Tears and Hugs at Mass Baptism in Nicaragua
More than 2,000 are baptized after a first major evangelistic series.
By Andrew Mc Chesney, news editor, Adventist World
Thousands of people, many hugging each other and weeping with joy, thronged around a vast lake for a mass baptism that concluded the Adventist Church’s first major evangelistic series in Nicaragua.
Dozens of pastors wearing white shirts and ties baptized 1,884 people in the rippling waters of Lake Nicaragua in mid-March. Another 200 people who could not make it to the lake were baptized in local churches, bringing the total number of nationwide baptisms since October to 12,000.
“May this baptism bless our waters,” Julia Mena, mayor of the nearby city of Granada, told the crowd.
Adventist Church leader Ted N. C. Wilson, who stood beside the mayor, said it was a thrilling sight. “It was a privilege to be present at such an impressive scene,” he said.
Dozens of weddings also took place on the shore. Many Nicaraguans live in common-law marriages and have children, but never legally tie the knot. So lawyers donated their time to marry those people in civil ceremonies at the lake before they were baptized. Under Nicaraguan law, a couple cannot be legally married by a pastor.
Among the people baptized was a woman whose son, an Adventist pastor, had prayed for 15 years for her to accept Jesus, church leaders said. The mother, in her 50s, made her decision at the lake and frantically began to search the crowd for her son so she could seal her commitment that day. Her son began crying when he heard the news. The pair hugged tightly, not wanting to let the other go. The son later baptized his mother.
The baptisms capped a year-long evangelistic effort that began with the establishment of about 5,000 small groups that studied healthy lifestyles in Nicaragua and neighboring Costa Rica. The groups later studied the Bible, and participants were invited to attend local evangelistic meetings. Evangelist Mark Finley wrapped up the initiative with four days of meetings to nightly crowds of more than 3,000 people in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital.
The Adventist Church had 203,698 members in Nicaragua and Costa Rica as of December 2014. Major baptisms are also taking place elsewhere in the region, with 1,500 in El Salvador in mid-March, and 2,530 in Panama between January and mid-March.
Back in Nicaragua, Finley said local administrators and church members were dedicated to the mission of the church, and their enthusiasm rubbed off on the people who attended his meetings.
“When public transportation did not run last Friday night, scores walked to the meetings,” he said. “One of our elders rented six taxis at great personal expense to bring Bible study interests to the meetings. Others took buses all night to attend our baptism. What mattered to so many of these Adventist believers was the salvation of their family, friends, neighbors, and working associates, and they were willing to make personal sacrifices to accomplish that dream.” n