In honor of my almost-MTC date (for those who have forgotten, it is the 17th of September!), and with the joy that comes from watching others enter into full membership of the church, I thought I would post about the baptisms that I witnessed while I was in Jordan.
The man in front-center is Samir. I was able to help with the translating of several of the discussions that he received from the Cooks, the missionary/service couple (and district president) serving in Amman, as they did not speak Arabic.
Helping with Samir's discussions was an incredible experience, one that I am not sure will be replicated the whole time I am on my mission. He knew the Book of Mormon like one who had studied it diligently for several years, and when he came to discussions, he came with all of the material read and with questions he had while he was reading written down in a little notebook. Each time a new principle was introduced to Samir, he thought about it for a minute and then said, "That makes sense! I won't have a hard time having faith in that principle."
When he was taught the lesson on the Word of Wisdom, he immediately stopped drinking coffee and tea, although those liquids are Arab staples and an integral part of hospitality. Culture meant less to him than committment to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
I think for all present at Samir's baptism, each person's personal committment to live the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ was renewed. Samir now has the Aaronic priesthood and my last day in Jordan, I watched him pass the sacrament. It was one of the most beautiful things that I witnessed there--a newly baptized member progressing in the church, line upon line and precept upon precept.
Shortly after Samir was baptized, Suleman and Amir were baptized. They are standing on either side of President Cook, the grinning senior missionary in the picture. I was also privileged to help with translations for them, and it was a beautiful experience to watch them as they learned that there was truth beyond what they had learned in their former Christian religions. Shortly after they began taking the missionary discussions, they decided that they, too, wanted to follow the example of Jesus Christ by entering the waters of baptism.
Their story is beautiful--they were Arab Christians who wanted to worship at a place closer to their home. One day Suleman found our small branch building in Amman and asked if he could worship with us. Muslims are not allowed to attend our church meetings because of Jordanian laws that the Church respects, but Christians are always welcome. He invited his friend Amir and six months after, took the missionary discussions and decided to be baptized. I would describe their faith as childlike--their faith in the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ saturated their very lives, and while Samir's baptism was a thrilling and exciting experience, their baptisms (held on the same day) were a peaceful reassurance that Heavenly Father does love all of His children, in whatever country they may reside.
Three others were baptized while I was a member of that branch--an eight year old American boy, whose family was in Amman working with the Embassy, a sister from Syria who flew down to Amman with the other 3 (active) members of the branch to be baptized, as they don't have a font in Damascus (and I am not sure if LDS baptisms are legal or recognized there), which was also a beautiful experience, and a Phillipino sister who was married to an American in the branch, who was also working for the Embassy.
This many baptisms in such a short time is quite unusual, and I feel that it was a tender mercy of the Lord that I got to witness the restored gospel of Jesus Christ changing minds, changing hearts, and changing lives as people accepted covenants to follow the example of the Savior and be baptized in the name of the Son.
And if I never witness a baptism in Taiwan? That still does not take away my desire to serve my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, by preaching the gospel of peace and glad tidings of salvation!