Witnesses in Our Own Backyard

When Jesus ascended to heaven, He charged the disciples to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Sometimes our stories highlight individuals or families who are far away (the ends of the earth), some tell of those who are in our cities and find Christ because of our message (Judea/Samaria) and some tell stories of Jerusalem. This is a story of a family who has an amazing impact on many in the Walla Walla Valley.

I've been serving in the Walla Walla Valley for 25 years at University Church and have been blessed by the families who follow Christ and lead their children to walk with God daily. In all the important endeavors of the Adventist Church, Christian education is likely the strongest and most effective methods to invite people to choose to be a disciple of Jesus and embrace the blessings of a local congregation.

I met Brandon and Mandy long ago and watched them lead their family to be a light and salt for others. They have three daughters — Makiah, Kienna and Adalyn — and every time the church launches any ministry that reaches for our young people, they support and give their all. Whether through coaching, teaching Sabbath School, outdoor events, hospitality in their homes or on the road athletic practices and games, they are a constant force for good. Their uncompromising theme of making a commitment to Christ is unmistakable.

Although I met and worked with the family previously, Makiah wanted to consider a decision to follow Jesus in baptism — “consider” being the choice because she is the type of person who doesn’t give her heart away because it is popular or expedient. Her convictions about God and life runs deep. It was after she asked for this conversation that the pandemic took over the lives of many — but not this family. They continued to live, work and give for the cause of Christ, even when others removed themselves from the work.

When the city was struggling to support families who were in need, Makiah and Kienna showed up to help at a food drive. There were only two or three young people who showed up to help. They worked hard and donated time and resources when many were taking a break from community service. It was not a surprise to learn that Makiah and Kienna desired to give their lives to God in baptism.

Clearly, their baptism in the Snake River was not a graduation or an achievement of their lifelong commitment, but another starting point to dig deeper and more fully offer their lives to God. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1–2).

Makiah will be graduating this year from high school, and Kienna is the heart of this high school season of life, but both are joining the ranks of this fellowship of faith in a way that gives me confidence that God’s is leading our church in these times.