Northern New England is the most post-Christian place in the United States. Some 60 percent of the residents make no place in their lives for God or church, and for most of them, it’s been that way for as much as three generations. When it comes to planting seeds, Northern New England soil is hard and rocky. But that just means that the hard-won harvests are all the more celebrated.
Recently the Rutland church in Vermont enjoyed a high Sabbath when Ron and Cindy McFarland surrendered their hearts to Jesus through baptism. The couple arrived at church bursting with excitement for what was to come. Ron’s own exuberance was palpable, and he wore broad smiles as he greeted church members. “This is it for me,” said an excited Ron. “There’s no looking back. I’m done with my old life. I only want to live for Jesus now.”
The baptisms have a back-story, and it starts with Cindy, who, as a teenager, was no stranger to the church, having attended with her mother. The seed which was planted in her heart, remained there until almost 40 years later, when it sprouted and bore the fruit at a time when Ron was engaged in a spiritual journey.
Church deacon Terry Grant was particularly instrumental in Ron’s conversion journey. Both work in the plumbing industry, where Terry often crossed paths with Ron while on the job. It was on those occasions that Terry would often take time to share the love of Jesus with Ron and invite him to church. It took a while, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, Terry’s encouragement has paid off; and Ron is never shy of expressing his appreciation to him for his relentless pursuit of his soul. “I’m here today with my family because of you. You never gave up on me,” Ron said to Terry on the day of his baptism.
Ron and Cindy were attending church regularly every Sabbath for close to a year leading up to their baptisms. During this time, head elder Gary Kinne diligently studied with them concerning the fundamental beliefs of Adventists, and the call which God has placed on us in Romans 12:2 to “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Gary explained that getting the couple to the point of baptism wasn’t easy at the start. “There were many stumbling blocks in the beginning,” said Gary. “We would plan to study and the devil would always create some interference that prevented us from meeting. This happened week after week, until finally, on one occasion I pulled Ron aside and prayed with him asking the Holy Spirit to intervene and stop the devil’s interference. After that prayer, we were able to meet and have our studies.”
For his part, Gary was invited to assist in the baptisms by David Kim, the church’s pastor. In his remarks, Pastor Kim thanked Gary for the months of study with the couple and told the congregation that their names were recorded in heaven under Gary’s for the work he has done in leading them to Christ.
The baptisms, which took place during the worship service, were witnessed by the couple’s two adolescent daughters, as well as a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter. The occasion was made even more special, as it was also Communion Sabbath. The newly-baptized couple participated in their first communion as official soldiers in the army of Christ.
—Karrie Etzler, communication secretary, Rutland church