The world is keen on celebrating Heroes. Every culture and country heralds those who have committed outstanding feats of courage, patriotism and extraordinary accomplishment. As America has George Washington, Kenya likewise commemorates the life of Jomo Kenyatta…freedom fighter and first president of the nation. Mashujaa Day, also known as Heroes’ Day (“mashujaa” is Swahili for “heroes”), is a national day in Kenya, which is observed on the 20th of October as a public holiday. It is set aside to commemorate and honor all those who contributed towards the struggle for Kenya’s independence. This past year, we had regularly scheduled Bible School on Heroes’ Day…and found a different type of Heroes in our very midst. Two Pastors had come to me requesting to be baptized. That may seem surprising, considering they are already pastors. But it is not unusual in the community we serve. Water baptism, although commanded by Jesus Christ, is often delayed, distorted and at times, denied for various reasons. The most common obstacle is simply finding an open place with clean and available water. It may seem shocking, but water is a precious commodity in the slums of Africa. Clean water is a rarity. Free water…unheard of. And so many of our Pastors and Ministry Leaders have been denied, or at least discouraged, in fulfilling a simple command of the Lord, for lack of access to a reasonable baptismal site. The other most prevalent obstacle is simply finding a pastor willing to perform a baptism free
of charge. Commonly, the minimum “charge” for baptism is 500 ksh ($6 US), but it easily escalates to twice that amount. Quite an obstacle for people living on $1 per day. Water baptism has become big business in the church. And those not willing or able to pay are forced to live under the guilt of violating a command of Jesus Christ. Shameful hirelings have merchandized and monetized the very gifts, grace and symbols of God. We don’t have facilities at the Bible Schools for a baptism of immersion…but where there’s a will, there’s a way. God is interested in hearts…not legalistic ceremonies. And so we improvised with what we had on hand. Buckets, tubs and…water. Not the quality of water we may often take for granted…but certainly cleaner than what is found in the river of raw sewage behind the Bible School. And so we announced an instantaneous opportunity for anyone and everyone desiring to be water baptized. We began with the humble and public witness of those two Pastors. And through them, many were brought to a new and profound understanding of obeying God without delay, condition or excuse. Many who were simply “watching” were then emboldened to come forward and become public “witnesses” themselves. Two became four…and four became eight. By the end, sixteen Pastors and Ministry Leaders came forward to publicly proclaim their submission and sanctification to Jesus Christ… set apart for His purpose and plan for their lives… for His glory. Surely, the Lord was pleased with the
child-like (but certainly not childish) obedience of these humble servants of the Lord. Years of hidden guilt and embarrassment were instantly washed away…at the very first opportunity to freely obey Christ’s command! The deceitfulness of delay is profound and prevalent in our world today. Too often we stumble on the minor issues of procedure…and entirely forgo obedience in the main. It is a common predilection for mankind…but has no place in the life of a Christian. We are called to focus on the spirit of the Law…and forge ahead in bold obedience, commitment and consecration. Excuses over details can lead to a lifetime of spiritual lethargy. The devil would like nothing more: good men doing nothing…waiting until the “right time”. But Jesus made a momentous statement early in His public ministry, when asked by a Samaritan woman about the proper place, procedures and parameters for worshipping God… “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know. We know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” John 4.21 Two simple and seemingly insignificant Pastors took a bold and brazen step of faith in the slums of Nairobi: being water baptized “outside” of their respective churches…without the “approval” of their spiritual overseers…without being completely immersed in the water…without meeting all the man-made requirements of their denominations. Indeed, many might consider their act of sacred submission rather to be an act of devilish defiance. In that respect, they would not be alone. Jesus Himself was accused of being the “son of Belial” for immediately healing on the Sabbath and casting out demons.
The “Pastors of the Least” are often mocked, maligned and misunderstood. Heroes of submission and consecration to Almighty God are not applauded in our generation…because they are not icons of carnal acclaim, personal achievement and humanistic accomplishment. But neither are they held back by the things of this world. They forge ahead in bold obedience…at the very first opportunity. Heroes’ Day has taken on a whole new meaning.
“Visiting Pastor Jorge Bustamante baptized our Heroes!”
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Published on Jan 30, 2013