We had met Brian two months before when the mission planning team visited Santiago. Our host drove us to a barrio so that we could see “The Hole” – a river bed with steep sides covered in garbage. People had set up shacks at the bottom of the garbage, on the river bed, and were living at the river’s edge. The sight was unbelievable and incomprehensible that people actually lived, slept and ate at the bottom of this garbage pile.
Brian’s mom, a young woman with another toddler, lived in a house three doors down from the edge of The Hole. Brian’s loud crying caught the attention of our group and we began talking to the young mother as she tried to comfort and quiet her child. To me Brian looked like he weighed maybe 7-8 pounds and I thought he was a newborn…but he was actually about 10 months old. He was emaciated and as he cried you could hear the fluid in his lungs. I noticed that his tongue was not fully developed and wondered how he was able to eat. The young mother explained Brian became sick shortly after birth and had been sick ever since. She had taken him to the doctor but had been unable to return for follow-up care.
As our group stood there, our eyes all met and we silently shared the thought that this little boy was very, seriously ill. One of the pastors traveling in our group asked if Brian was baptized and the young mother said no, explaining she could not afford the “cost” of the baptism in the Catholic Church. The pastor asked if she would like he child baptized and she began to cry and said “yes.yes.” He asked for a bowl of water and she quickly gathered it and invited us all into her small home. We stood together in her living room and the pastor spoke the emergency baptismal service in Spanish; we said the Lord’s Prayer and Brian was baptized. A small group of onlookers (family?) joined us and spoke the Lord’s Prayer along with us. The young mother continued to cry and give thanks to us all for performing the baptism.
When we left we were able to connect the young mother to a local agency for services and a medical doctor was able to visit Brian in his home. For a month or so they tried to help with some medicines, supplements and seeking medical evaluation but those efforts were not enough and Brian passed away during the first week of November, 2004.
I often look back on that experience and see it as the defining moment for me and my involvement in the mission work. I thank God for the baptism of Brian and the gifts he received – the forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death and the devil, and everlasting salvation. Just weeks before Brian’s death he received the gracious water of life. Just a couple doors down from the filth of “The Hole”, Brian received the washing of regeneration. Brian lived a short life on earth but lives eternally in heaven as a child of God. I look forward to the day when I am reunited with Brian amidst all the company of heaven prasing God together.