What Does It Mean To Be Baptized?

What Does It Mean To Be Baptized?

What does it mean to be baptized? That question dominated conversation during special needs family camp in Latvia.“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, 
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; 
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19–20

Before leaving for special needs family camp in Latvia, a number of concerns occupied my thoughts. Here are just a few: Will my suitcases be big enough to hold clothes and 30 books to give away? Will the 24 hour layovers in Istanbul, Turkey–both coming and going–be uneventful? Will conversing with moms through a translator keep us from bonding? (The answers: yes, no, and no.)

Two questions that never came to mind were the ones that dominated discussions during camp week: What does it mean to be baptized? Can people with special needs be baptized?

The topic first arose when Pastor Ugis Pallo explained the meaning of baptism during morning assembly and announced that a baptismal service would be held on the last day of camp. A young woman who is non-verbal and has mild developmental delays made clear her understanding of the sacrament and her desire to be baptized. Ugis called her home pastor and invited him to participate in the ceremony, but the man declined.

Because, he explained, her special needs were punishment for generational sin which made her unworthy of baptism.

Though the response did not sit well with Ugis, he and the other pastor talked several more times. Somehow, by the grace of God, the issue was resolved by baptism day, and the young woman’s pastor came to the service.

But the story doesn’t end there. Several young adults with special needs and moms of younger children started asking questions. A young woman named Diana found Ugis after supper. “What does it mean to be baptized?” she asked, and he answered her questions far into the night. Katie, a young mom nabbed Naomi, my travel partner, one afternoon. “I was baptized into the Lutheran faith,” she explained. “How is that different from what Ugis talked about?” During our last mom’s support group, which I always opened by asking if they had questions, the first one posed was, “Would you explain the purpose of baptism?”

I began to speak, sure that God had gone ahead and prepared for every detail of the answer. From the thorough grounding about the meaning of baptism presented in Discovery Discipleship classes taken long ago. Through the teaching Pastor Tim has provided about this sacrament throughout the years. And through the presence of my translator, who happened to be Katie, the young mom who had talked with Naomi.

The baptismal service on that last afternoon of camp was a blessed event:

Diana, who accepted Christ during the week, was baptized.

What does it mean to be baptized? That question dominated conversation during special needs family camp in Latvia.So was Laura, the daughter of the mom who asked about it during our support group.

What does it mean to be baptized? That question dominated conversation during special needs family camp in Latvia.But not Katie.

What does it mean to be baptized? That question dominated conversation during special needs family camp in Latvia.Katie scheduled her baptism for early August, so her family could witness her profession of faith.

No translator was available during the service, but it didn’t matter. The Spirit of Christ made his presence and his good pleasure known by uniting us as one and speaking to my heart as his command to make, baptize, and teach disciples in all the nations was obeyed.

Feeling thankful and blessed,


Top Ten Thoughts While Preparing for a Trip to Latvia

Top Ten Thoughts While Preparing for a Trip to Latvia

Only 2 days until my friend and I board a plane to fly overseas. My mind is spinning with packing thoughts.In a few short days, a friend and I will drive to Chicago, and board a Turkish Airline flight bound for Istambul. After a 36 hour lay over, we’ll catch another Turkish Airlines flight to our final destination–Riga, Latvia–where we’ll spend a week ministering to moms at a special needs family camp. Here are 10 thoughts swirling in my head while packing for the trip.

10. Where’s my passport? In the lock box at the bank. Better get it and put it in the Latvia trip file.

9.  I sure hope the Turkish Airline customer service representative understood me better than I understood her while asking for a dairy-free menu and getting seat assignments.

8.  How much cash should I take? Where’s my debit card?

7.  Oh, I probably need to buy an adapter for my computer and phone chargers.

6.  What? My blow dryer won’t work even with an adapter? What am I going to do?

5.  Where’s my passport? In the Latvia trip file. Better move it to my nifty money and document purse.

4.  Hmm…what’s the weather like in Latvia this time of year?

3.  How many books can be packed in 1 suitcase without exceeding the weight limit?

2.  Where’s my passport? In my nifty money and document purse. Maybe I should just wear it until we leave.

1.  Clothes. I need to pack clothes. What kind? How many? Maybe a burka for Istambul?

What do you think about when packing for a big trip? Leave a comment.


