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Will Cumbia: Baptism

Posted: 6/4/18 at 11:10am. Written by Will Cumbia.

We left on this church retreat without a secured place to do baptisms. It’s a detail you’d think would have been figured out before you left to go five hours from home to baptize people, but my church doesn’t always operate in the details.

And yet, God provided a beautiful space for 14 people to show their outward commitment to Christ.

Alpine lakes seem like tricks of the mind. Your gaze starts at the gentle waves hitting the beach. Your eyes slowly make their way across the peaceful lake disturbed only by a few ducks gliding through the water. And then suddenly the gentle ripple of the water is interrupted by an impossibly large mountain, so high that its snow-capped peaks blend with the plump, white clouds in the atmosphere. You can’t quite tell where the mountain ends and where the sky begins.

You are struck with this dichotomy of experiences: of this peace that comes from sitting by a calm body of water and the awe that comes from standing in the shadow of something so huge and magnificent.

Appropriately in this space, we were able to baptize people from all over the world, where we stand in the peace of a new life and reverence of a magnificent and huge God.

Appropriately in this space, we were able to baptize people from all over the world, where we stand in the peace of a new life and reverence of a magnificent and huge God.

My church floods this beautiful landscape, bringing a joyful chaos to the scene. Children don’t wait for permission from their parents to jump into the cool lake waters. We sit together on wet grass and sing praises in four languages. Four individuals reflect on Pentecost, each speaking one of the languages of our church; Spanish, Farsi, German, or English. Indeed our little service on the lake is a taste of what the original Pentecost must have looked like. Individuals coming from every corner of the world hearing the good news of Christ proclaimed in their own language.

And then it was time for the baptisms. The 14 individuals, from Iran, Afghanistan, and Chile come to the front of the crowd—all decked out in the closest thing to white they own. Baptismal robes are optional in this church.

The typical questions are asked of each individual, but one extra question is added:

“Are you prepared to face persecution and danger because of your proclamation in Christ today?”

It is not a question of if you face persecution, it’s a question of when.

And this is not American persecution. This is not a matter of having to serve customers who offend you in some way. This is not a matter of having your ten commandments taken down from a public, non-religious space. This is not a matter of losing your influence on society and power in political leadership.

This persecution is death. Prison. Torture. Rejection from children, parents, spouses, and best friends. Rejection from your country, your culture, and everything that was once home to you.

This brief swim in an Alpine lake brings with it heavy consequences.

And every single person standing in that line enthusiastically proclaimed yes.

For them Jesus, and this new family of God, are enough.

And so they wade, one by one through the waters, to their loving pastors waiting for them. And one by one, they go down into the water and break forth into a new day. A new life.

Witnessing this made me think back to my own baptism when I was just nine years old. It makes me reflect on my own decision as a young, innocent, elementary schooler. I wonder if I was really ready. I wonder if I really knew what I was getting myself into; if I fully understood what I was signing myself up for by donning an oversized baptismal robe and getting dunked in front of my church.

I’ve wondered if I would have made that decision again, had I known the full consequences of my decision. If I had felt the full weight of that act.

A week later at Bible study, one of the men who was baptized hugged me and with tears in his eyes said, “I am six days old today!”

Yes, I think I would choose this family and this life again and again. Because this love and my savior are enough.

All praise to our huge, magnificent, peaceful God for this expanding family.

Grace and Peace,