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Many years ago now I served a small-town church in north central Kansas. The first week I was there two elderly ladies—twins named Mamie and Edith—asked me to visit them. They wanted to talk about being baptized and joining the church. They went to church every Sunday. As faithful and sweet as could be. But even though they had attended a Methodist congregation al their lives they were never baptized and had never joined. Seems that when they were little girls—about seven or eight years old—the circuit riding preacher was coming to town to do baptisms. The little girls wanted to be baptized, but their mother wouldn’t let them because she didn’t think they had any decent clothes to wear. They were dirt-poor farmers, as poor as you’d ever meet. And they only had a change or two of work clothes—they didn’t have white dresses to get baptized in. And so their mother told them they couldn’t get baptized because, “We don’t want people to think we’re trash.” But guess what happened, in their little girl minds became in those little girl’s minds “We don’t want people to think we’re trash,” became, “we are trash.” And ever since, they always wanted to be baptized, but never felt they were good enough. It was a toxic shame.

I began meeting with them every so often over a period of four years. Over and over again I offered to baptize them, trying to reassure them that God loved them and valued them as deeply loved daughters. Time and again they would set a date to be baptized, and time and again they would back out at the last minute and every time I would hear the story of what had happened all those years before and of the shame they carried, believing that they were trash. And once again we would pray. This went on for four years—and about a month before I was reassigned I met with them, prayed with them, and offered once again to baptize them but again they just couldn’t do it. But early the morning of the very last Sunday I served that church, hours before the worship service, Mamie and Edith called and asked if I would baptize them. They told me that on that Saturday they had gone shopping and bought new dresses. I have to say, that was one of the best days I have had in 27 years of ministry. They came forward, publically professed the faith in Christ they had held tightly since they were little girls, and I had the privilege of baptizing them. That day they finally held onto the truth that they weren’t trash and had never been trash. They finally believed that Jesus doesn’t look down on them, but loves them and that because Jesus loves them they are of immense worth and a hopeful beyond words. And so are you.

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