A man watches his children being baptized and eventually wants to be baptized too.
Debbie K. Dietrich, as told to her by Brandon Stevens
Mom and Dad didn’t really have a specific church. We weren’t into traditional religion either. We just lived life. I maybe went in a church with an auntie, but never a Lutheran church, and I certainly wasn’t a Christian.
I grew up the oldest of five kids in the Seven Mile District of San Carlos on the Apache Reservation. I graduated as co-valedictorian, granting me a four-year scholarship to Arizona State University. You’d think that would be a great part of life, and it was at the time. But then that’s pretty much when life fell apart. I lost my scholarship due to too much drinking. I dropped out of school and had no direction in life. With nowhere to turn, I went home to live with Mom and Dad again. I knew this wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I wanted a better life, but I didn’t know how to get there.
Children and baptisms
My sister, Ornida, introduced me to her friend, Cortney. WOW! Cortney wasn’t just pretty, sweet, and kind. She also didn’t drink, she went to church, and she actually believed what the church taught. That was amazing to me. We got together, and before you knew it Brandon Jr was born. Cortney wanted to get our baby baptized. That’s when I first stepped into a Lutheran church, Peridot Lutheran. It was pretty cool to see the baptism. I had heard about Baptism and that people should be baptized. I wondered if I should be baptized . . . but life got busy. I thought we’d probably have more children, so that meant more baptisms.
We started going to church more because the pastor said you really should not just baptize a baby and let it go at that. He said we should keep coming to hear more about God. That made sense, so we tried to go as often as we could. Soon baby #2 came along, and again Cortney wanted that baby baptized. Then baby #3, and another baptism. Baby #4: baptized; baby #5: baptized, and finally #6, Devon, was born. When baby #6 came along, I thought, That’s it. I really think I should be baptized too. I asked Cortney about it because she sure liked baptizing our babies, and she agreed!
Pastor said he thought we should both take a class to learn more about what the Bible said—and about Baptism too. By then I really did want to learn more. Cortney wanted me to know more too. She said she felt like I was always left out. The first two kids were in school and Sunday school now. They were learning Bible stories, but I didn’t know these stories and didn’t really have faith or trust like Cortney and the kids.
There was a lot of information I never ever knew in those classes. I sort of wish I knew all this stuff when I was growing up and I was going through good and, especially, bad times. I started brushing up on learning a bunch of Bible verses. They meant so much to me. Most surprising to me was that undeserved love from God. That just got to me. He sent Jesus to die for me to forgive all the bad stuff I had done. WOW! Now I felt like I belonged here in this church. I was forgiven.
I knew what was coming up soon. We’d want to get Devon baptized, and now, during these Bible information classes, I too really wanted to get baptized. Pastor thought I should be too. So on July 5, 2015, both my baby son Devon and I were baptized in front of the entire church! It was a pretty big deal for my wife’s side of the family. Her mom even took us all out to eat at a restaurant and paid for all the food for all of us because she was so happy!
Cortney and I kept taking classes. Even though Cortney had gone through eighth grade at the Peridot mission school, there wasn’t proof she’d gotten confirmed, so she was going to get confirmed with me. On Aug. 9, 2015, both she and I stood in front of the entire church and said that we did agree with what the Bible teaches. What I remember most is the whole entire church answering that they accepted me. I was a part of this Christian family and church. I was so happy to be included, accepted, forgiven, and part of a church that I knew believed what the Bible taught.
I’m especially glad because my children are able to attend the same Our Savior’s mission school in Peridot where Cortney went. The scholarship makes it possible for us to send our children. The kids get to grow in faith daily. And the teachers? They are all strong in believing what the Bible teaches too. I love that.
Growing in faith
I also want to grow in faith. It’s been three years, and I constantly want to know more and grow in faith and in daily living the way God desires of me. One time a buddy of mine showed me this Lutheran magazine. It had a story about other fathers raising Christian families, taking their kids to church, and so on. I was impressed and thought, That’s what I want to do too!
I think one of the coolest things I’ve learned from Jesus is about power and being strong. It’s not being a bully or having power over someone at all; it’s about trusting God and resisting doing wrong in a humble, quiet way, knowing and trusting God will lead me in the right way, at work, at home, as a father. He’ll make it all work out. That’s real “strength” that you only see in Christians.
My wife, Cortney, has this to say, “It’s a neat thing, because with baby #9, I was so tired sometimes. Brandon would get the kids ready and take them to church himself! It’s just faith. Brandon has faith and is living it. Pastor had always told me that life is easier and better if you both can share the Christian faith. Well, he was right about that. Life is way better now. I feel like Brandon and I are on the same page in all of life’s issues because we have this shared Christian faith.
“My Grandma, Dolly Dude, pushed her kids to learn about Jesus. My mom pushed us all to get a Lutheran education and know how much God loves us. And now, it’s not just me and my daughters. It’s my Christian husband keeping us all learning the love of Jesus and passing that on to our sons and daughters. I’m really happy.”
I have changed a lot, and I thank God for my wife, Cortney, and for bringing me to church through the baptism of our children. I’m really happy I’m baptized too.
Now to get two-week-old Brielle, #9, baptized is the next thing we’re going to do.
Debbie Dietrich is the Native American mission communication coordinator. Brandon Stevens is a member at Peridot, Peridot, Arizona.
The Native American mission field is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a special celebration weekend this month. Go to nativechristians.org to learn more.
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Author: Debbie K. Dietrich
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018
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