EAST NAPLES — Donna Gordon was nervous as she slipped into the elevated pool of water on a recent Sunday morning at East Naples Baptist Church. The water was warmer than she expected. She wore a long sleeve shirt beneath her white robe. A combination of nerves, too many clothes and the water’s warmth caused her to perspire.
Pastor Phil Simcosky gripped her hand and their eyes locked as Gordon’s testimony was read aloud to the congregation.
Years ago, Gordon walked away from her faith after a divorce left her to raise her three children by herself.
“I had a wonderful life — a beautiful home, my children were wonderful. I had a husband I loved,” Gordon said. “Then the roof fell in.”
The 80-year-old Naples resident and grandmother said she spent years struggling to feed, clothe and provide for her children. With no child support, daily struggles of motherhood and mounting frustrations, Gordon said she abandoned her spirituality.
Simcosky, who has performed more than 500 baptisms, said that some people come back to the church when they get older. He said that many tell him: “This is what I’ve been looking for in my life.”
“There’s always something in a person’s heart that makes them want to get back to something solid and true,” Simcosky said.
And the baptism, Simcosky said, is an outward expression of what is happening in their hearts. He said that going under the water symbolizes the death of the old way of life, and coming out means a rebirth into the arms of their faith.
“There’s no magic formula,” Simcosky said. “It’s purely symbolic. But it’s a very powerful symbol.”
“Everybody lives with things they probably regret,” Simcosky said. “Whenever someone feels like their sins have been forgiven and they are free of the guilt from the past, they come out of the water feeling like their old life is over and the new life is beginning. It gives them a fresh start.”
Gordon said her second husband, Johnny Gordon, who passed away six years ago, along with rereading the Bible, helped her restore her belief in God. After her husband died, Gordon said she would sometimes wonder about him.
“So I asked God to show me or tell me where Johnny is,” Gordon said. “I immediately got a message in my mind, ‘He’s with me.’ It made me feel wonderful.”
After her baptism, Gordon dried off and hurried back to her pew for the rest of the worship service. She said she spent the remainder of the day crying and pondering her experience.
“I felt renewed,” Gordon said. “Other than the birth of my children, it was the biggest thing. It means my salvation.”
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Connect with Tristan Spinski at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tristin-spinski/.