As I arrived at the port of Haifa in Israel on a cold January day, I had a mission in mind—to be baptized. I had only one day in Israel, and I wanted to see as much of it as I possibly could. Unaware of what awaited me and how I would accomplish whatever lay ahead, I said a quick prayer and hoped for the best.
I walked up to the first taxi I saw and asked the driver, “Excuse me, sir. I would like to go to the Jordan River to be baptized. You know, where Jesus was...” I beseeched him.
“Yardenit?” he questioned.
“Sure, that sounds right.” I hoped so anyway. “And afterward, maybe we could go down to Jerusalem?” I asked in a manner far too casual for the seven-hour round-trip I had just asked him to drive.
“You are in luck!” he joyfully exclaimed. “I am currently getting my license to be a tour guide here in Israel. I can practice with you today.”
It was clearly a gift from God. As I sat in his taxi that day, he shared his life story with me. I learned his name was Ramzi. He grew up Muslim in the Capernaum area and converted to Christianity after meeting his Christian wife. Christian faith was rare in Israel, and Ramzi’s was a powerful story of the Holy Spirit moving in this holy land. He took me to all the Christian sites around Galilee and then to the banks of the Jordan River, where I was anxious to be baptized and begin my new life married to Jesus.
As I stood on the bank of the Jordan River the day of my water baptism, I felt like a debutante arriving for her coming-out ball. The white gown given to me at the shop near the entrance reminded me that in Christ I had been made new and washed white as snow. All of my past and all of my sins were being erased and forgiven. Now I just had to find someone to baptize me!
Apparently when most Christians travel to Israel to walk 1n Jesus’ footsteps and be baptized at this holy site, they come equipped with a pastor or tour guide to perform the baptism. I only had a Ramzi. I had assumed an on-site pastor would be there to act out the role of John the Baptist, someone ready to dunk me with all the fervor I was ready to be dunked with. But there was no one. A few groups seemed to be finishing up and heading inside to clean up but no one could find their pastor or anyone else to help me. “Will you baptize me?” I asked, roaming from person to person. “Will you baptize me?” Each one consoled me, telling me he or she was uniquely unqualified. Then, like an angel from heaven, a Russian Orthodox priest beamed the sweetest smile at me and walked my way.
“Excuse me, sir. I’m sorry to bother you, but would you be willing to baptize me?” I politely begged.
“I assume you are not Russian Orthodox?” the man questioned with a sly, knowing grin.
“No, but I have come all this way just to be baptized here today in the Jordan River—all the way from California!”
He smiled his brightest smile and asked, “You believe that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God?”
“And you believe He died on the cross for your sins?”
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
“And you believe He rose again and is seated at the right hand of God?”
“Yes, I do.”
“And you want to be baptized today?”
“Yes, very much!”
I will baptize you.” He acquiesced but assured me this baptism would be “symbolic only,” as his faith did not allow him to officially baptize me Russian Orthodox,
Since I had flown halfway around the world to be there, I trusted that Jesus could see my heart and would take this “symbolic only” baptism as a full and complete outward display of my inward faith in Him.
As I stepped into the water that day, I began a life that would be forever His.
Hear more of Holly’s journey from addiction and abuse to purpose and praise. Taken from From Basement To Sanctuary by Holly Christine Hayes. Copyright ©2017 by Holly Christine Hayes. Used by permission of WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan.