Thursday, March 16, 2006

Buried in Baptism

Baptism in the Eastern Caribbean is not as simple as it is in the States. The logistics of the actual baptism contribute greatly to people making "appointments" to be baptized--as one lady told the church one Wed. night, "I have made an appointment with the Lord for 10 o'clock in the morning to be baptized." Only a few of the churches, like Maracaibo in Venezuela and Vielle Case in Dominica have a baptistry, but even that can be problematic--the one in Vielle Case can take 3-4 hours to fill up and they don't normally keep it filled.
The rest of the churches baptize either in a river or in the sea. As in the picture above in Barinas, Venezuela, frequently the river is not very deep so burial is a bit challenging. The Sunday night after these 2 were baptized 2 more wanted to be baptized and we went to a deeper river, but you have to take at least 15 people with you--to prevent robbery/mugging. In some of the islands a good walk is required to find a pool in the river where there is enough water.
There are NO rivers in St. Croix so we baptized in the sea. After the first couple of times we stumbled on to a very suitable place, it was private and you didn't have to walk very far out to get sufficient depth. Besides that it even had a "changing room"--there was a house that lost its roof in Hurricane Hugo and was abandoned where we could take turns changing out of the wet clothes. I used to say we had a trouble free baptistry--it was never too cold, always clean, and you never had to add water. But there was a real drawback--many West Indians cannot swim so are afraid of the water. While they are willing to "brave" it during the day, they will NOT be baptized at night. I and other brethren have persuaded and persuaded to be baptized "the same hour of the night" to no avail. We tried using a swimming pool a couple of times but it wasn't private and then they were no longer available, so we were back to the ocean.
Brethren in Venezuela have tried using a deep wading pool with mixed success--one of them collapsed right after the baptism, flooding a couple of rooms in the apartment, while others seem to work okay, but again it takes time to put them up, fill them, etc.
By the way, there was another baptism in Las Carmelitas, in downtown Caracas, Venezuela on Thursday of last week. Please rejoice with and pray for our new Sister Luisa.

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