Wet Head and Wet Cheeks - Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Dana is a 30-year-old young lady with autism. I (Pastor Michael Zarling) was very excited when I received this conversation from her in August: “I watch Water of Life online. Someday it would be cool to get baptized. At Christmas, Mom will ask what I want and I always say a church I can belong to and get baptized.”

Dana found a church to belong to and received her Christmas present of being baptized on November 30, 2023 at our Jesus Cares Worship at the Cross service. Because she desired the waters of life in baptism, there were three others she knew from Jesus Cares who picked up on her enthusiasm, and also desired baptism. Christina and her adult children, Tyra and Tyler also wanted God’s gift of baptism.

New Life Lutheran Church in Kenosha has a Jesus Cares Bible study on the second Thursday evening of each month. Water of Life in Racine designed our Jesus Cares worship service to be on the fourth Thursday evening of each month. That way participants can be at both events each month.

Gavin is one of our Water of Life members and a regular participant in the Jesus Cares Bible studies and worship services at both churches. He’s 25 and limited-verbal with his autism. But Gavin is deeply spiritual and a powerful writer. He spelled a wonderful explanation about the meaning of baptism.

Gavin with his mom during a Jesus Cares Bible study

“Why is baptism important? It is important to be baptized because we are all sinful human beings. Even when we try hard to be good, we still sin. Repenting of our sins by asking for forgiveness and believing in God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and being baptized is what leads us to heaven. Then the Holy Spirit lives within us helping us even more to realize right from wrong. There is no reason to be anxious about this act of faith. God gives us peace and surrounds us in love. He gives us grace every day of our life. He sends abundant blessings because we are his children. Children of God are the most beloved to him.”

At our combined Jesus Cares worship service, Christina, Tyra, and Tyler were baptized by their New Life pastor, Pastor Bergemann. As one of the pastors at Water of Life, I baptized Dana. Before her baptism, I warned her that as I’m getting older, I’m also getting softer and more emotional. I told her, “When I get your head wet, my cheeks are going to be wet, too.”

Somehow, I held it together during Dana’s baptism and I didn’t cry (although my voice choked up a few times). Though I didn’t cry, there were still a lot of other wet cheeks in our church that evening. Our musician texted me after the service. She wrote: “Bravo to you for not crying. Did you ever try and play the piano with a rainforest in your eyes?”

(Left to right) Tyler, Tyra, Gavin, and Christina at Worship at the Cross

Gavin again summarizes what we were all feeling with the four baptisms at the Jesus Cares service that night.

“I am grateful for Jesus Cares Ministries. I am happy our church Water of Life in Racine does Worship at the Cross and Bible study at New Life in Kenosha. This has allowed me to invite my friends. Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. If we continue to plant seeds and nurture them, they grow. Bringing lost souls to Christ is so important to me. My job is to share God’s love and the wisdom he places in my heart. The baptism of Dana, Christina, Tyra, and Tyler, my dear friends, brought me great joy. Special needs individuals all deserve to be welcome in our churches, not frowned upon. I absolutely loved how many came to celebrate them. God is so good. Do your part always by inviting your friends to hear the word of God.” Love, Gavin Schultz.

May God continue to bless the Jesus Cares Ministries of our Lutheran churches so many more special needs saints may receive God’s Word with the water on their heads ... and may there be many wet cheeks in the pews.

This story is a wonderful reminder of the impact of Jesus Cares. It's about the physical act of baptism and inclusion, acceptance, and love that come with being part of God's family. Stories like Dana's and Gavin's motivate us to continue our work, ensuring that more individuals can experience the joy of belonging and spiritual fulfillment through Jesus Cares.


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