Sunday afternoon we drove a few kilometers south of Tambo de Mora, and two precious young ladies were baptized.
Abigail, 10 years old, had come to the church around a month ago with her Mom, scared and asking for prayer. She had been having demonic dreams, full of fear and impotence. No matter how much she prayed, and her Mom prayed, the dreams kept coming back. It's hard to take authority over spiritual attack when you don't know Who your Father is yet. After chatting for a bit with her, her Mom, pastor Robert and a few girls from the World Race team there at the time, she indicated that she would like to give her life to God, and would like Him to be both her Savior and her Shepherd. I tried to make sure it was something that she truly wanted, not just a patch for a scary moment, and she said she was sure she wanted to give her life to Christ. We prayed and gave her further strategies for telling those spirits that she belonged to God, and they had no right to bother her.
The next week when they came to church, she said that after 3 more nights, the dreams had stopped, as she continued to introduce the bothersome spirits to her Heavenly Father, and His authority.
That same week, her older sister, Anghyolina, who is 14 years old, came to church with her Mom, brokenhearted because her stepfather blames her when anything goes wrong. One of the racers, Andi, was able to share her testimony about growing up in a broken home, and speak directly to her heart about what it looks like to find your worth in what God says about you. It was a beautiful moment.
After the service that night, two of the women were talking about being baptized, and young Abigail expressed her interest in being baptized too. As we were talking about it on the way to take them back to their home in Chincha, she mentioned it again to her Mom, and her sister Anghyolina piped up too, "I also want to get baptized!" So we arranged for a class on baptism with them the next Sunday afternoon with pastor Robert, and then set a date for the baptism after that class for this past Sunday.
In the Catholic church culture down here, infants are baptized, and many see it as an amulet of protection for them against sickness or evil spirits. Those who are baptized are saved, and those who aren't, well - aren't. In the Protestant church here, it is a symbol of one's commitment to God, and our willingness to be united with Christ in His death, receiving His forgiveness and burying the "old man" with it's old nature with Christ and trusting in His grace for a new way of living in Him. But, there's a big "but" for me: I still have questions.
I know baptism doesn't save you - we are not saved by works, but by faith - however, does anything supernatural happen at baptism? And if it does, how do I know so many who have proclaimed by being baptized their desire to follow Christ... but have turned back to the world and to dependence on themselves, their own wisdom, and strength to get what they want out of life? So many people share about experiencing great peace when they were baptized, or of an infilling of the Holy Spirit. Others say it's just an act of obedience to God's mandate to be baptized, nothing more and nothing less. Just like with Jesus, though, it seems that for many, the public declaration of the desire to follow Christ is followed by a time of testing in the wilderness... and perhaps not all pass the test.
The mandate in Matthew 28 is to go, making disciples, baptizing them in Jesus' name, and teaching them to obey all that He commanded. I do believe that as exciting as baptisms are, it's the last part of that directive that gives the church (and me) trouble. The "teaching them to obey all that I commanded." Discipleship to Christ - not to doctrine, not to oneself, not to a denomination, but to "hear His voice and follow," I believe is truly where we need to be working. I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the matter.