WEATHERFORD, Texas (BP) – U.K. resident Samantha (Sammy) Scott has Texas-themed décor throughout her home in Southampton, about 80 miles southwest of London. Now she has Texas-sized memories of her baptism at Greenwood Baptist Church – the culmination of a spiritual journey that started at a Hill Country dude ranch and found purchase in an online church service during the pandemic.
“For a very long time I had been feeling … empty, I think that is maybe the best way to describe it, cold even, never being able to put a reason on why,” Sammy said.
But all that began to change after Sammy met the Scott (no relation) and Clay families of Greenwood Baptist Church at the Mayan Dude Ranch near Bandera, Texas, in 2017, starting a friendship that would make an everlasting impact.
The ranch had long been a destination for Emily Clay’s family. Her parents, Jack and Brenda Scott, started coming even before Emily was born; the tradition continued after she married and had kids of her own.
In 2017, the Scott and Clay families met Sammy, a single mom and American West afficionado from London, who was visiting the dude ranch the same week.
“My whole family … just took her in, adopted her for the week,” Emily said. They even joked about their shared surnames. “She was meant to be in our family.”
Sammy returned to the dude ranch the following summer the same week as the Scotts and Clays, this time with her two daughters, Kellyann and Elliemay, who became friends with Emily’s kids. Between summer vacations, the women kept in touch on social media and through the Marco Polo app, planning the next “reunion.” In 2019, Sammy and her daughters not only stayed a week at the dude ranch but spent an extra week at Emily’s home in Peaster, Texas.
“We all became extended family,” Sammy said, adding that the shared time also began her “journey to salvation” as conversations turned to spiritual matters.
“The Scott-Clays and I would discuss all things, including religion and the church they attended. The ranch also had a religious culture, and I found this all very warming,” Sammy said, adding, “Where I live, there is very little religious influence of any kind.”
COVID hit in 2020. Things shut down. Sammy’s plans to return to Texas were canceled. Clay invited her to watch the livestream of Greenwood Baptist’s Easter service.
Sammy tuned in, remembering fondly her visits with the Scotts and Clays about God and the happiness she had experienced. Surely “there would be no harm in attending online and seeing how I felt,” she concluded.
After Pastor Brian Bond’s Easter 2020 message, Sammy said she felt “like a light had been switched on, a warm and fulfilling light. Everything Pastor Brian said felt right; it made sense and I understood it. The Scripture spoke to me. God spoke to me, and I knew then that I wanted a relationship with Him.”
The “emptiness, the void, the confusion” was gone, she said.
During her second week of online viewing, Sammy informed the church that she had trusted Christ as Savior. Tina Jackson, Greenwood’s preschool minister, was tasked with follow-up. Jackson checked out Sammy’s social media and found that she and Emily were friends. She emailed Sammy.
“I explained who I was,” Jackson said. “I told her I wanted to discuss her decision and see if she had any questions … [following] our usual protocol for those who respond during services.” Jackson mentioned that baptism would be the next step in Sammy’s walk with Christ.
As they corresponded through emails, Jackson and Sammy also became friends.
“Tina was amazing, is amazing,” Sammy said.
“She wanted to be baptized here in Weatherford,” Jackson said. “But COVID did not go on its merry way. Weeks turned into months and months into years.” The women discussed options for Sammy’s baptism in the U.K., but she hesitated. “She was adamant. [Greenwood] is her church family. She watched every Sunday.” By then, Sammy made regular comments on the livestream; Greenwood members responded.
Greenwood seemed like home.
Finally, with restrictions lifted this fall, it became possible for Sammy to come to Weatherford in person, but flying to Texas had become financially prohibitive for her.
“It was weighing on me that she’d not had a chance to be baptized,” Jackson said. She approached Sonny Grissom, Greenwood executive pastor, to see if the church could make it happen. The church ended up offering to bring Sammy over for her baptism.
“She was shocked, elated, excited!” Jackson said of Sammy’s reaction to the news. Greenwood arranged for Sammy and Elliemay to fly over (Kellyann had school obligations and could not come) and secured a hotel and car for them for an extended visit.
Sammy’s Dec. 5 baptism was extraordinary. Student pastor Jon Hartman, who performed the sacrament, encouraged the congregation to stand. Groups approached the front of the church. The Scott and Clay families gathered in the special viewing area for close friends and family.
“I had never felt happiness and fulfillment like that,” Sammy said. “The church, its people and the services were and are so beautiful.” Greenwood had become “an extended part of my family,” she said, adding that she continues to attend services, prayer groups, and Bible study groups online.
“I thank the Lord every day for sending such an amazing church family,” she said.
“For a long time, Sammy knew something was missing. But she didn’t know what it was,” Jackson said. “When she prayed to receive Christ, she knew suddenly that that was what had been missing.”