “disordered eating,” the reality of never feeling like enough and always having to work to earn the love I received set in yet again. Looking into my dorm mirror and seeing the skinny ribbed figure I had seen for months, I prayed to the god that I abandoned in desperation.
 
As life went on, that one prayer of desperation asking to take this burden, the Lord began to work. The lord moved a community of people (soon to be best friends) who were unlike any other I had ever met before; they accepted me for me and talked about Jesus like it was an everyday conversation. Providence church was put on my heart despite my dad being a worship leader at Grove UMC (a choice that was not easy). But I heard the words “broken but beloved from the Lord on a Sunday and I took them to my heart.  I also was reunited with the ministry of young life that I attended senior year of high school. A ministry that I would later become a leader of Downingtown west despite my flaws, lack of being equipped, and past burden. Mentors have moved into my life and have related to me and taught me how to grow as a faithful man. And after praying for two years, I can visibly see that my dad is starting to understand more about the Lord’s character through attending Prov. It is crucial to announce that my life still has temptation, I have flaws, and that I am In process. But the Lord has provided when I had nothing, and the Lord uses those who seek him out because we are “broken but beloved” and need to prove nothing to earn the love that has already been expressed to us.

Nikki Pastorino

Growing up I was never religious. I never read the bible, I never learned who Jesus was, what he did, or what he sacrificed for me. I lived blind to his love until freshman year when I began Young Life. I didn’t know what it was, and I went because all my friends went. Eventually, most of them stopped going and it was me and one friend. I didn’t know at the time what kept bringing me back there, but now I know that God was leading me to his love. Summer camp with Young Life after junior year is when I truly turned my life around. I officially considered myself a Christian. One of the biggest steps in my life was telling my family I was Christian. My parents never pushed religion on my siblings and me, the subject was never really mentioned through my childhood. I was so worried they might not understand or accept it, but they welcomed it with open arms. Throughout my life, I dealt with life on my own. Through mental illness, stressful school life, and poor self-image, I strived for materialistic things. It wasn’t until this year I realized everything in my life was planned by God. I was created in his image, and he has me on earth for a reason. I’ve realized that I cannot earn God’s love, because He loves me unconditionally. I don’t have to perfect for anyone, because in God’s eyes, I am just as he wanted me to be.
 

 

 

Brenden Mascherino

Growing up I was not brought to church a whole lot. I knew about Christ and I knew that I should believe in him and appreciate all that he has given me although, I did not exactly know how to do so. In the beginning, I had felt disconnected… I could not feel his presence in my life. After my parents split up when I was in middle school I was constantly asking myself if there was something I could have done to make everything better. I remember I would pray to God asking for a family in which I could come home to and everyone could be there and be happy, but I was unsure if anything would come about. Growing up I was not brought to church a whole lot. I knew about Christ and I knew that I should believe in him and appreciate all that he has given me although, I did not exactly know how to do so. In the beginning, I had felt disconnected… I could not feel his presence in my life. After my parents split up when I was in middle school I was constantly asking myself if there was something I could have done to make everything better. I remember I would pray to God asking for a family in which I could come home to and everyone could be there and be happy, but I was unsure if anything would come about.  As I was going through some family struggles I found myself focusing mostly on school and my future. I soon got to be pretty close to a few friends of mine, which today are my best friends. I would hang out with my friends a lot of the time and try and block out the problems of which I had been facing at the time. Thankfully, they would always keep me distracted weather it was playing drums to Reggae music, or making movies in their front yards, but all in all I would forget about my problems in life with them. Growing older I soon learned that these people that I became best of friends with was God's way of bringing me happiness and hope. Not only did he bring me happiness and hope but it led me to church. The first time I was invited to Providence was on Easter Sunday to film the Sunrise Service on the film team. After one service I was hooked. I was surrounded by so much positivity and kindness that I felt like I’d been a part of it forever. I had realized that I was there because of the hobby and because of friendship which had been a gift to me from God. Without this happiness and the connection that was brought to me from God things wouldn't be the same. 

Isabella Moses

When I was a kid, I thought Jesus and God were just one of those made up things like flying pigs.

