By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA – Baptism for several years seemed like it would remain just a dream for Belarusian teen Anna Atrohkina.
Although Atrohkina accepted Jesus as Savior in 2015, she had not been able to attend the annual baptism services at her church in Mogilev, Belarus in either 2016 or 2017.
The church does not have a baptistery and, because of extreme weather conditions in the winter, only baptizes once a year in a nearby river.
So when the opportunity was presented August 5 at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria, she jumped at the chance to be baptized.
Surrounded by a few friends and several hundred others inside the worship center, Atrohkina stepped into the water for her long-awaited moment.
“In my understanding, baptism for me is immersion in the death of Jesus Christ and renewal to a new life,” Atrohkina said in an e-mail to the Baptist Message. “The past is behind. Jesus gave me the chance to write a new book of my life.”
Wayne Taylor, who is executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Foundation, and his wife, Joanna, served as the host home during her Louisiana visit.
They both beamed with excitement as Atrohkina stepped into the baptistery.
“While in Louisiana, Anna challenged me with her life style to be different than the world and to be set apart from the world,” he told the Baptist Message. “It is easy for Christians in the USA to blend in and not stand out or be different than the world, at least in our part of the southern US.”
Taylor met the young Belarusian and her sister, Liza, in September 2016 when he and a group of Louisiana Baptists participated in a mission trip in her hometown of Mogilev. The Louisiana Baptist Convention in 2014 began to encourage Louisiana Baptist churches to send teams to partner with Byelorussian Mission.
The friendship blossomed, and after a second mission trip to Belarus in 2017 he and his wife arranged for Atrohkina to visit Louisiana.
“I could feel the Holy Spirit in Anna, that God had His hand on her and that God will use her in some special way,” Taylor told the Baptist Message. “I wanted Anna to visit the USA and let people know how God is at work in Belarus and how we can encourage the believers and help them spread the Gospel there.
“Once Anna Atrohkina came to share with Louisiana Baptist how Christ changed her life, we were able to see how wonderful that the Gospel is a worldwide message for everyone and how we can encourage each other to be strong in our faith and spread the Gospel.”
Like others who are baptized at Calvary Baptist, Atrohkina chose a word to appear on a shirt she wore for the special occasion. Her word, ‘brave,’ signifies how courageous a Christ follower must be to live out his or her faith in Belarus.
Seth Carnes, education minister at Calvary Baptist, told the congregation shortly before the baptism that it was a privilege to baptize and celebrate the moment with Atrohkina.
“It’s a good reminder for us all that God is not a God of just Central Louisiana or the United States or the English speaking world,” Carnes said. “But God is a God with a global mission, a global purpose, and He is at work all over this world where she came to faith in Christ in her home country several years ago.”