How far would you go to be baptized? Down the street? Across town? To a neighboring county? To a local lake or river?
A teenager from Orchard Park, N.Y., a few miles southeast of Buffalo, recently traveled with his father to Mullins, S.C. — a trip of more than 700 miles — to be baptized at First Baptist Church.
Before Christmas, Jack Woodworth, who was raised in a Catholic home, began reading the Book of John and stumbled upon a big discovery, Mullins Pastor Robbie Baxley began. “It convicted his heart. For the first time in his life, his eyes were open,” Baxley said. “He knelt down, and he asked Jesus to come into his heart and be Lord and Savior of his life.”
Jack continued reading about Jesus’ baptism, and he began doing “some soul-searching and digging” on his own, Baxley added. Eventually he started looking for churches online that practiced baptism by immersion.
“I wanted to do a search for churches in South Carolina because it’s a part of the country that I’ve always wanted to live in and plan to in coming years,” Jack said. He found Mullins First Baptist Church and “fell in love with the people who go there and the community as a whole,” said the 10th grade student at Orchard Park High School and a freshman at Alfred State College.
“I have no idea how Mullins First Baptist came up in his Google search, but it did,” said Baxley. “That’s the first time in my knowledge that God and Google got together,” he quipped.
Jack watched the Mullins church’s online services throughout December. “Of course, we preached every Sunday about the gospel story and about the birth of Jesus,” Baxley noted.
Wanting to be baptized by the church that had been discipling him, Jack contacted Baxley in February by phone and letter. “My parents were rather shocked about my decision,” he said, “but they were supportive of me finding God and wanting the best for me.”
“Well, Jack, you’ve explained the gospel as good as anyone I have ever sat down with and counseled,” Baxley responded. “But you’re 16, and there’s no way I can let a young man just leave a state — kind of (laugh out loud) on a Greyhound bus — and come down here and go against how he’s been raised, without his parents’ consent,” the Mullins pastor added.
But Jack’s parents told him they were “all for it,” Baxley said. His father, Roger Woodworth, confirmed, “This is real. We’ve seen a change in Jack’s life, and we definitely would love to go through with this, if there’s any way possible this could happen.”
So, Baxley called a special deacons’ meeting. “Our internet ministry has reached out and touched a young man from New York. He’s given his life to Christ, and he wants to be baptized by immersion,” Baxley explained to them. “He would love to come down here to do it.”
“This is a God thing, without question,” they agreed, and Jack and his father arrived that Saturday.
On Sunday, Feb. 19, Pastor Baxley announced to the Mullins congregation: “I’ve got something awesome to share. God has worked in the life of a young man. He’s here today from near Buffalo, New York. Most of us won’t drive 12 miles to church, but this young man and his father just drove over 12 hours for him to be baptized here.”
As Jack was baptized, his mother and siblings watched on Facebook, and afterward Jack partook of the Lord’s Supper with his new fellow church members. He returned for the evening service and shared more of his testimony of how God put everything together.
“This has tremendously affected my faith in Jesus and Christianity as a whole,” Jack told The Courier. “It has greatly boosted my desire to read the Bible daily and to preach about issues in my life and what the Bible says about it, to help people who are struggling with deep and difficult struggles,” he added.
The Mullins congregation is still amazed by the power of the gospel they’ve seen displayed, Baxley said.
“I’ve been in ministry a good while and been in church my whole life, but I hadn’t quite seen something exactly like that before,” he said. “This whole community has been in an uproar all week long about just how amazing God is.”