Baptisms were usually held once a year – at the annual African church Easter conference. Because baptisms were conducted in area ponds (where water lilies grew and cattle drank!!) and that time of year was after the annual rains, ponds would be full and the water would be relatively fresh.
But this year, the rains had decided to by-pass us. Very little rain had fallen; crops were drying up in the field; ponds were getting shallower and the water more potent. Drought was in the offing for the coming year – but baptisms had to be performed. After all, the candidates for baptism had endured several months of catechism classes and had passed an examination by the church leadership. It HAD to be done.
An African pastor and I were the speakers at the annual conference, which began on Good Friday. Today was Sunday. After an early morning (at daybreak) service and after a breakfast meal, all assembled for the morning worship service. Following that, the baptism service would be held.
After the last prayer, the people left the church and all of us walked at least a half-mile to the nearest pond selected. The African pastor who was going to do the baptizing walked into the pond. The water only came up to a bit above his knees but he pressed ahead, confident he could perform the service.
Now, everyone knows that “proper” baptism (Baptist-style) requires the candidate to be completely immersed under the water. After all, the symbolism of the “death and resurrection” of our Lord must be held of major importance. The pastor was able to immerse everyone – up to that point!
The next candidate was a tall woman, taller even than the pastor. When he tried to immerse her, she did not completely “go under”. The pastor tried a second time, then a third time. I guess the woman thought it was now complete and started to walk away, up out of the pond. At that point, the pastor noticed that the top of her head was not even wet. He ran behind her, scooped up water with both hands and unloaded on her head. Of course she was startled but pastor was now satisfied that she was “properly baptized”! Complete immersion by pouring!!