Go make disciples . . . don’t leave it to your pastor

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“Me die all together”—Pastor Tonny Agolamba (Record, October 20, 1984)

Imagine almost dying from trying to baptise your church members! The Record magazine captured such a story in its October 20 Issue in 1984. Here is a summary of what happened:

Pastor Tonny was the pastor of seven churches and companies in 1984 and was thoroughly enjoying his ministry at a time of rapid church growth in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Most of his time as a pastor was filled with training and directing laymen to witness through serving others and preaching the gospel message. 

With the expansive growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in these regions, many people were wanting to be baptised. On the Sabbath of June 23, 1984, Pastor Tonny organised for a baptism of 109 people from several of the churches under his care. Pastors from other churches were busy with their own church needs that day and were unable to assist in the baptisms, so Pastor Tonny decided to conduct all the baptisms himself, rather than turn away enthusiastic believers.

John Gate, the president of the Eastern Highlands Mission (PNGUM) at the time, expressed: “That same Sabbath I baptised nine at another church, and was numb from the waist down when the baptism was finished.“ To baptise 109 people was a bold undertaking!

Everything was going well until Pastor Tonny had baptised 85 individuals. It was at that point that he collapsed unconscious in the freezing water and was carried from the water by the assisting deacons. In reflection, Pastor Tonny expressed in Tok Pisin: “Me die all together”, meaning he felt at the time that he had died.

The deacons warmed Pastor Tonny by a fire and rubbed his legs until feeling and strength returned to them while the congregation sang hymns. Once feeling returned, however, Pastor Tonny walked right back into the icy cold stream and continued to baptise the remaining 24 individuals! 

When asked what he thought were the factors which were contributing to the rapid church growth in his area, Pastor Tonny’s answer was twofold: (1) The working of the Holy Spirit on people’s hearts, and (2) The leadership and unselfish involvement of his laymen in witnessing. 

Pastor Tonny recognised that all of these baptisms wouldn’t have even been possible without the diligent and faithful service of lay people who witnessed their faith to those in their communities. This is an important calling which each and every one of us as Christians have been given. 

Ellen White sounded a call to summon every Seventh-day Adventist to the work of the Church. She wrote: “To accomplish the great work of giving the last warning to the world, there is need of earnest, well-directed effort” (Ellen White, The Review and Herald, July 24, 1883). “It is not ordained ministers upon whom we must depend for this work, but laymen who love and fear God, and who feel the burden for the salvation of souls” (Ellen White Manuscript Release, No 347).

Olivia Fairfax is an editorial assistant for Adventist Record.

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