I had always sort of subconsiously resisted the idea of being baptized. Since the Bible teaches baptism, I didn't exactly deny it, but it kind of struck me as a back-hills-of-Kentucky sort of thing to do, and I felt that since I was a believer, that should be enough and I shouldn't have to degrade myself with that sort of thing.
I was in the Army at the time, and specifically, was on guard duty at about two in the morning. I was armed (if you can call it that) with a tent peg and was walking around the 24 tanks of my company in the middle of the woods about five dusty miles from our barracks in Erlangen, West Germany. As I passed each tank I gave it a wack with the tent peg and said a prayer. Suddenly, at one tank, I remembered that the Church of God military mission in Furth was having a baptism ceremony later that day and I felt sure I should attend the ceremony and be baptized.
But that morning my platoon sergeant denied my request to take the afternoon off.
So I went off in the woods and sat under a tree to pray. As I was there, he walked by and asked if I was okay. Yes, I said, I was just praying.
"Do you really want to get baptized?" he asked.
I assured him I did, and he relented. I could take the time off if I could find somebody to switch guard duty with, he said.
That was easy. Since my shift was in the afternoon, all I had to do was find somebody whose duty was in the middle of the night -- somebody who would rather get a good night's sleep.
Getting back to the barracks to change into my civilian clothes was more difficult. I waited for the lunch truck, but finally discovered it had left without me. So I walked down to the highway and stuck out my thumb. The second car to approach stopped. The driver, a German, lived right next to the barracks. He gave me a lift to the gate.
I rushed in, changed my clothes, hurried down to the train station and caught the last train that could get me to Furth on time. I sat and wondered how I would get back. Would they let me on the train looking like a soaked rat?
At Furth I ran across the plaza to the church, where I thought the ceremony was going to be held, but the door was locked. Suddenly, from a car behind me, Jim called my name. He was in the last car headed to the baptism, and I jumped in. I was supposed to have signed up earlier, but Jim convinced the pastor I was serious, so I was baptised in the Trans-Europa Canal, beneath the curious eyes of passengers on a nearby riverboat.
I got a ride back to the barracks from another church member, caught the dinner truck going out to the camp, and had a specially good time whacking tanks that night
Copyright 1996, Brad Haugaard.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
– Isaiah 53:6