Afterward, I noted to A., "I haven't seen that many baptized at once since..."
"I know," he said. "I was thinking the same thing. When I was walking out to get the car, a boy complained to his dad about how many were baptized today and how long it took, and I remembered and wanted to tell him he had no idea what long was."
(I think that means we're getting old.)
Our common memory was our last mission trip to country X, 11 years ago. Our brothers and sisters in Christ there commonly faced fines and imprisonment if their worship assemblies or ministry attracted government attention. On that particular journey, a guide took us to a rural village. The believers there worshiped in a home, a home with false interior walls. When the community gathered, the walls were pushed aside to create one big room. Children served as scouts near the site; if they raised the alarm that police were approaching, the crowd dispersed and the walls were replaced.
We were permitted to observe a few minutes but not to share their worship service. Caucasians visiting a home in the countryside would too quickly attract attention they did not want.
They did, however, invite us to join an outdoor baptism service later. A cement cistern was filled with well water, the water chilly despite the hot and humid climate. One after another after another, new Christ-followers climbed into the water and were immersed by the pastor in the name of the Triune God. The rest of the church encircled the humble baptistry and sang Anglo-American hymns translated into their native tongue.
I'm not sure how long we stayed. Perhaps half an hour. The baptisms were already in progress when we arrived and continued when we were led away.
Our guide told us that such services could last three or four hours, and the pastors developed respiratory infections afterward from standing in the chilly water so long. "What would really help them," he said, "is a wet suit. But no one can afford it, and we are far from the water."
Do I even come close to understanding what it is to suffer for the gospel? We had traveled to the other side of the world to teach Bible and theology, but these men and women had much more to teach us about life in Christ. About real joy.
Upon our return home, a string of providences, like a toppling row of dominoes, provided a cast-off wet suit and a way to transport it to those shivering pastors.
This was in my husband's mind and mine yesterday. What great grace that would allow us, me, to be in one body with Christ and with such noble saints! What a blessed reminder of our unity with believers around the globe and through two millennia. With all the variations in practice, water baptism in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit remains a visible bond of the unity of the invisible body of Christ. For that body and the privilege of my participation in it, I am thankful.
There is one body and one Spirit--
just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--
one God and Father of all,
who is over all
and through all
and in all.
-Ephesians 4:4-6, ESV-
How does He love me? Let me count the ways. . .
3566. Flock of sparrows feasting amid the horticultural cornmeal in the rose bed
3567. Grey winter sky preparing for storms ahead after a weekend that felt like spring
3568. Good coffee on Monday morning
3569. Shared memories
3570. Past opportunities to serve brothers and sisters in Christ overseas
3571. The unity of the body of Christ
3572. The courage of those who trust Christ in environments of aggressive persecution3573. The freedom to assemble for Christian worship
3574. The beautiful suitability of a cistern baptistry for followers of the Jesus laid in a feeding-trough crib
3575. Wet suits for cold pastors
3576. The mysteries of God's providence
3577. Grace to learn at our own pace, in the Lord's patience
3578. Outgoing mail
3579. The joy of a good book