I thought somebody made it up to teach kids to listen to their parents.  As I grew older I started to believe in Jesus and the miracles he has performed.  In my old church, I just didn’t want to read in my bible. I had a nice simplified one but the church just wasn’t encouraging us to read it.  And now, after I switched to Providence, I’ve been learning more and I feel like God is my whole life.

 

My old nanny, Miranda, left me notes in my lunch and each one had a bible verse on it.  My favorite one is 2 Timothy 1:7 – “for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.”  This verse got me through my first year of PSSA’s in school. After all of that, I am ready to become a full-on Christian and a full citizen of Christ by being baptized.

Sara Timson

I have been a part of Young Life for 4 years. I remember when I first started Young Life, I looked up to the upperclassmen and leaders and saw them as great role models. I instantly saw that their lives were different and something that I also wanted for myself. I believed that if I spoke or behaved a certain way, then I could be accepted. Or maybe if I did well in school, I could be successful. Or if I had enough friends, then I would be appreciated. I found my value in my grades, friends, family, and appearance. These are not bad things to care about, but when you allow these things to define your self-worth… it is an endless road of insecurities and disappointment. For a long time I struggled with how I saw myself because of this. I allowed my insecurities to control my life and continued to give power to them. It was discouraging and absolutely draining. I looked to others for validation and missed out on opportunities when I didn’t receive it.
One of the first times I decided to choose something for myself, was when I went to summer campaigners knowing that none of my friends would be there. I felt more welcomed than ever and instantly remembered why I had started Young Life in the beginning. I kept going to campaigners and it slowly became clear how different and genuine these people were. I saw their compassionate hearts and realized they were so good because of their love for God… not grades, friends, family, or appearances. I could see the way that God was affecting their lives and my life, so I encouraged my friends to come with me. We started talking more about our emptiness, and confessing all of the wrong places that we were looking for joy.


Soon I was going to church and being a consistent participant of Young Life. I saw God affecting all parts of my life. I realized how large the hole in my heart was and how Christ was the only thing that could entirely fill that. I had been looking for a life in every place but the life-giver. My worth is not built from material things, but only from how God sees me in his eyes. I was made so carefully and intentionally and I refuse to build my life on anything but the best cornerstone. I am committed to living life for God and not for myself or others. I know that I can not “earn” God’s love and that I already have everything I’ll ever need. My future will be full of struggles and I am fully prepared to rely on God through it all.

 

Sara Bucci

I was raised in a Catholic household; CCD, Catholic school, the whole nine yards. When I was young I had a wonderful relationship with God despite my traumatic and abusive upbringing. However, the God I knew in my heart and the God I was taught about in school did not seem like the same being. My God was loving, patient, and there with me during my darkest moments. The God I was taught about was vengeful, angry, and wrathful. In my heart, I could not reconcile the two and I slowly began drifting away.


Up until my father passed away when I was 17 I still prayed every night. After his death, I drifted farther; blaming myself for not remembering to pray for him before I went to sleep. I knew that wasn’t how it worked but it was the only way I knew to manage my pain.
My life continued down a very turbulent path, with brief respite followed closely by harrowing events and poor choices. I have struggled with my mental health since I was an adolescent, and things just continued to get worse. Even during my darkest times I never blamed God for my pain. I felt alone, but I didn’t feel abandoned. I saw how he lit up other people’s lives and thought that maybe I just wasn’t his. He didn’t hate me, but he didn’t take responsibility for me either.
My Spirituality never faltered, however, and I continued searching for some inner connectedness. No matter what I studied the lines just didn’t connect.


Then I watched first hand as Jesus worked in someone I loved. Someone who was raised without religion and so had a pure, fresh start in his faith. He asked me many questions knowing I was raised catholic and still held reverence for Jesus even though I felt beyond his sight. Our talks became more in depth over time, causing me to question my own feelings about who I was to God.
We began coming to Providence Sometime in January. It was the first time I ever left church not feeling guilty for my imperfection, but rather filled with love that Jesus would sacrifice himself for me. I stood by as my fiancé was baptized, still unsure of where this path might take me.
I watched as the man I love began to be filled with a light more and more each day. Watching someone become filled with the Holy Spirit after years of religion being used as a threat was eye-opening. Watching him be called made me realize that God had been calling me the whole time. He never left my side. He watched and patiently waited for me to return to him. It has been life-changing. I still have a long road ahead of me as far as conquering my emotional monsters, but I no longer feel as if I have to face it alone. And that is a love I never expected.

