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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

KOTZEBUE, Alaska (BP)–My name is John Forrester, and I am a North American Mission Board church starter strategist serving in the Arctic of Alaska. The following is a true story that happened in my ministry.

Near the end of the summer of 2005, a young Eskimo man named Glenn came to my church. He told me that he had been living in the lower 48 and had given his life to Christ down south at a Baptist church but that he had to return home to Alaska to be baptized. He asked me if I would baptize him; he believed that to be obedient to the Lord, he needed to follow through with baptism. I agreed with him but told him our baptistery was rotten and the church did not have the funds to purchase a new one yet, and that would need to wait. (None of the other churches in town had a working baptistery).

Glenn responded by saying we could use the ocean, which is located just across the street from the church. I reminded him that even though it was the end of August, the water in the ocean would be very cold. Remember — this is in the Arctic.

“I am an Eskimo, I can handle it,” he said.

So we set up a date a couple of days later, which by now was the first of September. We had a visiting mission team from Georgia working with us that week, and the visiting pastor asked if he could go in the water with me. I said he could.

We did the baptism on a Tuesday evening. The entire team came out of the church to watch, as did several others from the church and some unchurched people. Some 25-30 people were watching. The visiting pastor was wearing insulated waders, but I did not have any waders — I just wore jeans and a shirt. The guest preacher had a thermometer on his boot that registered 40 degrees. The air temperature was 28 degrees and the wind was blowing very hard.

Glenn stripped down to just some swimming shorts and no shirt. The visiting preacher prayed, and then I baptized Glenn. After I took him down under the water, he came up shaking so hard I thought he was going into shock. But he was just excited to be baptized. The visiting mission team videotaped the whole thing. When Glenn came out of the water, he got in front of the video camera and shouted, “My name is Glenn and I just got baptized for Jesus in the Arctic Ocean!”

You know, it seems strange — while the water was very cold and the wind made the temperature feel even colder, the joy of baptizing Glenn took the sting out of the bitter weather.
With every salvation decision, heaven rejoices as a new member comes into the Kingdom of God, and Satan screams.
Glenn has a burning desire to share Jesus with everyone that he can. He even feels that the Lord is calling him into the ministry.
It is awesome how one step of obedience can lead to more.
Forrester is a North American Mission Board church starter strategist in Alaska.

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  • John Forrester