The sun was shining, despite the weather forecast, as people began to pour out of Hope Chapel and make their way down Beach Road.lWhat began as a trickle turned into a river of people, who soon flowed out over the sands until eventually reaching the receding shore line.
An extra crowd had gathered with us in the chapel that morning because they knew that a very special young lady was to give her testimony before being baptised. It was she who had insisted that it was to be in the sea, and had boldly invited so many of her family and friends.
We had reached the shore line, - yes, me too, with a lot of help from my friends,- just as the tide was on the turn. There was a hasty shuffling back from the now gently incoming waves, but our eyes were on our heroine as, accompanied by our Pastor and his wife, she was stepping boldly into the waves.
No, we could not hear the pastor’s prayer or declaration, but we saw her well and truly dunked and yes, raised up again, - that was the important part.
But we had heard our heroine tell us her story, before Tom preached his sermon explaining the significance of the ordinance of baptism.
The youngest of a Christian family, and the only girl, she had risen from Bubbles to Kids Club, to Explode for the teen agers and now had become a helper. A loving carer of old and young alike, surely she of all people was a Christian?
Yes, brought up in a Christian family, as a little child, as much as she understood of the Lord Jesus, she had loved him. But now she was about to step out into the big wide world, and she needed a faith that was her own, to know that she had a Saviour who forgave her sins and who would never led her go. Out of her struggles she had found peace.
She was ready to demonstrate to the world her complete faith and trust in her Saviour. As she allowed Tom and Laura to hold her beneath the waves and then to raise her up again, even so she was yielding her life to God and trusting him completely for her future.
How very different was her experience of baptism from mine. In my teens I too had been baptised my immersion. We had gone to an ornate Baptist church and been allowed to use their snow white robes as well as their baptistry. It was certainly an awesome l occasion Yes, but joyful? No.
You see, I had never been taught that I was a sinner and that Jesus had died as my Saviour. I had been taught to be baptised to show that I was consecrating my life to God.
But God is merciful. He knew that as far as I knew him I loved him and wanted to serve him. It was when Billy Graham first came too UK that I understood that I was a sheep who had been going its own way, and that if no one else had sinned, that Jesus would have needed to die on the cross that I might be saved. Now he was giving me power to live a Christian life.
So did I need to be baptised again? I had not thought so, but I did need to learn to yield myself to God, as this young woman had symbolically yielded her life as she placed herself there in the ocean, waiting to be plunged into the waves.
Later I believed God was calling me to go abroad as a missionary. I was praying, even fasting, asking God to show me where he wanted me to go. He answered me, telling me that it was not about people or places, but he wanted me to know a ‘joyful abandonment to my God.’
Yes, our candidate’s joyful abandonment is a life time commitment, and I know that as I eventually arrived in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, having had no sense of call to that particular place, that almost immediately I felt I had come home and came to realise that he was giving me the desires of my heart.
In every change of circumstance I have had the same experience. And I know that she too, and all who joyfully seek to follow the Lord, will also find that God is giving them his very best.
God wants each one of us to find his very best for our lives, to yield ourselves to him in every situation, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and he will direct your paths.’