A Happy Day of Rest

Saturday, February 29, 2020
Man, Montagnes District, Cote D'Ivoire
This morning Lee and I had breakfast at the hotel, so we wouldn’t have to stop in town. I had given Paul enough money last night so he and Kramoko, could have their coffee and pastry before coming to pick us up at 8:30. We planned for a 09:00 service in Douélé. We arrived right on time, and were the first to arrive.
One of the members in Douélé is a primary school teacher, he had been able to arrange the use of a classroom for our Sabbath service, free of charge. We sat and waited for other to arrive, which some started doing around 9:30. These were from the close region and came on foot. Then others arrived be the vehicle full, they came from up to an hour away by road. We finally had more than 60 adults and more than 40 children, about 110 in all. 
Paul Tia led hymns and Lee gave the opening prayer. There were a few preparatory announcements and then Lee was introduced for his split sermon. He had cut it down quite a bit from the previous week, because now we were being translated phrase by phrase which doubles the time it takes to cover the same material. After his sermon and a hymn there was a short piece of choral music, then I took the lectern to five some announcements and the second sermon.
After the service, the members were guided back to a member’s house about 200 yards away for a lunch which had been prepared for them: beef, carp, sauce and rice. Anytime meat or fish is served it’s a rare feast for them.
While the meal started we met again with the men preparing for baptism. Even if there is group preparing for baptism, I always try to meet individually with each person, so ask a few questions about repentance. One thing I ask is based on Luke 3:8 where John the Baptist castigated people who wanted to be baptized without having repented. He told them to bear fruits worthy of repentance. I asked each man to give some examples of the fruit, or outward signs, of his repentance. Each one was able to do so, which indicated they had thought through the process and were aware of its importance. We talked about counting the cost, bearing our cross, and not losing our savor (Luke 14:25-35). And I asked them if they understood commitment of “putting our hand to the plow” (Luke 9:62).
In each case they understood their commitment and each wanted whole-heartedly to make this covenant with God, so I was happy to say I would baptize them.
We drove back to where everyone was happily eating. A place had been prepared for my traveling party, where we sat and were served beef in sauce and rice. It had been prepared by a member who is well educated and knows how to prepare meals in the sanitary manner, so I was happy to eat a full serving, not the small tastings I usually take.
The meal finished I took a group photo, before we loaded the vehicle and headed down the dirt road about a quarter mile to a path is the brush that lead to a muddy pond. A score of naked boys were happily jumping, splashing, and shouting for the joy of life. They were shooed farther away in the pond so we could use a place close to the bank that was deep enough in which to baptize. I gathered the men concerned, and then tried to quite the crowd of members and other villagers who had gathered for the event, some knowing what was going to happen, others just curious, but all conversing loudly enough to hear each other over the water boys’ shouting. I tried hushing the crowd, others tried too. We gestured for quiet all around, to no avail. I rarely raise my voice, but this was a refusal to cooperate and, I felt, a disrespect to what was an important rite of Christianity. So I shouted over the uproar and called for quiet. I had to do so twice before things finally began to quiet down.
When we could finally hear normal speech, I prayed to thank God for this happy occasion and ask His blessing on the ceremony. Then I asked each man by name whether he had repented of his sins and where he accepted Jesus-Christ as his Savior. Each man said he did. I gave Lee the opportunity to participate by performing the baptism itself; I had explained my method of making sure no errant limbs bobbed to the surface and that the whole body would be submerged. Paul held their feet and Lee had them lie back and then pulled them out. One of the men hadn’t worn sandals into the water and when coming out, stepped on a half-inch nail sticking out of a piece of wood in the water. I was thankful if was a short nail, he said it didn’t hurt very much. 
This is one reason I will not go into such water without something thick on my feet The other reason is parasites, which are very common in this part of Africa. (If you have the stomach for it, you can look up: Guinea worm, schistosomiasis, amebiasis, cryptosporidiosis, and giardiasis.) I say an extra prayer for everyone involved before baptizing in stagnant water, and I take all the precautions I can short of not baptizing people. I’m thankful that in all the years I worked here, I’ve not contracted a parasite (to my knowledge!).
When this was done, and all were back on dry land and had toweled off, we both laid hands on each man and I asked God to grant them the gift of the Holy Spirit. We shook their hands and welcomed them all to the spiritual family of the Church.
I then motioned to the ladies in the chorale who had been holding back their desire to sing and dance for joy. There was a triumphal, and now appropriately noisy, procession back to the road and the village. This was a very happy day. I told the men that in heaven an angel was inscribing their names in the book of life. They all beamed with joy.
After this we took our leave to drive back to the hotel, so Lee could shower off. Because parasites.
We spent the afternoon resting and studying, and met Paul, Séussié and Kramoko for dinner at the hotel.
Tomorrow we plan to leave at 07:00 to start the long trip back to Abidjan.

Comments

Ted
2020-03-03

A wonderful day to see! Welcome to the family!

Mary
2020-03-03

Thanks for the pictures that give us a sense of the happy Sabbath, group meal, and baptism. 110 at services! What an effective way to discuss the fruits of repentance—asking for examples. That baptism is the noisiest Church of God baptism I’ve heard of, really a joyful noise with the women celebrating.

2022-05-20