by Joseph McKinney, Jr.
JOAO PESSOA, Brazil (BNc) — When Fernanda said that she wanted to be baptized, we held our breath because, in these nine months, we had come to know this young lady to be hard-headed, strong-willed, explosive, fiercely contentious.
She never measured her words or tone of voice when provoked by a co-worker or family member and was a constant source of conflict within the restaurant where she worked and as a visitor of the church meeting. Her rudeness had made her some bitter enemies within the restaurant.
So we hesitated, but she persisted in her desire, and she was baptized Jan. 18 for the remission of sins.
Fernanda’s mother was traveling that weekend and asked her to wait until she returned so she could be present for the event, but Fernanda told her that she was making this decision for Christ and not for her, and that she needed to start her new life now.
Fernanda was baptized early Sunday morning so the restaurant workers could be there and still get to work on time. Fernanda cried when she came out of the water, and the whole church hugged and welcomed this newborn baby into the family.
She quickly changed into her work clothes and went to the restaurant. There one of her co-workers came up to her and said, “So, you were baptized. Are you ready to receive the baptismal certificate?” She waited expectantly.
He held both of her hands in one hand and slapped her face with the other. He said that Jesus said she should turn the other cheek. She did, and he slapped her again.
When she didn’t react negatively, he said, “Ah, you only passed because your hair is still wet from the water of baptism, let’s see how you do in a week.”
Her reaction even surprised herself, because the old Fernanda would have torn into him like a she-bear defending her cub.
Although she passed her first test, this new life in Christ has been rough for her. Every Sunday she says that she didn’t do too well the previous week, with co-workers provoking until she lost it. It seems as if she can’t breathe harder without someone reminding her in front of the restaurant full of people that she is supposed to be a Christian now. She is working through a lot of bitterness and pride. We have even been criticized within the restaurant for baptizing people who aren’t prepared for the decision.
Was Fernanda prepared for this life commitment? Will she make it to the end? I don’t know, but I do know that she is in Christ and his Holy Spirit is in her, beginning the long, sometimes slow, process of transformation.
Please, please pray for Fernanda. I have told her, and it is true: if she continues faithful, Jesus will use her to bring her family, her co-workers, her hometown of Esperança to him. She will be proof to those whose main excuse is that they are not good enough. She will be a living testimony to the power of Jesus that works wonders within those who are unworthy.
Since its beginning in May, 2008, the congregation that meets at Irene’s house has produced three converts, three people from the Chinese restaurant who gave their lives to Christ. Fernanda was the most recent.