"Afghan rides bicycle 60 miles to be baptized"
By Terry Hoggard
Psalm 145:6 declares, " Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom." The Psalmist who made that declaration goes on in the rest of that chapter to try and explain some of the things that made God so great. The reality is that there are times when words seem so inadequate to describe what God is allowing us to experience. This past weekend was another one of those moments for us.
We had scheduled a baptismal service for Sunday morning and invited the ministries associated with Christian Center to participate with us in this service. I came into the service just before it was to begin and was told that we would be baptizing 21 people. These people came from seven different nations and represented the efforts of five different ministries in our church. It was such a joy to have them come stand before the church and share a brief description of how they came to know Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. One of the young men who comes from a former Soviet Republic had been deeply involved in some very dangerous activities and was gloriously redeemed. Some of the young ladies were actually trapped in the slavery of prostitution and God, by His grace, redeemed them from that bondage and given them the joy of living free again. Another young man had been led to the Lord by a friend who was just baptized in our last baptismal service (we saw the multiplication process turn very quickly in this case). I can tell you, the spirit in the church was awesome. We finished our service and thanked God for His goodness to us.
Only two hours later we had our regular "Open Door" service. This meeting is focused on asylum seekers and we do it in partnership with another missions organization. The cooperative spirit that we enjoy is truly wonderful and others who observe our relationship are always touched by its depth and sincerity. In any case, we also had a baptismal service scheduled for that meeting and we joyfully baptized another 11 people, all of who came from former Soviet republics. Again, there was great joy in all of our hearts and we had planned a picnic to follow the baptismal service. As we are gathered outside thanking God for a wonderful day, we had no idea that an even greater surprise was waiting on us.
As we stood together a young man rode up on his bicycle and I know it will be difficult for you to believe what I am about to tell you. This young man, who comes from Afghanistan, had regularly attended our services in the past. Because he speaks Farsi, our young Iranian leaders had been very diligent to reach out to him. The fact is that this young man was very angry to see Muslims converting to Christianity. Our young leaders told me that he was very hard and not at all responsive to their attempts to share Christ with him.
Almost two months ago the Belgium government relocated this young man to a new refugee center located about 100 kilometers from our church. Because of the distance he was no longer able to come to church and so we had lost contact with him. About a week ago, he had made contact with one of our Iranian leaders and said that he had been doing a lot of thinking and now realized that he did in fact need to receive Jesus himself. Our leader encouraged him to come to the church so that they could pray together and told him that there was a baptismal service scheduled for the following Sunday. Our young Afghan friend agreed to come but did not show up for the service. We learned that he had arranged for transportation, but it did not work out. When no one showed up to get him, he got on his bicycle and rode 100 kilometers to come to the church and be baptized!!! He arrived soaking wet from sweat and told us this story.
As we listened we realized that something would have to be done, but the baptismal tank had already been drained and everything put back in order. Besides that, there was another service going on in the sanctuary. The only solution seemed to be to fill a small children's wading pool with water and baptize him there. Obviously, we had to do something and this seemed to be the only reasonable solution. Several people worked to get everything ready and soon a large group of us gathered around the little pool and began to sing, "I have decided to follow Jesus". This young Afghan sat down in the pool and one of our young Iranian leaders baptized him. I would like to say that there was great joy in all of our hearts and there certainly was joy. I think however, most of us were so stunned by what we were witnessing, that in our hearts we found ourselves echoing the words of the Psalmist, "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.
I just wanted you to hear this wonderful story and thank you again for everything you are doing to stand with us in this ministry. We depend on your prayer and financial support more than you will ever know. We do pray that your heart will rejoice with ours and together we will continue to tell the world of the greatness of our God.
Blessed beyond measure,
Terry and Ruthanne
Brussels, Belgium www.christiancenter.be
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