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Baptism in icy river generates ‘completely new again’ vigor

CANBY, Ore. (BP)–“It’s about as cold as the water you’d get to drink out of your refrigerator, but it’s refreshing. You just feel completely new again.”
So said Zane Leek, one of 36 people baptized in the Molalla River during the last two years by Cornerstone Baptist Church, Salem, Ore., where Tommy Sims is the founding pastor.
Now, as the church’s youth director, with his feet planted firmly in the Scriptures, Leek returns to the baptismal waters to help wetsuit-clad Sims support baptismal candidates.
Five exultant people were baptized in one recent service, followed by a potluck picnic at the park by the baptismal waters.
“Since Christ has come into my heart he has become my leader,” said Jim Duda, one of the five baptismal candidates, who made a profession of faith in Jesus two years ago. “I felt this was what he wanted me to do.”
Duda’s wife, Lynde, accepted Christ when she was a child. She said she wanted to be baptized with her husband because now she is making a stand for Christ.
Cornerstone reached out to Marcy Funk when a husband still was in her home. Now facing life on her own as a single parent with three sons, she’s willing to heed words she’s known for many years.
“I know now that when storms come, because I have Jesus, I’m OK,” she said. ”For me, getting baptized was like bathing in peace.”
Another of the baptismal candidates, Tonya Zander, is one of the many people who make Cornerstone a regional rather than neighborhood church. She lives in Sublimity, Ore., and was to graduate from high school the day after her baptism. The confluence of those two milestones in her life was intentional. But her baptismal experience was more than what she’d expected.
“You come up and you just feel all clean,” she said. “When I found Cornerstone, I started getting more into the Lord. Now it’s even better. I just want to serve him in everything I do.”
For the fifth candidate, Mark Burrows, it was a witness “to everybody” that he is saved. “I felt an accomplishment from it, that something was finally done. Once I was baptized I felt everything was right.”
Sims breaks from his spiritual high — and physical numbness — to talk about the day’s meaning.
“It’s exciting to be able to do a river baptism,” he said. “Baptism is more of a celebration time when it’s like this, with the open air and the people cheering for the family of God. For the pastor to be down there, in the water and hearing that, experiencing that, that’s exciting.”
Cornerstone, which started Mother’s Day 1997, now averages about 100 people participating in worship at 10:05 a.m. on Sundays at Yokoi Alyce Yoshikai Elementary School in Salem. Sunday school starts at 9 a.m.