“Remember your baptism”

Could Anabaptist-Mennonites practice “remembering our baptism” as a tool for lifelong discipleship? 

Although they often baptize infants, both Catholics and Lutherans call upon the believer – sometimes every year – to “remember your baptism” into a life of discipleship.  

Former MWC general secretary Larry Miller learned this through the five-year process of trilateral dialogues between Mennonites, Lutherans and Catholics.  

“I confessed to them with some embarrassment…that [although I was baptized as a young adult] I could not even remember exactly when it had taken place!” says Larry Miller.  

We are inviting our leaders to remember their baptism. What about you? What is your baptism story? 

Don’t forget to read the study guide to the report on baptism. Your responses to the questions are welcome until November 2024.  

An alternative way of life

When I was baptized at a Mennonite congregation at age 20, a woman was also baptized at the same time.  Atsuhiro Katano

During the service, she gave a powerful witness, telling her story of so much suffering, spiritual turbulence and family struggle leading up to her drastic conversion. She finally found the genuine Lord of her life.  

Her testimony overwhelmed me, a young university student, still innocent, successful and easy-going in life.  

Then my turn came: I was so intimidated that I could only mumble that I decided to follow Jesus just because I felt it was somehow right and natural to do so.  

Reflecting on my embarrassment, I figured out later that I became Mennonite because it most clearly addressed nonconformity to the world as its core value.  

Though not so dramatic, I was struggling with the casual but persistent pressure to conform to the surrounding culture in the Japanese high-context society. Anabaptist emphasis on believers’ baptism and discipleship as an alternative way of life conveyed to me a clear message that I was valued as an individual and that it was OK to be different from the majority.  

—Hiro Katano, General Council delegate for Nihon Menonaito Kirisuto Kyokai Kyogikai (Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference), Japan 

A growing relationship

My parents told me: ‘now it is time to think about baptism. You have to ask for forgiveness and accept Jesus as your personal Saviour.’  Vikal Rao

We were all going to church, but that time I didn’t understand much about a personal encounter with Jesus. The pastor taught me about the Bible in a class for 10 days. 

The day I was baptized was 16 November 1986. I was 20 years old. I dressed up in white clothes and was baptized by pouring in Bethel Church (a member of Bhartiya General Conference Mennonite Church).  

The day before, the whole family prayed together.  

On Sunday morning, I shared my testimony in front of the whole church then was baptised. Everyone came and kissed me and blessed me, so I felt really special. Then I became a member of the church.  

After my baptism, I felt that I have submitted my life to someone so I have to be careful. That understanding was with me but I made mistakes. I learned slowly.  

Many times, I prayed and I received answers. When I graduated, I prayed for a job where I can serve the church as well. God led me. My father advised me to take a teaching job. Many years later, I got opportunity to serve the church.  

Slowly you experience growing relationship with Jesus. For me it was like that. It took me a while to fully understand what it means to surrender your life to Christ. Baptism was a day I surrendered my life, but the strong bond of relationship developed later on.  

—Vikal Rao, pastor and executive secretary, Mennonite Church India 

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Chosen to serve 

Personally, in my case, I was baptized at the age of 13. 

My baptism was by immersion. 

My memories are that I was accompanied by members of the church and by a singing group. On the day of the baptism the atmosphere was festive. I was submerged in the water of a river in my region known as the Kwilu River. 

In the morning on that day, a Sunday, we only had a baptism. There was no other service other than the service of baptism. 

We were baptized in the morning and after the baptism around 9 o’clock we had worship to give thanks to God and to share communion and the Last Supper with the people of God. 

There were four of us who were baptized, two girls and two boys, after a four-month period of teaching. 

Among the texts that day I remember Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, and John 3:16. 

Among the songs was one that talked about how God chose you to serve, so you must serve. It was sung in the regional language. 

[Click here to listen to a brief audio of the tune] 

“God chose you so that you would serve him with all of your heart, all of your soul and all of your mind.” 

This was among the songs that were sung the day of my baptism. 

—Felo Gracia, a member of the Mission Commission, from the Democratic Republic of Congo 


A door opens to serve Christ 

I got baptized at the age of 17 years.  

Having been raised in a Christian home, I learned to pray as a small child. My mother had taught me a prayer which I repeated every evening before going to bed. One day she told me that it was about time that I prayed another prayer – without telling me how or teaching me a new prayer. Before long, I decided that I would say the Lord’s Prayer, which I had memorized in Sunday School.  

So every day before going to bed, I knelt and prayed the “Vater Unser”. Only later did I realize how good this decision was.  

At the age of 13 years, I struggled with soteriological issues. How does a “Christian” child or adolescent become a Christian? Well, I started praying about that. The answer came at an evangelistic campaign that same year, where I found a way to make a conscious decision to become a disciple of Christ. 

In my adolescence, my decision from a few years ago needed an update. After experiencing a personal spiritual renewal, I decided to ask for baptism. 

Our baptism group was a large group; we were over 20, mostly youth. After a very helpful preparation course of what it means to follow Christ, get baptized and belong to the church, we were ready for the special event.  

The day before, the Mennonite Brethren Church of Filadelfia, Paraguay, got together in order to listen to our testimonies, which usually included a sort of dialogue about our faith experience. 

The baptismal service was a huge event and consisted of three parts: A worship service focusing on the meaning of baptism, being a Christian and belonging to the church. Then came the act of baptism outside of the building, where everyone gathered around the baptismal font. Every one to be baptized was dressed in white.  

Usually the baptizing was not done by the pastor himself; it could be a deacon or another preacher.  

Thereafter followed the reception into the fellowship of the church, which included a certificate. The service concluded with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper with special attention given to the new ones. 

It was a very meaningful experience. A public testimony, getting into the water and being immersed in the water before everyone and experiencing for the first time the Lord´s Supper was rather moving for me.  

Also, it was like a door opening itself for me in order to serve Christ. And this has been my privilege since then. 

—Victor Wall is a member of the steering committee of GAHEN (Global Anabaptist Higher Education Network), and the liaison with the Faith & Life Commission. He is a member of the Mennonite Brethren church in Paraguay. 

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