Translating Baptism

This past Sunday, our congregation had a special event: the Hmong ministry that operates in association with our church was having a series of baptisms; ten to be precise. I had the privilege to assist our Pastor Charles Robinson, and Pastor Don Vang, in carrying out these baptisms. One by one each person stepped into the water, confessed Jesus as Lord, and was immersed into Christ’s death to emerge into Christ’s life.

While each baptism was special, one of them had its own uniqueness: a mother who is deaf. As you can see in the picture to the right, for this baptism her young daughter came and knelt by the opening. When the Hmong minister asked the mother if she believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, her daughter began signing those words to her mother, to which she promptly nodded, at which point she was then immersed. The act of translating always seems neat, but I can’t recall another time when it seemed so beautiful. It’s as if the interaction going on between the mother and daughter mirrored the interaction going on within her soul.

When we think of translation, we probably think of it as nothing more than the conversion of information. It certainly is that. A sequence of thoughts and sentences containing meaningful data is received, processed, then conveyed again through an alternate sequence that, we hope, translates to the same meanings.

But if in the conversion of information the meaning of the words transcends the constraints of information, then information becomes something else entirely: revelation.

Revelation is different than information. Information offers knowledge that can be leveraged. Revelation is knowledge that invites us to surrender to something greater. Revelation reaches into our innermost person, divulges its true self and asks our hearts to then do the same. How we respond to revelation determines whether or not our lives will be transformed by it.

This woman’s baptismal event is the climax of many prior hours of teaching, conversation, and prayer; all of which were facilitated through translation—information conveyed to her about Jesus. But at some point that information transcended into something that was transforming her, the revelation of someone who transforms us all. Her response to Christ’s revelation was committing to him through immersion into Christ’s death so that she might translationally emerge into Christ’s life.

Like her daughter, attending her mother, translating her good confession, we can all be instrumental in giving voice and expression to the blessed reality God so longs to reveal and thus embody the beauty that adorns the bearer of God’s good news.


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