Posts Tagged ‘Fort Canby church camp’

Chapter 9

Tonight I’m digging around my parent’s basement, trying to get them to help me clean it out. In the small bedroom in the basement I find my old Beatles magazines, some 45s, and my white Bible with my name engraved in gold.

Mom gave me this when I was sixteen. I had been out there by myself searching for God, visiting all types of churches. I hit Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and small fundamentalist bible churches all over Bremerton.

I eventually settled down at a small but robust missionary church near downtown. During my first summer a family I met in Sunday School took me to camp with their daughter in Canby, Oregon. It was there at the altar, surrounded by the righteous, their hands raised to the rafters, I decided to become baptized.

Baptism in the swiftly moving Canby River presented a small problem. There was no way I could dunk my head under the water. Pastor had a solution: He would hold a handkerchief over my nose, and that would “help me not breathe in the water”.

He promised he’d take care of me and it would be over quickly. When it was my turn I waded into the cold river with him, near the tree swing I couldn’t jump from earlier that week because I was scared to death of getting my face wet.

He draped his arm across my shoulder in a fatherly way. Then he turned me to the waiting followers of Christ. Covering my face with the hanky, he dipped me like a dancer into the cold river.

A person doesn’t belong under water. If they did, God would have made us all fish. If Pastor let go, the current would drag me away to God knows where.

I struggled and fought him so much he had to dunk me several times to “make it stick.” I could see bubbles as the cold water closed over me and hear my heart pounding with the fear of drowning. I dug the toes of my sneakers into the rocks and clutched the fabric of his shirtfront to avoid being swept downstream.

Up and down I went while he prayed. I could feel his arms around me and I started to trust him. As I began to relax, I felt the river rush over me, the water touching me everywhere, purifying me, cleansing me of the sins of the father. Already teeming with life, it gathered some of me into it, that which I would give, and for a moment I wanted all of me to go where it went. When I broke the surface and took a breath, I couldn’t hear his prayers, they were so soft.

I could have gone with the river then but for the man holding me down in it. To do that, I would have had to let go.

He still had me in his arms when I came up the final time and then …ohhh, then I heard the angels singing because I had drowned in the river.

One of the angels was playing the accordion, and there next to him on the riverbank were the mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers in Christ holding hands and singing the old Charlotte Elliot hymn I had chosen because it was my favorite:

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

I come, I come. I stood in the river as pure as I’d ever been, and felt something touch my arm. It was someone’s ruined Daily Devotion, passing by me. I leaned away from Pastor, into the current with both arms outstretched to grab it, to save it as I had been saved.

But it wasn’t time to let go. It floated away, out of my reach. And only God knew where.

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