Baptism | Hope Williams

Baptism | Hope Williams

May 7, 2023 |

What was life like before you met Jesus?

As I look back on my life, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness at God’s persistent pursuit of me.

When I was young, both my parents worked and I spent most days at daycare. The owners were Christians and faithfully shared Bible stories with us. I would come home and retell these stories to my parents and a seed was planted in my dad’s heart. The year I turned 5, his New Year’s resolution was to take his family to church - and he followed through! That summer he was in an accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. The pastor of the church they were attending came alongside my parents during this time and both of my parents became believers. His recovery was grueling and completely altered what our family looked like. He was left permanently disabled and unable to work. My mom juggled work and his recovery and I spent a lot of time with different family members and friends. A few of my favorite family members to spend time with were my great aunt and uncle – he was a pastor and both really loved the Lord and me! While visiting them one weekend, I attended a classic fire and brimstone scare you to Jesus revival that opened my eyes to my need for Jesus – not simple – but a tiny childlike glimpse of my need for a Savior

My dad’s recovery was a long, sometimes violent and terrifying, exhausting and miraculous way to grow up. As a teenager, I really struggled with anger and bitterness that my family was different and directed that towards God for letting this happen. My parent’s faith was solid and while we were all challenged through this, they did a great job of discipling me and nurturing me in the admonition of the Lord. I did mostly all the right things – being home-schooled in an ultra-conservative (fundamental and legalistic) church/community didn’t allow too many missteps, but I never grasped what it meant to have a personal relationship with my heavenly Father. Having a broken earthly father also created a challenge in seeing God as my Father and understanding what that relationship should/could look like.

People, relationships, and entertainment have been consistent idols that mandated how I spent my time and energy – choosing almost anything over time spent developing a relationship with the Lord. Persistently, God placed people in my life that were great examples of faithfulness to Him -my high school youth leader, pastors, friends, and family – and He used their love for Him to challenge me and grow me up in Him.

How did you meet Jesus?

While I was “along for the ride” from 6 years old, I was 19 before I really started to grasp what Jesus’ death meant for me. I had spent some time at a Bible school that taught things differently than how I was taught and it challenged me to study more and know what I believed – a small fire was kindled and I felt a draw to know Him more and compelled to serve Him. My mom had a huge heart for international missions and we read so many missionary biographies, hosted missionaries, and prayed for missionaries growing up! At the time, she wasn’t able to travel due to my dad’s limitations, but she volunteered locally as much as she was able. In high school, we traveled with our church on a short-term mission trip to Cherokee, NC and worked to repair homes and lead a Bible school for local children. The first year we spent a week, the second summer three weeks, and the third summer I spent the entire summer helping coordinate other teams coming through. The Lord used this time, the people He brought across my path, and the opportunities coming out of this to continue drawing me to Him.

After serving in Cherokee, I started to work in my church’s mission-sending agency. While there, we prayed twice a week as staff for our international missionaries – knowing very specific needs and amazing intentional prayer times for them. We had a family we prayed for over the course of a year as their toddler son battled leukemia- found while they were home from Japan raising support. Their battle became particularly grueling in the fall off 1995 and our staff spent many extra days praying for Schaeffer and his family and God answered with his healing. After Christmas that year, God opened the door for me to go spend a week with his family – specifically to give his parents a break and time away. We really bonded during that time, and they asked me if I would consider going back with them to Japan – serving as a two-year missionary, English teacher, and nanny for their family – so I did! I went through the process of becoming a 2-year missionary, raising support, and spent an amazing two years working alongside committed believers who faithfully served to grow the Japanese church, but also the body of Christ and community in our team. It was my first real taste of God’s grace and the importance of community and family rooted in His love and grace. At the end of my two years – I came home to get my teaching degree so I could return as a full-time missionary.

