View Full Version : Baptism "bloopers?"

05-02-2005, 07:04 PM
This story is a little long, but it is worth reading....this article is from the April 28th edition of the Baptist Messenger.

Whoops! The memorable 'ups and downs' of baptism

by Dana Williamson
Associate Editor

"Buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life"-a sacred and life-changing event for those who have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.
Yet, sometimes those baptisms don't go exactly as planned. In its inquiry on unusual baptisms a few months ago, the Baptist Messenger received several "memorable" baptism stories.
Earnest Johnson, director of missions in LeFlore Association and former missionary in Africa, related that during his first baptismal experience in Zimbabwe, he made a slight mistake. Baptizing in the middle of a river, he loosely dipped the candidate with his head upstream.
“I lost him and had to go after him and drag him back,” Johnson said. “Our Lord used it anyway as he became the leader of the newly established church in the newly started association in Chipinge, Zimbabwe.”
Johnson’s second encounter with baptism occurred after a revival when the chief of the village suggested a good place to baptize the 30 people who had been saved was in the slow-running and wide Sabi River.
Johnson said he walked out into waist-deep, murky water, and after baptizing the 30 people, as he was walking out of the water, the smiling chief came down the bank toward him saying “Zacanaka Baba (It’s good Father), the crocodiles did not come today.”
Johnson replied, “I thought you said it was a good place to baptize.”
“It is,” the chief responded. “The crocodiles did not come today, did they?”
Johnson said he created a portable baptistry in his mind and vowed never to baptize in an African river again.
Dealing with “creatures” in the water was also real for Jeanne Gelnar, a member of Altus, Southside, who said as her mother was getting Jeanne’s clothes ready for baptism, she told her the baptism would take place in the creek down from the church.
“I froze, because a few days before, my siblings and I had been fishing in that creek and saw bunches of snakes crawling around in the water,” Gelnar said. “But the evening of the baptism, the preacher walked right out in the middle of the creek, held his hand out to me to come in, and I did, knowing there would be a jillion snakes wrapped around me when I came up out of the water. But I guess God parted the snakes that afternoon, just like he did the Red Sea for Moses, and Jesus was watching over me, just like He has watched over me ever since, regardless of the snakey waters I have stepped in.”
Reba Dickson from Durant said she wanted to be baptized after surrendering her life to Jesus, and discovered the best place for the service was “Nails Crossing” on Blue River.
“When we arrived at the river, sheets and blankets were hung around bushes and trees to make dressing rooms for those being baptized,” she said. “As the congregation was singing ‘Shall We Gather at the River,’ we lined up behind the pastor as he led us into the water that was fresh and clear rippling downstream. Just in front of the pastor, I saw a snake swimming downstream. Was that Satan scurrying away?”
Rod Arnold, pastor of Watts, First, said while he was serving at Tahlequah, Faith, one baptism candidate requested to be baptized in the Illinois River, which is near the church.
“It was my third or fourth baptism ever,” Arnold said. “The candidate, who was a middle-aged man about my size, and I waded out to a little over waist-deep water.”
Arnold said all was well until he immersed the candidate downstream instead of upstream.
“The current caught us, and it was about the third bounce and 10 feet downstream before he surfaced again,” Arnold remembered. “He was a good sport, but I was totally embarrassed, and the church family on shore watching was laughing hysterically.”
And of course, weather can be a factor with river baptisms.
Karen Duncan Patterson, a member of Moore, First, said her grandfather told her when they baptized, “they had to wait for old Boggy Creek to thaw out and then they would have a big baptism service.”
Patterson said she has a photo of her father, his brother and his uncle being baptized in old Boggy Creek.
“The photo is out in plain sight where I can share it with everyone who comes to visit,” she said.
While rivers and lakes seem to be appropriate places for baptisms, some people have to use a little ingenuity when finding a place to baptize.
When Randy McCown, associate pastor of Piedmont, First, was pastor of Ada, Lightning Ridge, the church did not have a baptistry. He said they always went to other churches or farm ponds for baptismal services.
