Twenty-One Believers Baptized in Côte d’Ivoire
By Larry M. Sellers
When you stop to think about the biblical account of Christ’s birth, there are some incredible details that leave you pondering its validity, yet you recognize God’s amazing orchestration: the idea of angels singing to shepherds, a virgin birth, and a dream instructing Joseph to take Mary and hide out in Egypt. We are not struggling in our faith but merely relooking at the amazing story and how it relates to us today! Thinking of the King of Kings being born in a lowly stable seems a bit unreal. Yet it would appear that God used this lowly place of birth to convey his desire to be in relationship with each one of us.
A lowly stable offers some lofty thoughts about the birth and mission of our Savior. Our English word manger comes from the French verb manger, which means “to eat.” The manger was a place for animals to eat. How fitting that he who claimed to be the bread of life should be laid in a place of feeding. The stable was also a place of shelter and protection for those in need of rest and refuge. Jesus found refuge in that stable in his first hours of life. Years later he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28 NIV). He still offers us rest and refuge from the storms of life. While a stable is not normally a place of worship, Jesus’ presence there turned that stable into a holy place of worship where God and man met in sacred union.
Here where we live, many homes are surrounded by high walls to keep unwanted visitors out. But the stable was a place of full access where all could come to find room to worship the newborn King. Though the homes and inns of Bethlehem were not accessible to Jesus, the stable opened wide its doors to him and all who would take the time to come and see this thing which had come to pass. The stable is a place where there is always room. Jesus established a kingdom where there is always room for rich and poor, foreign and homegrown, young and old, laborer and professional. The question is not, Does Jesus have room for me? but, Do I have room for Jesus?!
The people of Côte d’Ivoire are learning to make room for Jesus in their lives, homes, and villages. The first Sunday in December, we were invited to the dedication of a new church out in a village. The people worked hard to get everything ready before Christmas to worship in their new church. They are striving to make room for Jesus in their village. They have built a new place of worship, which looks something like a stable, where everyone is welcome. It is a place of refuge for those in need of rest, a place of feeding on God’s Word for hungry souls, and a place of worship for those who experience a new birth of their own. Before the service, we followed the crowd down to a small pond where twenty-one believers testified of their new birth through baptism.
Then about four hundred people from several villages gathered to sing, dance, and celebrate the coming of Christ to this village. We ended by laying hands on their new building to dedicate it as a place of feeding, shelter, worship, and access for all who come and see the Christ—born anew in this village, not unlike the Bethlehem of two thousand years ago—a stable and all!
Larry and LeAnn Sellers are your career missionaries serving in Côte d’Ivoire.