Last night we returned from two days at a local Christian camp. Our church joined with another church for a time of fellowship and refreshment and primarily to celebrate nine baptisms. It was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.
A little background. Everyone in Spain goes on vacation in August. Certain offices, businesses and stores are closed for parts of the month, if not the entire thing. Our church is also closed for several weeks each August. Madrid is fairly empty. This year we participated in this exodus by going on vacation in August. (We had a wonderfully restful and refreshing time away.) Then, we returned with a week left before anything started up and felt very lonely during that week, which ended yesterday when we left for the camp.
More background. I (Julie) was a little nervous about going to the camp because it was going to be two intense days of Spanish after a month off. Plus, I really didn’t know what was going to occur, and I hate not being informed.
Highlight #1. After a lovely first day of seeing our wonderful church family again, talking with friends, hugging and kissing all my little people friends, and swimming, we headed into the first meeting/service of the weekend. The time of singing had begun when Chad and I entered the room, and there was such a buzz of excitement among the people in attendance. The musicians were talented and the songs were focused on the beauty and majesty of our God. I was so overwhelmed by what a gift it was to be there, worshiping the Lord with others who love Him, focusing my mind and heart on His greatness and love. I suddenly realized how much I depend on this time every week and how much I had missed it during our break. It is such a gift to meet with other Christ-followers in a spirit of worship and adoration. Ah! I love it!
Highlight #2. Baptisms. I believe baptism is a step of obedience that a person takes after they have placed their trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior for their sins. It is also where you share with others what God has done in your life and that you want to live for Him. Today we had the privilege to see nine people baptized. Each person shared how Christ has impacted their lives and why they wanted to be baptized. There was much emotion as different ones recounted personal ways that God has reached into their lives and changed their life direction to love and follow Him. Then, one by one they entered the river and were baptized. I confess (as is becoming a habit in these blogs) that I was in tears as I watched the joy and excitement on the faces of these brothers and sisters in Christ. I sensed the weight of their decision. Being a Christ-follower in Spain is not like it was for me in the US. They are setting themselves apart and going against the grain; almost certainly, they will be the only Christ-followers in their class or at their job. A cost was weighed and the truth, once again, was (and is!) that Jesus Christ is our risen Savior and He is at work today drawing people to Himself and changing lives. What courage these friends have! I also felt such joy to be a part of their celebration, to be able to give words and hugs (kisses is more the case here) of encouragement, to be a part of the support that these friends will need as they take this important step in their journey and continue on. Finally, it was an incredible, beautiful reminder of why we are here—why we love Jesus Christ and long to see others come to know Him and surrender their lives to Him, too. It’s worth it! It’s worth it! Whatever challenges we’ve faced, no matter how stupid I felt with my mistakes five minutes earlier, no matter how painful this or that has been…Jesus is alive and He is worth all that I am and all that I have!
God has consistently given us experiences like this one to help us along our way and I’m overwhelmed by His presence and care for me in the experiences of the last two days.