It happened on Easter Sunday morning in Indonesia. Brash Bible Baptist's Brackish Black Baptism Before Breakfast! I'd like to forget it, but I can't.
I was invited by one of Indonesia's young evangelists and Bible school president to come for evangelistic meetings in that country. Even though I suffer with Southeast Asia's oppressive no-breeze heat, I went.
Teaching 500 Bible school students every morning through an interpreter using an overhead projector was a challenge. I preached at nightly meetings. It was so hot during the day that only a foreigner wears a necktie even in formal meetings, so that was one relief. However, on Sunday I had to wear a necktie for their special Easter worship service.
Driving to church, without air conditioning, we opened a window and put a wet wash cloth over our noses so as not to inhale the prevailing pollution. In Jakarta they use unemployed men as whistle-toting "parken." They help you back your car into a parking place, guard it and then help you drive out. On the way out, you tip them about 300 rupees -10 cents- or else!
Upon arrival at the church, I opened the car door and stepped out onto what I thought was solid ground, It was actually a dastardly deep, dark, dirty ditch full of the garbage and filthy raw sewage of 10 years' accumulation! I immediately sank over my head into the slime, all the time grasping my bag that contained my Bible, camera, tape recorder and other needy items. Bobbing up and down, I managed to latch one hand onto the side of the pit and pull myself up. I was greeted by laughter, shock and horror from the bystanders who saw all this! The "parker" was clearly embarrassed and ran for hiding. The pastor said, "Why didn't you watch your step?" Yeah, why?
Luckily, I had put most of my personal belongings into Zip-Lock plastic bags to protect them from the humidity. As I sloshed my way to the church, only 300 feet away, instead of being angry, I started to sing and praise God, counting my blessings, thinking
1) "Well, this could have happened out in the country where I wouldn't be near a church which has a 'bathroom' (where you take a bath using a little dipper of cold water and wash outside the tub of standing water, never getting in). What did I sing? Snatches from...
I serve a risen Savior, He's In the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He's always near.He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life's narrow way.He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart!In all the world around me I see His loving care,
Tho' my heart grows weary, I never will despair;
I know that He is leading, thro' the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing will come at last.Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian,
Lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him,
The help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.
2) "This dirty black gooey sewage that I washed off was only one-billionth of the 'garbage' Jesus bore on the cross for our sins! As I came out of that bathroom all washed up I felt like I had returned from 'hell' and the grave and was purged so I sang 'And sinner plunged beneath that flood...Lose all their guilty stains.'
3) "Since the pastor was at least 50 pounds lighter than me, where could I find adequate clothes in time for the Easter morning service that by now had already begun? Fortunately the pastor's wife was a seamstress.
She led me to her treasure trove of unclaimed clothes and after trying on several pair of pants, I found one that fit. And they gave me a loud 'Indonesian batik,' a beautiful hand-made colorful shirt worn by all Indonesians, even their president on formal occasions"
4) 'The devil is dumb. He thought if he could get his willing demons and their dupes to kill Messiah Jesus he'd win- But he never planned on a resurrection."
I'm soon up and clean and ready.
And so there I was sitting on a chair on a platform of the church squeaky clean. After the pastor spoke for a while everyone suddenly burst out laughing! He had explained in detail what had happened! Big joke! It was also the most receptive audience I've had in years. I gave them the Bible's basic Good News that Saint Paul gave 1965 years ago in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (Amplified Bible)
- Now let me remind you (since it seems to have escaped you) of the Gospel - the glad tidings of salvation - which I proclaimed to you, which you welcomed and accepted and upon which your faith rests;
- And by which you are saved, if you hold fast and keep firmly what I preached to you, unless you believed at first without effect and all for nothing.
- For I passed on to you what I also received: that Christ the Messiah, the Anointed one, died for our sins.
- That He was buried and that He arose and on the third day as the Scriptures foretold...
The Invitation at the conclusion was met with seekers coming forward to kneel and receive God's blessings with both outstretched hands In prayer lifted up as cups while we sang"
"Fill my cup Lord I lift it up Lord;
Come and lift this longing in my soul'
Bread of Heaven feed me till I want no more
Fill my cup, fill It up and make me whole"
The interpreter devised a way to combine three invitations into one. He shouted "Everyone who wants to be born again, saved on the right. Everyone who wants to re-dedicate and consecrate themselves in the middle. Those who want to be filled with the Holy Spirit for power and service to the left. Anyone who wants healing to the far left." So having sung for one hour and preached for an hour I had sweat dripping from my face. Yet I had to go around and personally lay my hands on a hundred sweating peoples' heads wearing the white gloves graciously provided for me. Many received the blessing they sought that day.
After returning to Tokyo, I was so grateful for cool breezes that I forgot about an unhealed cut on my arm. I finally asked a nurse who served in Indonesia about it. She said "Yes that's a bacteria infection from that garbage drain. I've known Indonesians whose body bloated up, others went blind. Your recovery was fast because of good immune health. It's good you didn't open your eyes in that pit!"
Easter in Indonesia. I rose up from that slimy pit to a victorious Easter service. We all can rise from the slimy pit of this world's sin to new life by believing in the crucified, risen Christ this Easter Sunday. And then to be eternally resurrected to Heaven with the resurrected Christ. He's alive and waiting for you! All because He Lives.
"Because He lives I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living Just because He lives"