Courtney Shuster remembers sitting next to a kiddie pool decorated with cartoon fish outside her Danville, Pennsylvania, home last summer and texting her friend, Penny Dyer, inviting her to check out SE Online.
On Sunday, Feb. 14, Dyer was baptized in that pool.
Courtney Shuster and her husband, Steve, knew Dyer from their previous church.
“The pandemic hit and by May, I was on the search for something new, and God was calling us to change how my daughter and I were worshiping,” Dyer said. “I got Courtney’s text, and I started crying because not only was I not going to be able to go to church with them anymore, but I was moved to check out this church that they were talking about.”
Dyer watched Southeast’s Mantra and One at a Time sermon series and then got connected with the Shusters’ online small group, which meets on Wednesday nights and includes people from Canada, Wisconsin, Australia and a few other places.
Dyer, 47, who started seeking a relationship with God in 2013 and joined a church three years later, wanted to get baptized because she was sprinkled as a baby in her parents’ church.
“In 2013, I got God curious, like, ‘Are you really there?’” Dyer added. “I became a Christian in 2013 after my mom passed away. I had been in a long-term relationship, but not married, which ended a couple of years before that. A lot of things happened to take me to the bottom.”
Dyer, who has a 13-year-old daughter, planned to drive to Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus to get baptized “when the weather warmed up.”
“We always heard a story about a guy who got baptized in the Susquehanna River near us,” Steve Shuster said. “There were a couple of times I was thinking in my head, ‘I wish we could help Penny because I know she has a desire to get baptized.’ I was out for a run and going over a bridge that we live near. I looked down in the water, and there were no icebergs floating. I said, ‘I should say something to Penny on Facebook Messenger about getting baptized this week.’ I intended it to be a joke, but Penny jumped right at it.”
It was a wreck the roof moment.
“We were talking about the logistics after that, and we realized if the polar bear plunges in the Susquehanna River always have an ambulance on standby, it might be kind of dangerous, but then Courtney mentioned that kiddie pool,” Dyer said.
Dyer shoveled snow out of her yard in 30-degree temperatures to make room for the kiddie pool, filled it with well water and then was immersed by Steve Shuster. All three say Senior Pastor Kyle Idleman’s Unleashed sermon about the Ethiopian eunuch getting baptized immediately filled them with a sense of urgency.
A couple of small group members watched the baptism on Zoom.
“The water was so shocking,” Dyer said. “I’m excited to see how God will use this and hope it inspires someone else to take that leap or dive.”
“It was actually a warmer day because the days surrounding it were in the 20s,” Courtney Shuster added. “The sun came out, and it actually warmed up a little. We were like, ‘God made this day for Penny to get baptized.’ The kiddie pool died the same day as the baptism—its final glory. The plastic got cracks in it from being so cold.”
The Shusters began tuning into SE Online after having their second child and deciding not to attend in-person church services at the local church they had been attending for seven years.
“The serving that we saw people of Southeast doing in Kentucky through COVID and the way the messages hit so perfectly for what we were all going through, God just evolved that to say, ‘This is your new church home,’” Courtney Shuster said.
Courtney was introduced to Senior Pastor Kyle Idleman’s sermons by her boss at the Christian radio station where she is an announcer. In May 2020, the Shusters began leading an online small group.
“It has been fantastic,” Steve Schuster said. “This group has allowed me the opportunity to speak, be heard and have other people care for me. We stay in contact through Facebook Messenger every day. We’re family. We’re always talking to one another and know what’s going on with one another. We share life with each other.”