Hi Everyone! My name is Ryan Ma, I’m 18 years old and a Senior in high school, and I was born in Plano, Texas. Today I’m going to share with you my baptism testimony. Like many of the Youth in this church, I grew up attending SJCAC and attended VBS and Sunday School throughout my childhood. Throughout most of my elementary school years, I had fun coming to church, learning the songs, the Bible stories, and meeting friends. However, I didn’t take my faith seriously, nor did I understand the depth of Christ’s love for me until middle school and high school.
My first real encounter with the Holy Spirit was at my first Youth Winter Retreat in 6th grade back in 2013. I had never encountered God in a real tangible way before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, however I had heard stories of people’s lives being changed at Winter Retreat. Entering Winter Retreat with longing and expectation, I wasn’t sure what would happen, but was ready to encounter the living God. At Winter Retreat, I felt the Holy Spirit for the first time– it caused me to shiver even though it was warm in the room. I soon realized how worship wasn’t about singing nice sounding songs with various instruments but about coming before God in brokenness and receiving His transforming love to be made new. Receiving God’s love produced a hunger in my heart that set me on fire for Him. I returned to SJCAC with a newfound bond with brothers and sisters in Christ, and a desire to seek Him.
Throughout my middle school and high school years, I’ve grown in the Lord in many ways, but the road to where I am now has not always been smooth. I remember a time in middle school and high school where I tried to do everything by my own will and strength and not through God. Second semester of my Sophomore year stands out as one of the most challenging times in both my faith walk and life. During this time, I felt constantly depressed and stressed by an overwhelming amount of school work, extracurriculars, and self-induced pressure. I treated God as an extracurricular, something to get to if I had time later on. I found myself coming to God only in times of need, and would always make conditional promises that I would never fulfill. During this time, I was never suicidal, but questioned my worth in this world. I remember understanding why people commit suicide, but by the Grace of God, I never reached this point. During this time, I relied A LOT on prayer, and help from my parents. Although I would never want to go through that time again, it strengthened me, and helped me to rely more fully on God.
During middle and high school, I was also able to get “plugged in” more at church and served on the worship team and started to attend E2 (Elijah Elisha, our Youth Group) on a regular basis. Through each of these avenues, I grew in my relationship with God and formed bonds with brothers and sisters in Christ who share my struggles and can keep me accountable for my actions. I’ve come to realize the importance of community and fellowship and the truth that we are never alone in our struggles.
Although I’ve struggled with always living out my faith in my daily actions and in daily life, I am comforted knowing that Christ loves me and will love me no matter what. I know that getting baptized doesn’t always make one’s walk with God easier, but as Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Getting baptized is the next step in my faith journey with God, and is a public declaration of my identity to the world: a child of God!