By SCOTT COTTOS
FOR THE COURIER
FOSTORIA — Little Julitta Peace held her nose and, with the assistance of Don Matheson, leaned back into a tub of water and raised her head.
Right there, in the back of a truck parked on East Fremont Street on Saturday afternoon, the 9-year-old girl was baptized.
“I feel like a different person,” she said.
Her father, Andrew Peace, said his daughter has been attending Bible classes at a local church and wanted to be baptized.
“It just so happens, this man comes up to me (on Friday) talking about church,” he said. That man was Matheson, a Brookville resident in town with reviveOhio to take part in Revive Seneca County, including as a driver of the baptismal truck.
“You are a brave woman and a life-changer in the name of Jesus,” Matheson told Julitta after she’d dried off and gotten warmer in a towel.
The baptismal truck, literally, is a vehicle of the Gospel. It has been to a number of states to assist in the work of Time to Revive, an organization that operates in 17 states in an attempt to better communities through Christian outreach.
reviveOhio is an affiliate of Time to Revive. Operating by invitation only, it has now been in 14 Ohio counties, with Seneca County hosting it this year. It was in Hancock County in 2018. Twenty-one Seneca County churches are taking part.
“Hancock County had some outreach here in Fostoria, just a little bit,” said the Rev. Mark Self, pastor of Trinity United Brethren Church. “So some of us Fostoria people were able to talk to pastors in Tiffin and say, ‘Hey, would you guys in Seneca County like to do this?'”
Revive Seneca County was originally scheduled for Sept. 27 through Oct. 3. It has been extended into this week, with its base moving from New Beginnings Assembly of God to Encounter Church in Fostoria.
Encounter Church hosted a sizable lunch on Saturday for reviveOhio personnel, members of participating churches and volunteers who came from Indiana and Pennsylvania.
“It’s overwhelming, in a good way, to be able to see the unselfish attitude of so many in so many different churches from all around,” said the Rev. Mike Erdel, pastor of Encounter Church. “It’s truly a blessing of God. It’s overwhelming and exciting, all at the same time.
“It’s not a problem at all. It’s not a burden. It’s like, you get something so good come into your life and you’re just overwhelmed. So, it’s exciting.”
During visits to communities, groups of reviveOhio people, pastors and volunteers go into areas “mostly just to love on people,” Matheson said.
“Whenever we minister to someone, we’re representing 21 churches who are working together,” said the Rev. Rex King, pastor of New Beginnings Assembly of God. “We’re not representing one church. We’re not trying to get people to join (one) church. When someone comes to Christ, they need someone to follow up with them and to teach them. Jesus said to go and make disciples, ‘teaching them everything I’ve commanded you.’
“So, we try to pair them up with someone who’s a good fit from one of those 21 churches to come alongside that person and teach them how to live their life for Jesus. Then, ultimately, they’ll end up in one of our churches. We’re not clamoring over who gets them. We’re just trying to bring them to Jesus and we follow up and make sure they know how to live for Him.”
When the mobile baptismal truck goes to an area, it naturally causes intrigue. “That thing’s like a magnet,” King said.
James Stewart, an evangelist from Rochester, Indiana, said he’s done about 30 baptisms in the past three years, including about 10 since arriving in Seneca County. But his main function is to offer prayer in any way necessary.
Early on Saturday afternoon, he said he’d just returned from helping to relieve a Fostoria man of physical pain.
“I know it’s not me,” he said. “It’s the holy spirit inside of me. … It’s not like James did this. James is absolutely nothing. He’s just a man, like everybody else. I’m just willing. And once you show them how easy it is just to be willing and lay hands and they see the person get healed, they’re rocked.”
An inquiry about Revive Seneca County brought a smile to reviveOhio Chairman Mark Burd.
“It’s been very, very, very good,” he said.