Top 10 Reasons Blog Posts Have Been Hit and Miss

Top 10 Reasons Blog Posts Have Been Hit and Miss

calendar-924930_1280Just in case you’re wondering why Gravel Road blog posts have been hit and miss lately, today’s top ten list explains why…starting from the event farthest in the past to the one farthest in the future.

10.  Going to the Access Summit near Washington, DC.

9.  Attending a Heartland AED class about how to teach adult learners, a requirement to be qualified to teach a teacher certification class to teachers, even though I’ve been teaching adult learners for over 10 years.

8.  Totally blowing off a speaking engagement at our local hospital…the first time that’s happened in over 10 years.

7.  Spending Mother’s Day weekend with my kids in Wisconsin while the Man of Steel was in Alaska…and who wants to spend Mother’s Day weekend alone?

6.  Being awakened by my own snoring while falling asleep, putting in earplugs to solve that problem, and sleeping in an hour and a half because of the earplugs. (I am not making this up.)

5.  Making a quick overnight trip to my hometown to present the first Roger Hallum Memorial Scholarship and meet his children.

4.  The daughter and her family moving in with us at the end of next week.

3.  Dancing at a family wedding in the Twin Cities on Saturday evening and flying to Michigan for the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability on Sunday morning.

2.  Attending planning meetings, preparing to train volunteers for the Wonderfully Made Family Camp, and attending the camp June 10–12.

1.  Wondering when there will be enough time to prepare for speaking at the Latvia special needs camp scheduled for the end of June.

What’s making your schedule crazy these days? Leave a comment.


My God Has Supplied All My Needs

My God Has Supplied All My Needs

Until last week, I thought Paul's claim in Philippians 4:18-19 applied only to him. Last Sunday, I learned it applied to me, too.I have received full payment, and more.
I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent,
a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
And my God will supply every need of yours
according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:18–19

For too many years, I have kept a safe distance of approximately 2,000 years between myself and Paul’s words in Philippians 4:18–19. Well, sure, I thought after reading Paul’s ringing endorsement of God’s faithfulness, those words applied to Paul. In the first century. In the early days of the church. To migrant missionaries and fragile congregations filled with frail believers.

That’s what I told myself. But what I believed deep down and refused to admit was this: while God supplied the needs of early Christians, their fledgling churches, and the itinerant missionaries who served them according to his riches and for his glory, his provision didn’t apply to me. Because in modern day America, God gives faithful believers good jobs, infuses them with a strong work ethic, and expects to meet their own needs.

I was okay with that line of thinking. It worked for me. Until about a year ago when God plunked two mission opportunities in my path: a trip to Latvia to minister to special needs moms, and joining the planning committee for a free special needs family camp at Hidden Acres. The Latvia trip would cost about $1,500. The camp needed $15,000 for family scholarships and 100 volunteers, as well as $50,000 worth of concrete for sidewalks and $4,000 for a pool lift.

No matter how hard my family and every member of the camp planning committee worked, the tasks were impossible. And yet, over the past few months, God has supplied everything needed.

  • $1,608 dollars for the Latvia trip thanks to our Connection Group’s fundraiser and the amazing generosity of our church family.
  • A $25,000 donation that somehow stretched until all $50,000 worth of concrete was poured at Hidden Acres.
  • The entire cost of the pool lift covered by one donor.
  • $10,800 raised for scholarships already and 6 weeks left for God to move hearts to supply the rest.
  • 30 completed volunteer applications and promises from dozens of people that theirs will be in by the May 15 deadline.

I now read Philippians 4 differently. I know it applies not only to Paul and the early church, but also to me and to you. To our church and to all God’s churches in this day and age. God is waiting to prove to us what he proved to Paul over 2,000 years ago. He fulfills his promise to supply all our needs when we step out in faith to do what is impossible for us to do in our own power. Only then will we learn that what was true for Paul is true for us also. We can do all things through God who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13)