Wineskins Archive

January 21, 2014

AfterGlow: Immersed By Her Teachers (May 1993)

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by Phillip Morrison
May, 1993

The story began late in 1991 in far-off Azerbaijan. Dr. Rauf Kuli-Zade, an epidemiologist, his wife, AIDS researcher Dr. Irina Kuli-Zade, and their two sons, Gulam (6) and El`Mar (5) determined to leave their tortured homeland and emigrate to the United States. From the war-ravaged city of Baku, they travelled to Nashville under the auspices of World Relief, arriving in mid-April of 1992 when their association with the Woodmont Hills church began.

Rauf and Irina had been taught not to believe in God, but Irina said, “Always I know there is God, else how would we be in America?”

Margaret Kendrick soon became Irina’s “American mother,” and Joan Randolph her “American sister.” They helped Irina learn about American shopping, prepare food using American recipes, cope with traffic, and do all the other things which are so baffling to newcomers. Above all, they shared their living faith by example and conversation.

Then came the happy day when Irina decided to obey God’s command to be baptized, and she wanted those who had taught her to baptize her.

Margaret was uncomfortable with that request. Though she had never seen a woman baptize anyone, she could find no scriptural prohibition. Despite her fears of criticism for herself and her church, Margaret knew that she must use her God-given talents and honor her friend’s request.

Joan, likewise, had never baptized anyone and had never seen a woman baptize anyone. But she was quite sure that one day – if she kept teaching people – the opportunity to baptize someone would arise. Her awareness that some might disapprove did not frighten Joan or keep her from performing her first baptism.

Irina thought both Margaret and Joan were unnecessarily concerned. As she understood the Bible, it seemed perfectly scriptural and natural for those who had done the teaching to also do the baptizing.

So, late one afternoon, with a small group of friends including two Woodmont Hills elders and me, Margaret and Joan baptized Irina. As always I sat in reverence and awe as Jesus’ precious name was confessed and his death, burial, and resurrection were so beautifully portrayed. But this time I also sat wondering why I had lived so long without witnessing what seemed so natural and appropriate. When she was raised from the water Irina exclaimed, “Baptism is for me like… a second breath!”

Shortly after the Kuli-Zade family arrived in the United States, someone asked why they had come. Irina pointed to her sons and said, “Two little boys, we want peace!” They have found that peace, but Irina has also discovered peace in Jesus. And I have found new dimensions in the work Christian women may do for Jesus.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip MorrisonPhillip Morrison was, for many years, managing editor of Wineskins Magazine and wrote the column “AfterGlow” opposite its inside back cover. He was also the former managing editor for Upreach magazine, and worked as a fund-raising consultant and conducted study tours to Bible lands.

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