Michael Magarahan

From the beginning of my life, I have been raised under parents who believe in God and who desired for myself and my siblings to do the same. I grew up attending church and going to Sunday school, which all seemed quite normal to me. At an early age, I never really questioned why I was doing what I was doing. I never really asked why we all gathered here for one day or why we all sang songs together or why the adults occasionally ate pieces of bread and drank from these cool, little plastic cups. I was even baptized as a baby and have no memory of it, but It was simply a part of my life. I didn’t fully understand the purpose.

As I grew older, I began to learn more about Jesus and how he saved us from our sins. I loved hearing stories from the Bible and was very inspired by the amazing power of God. The idea that he is omniscient and omnipotent left me baffled, yet comforted. I have also had lots of anxiety about different things in life like school for instance, but I soon began having anxiety about life itself. I don’t remember exactly when it started happening, but I remember the grave impact it had on me as a child. The idea that we would go to Heaven after death and live for eternity was incomprehensible to me to the point of panic attacks. It was something that I would let my mind deeply ponder until I was unable to handle it at all. I feared thinking deeply about God, but I knew that he loved me, and that I loved him.

I went to a week long camp over the summer and I remember one of the speakers talking about the new Heaven and New Earth. I was fascinated by the amazing work that the Lord would do for us, but I was so overwhelmed by the magnitude of it. The message sent me into a mental panic, which I was luckily able to physically contain. The idea of eternity continued to stick with me and seemed to haunt me. I look back now and I feel like I was letting myself grow in fear as a human, and not as a creation of God. My parents were very caring towards me, and they comforted me if I were to run to their room in the middle of the night. I was embarrassed to tell them why I was scared, but when I eventually did, they remained comforting. Despite having the comfort of my parents, I still let my mind grow fearful. I recall waking up in the middle of the night during a sleepover with my friends and not being able to fall back asleep. My mind wandered to the dark place I feared, where eternity was ungraspable, and I eventually reached a boiling point where my body forced itself up and carried me halfway up the stairs in panic before stopping to take a breath. I say my body carried me because it truly felt like I had no control. It felt spasmic. However, I have never been alone. One time, my father told me that his mother and his aunt held the same kind of fear as I did. This gave me hope and helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.

The Lord has always been with me, no matter what. More recently, I have looked at my fear of the future and I have really questioned why I have any fear for it. I also questioned the extremity of the fear I had. I realized that if the thought of what the future holds can stir such powerful emotions within me, there must be something absolutely incredible about the work of God. I feel that I have grown closer to the Lord through the fear. During late nights where I would lie in bend and my mind would race off towards the panic I knew was up ahead, I was able to find the Lord. I knew that He was with me in that very moment, and that He always would be. I became so attached to his boundless and undeniable love. I know now that there is nothing that will separate me from God. I remember one day seeing a verse that my mother had written in chalk: “Be still, and know that I am God.” This is Psalm 46:10, and it has stayed with me ever since. This piece of scripture, this very piece of the Lord’s own voice, has kept me close to God no matter what fear I may have. Each day is truly a beautiful gift from Him, and His creation is amazing. God gives us all purpose, because he is our purpose.

About a year ago, I started attending Providence church. I had known about it before because my parents were friends with the Bridge Band members, so we would attend sometimes and see what was going on. I remember one time going to a service and hearing pastor Phil talking about Jesus’ return. There was a question that I had for while and it was, “what is He waiting for?” But I remember Phil telling us that he is waiting for us. We have no way of knowing when the Lord will come back, but we know that He loves and wants us to build his Kingdom by making his great love known to others. This served as a revelation for me personally and I just remember being completely overwhelmed and overjoyed during that service.

Now I attend Providence Church and also am apart of the Film Team, where I get to spend time with amazing people. Filmmaking is one of my greatest passions and I feel that God has created an amazing place for me to be with him and do what he has made me to do. I want to get baptized because I feel that the Lord is calling me to proclaim the love that I have for Him and purpose that I see within Him.

 

 

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