I started working back in my church’s missions sending agency while attending classes and met my husband, Troy – he was new to the area having spent a lot of time playing baseball in Europe and Africa. So, instead of Asia, my journey got rerouted to Germany. We struggled to find church and community in Germany – the language barrier and schedule were challenging. I was not faithful with personal devotions and prayer and spent a very dry few years of growth. We returned to the States because of my dislike for our life there and our struggle to have children – so in 2004, we moved back to my home state to settle! God surrounded us with great friends and fellow believers that helped encourage my faith and grow me back towards God. We were blessed with two amazing children and incredible adventures during this season! I still struggled with my own personal disciplines-Bible reading and prayer – always prioritizing the idols of people and entertainment over time with God.

After being saved by Jesus, what is your life like now?

In 2011, I followed Troy’s heart and career back to Germany – with a definitive time frame! Two years so we could all learn the language – a maximum of 5 because I would NOT move my kids internationally during puberty! God blessed our time in Germany with a church that taught the truth, a job, and ministry opportunities for me - it quickly became home. We bought a house and “I” decided that a 5-year time frame was non-existent and we settled in for the long haul. While the teaching and worship at church were great, I never found a community or a connection there. Struggling always with my personal rhythms I entered another very dry season of spiritual growth. In 2019 we returned to the States to visit family and our return to Germany in early 2020 was a turning point for my children and me. I have no explanation, but it was the first time we all three felt we were not returning home, but leaving home and an ache grew in our hearts and we all struggled to settle back into life there. Then came Covid and we were so cut off and isolated due to quarantine restrictions there. No in-person worship for 6 months, schools closed, and massive restrictions on even visiting friends or having community left the three of us drowning in loneliness. The children began to beg to return to the States/go home. Even though life was challenging, I had no idea how this could happen. Troy’s job is in Germany, we had no home or job opportunities to come back to, so I just said no. Unfortunately, I did not bathe this decision in prayer, but I believe God directed our steps and led us on this path to draw me to Himself in a new way.

One of the directors I had worked with during my time at the missions organization was managing a camp and conference center in Iowa and we reached out to him to see if there would be a job opportunity there. I was offered a job and stepping out in faith, our family made the decision for the kids and me to move – sight unseen – to Iowa in the fall of 2021. God graciously provided housing, friendships, and community through the job and we started our search for a church home. We tried several local churches, but none felt like home. Through a series of divinely orchestrated connections, we heard about the Urbana church plant about 2 months before the first service. We were able to be at the first service and I knew we had found our church home. As I learned more about the values and mission of Veritas – raise up mature disciples, send out everyday missionaries, and glorify God – and witnessed the dedication of all church staff to honor God and reflect Jesus in all they did, it made me want to be a member of Christ’s body here.

International moves to unknown places with an 11-year-old and 15-year-old without my husband were not at all without its challenges. As challenges arose and increased and became overwhelming and felt all-consuming God brought Veritas leadership alongside us and helped us navigate through one of the most difficult times of my life. One of the sermon series during this time was Rhythms – identifying and encouraging our personal disciplines and rhythms and their importance in our growth. Someone said in one of these sermons that when the church started shepherding individuals, one of the first questions they asked was – “how is your time in the Word?” I was extremely convicted. My whole life I knew this to be important, but was never willing to put in the time. I was at my lowest low and knew I had to make the time for this and prioritize Him. God used these trials and this specific teaching to spark a new passion for His word, which led to a deeper personal relationship with Him than I ever thought was possible. I was also placed in a connection group. I have been part of small groups and Bible studies throughout my life and church experience, but never have I experienced the body of Christ as I have in our connection group. I believe absolutely nothing happens by accident but is a means for God to be glorified and He has used this group of His children to challenge me and encourage me and strengthen me in some of the most practical, most loving, and most Christ-like ways I have ever seen. They are truly my brothers and sisters, family for my children, and heroes of faith for me on a daily basis.

A few verses I love that have been persistently before me as I grow –

“For I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you”, says the Lord, “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:11 – 14

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. If leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” Hebrews 6:19

“Fear not, stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13 – 14

Baptism by immersion is something I feel led to because it is an image of how overwhelmed I feel by the depths of His love for me. To be fully washed, cleaned, and made whole as part of His bride is a gift I am overwhelmed to have been given, and am grateful for the opportunity to confirm my commitment to the marvelous Bridegroom who has persistently pursued me as His own.