“Down by the Riverside”

“Down by the Riverside”

Gonna put on my starry crown, down by the riverside, down by the riverside…

Great is thy faithfulness; great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see…

Gonna put on my starry crown, down by the riverside, down by the riverside…

Great is thy faithfulness; great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see…

This past Sunday morning, I was blessed to be present for the sacrament of Baptism at the Disciples of Christ church in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. After regular Sunday morning services, the whole church caravanned down to the river on the city’s outskirts. Pastors Carlos Verdina and Oscar Herrara and several elders marched into the water, and then, everything ready; the deacons escorted 70 new people into the river to be baptized, three-by-three. “Down by the riverside, down by the riverside…”

As the baptisms got underway, musicians struck up a medley of traditional Latin American Protestant music, like “El hombre de Galilea” (the Man from Galilee) and “Quiero cantar una linda canción” (I have a lovely song to sing). Everyone shared in the spirit of joy.

The people being baptized were accompanied to the water’s edge with warm encouragement by family members and friends. But they were also supported by other members in their cell; Ciudad del Este has adopted the cell model, in which each church member is part of a small group of 8 – 12 people that meets once or twice a week for Bible Study and devotion. This allows people to form close friendships and get to know one another even in a church with over 700 members.

What struck me the most that morning was the broad spectrum of people being baptized. Some were young, maybe 11 or 12, while others were more advanced in life. Many were serious, but a few were laughing. Some had been born and raised in the city; others had migrated from the campo. Yet despite all of this, everyone shared in beginning a new phase of their faith journey – the moment when they commit themselves to following Christ together with the whole congregation. If the experience of their baptism was anything like my own – also in a river, on a windy day in Little Compton, RI – it must have been exhilarating, overwhelming, and reassuring, all at the same time.

And so I watched, witnessed, and congratulated the crowd as they waded into the slow-moving waters and came out refreshed. Despite many adversities, the faith of Jesus Christ can bring us together and give us new hope for tomorrow: “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…great is they faithfulness, Lord unto Me.”

Prayer: God of the nations, in a time of divisions and difficulties for many, may we all be refreshed by your presence and promise. May we each remember our baptisms into the life of Jesus Christ and allow him to guide us each day to make the right decisions. And, may we be opened up to the magic of the Holy Spirit who throughout time and space knits us together, through love, into one body. In the name of all that is holy, Amen.”

El hombre de Galilea

El hombre de Galilea va pasando, va (2x)
Y déjale que te toque, déjale que te toque,
Déjale que te toque, y recibe su bendición.

The man from Galilee is passing by (2x)
Leave to him whatever ails you (3x)
And receive his blessing.

Quiero cantar una linda canción

Quiero cantar una linda canción
de un hombre que me transformó
Quiero cantar una linda canción

De un hombre que mi vida cambió
Es mi amigo Jesús, es mi amigo Jesús,
El es dios, el es rey, es amor, y verdad

Solo en él, encontré, esa paz, que busqué,
Solo en él, encontré, la felicidad.

I have a lovely song to sing,
About a man who changed me
I have a lovely song to sing
for the man transformed my life.
He’s my friend Jesus, my friend Jesus,
He’s God, he’s the king, he is love, and the truth.

Only in him, have I found, that peace that I sought,
Only in him, could I find, true happiness.

Peace and blessings,

Marian and James
Resistencia, Chaco

James and Marian are long-term missionaries with the Disciples of Christ in Argentina and Paraguay. James and Marian serve as consultants for Mission Development.