I Will Be With You

Part 7: Winter Baptism by Salomon Weissburger (1887-1968)

Whenever we held revival services, we afterwards baptized those who wanted it, regardless of the season. Winter baptisms were not uncommon, and one case in particular left a clear impression on me. 

It was in Georgengut, East Prussia, which is now called Jurgi and lies in modern-day Poland. The camp services we had held were greatly blessed, and not a single soul left without having found peace in God. 

At the end of the services, a baptism was scheduled. The big lake nearby had already frozen over, with some people crossing the ice to get to the services and the baptisms. A strip of around 20 meters was chopped out of the ice so that there would be deep enough water for the baptisms, and some additional water was cleared to ensure there was sufficient space. Around 35 people were supposed to be baptized by Brother Reinhold Meglin and me. I started, and Brother Meglin was supposed to take over for the second half. However, I felt bad that the brother would have to get into the cold water, so I offered to baptize the second half too. In all, I spent around half an hour in the water, but God spared me from illness. We performed the baptisms in faith, and the Lord granted us protection from illness.

There was even a case in which a sick person entered the cold water in full faith and, having been baptized according to the Lord’s command, was healed before getting back out of the water. We often baptized people in the winter, and I never heard of anyone falling ill as a result. Seeing our faith and obedience, God granted us grace and held His hand over us. I am not saying this to pressure anyone to do the same, but in those times, we did not let ourselves be deterred by the cold, and God acknowledged this in a wonderful way. Praise be to God!

In 1912, I arrived in the Vistula Territory, an area in Russian-held Poland that was home to many ethnic Germans at the time. I worked there for two years, until the start of World War I. Through the brothers Schwieger and Arbeiter, a mission field opened up there, and I served in the resulting congregations. I also conducted several mission trips along the Vistula River, in places including Plock, Warsaw, and Pinino, and on both sides of the border between Russia and Germany. 

We were visited by Brother Ebel, who served in the mission field in Russia. He was a man of God who brought Spirit-filled messages. Brother Ebel was a great blessing to me. He was a humble man and had the most powerful prayer life of anyone I have ever met. Compared to him, I was still a child in Christ at the time.

In 1913, in Horshchyk near Kyiv, camp services took place with Brother Ebel as the main speaker. I was able to attend, and despite my youth, Brother Ebel insisted that I bring a message at these services. Not all older preachers share this attitude. Here in Horshchyk, nearly the entire congregation, including its choir, recognized Biblical truth. It was also the first time that I heard a congregation praying together, all at once, out loud. It made a deep impression on me, but I nonetheless doubt that this type of communal prayer is in accordance with God’s will and Scripture (1 Corinthians 14:31–32).

Following the services in Horshchyk, I travelled to Chernyakhiv, in the district of Zhytomyr, to Brother Jonathan Hinz. After attending camp services held in Essen over Christmas and New Year’s 1907/1908, he became a passionate advocate for God’s work in Russia and a preacher of the Church of God. If I remember correctly, the first camp services in the east took place in 1908 in Chernyakhiv, where brothers Arbeiter and Doebert were serving.

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