On April 29th, 2018, Nikki Blanton walked into the water at Bethune Beach and—moments before she was baptized—her eyes filled up with tears.
Nikki, who grew up in South Africa and attended an Anglican church every Sunday, explains that while she had a foundation of faith growing up it “always kind of felt like it was out there, not in here.” When she began to feel a pull to deepen her faith and allow it to connect with her heart, she started first with Scripture. Even then though, she realized she was still approaching faith on a head-level and something needed to shift. That’s when God made it clear to her to start opening up to people.
“I was craving to develop my faith,” she says. “So in my prayers I would hear ‘pay attention to who I’m bringing into your world. Pay attention to your relationships. Be more intentional in them.’ And when I started doing that and noticing conversations and people, I could really hear his voice.”
Two relationships that have profoundly impacted Nikki are with her mentors, Denise and Becky. Without realizing it, in spring of 2017, both women were tapping into a subject Nikki had already been processing on her own—purpose and being used by the Lord. Denise had given Nikki a book that guides the reader along as they ask themselves ‘What has God given me that I need to use to glorify him?” The same week Nikki was reading through the book and journaling out her thoughts, Becky reached out to tell Nikki she had felt a strong urge to encourage her to read through the book of Joshua. Nikki took the suggestion seriously, and as she started reading she saw so many parallels between what she was learning in Scripture and what she was learning about herself through the book Denise had lent her.
“He really does use people to whisper to us,” Nikki starts. “Because sometimes I feel like—I just get so caught up in my things. But he is about relationship. And if you can actually open up to those conversations and those people he’s put in your life—I don’t know. I’m just so thankful because I really am more aware now of what he’s teaching me through others.”
It was through the relationships God had placed in Nikki’s life that she began to understand him more—not just intellectually, but for the first time with her heart in the equation as well. Nikki had learned the importance of getting outside of herself enough to encounter God in relationships.
About a year later, Nikki and her husband, Matt, attended Summit’s Partnership Class and learned about baptism as a potential next step. Nikki had never really considered baptism, but wanted to take a few days to think about it. Within those few days Nikki’s daughter, Mya, got a phone call from Summit’s Student Ministry Worship Coordinator, Peter Hackler. He was calling to see if Mya would want to lead worship at the upcoming Beach Baptism.
“I was so excited and shocked,” Nikki says. “I had been asking ‘God, should I get baptized? Is this the right time for me?’ and now Mya is singing at baptism? God used her to make it clear to me that it was time.”
Mya’s faith has always been something Nikki admires in her daughter, even saying that she wouldn’t be where she is today in her relationship with God if it weren’t for Mya. “She’s taught me so much,” she says as her voice slightly breaks. “I just feel like, like I see God in her. Their relationship—God and Mya—because of what he’s done for her and her love for him? It’s taught me so much about grace.”
For Nikki, having Mya play such a unique role in her baptism day added a whole other element of joy and celebration. And she couldn’t help but be reminded again of the importance of relationships in our individual faith stories. Afterall, it was relationship that brought the Blantons to Summit. Mya had started attending Summit’s middle school ministry, Surge, a few years ago when she was invited by her friend, Kali. She became a regular face on Sunday afternoons and eventually she and Kali started leading worship together in Student Ministries. Her developing faith and increased involvement sparked something in her parents. While they had attended church prior to Summit, they were craving more meaningful connections—something their daughter had found here, so why not try it for themselves? It wasn’t long before the whole Blanton family was putting down roots and growing in community here.
In her baptism application, when asked to briefly describe how and when she decided to trust Christ alone for her salvation, Nikki wrote “It was an undercurrent of whispers, relationships, conversations that became so strong and consistent in my heart that I could no longer ignore the many places and people that I witnessed and heard from God.”
And so it was that undercurrent of whispers that carried Nikki out into the water on April 29th. It was in the wisdom and encouragement from those God had placed in her life to reveal himself to her that she caught a glimpse of him. It was through meaningful and trusting relationships with friends and family that she was able to fully trust and commit to her relationship with God through baptism.
“I walked up to Zach and I turned around and Zach said ‘what a special day, with Mya singing’ and as soon as he said that, it was like the floodgates opened! I just—I was standing there, with the waves and Mya’s voice in my head and the weight of what I was about to do and it was just—I thought to myself ‘I’m so happy that this is making God happy. That he’s smiling right now and we’re both celebrating this together.’”
Our fall Beach Baptism is coming up on Sunday, November 4th! If you feel like baptism is your next step in your relationship with Jesus, register to be baptized here. As your church family, we would love to cheer you on!