Vivacious senior serves God with joy

Birthdays are worth celebrating because they are a reminder of God's gift of life. When one's life is full of good years, a birthday can be extra special.

But for Emma Enns, her 89th birthday party was also an exciting celebration of her spiritual growth.

Earlier this spring, Enns informed her pastor, Alf Bell, that she wanted to be baptized. He suggested a possible date—April 18. Emma responded without hesitation. "That would be perfect. It's my birthday!"

And so, on a beautiful sunny spring day, a host of Enns' family and friends gathered at Summerland for her memorable party. Enns was excited to have two of her three daughters, both sons, three grandsons, a nephew and three nieces in attendance. The modest chapel area could not hold all the guests, but the adjoining lounge served as overflow and the larger-than-usual congregation sang heartily. Pastor Bell shared a bit of Enns' story, and challenged hearers to see God at work using through brick walls, quantum leaps and in quiet growth periods.

Then it was Enns' turn, and she captivated the congregation with her candid, joyous account of God's work in her life.

Enns grew up in Domain, where she attended Avonlea United Church. There her parents brought her to be baptized as an infant, and in the same church Enns and her late husband Abe had their five children baptized.

When Enns was 40, her relatives, Cornie and Helen Wall, invited her to a service at the Mennonite Brethren Church. Billy Graham's preaching in the Billy Graham in London film intrigued Enns. She invited Reverend Toews and the Walls for lunch so she could learn more. That day she gained a clear understanding of salvation.

"We become sons and daughters to God through our faith in Jesus," she affirms. "Being baptized in water signifies the spiritual reality of being 'placed into' and 'identified with' Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, and helps visualize this inner work of the Holy Spirit."

A number of pastors and mentors were on hand to support Enns at her baptism. No less significant is the encouragement of her 13-year-old grandson, Matthew, whom she helped with a school essay. Matthew wanted to know how Jesus changed Enns' life. She loves to tell how those changes began nearly 50 years ago, and is writing about the journey. When Enns realized this spring that Jesus was calling her to be baptized as a demonstration of her personal faith commitment, she was ready to obey.

Enns entered the pool assisted by Bell and nephew, Monty Magarrell. As her feet touched the water, she says she had an incredible sense that she was entering the Jordan River and that Jesus was there with her. She had no awareness of anyone else's presence.

This vibrant lady is passionate about continuing her faith walk.

"Please pray for me, as I have so much to learn," she implores. "Baptism does not wash away our sins. Rather, it is the result of repentance. I ask Jesus to give me an open heart, learn to be more obedient and faithful and give me the ability to learn more."

She has learned to trust God through difficulties. Two daughters coped with cancer, and one son faced serious illness. Emma rejoices that her husband, Abe, came to assurance of eternal life just before he died of pancreatic cancer.

But despite having learned many lessons already, Enns is not about to give up her quest.

"I need to learn much more from the Bible, and remember what I read. It seems that God is always looking for ordinary people to try to do extraordinary work for Him."

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About the author

ChristianWeek Columnist

Pat Gerbrandt is a Manitoba writer who delights to learn how God is working in and through His children, and enjoys sharing these accounts. Do you know a senior with an amazing story? Let us know! E-mail or call 1-800-263-6695.