March 21, 2005
Dan has done baptisms here in Malawi before. Not long ago he baptized two PKs (preacher’s kids) during a special Celebration of Worship at the Chigumula CCAP Church, but yesterday he had a one of a kind experience at the St. Andrew’s CCAP Church in the Shire Valley.
When the Rev. Kamoto called all the parents and children forward for the Baptism, over twenty families came forward and filled the front of the church. Some appeared to be single mothers with toddlers, others were proud parents with newborn babies. The HIV rate in this region is the highest in Malawi, 34%, so it is not uncommon for one parent to be missing.
As you can imagine, with that many small children, this was not a quiet ceremony, but it was very special. The parents would kneel on a pillow and present their child to Dan. The Session Clerk would announce the child’s name, and then Dan would take the child to the baptismal font, and say “Name, child of the covenant, I baptize you in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holly Ghost.”
Most of the children had never seen a white person before, and so they either stared at him wide-eyed as he placed the water on their heads, or like one young girl named Faith, they screamed and squirmed the entire time.
I wormed my way into the paparazzi to try and take some pictures. Special ceremonies are always captured by free lance photographers, who then sell the photos to the families, since very few Malawians can afford cameras themselves.
The baptisms were the highlight of the five and a half hour Celebration of Worship. It got hotter and hotter (high 90s) as the morning and then afternoon progressed, so Dan was absolutely exhausted after baptizing 21 children, handing out 125 Certificates of Merit to Mvano (women’s guild) members, listening to 8 choirs, preaching, praying and serving communion. I think that he will forget about the heat and remember those adorable new members of the Family of God for decades to come. It was a real joy for him to take part in such a special Celebration of Worship.