By the time our first Easter in Central Asia rolled around, we had been living there for eight months. We had endured our first winter and were thrilled to see the cherry trees that lined our street begin to bud and blossom. The blossoms promised warmer days but also were harbingers of fresh fruit on the way! One of the biggest adjustments living in the former Soviet Union was the lack of fresh fruit all winter long. We could buy aged apples at the bazaar, or expensive bananas, but no other fruit.
However, we had been harvesting another, more lasting kind of fruit. People had been coming to Christ through the long winter months! As Easter approached, our church planned to celebrate by baptizing the new believers. A friend of ours had a small, square in-ground pool in their backyard and our church gathered in their yard after service on Easter.
We were so moved as we watched a dozen men, women, and teenagers step down into the water, give voice to their newfound faith in Christ, and go under the waters of baptism. Baptism is always moving but proved even more so when witnessing this important moment in a country where a commitment to Christ could cost a person their job, their placement at a university, conflict or even injury at the hands of family members. We were awe-struck.
This was also a joyful occasion! We sang. We clapped. We rejoiced together on that day. We felt we were getting a taste of the angelic joy spoken of in Scriptures. The potential cost of these commitments helped us see and reflect on the value of Christ’s death and resurrection. The courage and joy written on the faces of our brothers and sisters as they rose up out of the waters inspired us. We were witnesses to the transformation that the good news of the kingdom of God brings.
Around the world this Easter, there will be baptisms like the one we witnessed 20 years ago. There are many places where a profession of faith in Christ is still costly. As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, let’s not forget to pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution for His Name’s sake. And let us thank God for our freedom and take full advantage of it, sharing the good news of new life in Christ with our family, friends and co-workers in the power of the Holy Spirit and see what God will do!