Kelsey arose from the waters to the sounds of applause from family, friends and other campers who live with the 16-year-old at Camp Duncan in Aberdeen. The group gathered at the residential wilderness camp for girls on Aug. 23 to witness Kelsey’s baptism. It was a day Kelsey began praying about immediately after accepting Christ in November 2011.
“After I was saved, I prayed and asked God who should baptize me,” Kelsey said. “Dr. Blackwell’s name came into my mind. There was no question that it should be him.”
Kelsey posed her request to Michael Blackwell late last year when the Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) President/CEO was visiting Camp Duncan. The residential camp is a place where girls, like Kelsey, can overcome personal and family challenges through a uniquely structured wilderness environment.
“I was floored when Kelsey asked me,” Blackwell said. “To be able to baptize this young lady has been one of the great honors of my life.”
The service took place at Lake Catherine, the centerpiece of the 700-acre property, named in honor of Blackwell’s wife. The ceremony included songs of praise, scripture reading and prayers offered by camp staff.
BCH photo by Tabitha Ward
Camp Duncan resident Kelsey, center, was baptized by Michael C. Blackwell, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) president/CEO, in the camp’s lake. Camp Duncan group work supervisor Adrian Thane, right, also waded into the waters of Lake Catherine. The 16-year-old is the first resident Blackwell has baptized in his 29 years as BCH’s leader.
Wearing white robes, Blackwell, Thane and Kelsey waded into a shallow part of the lake. “I was excited and nervous,” Kelsey said. “As we were standing in the lake, I was just praying for God to be with me. When I went under the water, I just felt awesome.”
After immersing Kelsey, Blackwell surprised everyone by revealing a small bottle of water he collected from the Jordan River – the river where Christ was baptized by John the Baptist as recounted in the New Testament. Blackwell collected the water during his trip to Israel in 2009. He opened the bottle and poured a small amount on Kelsey’s head after leaving the lake. “As I was standing there I just couldn’t believe what was happening,” Kelsey said. “There is just no way to put the feeling into words.”
Kelsey’s mother embraced her daughter after the ceremony. “She was crying,” Kelsey said. “She told me how proud she was of me and how proud she was to be my mom. She said that my faith was an encouragement to her.” The day was not only a celebration for Kelsey and her family, but it was also meaningful to Blackwell. In 29 years as BCH’s president, this marked the first time the former pastor has baptized a resident. The last person Blackwell baptized was his son, Michael, Jr., in May, 1983 while serving as pastor of Monument Heights Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.
“The experience was a high and holy moment that I will forever carry with me,” Blackwell said. “I praise God for Kelsey and how He is working not only in her life, but in the lives of so many other residents at Baptist Children’s Homes. I pray that the faith of this young lady will be an encouragement to the other boys and girls we serve and to everyone she encounters.”
Camp Duncan opened in 2011 after more than 2,000 church volunteers helped renovate the 700-acre property in Aberdeen. In partnership with North Carolina Baptist Men, almost every single aspect of the residential wilderness camp for girls was constructed through volunteer efforts.