Once again, I'm grateful for the expansion of my faith, and I'm sore -- physically and emotionally -- in the aftermath. I'm not sure I yet have the energy to wrap my mind around the experience and offer it up for others to digest. So, instead, I'll share something I've already written.
First, though, a brief explanation: There were 14 of us in our group. We traveled with the assistance of Buckner Orphan Care International. Most of the group members are employees of Red Dot Steel Buildings. Some of us, like me, are connected to Red Dot through our husbands. Amazingly, the company's leadership regularly sends its employees on mission trips where it funds improvements at orphanages in several countries. They also look for places to do good works right here at home. Can you imagine what the world would be like if more businesses cared so much about people?
Nearing the end of our trip, I sat in the dim light of our hotel room, the veranda doors letting in a cool breeze behind me. And I wrote.
Hello, husband. I write this late Thursday night. Today has been quite a day. I’m sitting here trying to think of how to describe it, and the only words that come to mind are mountaintop and valley. I saw both today; I suspect most of us did.
Melissa spoke to the group early in the week about us being the body of Christ – how we are individually his hands, feet or eyes; his mouth, legs or arms. We all have different functions within the body, none being more important. I really saw that today. I thought about the men, spending most of their time here on hands and knees, bent over tile – cutting it, laying it, grouting it, cleaning it. What wonderful work.
Near the end of our time today, Melinda and Valerie and Renee and Leanna spent a long time struggling to get photos of the girls printed out to put in picture frames. The going was slow and frustrating; the room they were in was crowded and warm. It must not have felt rewarding or even worthwhile at times; and yet they were doing their best to have just one more thing to leave behind.
The last time I came to Antigua, what I prayed was that God would break my heart for the children I encountered. As you know, he did that. This time, my prayer was (and still is) that Christ’s love for these children could be seen through me. Specifically, that at some point, when they looked at me, they would see his face.
When we returned from Manchin today, I wanted to write you an email, but not having access, I wrote this in my journal:
I just returned from our last afternoon at Manchin. Sitting in the airport Saturday, before leaving, I read through some scripture. One of them was Ezekiel 26:25: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.”
When I read that, the Holy Spirit convicted me that we should have a baptismal ceremony for these girls. We had been told several of them had made professions of faith. Some I know about personally from the trip in January. An attempt had been made previously to have baptisms at Manchin, and we were refused. But God laid it on my heart: Try again.
So this morning we decided, one way or the other, it was going to happen. We arranged for a large bucket of water to be placed on a concrete slab in the courtyard. Along with that was a smaller container.
In our Bible time, Melissa and I explained sin and God’s desire for our salvation, and about how baptism – though it is not necessary for salvation – is a symbol of God washing away our sins. And how he desires us to experience baptism. Robyn and Phaedra shared the same thing in their classes.
In crafts, Leanna & Melinda and Renee & Valerie had the girls make salvation bracelets, explaining how the colors represent our spiritual walk from sin to an eternity with God.
We explained in our Bible classes that after we were done, we would be gathering in the courtyard for all those who had made professions of faith in the past and felt led to be baptized (there were no new professions that I know of). Roughly 20 girls gathered in a circle around the water bucket. We explained that this act should be purely personal and not for anyone else's benefit.
Then, one by one, they walked to the center. Robyn stood on one side with her hands on the girl; sometimes Phaedra and later Melissa stood on the other side. Francisco, our wonderful 17-year-old interpreter, stood just behind her and translated. As girl after girl came forward, I was so blessed to be able to lay my hand on her shoulder or over her heart and speak God’s message: “I baptize you, my sister, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. God says, ‘I will pour clean water on you, and you will be clean.'"
As Francisco finished translating God’s blessing on each girl, she lowered her head, and I poured water over it. Sometimes, when one of them particularly special to Robyn or to me walked up, we would speak more words of love.
Robyn hugged them and kissed them as they returned to the circle and the next girl came to the center.
It was miraculous. An incredible blessing. Some of those girls had such beautiful emotion on their faces. They understood what was happening. With some I could feel their hearts pounding under my hand.
It had been a tough day up to this point. We had to battle for their attention. Several slept. Two had seizures – one in the middle of Melissa explaining how important it is to grow in the knowledge of the Lord. We were beset.
But God, oh, how he shined. How he blessed us.
Praise God. Praise him.
You know, Roy, there’s something else. One of those girls, as I was speaking God’s blessing over her, she looked right into my eyes. And I swear, at that moment, I know she wasn’t seeing me. She was seeing Jesus. As much as you love me (thank goodness), you know I’m not worthy of that kind of blessing. No one is. But in our weakness, he is made great. If he can do that in me, he can do that in anyone.
See you soon, dearheart. Kiss the babies.
And that was that. To those of you who lifted us up in your prayers: Thank you. It was good. God is good.