What If…?

What’d y’all think of my story? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my previous post Catch the Chariot. So – not bad for a second effort, right? I enjoyed writing it, so I hope you enjoyed reading it. Be looking for more in the months ahead.

As I looked at the story, though, I thought about how typical it is of missional journeys, having to run to catch up with a lost world moving too fast into oblivion. Philip was able to get there, catch up, make the connection, but he had to expend a LOT of energy to do so. Yes, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Yes, he probably had supernatural help getting there, just as he did when it was time to leave the Ethiopian. (Read it for yourself at Acts 8:39-40. I didn’t write about that part of the story). But what if…?

What if Philip had a horse of his own? What if Peter, Paul, Silas, Barnabus, Timothy, and all the other missionaries  of the 1st century had vehicles, or modes of transportation appropriate to their terrain, to help them travel along the way? To help them Speed the Light? Imagine how many more people could have been reached if days, weeks or even months had not been needed to travel from place to place. Imagine how far and wide the Word could have spread with appropriate transportation.

And that is the whole point behind the Speed the Light program. It’s a program that teaches and encourages students, 6th through 12th grade, to be missions minded. The money raised by students and donated to Speed the Light pays for vehicles for missionaries in the U.S. and around the world.

Above I used the words, “appropriate transportation.” That’s because not everyone needs a car. When I was in Tanzania we visited many fishing villages along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. We never would have gotten there if Joy in the Harvest, the mission we worked with, had not had a boat. These villages could only be reached by boat. There were no roads. And so, there are some places that can only be reached by plane, and others by dirt bike, or even bicycle. There are places where the “road” is not more than a path through terrain that we who live in the concrete jungle would never understand.

So if you see a student fundraising, and they say it’s for Speed the Light, think about Philip trying to Catch the Chariot, think of the villages of Tanzania that were visited by the boat from Joy in the Harvest, think of all the missional possibilities and help out.

Psalm 116 – Part 2

So, I’d been thinking about baptism, and getting dunked completely like Jesus did. The symbolism and significance are that the person you were goes down into the water and dies, and when you come up, you are a new person, having symbolically died with Christ and been risen in resurrection as He rose. Your sin is washed away. God forgives all, and you begin life anew. That thought was very appealing to me. Those who knew me before will say that my conversion was nearly of Saul to Paul proportions. I never saw it as QUITE that epic, but I will admit that it was pretty drastic.

The decision to do a full dunk was made, but then came the “problem” of logistics. Where, when, how and by whom? The church I attended at the time didn’t have a full dunk baptismal, and while there was (and still is) a nearby river, it’s not the cleanest. A local, or someone’s private pool just didn’t seem right. And then the answer came. The opportunity came to make the same mission trip to Tanzania as the friend who started this whole journey for me in the first place. I thought, “How cool would it be to get baptized in Lake Tanganyika? In Africa, man!” (Sorry, “I’m in Africa, man,” is a semi-private joke. Maybe someday that story will get told here.)

During the planning sessions for the trip to Tanzania, I voiced my wish to get baptized there and bring my whole “coming to Christ” journey full circle. My thought was that Lowell, the guy who heads up the ministry we were working with, would baptize me in Lake Tanganyika and it would be like all those really cool baptism scenes you see in the movies. — It didn’t turn out that way.

The way it ended up looking, visually, wasn’t really much to speak of, at least not compared to the idea I had in my head. But the way it was SPIRITUALLY, now that’s a whole different thing! As I said in Part 1, that little church in Kigoma, Tanzania was the only United Methodist church in Tanzania with a full dunk baptismal, but it wasn’t getting used. I don’t know if the people didn’t really understand baptism, or if they were just afraid of being first, or if it was making a public display, or what, but they weren’t getting baptized. So Lowell asked me if I would do it in the church during a regular Sunday service so that they could see what it was really like. As cool as the lake would have been, this was cooler, to be able to lead by example!

But then I realized, as cool as that was, the group of people watching would be a whole lot different, and a WHOLE LOT larger than I had planned. And now I was being an example and not just having an intimate little gathering of mission team buddies and God. There would be a couple hundred “Intimate” strangers there too. And I had to publicly declare why I was doing this – to people who don’t speak English! I prayed on it and I prayed on it, and it finally came to me, Psalm 116. It was me.

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And so one that day, with Lowell and the leader of our mission team down with a SEVERE case of food poisoning and unable to attend, I stood before the congregation of Gungu United Methodist Church and made my Public Declaration that I am a follower of Jesus Christ by reading Psalm 116 – in Swahili!!!