Immersed (in spirit): An active response

Adapting traditional forms of baptism to enhance journeys of faith

By Joe Whalen

The load of firewood had been dumped in my driveway, and, reaching from my wheelchair, I was taking it, piece by piece, into my garage. It was 1997, and I’d been in a wheelchair for five years after breaking my back in a bad fall.

Two men and the pastor, Tim, from Sauble Christian Fellowship happened to be driving by on their way to the church. They stopped and asked if I could use some help. My wood got piled much faster!

A few months later, I was in serious difficulty with a bed sore (a common but serious problem for paraplegics), and the same group from Sauble came and anointed me with oil. They prayed for me, and I firmly believe it was the Lord’s hand that healed me.

Shortly after that, I was in the hospital with lung problems. Tim came to see me, and he invited me out to church, a place I had not been for many years. But I decided to give Sauble a try. After all, it was the only church that I could get into with the wheelchair.

As soon as I was released from the hospital, I went to the community centre, where the church was meeting. The people were helpful, and I enjoyed the friendship and fellowship.

It was not long after that I committed my life to Christ, and my wife, Carolyn, started to attend the church with me. I was baptized at a nearby lake by tipping my wheelchair back and having water poured on my head. (Usually, this BIC church baptizes by immersion, but an exception was made for me because of my disability.)

After that, Sauble grew by leaps and bounds. We moved to the school, because we needed more room. Then we got some land and decided to build a large new facility. I was able to make many of the truss extensions for the porch in my garage workshop, in spite of my mobility challenges. I thought that was the least I could do. The church also made plans with wheelchair access in mind, and I was the one who cut the ribbon when we dedicated the elevator!

The Lord has blessed Carolyn and me again and again; I’m learning that He always gives us what we need.

This article originally appeared in the winter 2011 issue of In Part magazine.

Joe Whalen is a member of Sauble Christian Fellowship in Sauble Beach, ON. He and Carolyn joined the church in 2004.

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