This morning I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast in Nicaragua with my friends, Tami and Oscar. Oscar directs the mission work of the Baptist Missionary Association for this beautiful Central American country.
After our meal, we reminisced about experiences we have shared in the past through mission trips and other events. Our conversation went back to a mission trip that my church had taken before I became pastor. I knew the end of the story, but had no idea about the background of the story.
One of the mission churches in Nicaragua had scheduled a baptismal service during the week of our church’s visit. Oscar was in charge of the baptism.
Throughout the entire trip, Tami had been translating for Oscar so that our church’s mission team could understand what was going on.
The baptism was to take place in the river and would require Oscar to wade far into the water. Tami suggested that since Oscar would have to yell for her to hear what he was saying, that perhaps they shouldn’t translate that part of the service. After all, she explained, the team is made up of people who have already been baptized, so they would already understand what was going on. In spite of Tami’s suggestion, Oscar insisted the service be translated.
That’s the background that I didn’t know. Now, here’s the “rest of the story” as I experienced it.
The mission team returned home the same week I began as pastor. I remember a few months later having a conversation with one of the team members. He explained how even though he had placed faith in Christ and repented of his sin, he had never followed Christ in baptism.
As the new pastor of the church, I had no idea that he wasn’t a member of our congregation. Even more, I never would have imagined that he had not been baptized. He was highly involved in our ministries and enjoyed strong fellowship with our members.
During our conversation he explained that his hesitancy had been a result of his family. They were members of another denomination that does not hold to biblical views of grace and faith. He feared they would look down on his decision to leave the “family church.”
Then, he said something that, at the time, didn’t seem that significant to me. But after this morning’s conversation, it means a lot more.
He shared that God used the baptismal service in Nicaragua to change his heart. He said that Oscar’s words during the baptismal service about choosing to follow Christ no matter what others think opened his heart to being baptized.
To his wife’s surprise (she had been praying for him) he shared his desire for baptism with our church the next Sunday!
After hearing the story’s background, here’s what struck me this morning:
1) Never assume that you know the status of everyone’s relationship with the Lord. Keep sharing the whole truth to the whole congregation.
2) Being a part of God’s mission requires that we go out of our way to bridge cultural, linguistic, and logistical barriers –whether its translating a service, planting a new church in a new location, or dressing in a way that does not offend a culture. If it’s for the sake of the Gospel, it is worth it.
3) God is always at work –even when we have no idea what He is doing. Of course, it’s always a delight when He gives us tiny glimpses behind the curtain of His sovereignty –kind of like at breakfast this morning!