Scroll down to read about Harry’s first creek baptism.
Baptized in a Hot Tub in a Dry Creek
I knew trouble was in the offing when I saw steam rising from the baptistery this past Sunday morning. Even the glass plate on the front of it was steamed.
My buddies Mark and Frank were working frantically to cool it down. I put my hand in and drew it back—it was past bathtub hot—it was nearly “crawfish boiling” hot.
I love baptism. It’s a special ordinance in our church. On this day, five precious pre-teeners were being baptized—making their public statement that they’d decided to follow and obey Jesus as Savior and Lord of their lives.
I also love baptism because it brings out memorable moments. I have a story for nearly every baptism I’ve ever observed. (I’d like to hear from readers with their favorite baptismal stories.) I knew Sunday’s baptism would be no different.
By service time, the water had cooled to a tolerable level. One of the children, Jay Miller, later said, “I got baptized in a hot tub.”
As Adrian, Miah, Milan, Jay, and Lindsey each were baptized, it was a time of rejoicing in our church. Adrian, who admitted to a fear of having his head underwater got a “death grip” on the glass plate as Bro. Benjie baptized him. It touched me at his commitment to follow Jesus in immersion in spite of his fear.
One by one each of these precious young people were baptized. I thought about their potential, their parents, and their commitment at such a young age. Bro. Benjie prayed a stirring prayer thanking God “that these children, unlike many others—including him—were coming to faith in Christ at a young age.
I thought about Adrian’s “death grip.” My prayer is that his life-long commitment to Jesus will be a strong “death grip” i.e. a “till-death-does-us-part” decision for Jesus.
We believe the Biblical significance of baptism is that it is an outward demonstration of the “born again” process. The old man goes under, ‘dies,’ and is raised to new life—born-again-life on the inside.
At the end of the service a guest, Bucky—Jay and Lindsey’s grandpa—gave an impromptu testimony about the influence of our church on his daughter’s family. It was an affirmation of what Jesus taught us, “Making disciples.”
It was a special day I won’t forget—and I know five young people will always hold dear—the day they were baptized in a hot tub at an inappropriately named Baptist Church called “Dry Creek.”
Later today, I’ll be adding a short passage from my new book about a creek baptism in 1941.
Reminder: I love collecting baptism stories. Send me yours as a comment on this blog, on Facebook, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the following passage from my current manuscript, A Spent Bullet, Milwaukee soldier Harry Miller attends his first country country service and creek baptism. This story is predicated on a similar incident I witnessed as a boy.
The crowd began strolling toward the creek singing. It was accapella, a style of singing Harry always had loved. Each voice blended in the natural cathedral of the outdoors with the signing echoing off the trees. It was a spiritual he’d learned once in Glee Club, “Shall we Gather at the River.”
He’d never heard it sung/sang like this. Elizabeth came over as Ben scurried off. As they walked the trail and then the sandy creekbank, Harry gripped her arm as she carefully stepped around roots in her church shoes. She smiled, “Thank you.”
She pulled him to a higher spot where they could see better. “This way I can explain to you what’s going on.”
The pastor waded out into the greenish dark flowing creek. Each of the ones awaiting baptism joined him in waist deep water. Harry saw one of them cringe as they got into deeper water. Elizabeth commented, “The days are getting shorter and the creek is colder.”
“I could tell from that woman’s face.” Harry said.
In spite of the cold water, Reverend Bowden gave a stirring reminder of the baptism of Jesus. Elizabeth said, “I bet the Jordan wasn’t as cold as Bundick is.” Several of the ones in the water were hunched over with chattering teeth.
Finally, the actual baptism began. One by one, each was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. As the fourth one came forward, Harry saw something and whispered, “Look at that.”
He nudged Elizabeth, who muttered, “Oh my goodness.”
From their observation post, they could see around the creekbend before anyone else. A small flotilla of empty beer bottles and c-ration cans neared the pastor and the fifth baptizee.
They floated silently right through the midst of where Bro. Bowden tried to maintain order and dignity. The snickering started at the edge of the crowd where the younger folks were. It spread to the rest until everyone broke out into loud laughter. Even three of the dripping wet just-baptized laughed as bottles of Pearl and Jax floated by within reaching distance.
Everyone waded out as hugs and towels were extended to the wet new members. Elizabeth scanned the crowd as if she knew something. Harry asked, “What is it?”
“It’s my brother Ben. I don’t see him.”
Just then Harry spotted Ben coming around the bend, hands in his pocket, talking with the overalled boy he’s spotted upon arrival.
“Ut oh” was the only thing that came out of Elizabeth’s mouth. They both watched as Elizabeth and Ben’s mother caught him by the collar, and commenced to wearing him out with a stick she’d broken off.
Elizabeth shook her head. “He should’ve run while he could.”
Harry began laughing and said, “He could’ve run off and joined the navy. He’s already an admiral with his own fleet.”
The entire congregation was watching the ongoing whipping in a curious mixture of glee and horror.