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Shall We Gather at the River?

By: Bentley Hill

I love to think about the good ‘ole days of summer as a child. I remember sitting in church with the windows open and being relocated by an occasional wasp or bee that traveled through. I remember the flicker of dim lights and games of Crack the Whip behind the church after Sunday night services. Even though the pews were rough and an occasional splinter would cause even the most stoic Baptist to let out a shout, I look back on those days with great fondness.

Some of my favorite memories are baptismal services held at Morris Creek or Wister Lake. We would stand on the banks and sing “Shall We Gather at the River” at the top of our lungs. The folks being baptized would form a straight line and move slowly into the water, their reverent procession being interrupted occasionally as someone would step on a sharp or slippery rock resulting in a quick self-baptism. The excitement of seeing new believers following Christ in baptism brought tears, smiles, and shouts of joy.

Lately, I have been reading a book by Henry L. Peck entitled The Proud Heritage of LeFlore County. According to Peck, the oldest Baptist Church in LeFlore County is Double Branch, founded in 1870. Double Branch experienced some great revivals. One in 1920 spoke of baptizing 43 new believers in Nail Creek; another resulted in 63 baptisms. What great and exciting times these speak of, but we can never forget that we also live in exciting times. In John 4:35, Jesus says, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months, and then cometh harvest’? Behold, I tell you raise your eyes and observe the fields, that they are white for harvest.”

These words should issue a challenge to you and me. We can remember the past, but we can also rejoice in the present. The same God who was active in LeFlore Baptist Association in days gone by is the same God you and I serve today. The baptismal waters can stir again if we workers will engage the fields He has placed us in. It’s true that we have a wonderful past, but we have a glorious future in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let’s claim the summer of 2021 for His kingdom.

 

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