Each year a group of West Side Christians, joined by others from area churches, assemble at Butler Springs Christian Camp in Hillsboro, Ohio to lead a week of camp for fourth and fifth graders. The week usually ends with a trip to the camps pool to baptize those who had come forward during the week. However, this year the week ended just a little differently.
This year’s week of camp was packed full of Bible lessons on the Armor of God, trips down the zip line, afternoons splashing in the pool, hiking to Fort Hill, worship around the Vespers fire, and so many other thrilling activities. While some things went as planned, others things did not. One afternoon we lost swim time, because of severe thunderstorms moving through camp, so instead we played dodge ball in the gym and watched a movie. Two evenings we found ourselves inside for vespers because of more severe storms. Flexibility became the theme of the week.
Through all the much needed rain, through the thunderstorms, God was still working in the hearts and minds of the campers. On Wednesday and Thursday night we had nine kids come forward expressing the desire to give their lives to Christ and be baptized. On Friday afternoon two more shared with us that they wanted to be baptized. It looked like we were going to baptize eight kids at camp with three planning to go to their home church. Everyone was gearing up for a big celebration on Friday night at the close of camp surrounding the pool.
And then, just as we were finishing up, another thunderstorm rolled in knocking out power. Needless to say baptisms in the pool were not going to take place. Fortunately Butler Springs is prepared for this ... in the event of thunderstorms, baptism take place in the cafeteria in a fifty-five gallon trash can. I have to admit I thought their plan sounded a little strange.
Before we started doing baptisms, three decided this was not the way they wanted to baptized, and to be honest, I couldn’t blame them. But then my mind completely changed. Gus, one of the full time camp staff members spoke about the origins of the trash can baptisms. In his explanation he said something that I hadn’t thought of. In an attempt to paraphrase him he said … “Just as a trash can holds and helps remove the unwanted tossed aside everyday household items, the imagery of baptism as a grave holds and removes the sins God is forgiving. What a fitting place to have your sins washed away and removed than in a trash can.” That statement made a profound impact on my attitude toward trash can baptisms.
My attitude was altered again when I got to watch four children be baptized and then completely changed when I got the privilege to baptize our own Tyler Land this way. What an awesome symbol of what happens to us in baptism. In the process of forgiving us our sin, God washed us clean, burying our sins in the watery graves of baptism. While my first inclination will always be a baptistery, swimming pool, or creek, if none of these exists then I will have no issue reaching for the nearest fifty-five gallon trash can.