Baptisms held in 1942 after an extended revival in the Alfred, ND CoG7.
Cottage Grove, MN
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
In 1962, at age eighteen, I attended an Oregon youth camp at Silver Creek Falls. Youth from all over the West Coast came. It was a tremendous program, and the setting in the Oregon hills itself was worthy of visiting.
The camp program that year was led by Elders E. A. Straub and Ray Straub. Several CoG7 college students helped with the program planning and recreation.
At a fireside service, the Holy Spirit moved in the hearts of many teenagers, including mine. I sought the counsel of Elder
E. A. Straub about baptism. Just over thirty of us were baptized at that camp. Among them was Davy Crowson, a young man with muscular dystrophy and confined to a wheelchair. Everyone who ever met Davy loved him; his joy was contagious.
On Sabbath, all parents and friends were invited to Silver Creek Falls to enjoy Sabbath morning worship, eat a meal, and witness the baptisms in a pool created by a 100-plus-foot waterfall. Campers and visitors packed the trail and banks.
After the other baptisms were done — mine included — Davy was last. Elder E. A. Straub asked me (the biggest boy baptized that day) to carry Davy out to him across the slick rocks. Another one just baptized, Larry Tilley, walked beside me and held onto my arm. After carrying Davy out to the spot, I was exhausted. We couldn’t physically and safely hand him over to be baptized, so Elder Straub simply said, “You keep holding him. I will lay my hand on him, and then you lower him into the water.”
The moment had me weeping, and the crowd on the bank was wiping away tears. After Elder Straub prayed and we lowered Davy, I heard a voice within me say, You can be doing this the rest of your life!
I fought that little voice for over two years, but in the fall of 1964, God won! In 2011, I retired after living my entire adult life loving the work of pastor. I especially loved every baptism I was privileged to be a part of. Thank you, Davy Crowson. Thank You, Lord!
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
I was 13 when I was baptized at the conclusion of a General Conference campmeeting in Stanberry, Missouri. My decision to accept Jesus as my Savior was at the end of the Sabbath morning service. Elder R. E. Burge had preached, though I do not remember a thing he said.
A half dozen of us teenagers sat on two park benches outside the tent for the service. When the invitation was given, one of the boys (Jimmy) went forward. One of the girls (Yvonne) turned to me and said, “Max, don’t you think it’s about time you went?”
That’s all it took. I went forward and opened my heart to the Lord, dampening the altar with plenty of tears as I confessed the sins that riddled my heart. (I could take you to the very spot where I knelt at the altar that day.)
Perhaps three or four hours later that August afternoon, ten or so of us waded into Grand River for baptism. No counseling. No instruction. Just baptism — the next step. Though I knew very little about Christian living, I knew my sins were gone, that my sense of guilt was gone, and that I was ready to meet Jesus. As could be expected, I floundered terribly because of lack of someone to walk alongside and encourage me.
The years that followed were far from stable. At times I felt close to the Lord; at other times I knew I was outside His will. My parents had been converted in a little non-denominational community church and baptized earlier that year. I had declined, though my mom had talked with me about being baptized with her, my dad, and my brother. I declined for I wanted to be baptized by a Church of God (Seventh Day) minister. Why? I don’t know. I had not attended CoG7 services regularly. Campmeetings were about all.
Though I was not always true to my Lord, I consistently felt committed to serving Him. The genuineness of my repentance at the altar was absolute; I never wavered on that. How much better it could have been, though, if a wise, solidly grounded disciple of Christ had taken me under wing and led me till I could stand alone.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8, NIV).
My parents became members of the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Parkersburg, West Virginia, when I was seven years old. Elder Kenneth Freeman was our pastor. As I grew up in the church, I served as its song and youth leader, Sabbath school superintendent, and treasurer. I eagerly anticipated our quarterly youth rallies between the Parkersburg and Salem churches’ YPOs (Young Peoples Organizations).
As a teenager, I was intrigued by our first elder’s report of his experiences at the biennial meeting of Salem’s General Conference in 1943, held in Des Moines, Iowa. When I learned that the 1947 session of Salem’s conference would be in Salem, I asked my parents if I could attend. Mother arranged for me to room at her cousin’s house and take my meals at the conference’s dining hall.
Elder Freeman preached on the last Friday evening of the conference. As the congregation sang “Just As I Am,” he gave the altar call. I responded by kneeling at the altar, repenting of my sins, and committing my life to Jesus. I was baptized by Elder Freeman on the following afternoon, nearly 69 years ago, with several other young adults.
