. . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, . . . (Ephesians 4:5 NET)
One year I was able to experience a first in my ministry. I performed my first Bathtub baptism. Normally baptisms for our church in Vienna were held at the Old Danube river. We even had one scheduled that summer with a number of people on the list to publicly declare their faith in Christ. So you might wonder why baptize someone in a bathtub when we had one scheduled at the river. (I’m tempted to start singing Shall We Gather at The River.)
This what we call an “Emergency Baptism.” I know, that sounds weird. You might wonder if the person was about to die of some dread disease? No. But time was limited. This person came to us through the son of their best friend who happened to be in Austria. The young man put them in contact with our church through one of our ministry folks.
The candidate was in town for only few days and wanted to be baptized. They would be headed back to their home country in only three days. Theo, one of our other elders, and I talked and decided we could use the bathtub of one of the ministry folks. The bonus would be that they could also provide translation from the candidate’s native language into either German or English. It was into German :-).
We arranged to meet the candidate at this gentleman’s home and talk. If things went well, if we were assured of the candidate’s faith, we would proceed. Fortunately for me, the candidate spoke a modicum on English making things a little easier. We listened to the story of living in a country and a culture inundated and controlled by another religion. As a child the candidate heard about Christianity from some family and friends who were Christians. But, there was no gathering where they could learn more.
You see, such a gathering, when the candidate was young, and still today, was and is forbidden. There are believers in the country but unless their spouse, or close friend, is also a believer they live as an island in a dangerous land. This is learning to lean on God and God alone. After growing up and a failed marriage the candidate realized their cultural religion didn’t work. There were too many things which seemed contrary to living and there was no hope. The candidate remembered what they heard as a child and started seeking this Christian God.
To make a long story short the candidate came to salvation several years before. They met and married someone who is also a believer. The candidate’s visit to Austria was short and they wanted to be baptized before returning. Gathering as believers for church, worship, bible study was and is forbidden in her homeland. Baptism was and is also forbidden. The candidate wanted to make a declaration among witnesses of their faith in Christ and their desire to live faithfully for him. This was their one big chance.
We listened to the story, with many more details and knew the candidate was part of God’s family. The tub was filled with warm water (a definite improvement over the cold Danube). We gathered in the bathroom, those of us who could fit. Imagine six people with a bathtub in a room the size of a coat closet.
The candidate sat in the tub scrunched to one end. We asked a few questions and they made a declaration of their faith in front of the witnesses. Then back the candidate went, under the water. With praise in our hearts and on our lips, a new family member rose out of the water declaring to the world, to their homeland, to their past culture and religion, they are now and forever will be a child of God. They were saved by God’s grace through Christ’s blood. We’re talking big smiles and excitement.
This was a testimony to God’s work even in the face of cultural and national adversity. (I think this is the first baptism where I didn’t get soaked :-). I’m thrilled to provide them the opportunity to declare before witnesses their faith. I hope one day we’ll have the chance to baptize their spouse as well.
As I wrote this this new family member was back in their homeland, living in a land diametrically opposed to their faith but assured of God’s grace and strength. Pray for their walk with God, strength when opposition comes, and assurance of God’s constant presence.
God is amazing. We sometimes just need to be reminded through the testimony of others.