“I wanted all of the folks in the church to be able to participate in our baptismal services, so I came up with the idea of baptizing on the church property in a horse trough,” McCown said. “What was unusual about this was we had no way of heating the water. The water came straight from the well making the water very cold.”
One baptism McCown would rather not remember was a few years later when he fell on the steps coming out the baptistry, and as a result was paralyzed and told he would never walk again. However, with determination and the grace of God, he is walking today with a cane.
Baptist Messenger Editor John Yeats tells about a memorable baptism while he was pastor of a church in Kansas. He said the first phase church building was constructed with a fireplace, but not a baptistry.
“We tried a few pond baptisms during the summer, but always seemed to get a leech or two,” said Yeats. “That’s not good for public relations, so we secured a 2x2x6-ft. galvanized trough and mounted it on a metal frame with six-inch wheels so we could move it around. We filled it with a water hose attached to the faucet in the kitchen, which was in the back of the auditorium.”
Yeats said the first candidate to be baptized was a 6-foot-tall man who weighed about 200 lbs. He helped the man into the trough, sat him on a concrete block which had been placed for the candidate to sit on, raised his hand to share a few words, and then began to lay the candidate back into the water.
“When I laid him back, the whole baptistry took off and rolled about eight feet until it hit the wall and created a big tidal wave of water that poured out on the floor and down into the basement where the nursery was located,” Yeats said. “The nursery worker came running up the stairs claiming a pipe had burst and the basement was flooding. We managed to settle her down by explaining what had happened.”
Yeats said after his incident, they learned to block the wheels.
During 13 years, more than 300 people were baptized in this portable baptistry, Yeats noted.
Jack Hill said his father was not saved until he was 85 years old.
“He was in the hospital, dying of congestive heart failure,” Hill said. “One day, as I was visiting him, he said ‘I want to be baptized.’”
“He had asked that my mother’s preacher and the hospital chaplain come to visit him,” Hill said. “I don’t know which one led him to the Lord.”
Since he was too sick to leave the hospital to be baptized, his doctor, a Christian, and the chaplain decided he could be baptized in a tank in the hospital’s burn center.
“It was a wonderful sight to see my father baptized,” Hill said. “He died a happy man.”
There are times when baptism is a challenge even in a church baptistry.
Andy Bowman, pastor of Keys, First Southern, said a young man wearing his hair to the middle of his back started coming to his church. He said he had been saved while in a halfway house, but didn’t understand why he needed to be baptized.
“He kept asking questions about baptism, and one Wednesday night, he came to me and said he wanted to be baptized,” Bowman said. “I rejoiced with him and said we would baptize him Sunday morning.”
But the young man firmly declared God told him to do it, and he wanted to do it “now.”
Bowman said he explained there was water in the baptistry, but it was still cold (it was winter) and he had not brought a change of clothes.
“But he insisted he did not care, and wanted to be baptized that night,” Bowman said.
Finally, Bowman agreed, and explained to the congregation about the young man’s decision.
“They were excited, and willingly waited for me to ascend to the baptismal pool,” Bowman recalled.
So, with the candidate wearing only a thin baptismal robe, they went into the water. As the young man came up out of the water, he grabbed Bowman and wrapped a cold, wet bear hug around him in celebration.
“We were not the only wet people in the church that night,” Bowman said. “I do not think there was a dry eye in the house.”
Retired pastor Ray Allen, said when he was at Bokchito, his first full-time pastorate, a 12-year-old young man named Doug, who had a speech impediment and a muscular disease told him and the evangelist, Paul Hunt, he wanted “to trust Jes as his Savr.”
The only difficulty in baptizing him was that he could not bend his back or his neck.
“I had his two older brothers make what we called a ‘pack saddle’ and let him straight down into the water to immerse him,” Allen said. “It worked, but the two brothers almost disappeared under the water with him. But the smile on Doug’s face made it all worthwhile. I have a snapshot of this action which I have treasured for some 55 years.”