Karen Allen, dean and professor at Valparaiso University (right), baptizes Prof. Erin Stafford Dormedy in the River Jordan, the same site where Jesus was baptized.
On February 3, 2022, an email from the Jewish National Fund landed in my mailbox seeking competitive proposals from faculty, for a unique two-week scholarly opportunity. They eventually selected 30+ faculty from across the country to engage in an exchange of scholarship with faculty at various colleges and universities in Israel.
Excited as I was about being chosen, things happened that had me rethinking this decision. A couple of the appointments I had in place with professors in Israel were cancelled. Then, the day before I was to leave for the trip to Israel, someone ran into the back of my car. On the morning I was to leave, I became ill. But each time, the Lord said, “Karen, get on the plane and go to Israel.”
When we arrived in Israel, some of us did so without our luggage. As I walked the baggage claim area of Ben Gurion Airport looking for my luggage, I suddenly realized I was not alone. One of the professors in the group was walking with me.
As we followed the daily itinerary we visited famous Holy sites. At these sites, the tour guide would ask biblical questions. I did not respond to any, as my goal was to be invisible and rest. However, the same professor who walked the airport with me as I searched for my luggage, answered all of the questions correctly. This indicated to me that she was a pupil of the Word, the Bible.
On Tuesday of the first week of this trip, the shooting occurred at the school in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen Latino children lost their lives. But we continued with our itinerary uninterrupted, which bothered me immensely. I felt compelled to ask that we come together and intercede on behalf of these families. Everyone participated either by silent prayer, positive thoughts, or companionable grieving through moments of silence.
The tours of the Holy Land were great, but by the end of the first week, I had only been to one appointment with a professor; and was wondering why I had come to Israel. My answer came immediately.
Friday, we visited the City of David, the Western Wall, or the Wailing Wall as some call it, the Holy Sepulcher, and the Via Dela Rosa. In the midst of these tours, the professor who had walked with me while I searched for lost luggage, and was answering all of the bible questions from the tour guide, approached me with a plea.
She stated, “Tomorrow we go to the Jordan River and I want to be baptized where Jesus was baptized. Would you baptize me?” I was stunned! I asked her, “How did you know that I had authority to baptize?” And her response was, “I was impressed to ask you.” It was then that I realized the Holy Spirit had compelled me to pray for Uvalde, and pull me out of invisibility.
Then, it hit me. This was the reason I had come to Israel!
I bowed my head in prayer to God, asking for His forgiveness of my attitude of wanting to be invisible, when He had a gloriously Divine Appointment set up for me. I also prayed that he would cleanse me of any unworthiness and only see Jesus, as I baptized this precious soul.
As instructed in the Seventh-day Adventist Elders Handbook (2017), I contacted Abraham Henry, associate secretary of the Lake Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to seek approval to baptize her; and received permission. The remainder of the day, and all night I prayed for her and myself.
On Sabbath morning, May 28, 2022, I was blessed with the honor, pleasure and privilege of baptizing Prof. Erin Stafford Dormedy from Fresno, California, in the Jordan River. Dr. Dormedy shared that coming up out of the water she felt like a new person.
It was a powerful moment that will forever be stamped on Erin’s heart, as well as mine. To me, the baptism was the high moment of our trip, and it had a rippling impact, unanticipated by Erin and myself, but not by God.
I had thought the baptism would occur in a small, discrete corner of the Jordan River. However, when I came out of the bathroom changed into my baptismal robe, the other professors on this trip with us were standing there with phone cameras ready. It truly warmed my heart to see the love and support for Erin.
The reactions we received were further proof that God had moved in a mighty way on the banks of the River Jordan that morning.
“Karen, I don’t know what to say about this. I am speechless. All I can say, is that it was so spiritual. Thank you.”
“I heard of this thing called baptism, but had never seen one. This was just beautiful, thank you.”
“I was raised Baptist, now I am Atheist. But I am reconsidering that position, after seeing this.”
Days later another professor approached me and stated, “I missed my chance. I should have been baptized by you in the Jordan River. I have been studying the bible for 10 years. And the Lord has been telling me it is time to get baptized. When I heard on the bus that you were going to baptize Erin, my heart was deeply touched. I wanted you to baptize me as well, but I did not want to get us off schedule.”
Once again, I found myself speechless as I realized just how important my Divine Appointment in Israel really was to God. I spent a few more hours talking with this professor and encouraging his next steps for baptism.
In conclusion, 2 Timothy 4:2 tells us, “be prepared in season and out of season…” Let us keep our eyes open for Divine Appointments set up by God. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be used by Him.
The song says,
“I’ll say yes Lord yes, to Your Will and to Your Way,
I’ll say yes Lord yes, I will trust you and obey;
when Your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I’ll agree,
and my answer will be yes, Lord yes!”
Karen Allen, PhD, RN, FAAN, is dean and professor at Valparaiso University's College of Nursing and Health Professions and serves as an elder at the Niles Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church in Niles, Michigan.