A thing of beauty, by faith

Published 9:26 pm Thursday, July 30, 2009

It would have been understandable if Andy Chaney had not been granted his dying wish.

As he lay unconscious in his hospital bed at Sentara Obici Hospital on Monday, there were a number of factors weighing against his stated desire to be baptized.

Doctors had said he would not be able to leave the hospital again, his dialysis port couldn’t get wet and the total-immersion baptism favored by Baptists would not be possible for a man who was unconscious.

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It would have been easy for his family, his doctors or his new pastor to have just said that it couldn’t be done.

Instead, once doctors determined that dialysis would no longer help Mr. Chaney and his port could be removed, a group of loving friends and family — led by a dedicated and compassionate charge nurse at Obici — set out to see what they could accomplish by faith.

On Thursday morning, Pastor Stewart McCarter of Southside Baptist Church made a few remarks about a Christian’s rebirth in Jesus Christ, lowered a fully conscious Mr. Chaney into a hospital birthing tub filled with warm water and then pulled him back up as Mr. Chaney smiled and flashed a thumbs-up.

Betty Jo Stroud, the 11-year veteran nurse who nearly moved heaven and earth to accommodate Mr. Chaney’s wish, stood in her scrubs in the tub, helping her friend and patient achieve his goal, seemingly against all odds.

Baptism in a birthing tub. The symbolism for Christians is rich beyond words.

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again,” Jesus told Nicodemus, the Pharisee, as recorded by the apostle John. Baptism is the symbolic act that publicly affirms that rebirth in Christ.

Another apostle, Paul, wrote to the church in Galatia that Christians should “(b)ear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Betty Jo Stroud sensed the burden of an unfulfilled spiritual need in a dying man under her care. In helping him to meet that need, she performed just the sort of ministry to which Paul referred.

There have been few times in my life as a journalist that a story has touched me as deeply as that of Mr. Chaney and the loving, compassionate people who surrounded him on his last day on Earth.

And there have been few times as a Christian when I have seen the people of Christ work together so well for His glory.

Something beautiful happened in that tiny birthing room on the third floor of Obici Hospital on Thursday, and it never would have come about without the strong faith and obedience of a few people who love their Savior.

Praise God for such people in our world today.