A couple of years ago I had the privilege of taking a trip to Israel with our church in the Bronx. This was one of the most impactful experiences of my life. I would never have time to tell everything that I experienced on that trip. However, I do want to share one story that I believe can inspire you.
On our trip, part of our itinerary was to do baptisms in the Jordan River. I along with Pastor Reggie, one of the other pastors on the trip, was performing the baptisms for anyone in our group that wanted to be baptized in the Jordan.
I’ve attached a picture with this blog of the area where we were being baptized, but this picture does not give the true story of my experience. So, let me give a little background information for those who have never seen or touched the waters of the Jordan River.
First of all, the Jordan River is extremely dirty. Second, there were animals swimming around in the water that I have never seen before (two water rats the size of a beaver). Third, the water was so cold that after being in the river for one minute, I was no longer able to feel when my feet were actually touching the ground. This was by far the coldest water I have ever been in.
We baptized around 30 people that day from our group, and I wanted the experience of being baptized in the Jordan as well. I would love to tell you that it was an intensely moving experience, and that I came up out of the water filled with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. But that didn’t happen for me. I came up out of the water and couldn’t wait to warm up and put on some clean dry clothes.
Just as we were leaving the water, a gentleman came up and asked if we would be willing to baptize him. He was traveling with his family and wanted to be baptized, but did not have anyone to baptize him. We agreed, and baptized him that day in the Jordan River.
Later that day, after my feet and legs thawed out, Pastor Reggie and I were talking about the experience and we were talking about the fact that we wished we had gotten more information from the man who came and asked us to baptize him. The truth is, we were so distracted by the water and experience that we didn’t even find out his name.
Two days later, we went to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. I had spent some time praying at the wall, and to say it was a moving experience would be an understatement. As I was leaving the prayer area, the man that we had baptized in the Jordan was walking into the prayer area near the wall. He saw me first, and came running up to me.
We talked for a few minutes and even took a picture together. I found out his name was David, and he was from South Africa. He was a strong believer in Jesus, and like me, he had always wanted the experience of being baptized in the Jordan.
This was a great experience. I got to find out his name and a little more about him. However, that was the last contact I ever had with him. At this point, I would have no idea if he is still in church, or even alive for that matter. I had an experience with him, but there was never the establishment of a relationship. There was never any community experience. However, I lived in community with the 30 or so others that were baptized that day.
I prayed with them when they were in need. I cried with them when they were hurt. I laughed with them in times of joy. I celebrated with them in times of victory. We played sports together, learned the Bible together, went to lunch together, etc.
Let’s tie this all together. Living life in community is vital for the believer. I have no idea what is happening in David’s life today, but I still have ongoing communication and relationships with others who were there. Why? Because I never lived life in community with David, but I did with the others.
Developing a strong community of loving relationships is our lifeline as a church. This is where we will find support, acceptance, direction, and knowledge. In a word, discipleship. Discipleship is done in community. Let’s work together to build a strong loving community of believers at South Hills Assembly.