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When God Surprises Us!

What has happened to you lately that has been unexpected?  Where have you seen God?

One day in October, I opened my email to find a request from a loving wife, Meredith,  wanting to give a “surprise baptism” to her husband for his birthday.  

This wasn’t just anybody.  I have been like a family pastor for this family for about 20 years, and helping conduct a funeral and two weddings.  It was my wife Brenda’s cousin’s son, Clint, who was to be “surprised.”

I could feel the enthusiasm and joy coming from this young woman even through the email.  But a “surprise baptism”?!!  

We don’t do that! Do we….?

I called my good friend, a fellow UM pastor, to ask his advice.  He said, “Don’t do it.  We baptize into a community of Christ, we don’t do this as a surprise. Certainly we have to talk to the one about to get wet!” This reflected my concerns.

I also talked to Dr. Phil Meadows. He shared my enthusiasm, and my concerns, and we brainstormed how to make it work.

Finally I called Meredith and asked her to tell me more about what was going on with Clint.  They are seeking a Christian community.  A relative mailed Clint a study Bible a few months ago. He had been reading it deeply, and renewed a faith that had been planted years before by his mother.  I told her I would need to talk to him, to go over the vows he would take to God and those gathered, and know we were doing something that had meaning and life, and was not an empty or sentimental ritual.  

Clint called the next day and told me he had been challenged to deepen his walk with Jesus, to make his walk with God the most important part of his life and of his family’s life.  Meredith told him about her plans and our conversation. It was a surprise and it brought tears.  

Together we went over the vows:  Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world and repent of your sin?  Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?  Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?  

Clint could honestly answer, “I do” to all these vows.

A few days later we gathered on the banks of the Guadalupe River near Boerne, Texas.  We heard the Word of God read from Mark’s gospel by Meredith. We heard the Word preached and then heard the vows taken by Clint and the gathered community. And two men waded into the chilly river one to baptise the other. Clint came out to begin a new life and said,  “I can image no greater blessing for my wife, family and friends to care enough about me to arrange this tremendous gift of baptism.  It really shows the power of fellowship.”

Clint is excited to continue growing deeper in his faith. He is participating in the Inspire online Introduction to Fellowship Bands to explore more of the power of fellowship.

Where has God surprised you recently? We would love to hear your stories.

Frank is a retired-still-working-part-time minister in a small United Methodist Church in Texas, USA. He and his wife Brenda are Inspire Missioners.

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