I have never regretted making my commitment to Jesus or the decision to be baptized!
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8, KJV).
I was brought up in a godly home. We attended church at the Alfred, North Dakota Church of God. In my early childhood, everything in church was in German: our Sabbath school, our worship service. As a young child, I memorized the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer. Yet I needed salvation. John 3:3 says we must be born again!
On December 16, 1941, Elder Christ Kiesz, from the Eureka, South Dakota Church of God, came to Alfred to hold a revival. It lasted seven weeks and ended February 7, 1942. Toward the end of this revival, I gave my heart to Jesus.
Forty-one souls gave their hearts to Jesus at this revival and were baptized. Later in the spring we were baptized in a lake northwest of Alfred.
This revival changed my life. Jesus Christ became real to me. It’s not that we just talk about the Lord; it’s an experience we have with the Lord. Later in life I experienced what is written in Matthew 3:11: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. But he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (KJV).
After 74 years of salvation, I’m still witnessing for Jesus Christ.
Norma (Schlenker) Pruitt
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (Romans 8:14, 15, KJV).
In December 1950, Elder Heuer from Toppenish, Washington, held a revival at the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Alfred, North Dakota. As the expression goes, Brother Heuer preached his usual “hellfire and brimstone” message. I was a timid little eleven-year-old, and I didn’t go forward when the alter call was made.
When we got home, we were sitting by the wood stove to get warm. I didn’t want to go to bed. This feeling came over me. For some unknown reason, I thought I was going to die. I didn’t want to miss eternity. To my knowledge, I hadn’t committed any big sin, except maybe drinking too much grape soda pop that I would beg Dad for.
I told Ma and Dad I wanted to go see my cousin Rachel. Why Rachel? She and my sister Marian were friends, and I was her friend, too. Dad and Ma didn’t refuse, so off we drove in the middle of the night to Aunt Pauline Schlenker’s place to see Rachel, her daughter. Elmer and Fennie Schlenker were there at the time. In those days we didn’t have a phone; we just showed up.
I was put up on Aunt Pauline’s bed. Everyone gathered around and prayed, and I accepted the Lord Jesus as my Savior. Then we went home. The following evening at the revival, Dad testified about my experience, and I was not bashful to tell the congregation how much I loved Jesus and that He saved me.
The Lord works in mysterious ways. During the last few days of the revival, Rachel and my brother-in-law, Kenneth (Marian’s husband), also accepted the Lord.
In June 1951, Brother Heuer came back to North Dakota to baptize Rachel, Kenneth, and me in a small lake and stream south of Alfred. We all felt the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is my story, this is my song,/Praising my Savior all the day long.
Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them. . . . For a righteous man may fall seven times, and rise again . . . (Proverbs 24:1, 16).
Growing up in the Church of God, I learned about God, the Bible, and Christianity in Sabbath school and worship service. I also learned at home, where my mom read Bible stories to my siblings and me. One of the teachings I heard about over and over was baptism — the importance of being baptized once accepting Jesus as personal Savior. I also heard about the Ten Commandments and the need to keep them.
Some of us teenagers didn’t think we could. We thought we would fail, so we put off baptism and following Christ. Grace was taught, and I thought I understood it. But I didn’t know justification by faith.
When I was 16 years old, my 17-year-old cousin was killed when he fell from a high waterfall. This death devastated my family and me. I bargained with God to bring him back, that I would serve Him the rest of my life.
Well, that didn’t happen. I became depressed. I had already started hanging around the wrong crowd at school and was confused in my belief system. I began listening more intently to the sermons at church but still didn’t make a commitment to follow Jesus.
One night, close to my high school graduation, some kids got together at a party to drink beer and smoke cigarettes and cannabis. I’d been to these before but didn’t feel like going this time. My friends and I decided to camp on the beach instead. Coming back into town later, I stopped at a diner and saw a newspaper. On the cover was a picture of a friend who had been killed the night before at the same party I almost went to. He had been stabbed to death.
I began to process my friend’s murder and thought about my cousin’s tragic death. I realized young people die, too, not just old people. Just prior to all this, I thought I’d go the way of my so-called friends and turn to Jesus when I was 50 or so. The Devil had me fooled. I could lead a double life and control my own destiny — or so I thought.
I realized then that I needed to commit my life to Jesus once and for all. I made the public proclamation and got baptized and began my walk with God. He gave me the strength to let go of my worldly friends. When I stumbled, Proverbs 24:1, 16 gave me direction and confidence to get back up and follow the Lord.