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.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
– John 1:12