I was out of town all last week attending my twenty-fifth consecutive Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
I simply call it the Methodist Conference for short. I think you can see why!
On Sunday during worship, I told the children about a man who preached at the conference by the name of Leonard Fairley. Shall we say this guy yanked on my heart?
Fairley related his personal testimony to us through a sermon and I think it was a severe lump-in-the-throat moment for all of us. Kimberly-Clark could pay an extra dividend this quarter! (They manufacture Kleenex.)
As a boy growing up in eastern North Carolina, Fairley was very poor. There was no father in his home. Food and clothing were scarce; and, going without shoes was a necessity much of the time.
But one day, clear out of the blue everything changed. A woman from a nearby Methodist church knocked on Fairley’s door and invited him to Vacation Bible School.
At first, Fairley’s mother said that he could not attend because she saw no benefit in it. But the church lady eagerly explained to the reluctant mother that all kids would eat for free and this sealed the deal.
Fairley’s life was forever changed at VBS because a woman knocked on his door and invited him to attend. He met Christ, decided to become a follower and he was baptized.
Clearly, the Lord’s hand was upon Leonard Fairley! Doors began to open for this economically disadvantaged young man.
Through multiple Methodist scholarships he was able to attend Pfeiffer College (now Pfeiffer University).
Fairley later became a United Methodist pastor, then a District Superintendent and now he is Bishop of the Kentucky Annual Conference.
Repeatedly Fairley chanted colloquially throughout his sermon, “Don’t go foolin’ with the water!”
In other words, baptism is not a trifling event! There is incredible power in the water because it is infused with the Holy Spirit!
This week at Asbury, Vacation Bible School is on the front burner of our stove. Bishop Leonard Fairley’s testimony has given me new life and a fresh vision.
For all I know God is getting ready to raise up another Gideon among this group of children who are participating. For all I know the next bishop for our church is attending our VBS!
For all I know, the Holy Spirit is rearing to enter one of these children and unleash the power of the Universe. For all I know, God is planting a seed inside each child that is participating in our VBS and in the right soil they will produce much fruit.
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit…(John 15:5a NIV).”
And, from what I have seen lately that word much is an incredible understatement. I think other words come to mind such as: abundant fruit; copious fruit; rich fruit; prosperous fruit; and eternal fruit.
For any church to agree to host a Vacation Bible School, it is an incredibly expensive endeavor in terms of labor, resources and time. But we continue to do so because we believe deeply in following Jesus, making disciples and transforming the world.
So, I reiterate Bishop Fairley’s stance, “Don’t go foolin’ with the water!” Baptism is nothing to be trifled with!
There is power in those baptismal waters, enough to heal and quench our parched world.