More than 325 people were baptized October 31, 1999, at Canyon
Hills Assembly of God after a two-week outreach brought the greatest
harvest celebration the church had ever seen.
2,000 people gathered at the churchs morning service and cheered
as new Christians made their way into an above-ground pool that
was brought into the sanctuary. The first few rows of seating were
removed so the 25- by 30-foot pool could be set up.
Pastor Wendell Vinson, senior pastor of the Bakersfield, Calif.,
church, says Canyon Hills pastoral staff was in the pool baptizing
six to seven people at a time. Even at that rate, the service was
one-and-a-half hours of nonstop water baptisms with lines forming
outside of the church.
"It was a rush," says Julie Morton, who had just given
her life to Christ a few months before the service. "It was
so powerful. It was wonderful to get into the pool and see my friends
and family cheering me on. You could actually feel the power of
God and almost see a glow in peoples eyes as they were watching."
Two weeks prior to October 31, the church held outreaches that
brought more than 400 to Christ. Between Jesus Jam rallies held
by the youth group and one-on-one invitations to special services
for both adults and teens, Canyon Hills witnessed a soul-saving
harvest. In fact, about 50 more people accepted Jesus at the baptismal
"There were a lot of unsaved relatives who came to watch their
family members get baptized," Pastor Vinson says. "When
we gave the invitation for salvation and baptism, there were entire
families who stepped out of their pews. These people didnt
come prepared with a change of clothes."
The environment was electric, observers say. The choir sang, and
the praise and worship team continued to lead the congregation in
praise songs throughout the service. The applause grew loudest when
a young man in a wheelchair was baptized. The usher who had helped
this man on a regular basis was so excited that he ran down the
aisle and jumped into the pool to assist.
Ron Caoua was initially nervous about getting baptized because
of the magnitude of the service and the large crowd.
"I felt better when I realized how much the congregation was
enjoying the service. People were cheering for me and later coming
up and telling me they saw me get baptized."
The crowd continued to applaud as the pastors baptized an entire
family at once.
For three years, Cindy Erikat had prayed and fasted for she and
her husband to be baptized together. He was saved last year, but
had no interest in being baptized, she says. But, from the choir
loft, Cindy watched her husband take off his boots and head toward
"I knew God was telling me that it was time to go down and
join him so we could get baptized together," Cindy says. "Ever
since, my life hasnt been the same."
That testimony is typical of people who were baptized that day,
Pastor Vinson says. "What an exciting thing to give
the devil a black eye on Halloween.
"Weve always had Harvest Sunday, but this year we wanted
harvest to be more than a season," Vinson says. "We wanted
to have a Kingdom harvest.
"This whole thing was just an overwhelming experience,"
he says. "God really moved past our expectations."