It’s New Year’s Eve and I am following the trail of dust in front of me as I follow Joe through the bush. This 21year old, 8 seater landcruiser is more than full and so is the other. In front a line of motorbikes laden with two, three or even four people on each, weave their way through the bumpy tracks and tall grass. After about 40minutes and a couple of reroutes, the cars unable to follow where the bikes squeezed, we park up under the shade of some thorny trees. We’ve arrived at a small reservoir surrounded by tall grass and sugar cane. We dismount from our cars and bikes and walk along the side of the water with a sense of joyful anticipation in the air.
Joe takes the children under the scrawny shade of a bush. They watch and wait.
The ladies begin to cover their hair with black plastic bags and congregate at the side of the water. Two of the men wade in, then start to swim, standing up periodically, testing how deep the water is and calling out to each other in Acholi. Wearing a bright yellow t-Shirt and multi-coloured flowery shorts, Pastor Geoffrey, a man in his 50s with a childlike playfulness in his eyes, starts splashing the other man and laughing, they’ve found the right spot.
They wade back out of the water and we huddle round Pastor Odokorac Alfred as he opens up his Luo bible and starts to read.
We start to sing and dance on the spot, giggling can be heard too, as well as a few nervous whispers. As the singing and praying continues, a few of the men wade out again into the water, laughing and splashing each other before turning to the small crowd on the shore.
After some confusion over who would go first, a young lady braves the water.
I don’t catch all that is asked and said but I know that this lady has publicly declared that she knows Christ as her saviour. As she enters the water she leaves one life, and reemerges, reborn, with a new gloriously abundant one. This ancient and symbolic act of faith and obedience, it to me one of the beautiful things we can witness. It fills me with renewed hope, reminds me of the life I have in Jesus, the beauty of new life after death of the old. I’m reminded of my own baptism, Palm Sunday 1999.
It was a privilege to witness this extraordinary scene as one by one and then three by three, 32 people entered the water, saying goodbye to their old lives and hello to their greatest adventure. Ending a year and starting a new one in the best possible way, with a New Life.