A few weeks after we arrived in Cairo, we were invited to a baptism. A boy in the branch had turned eight and wanted to be baptized…in the Red Sea. (Take that, tepid baptism font by the Relief Society room!) My mind was blown by this, the Red Sea! Wow! I’ve heard of people getting baptized in Lake Michigan or the Mississippi River, but—no disrespect intended—that ain’t no Red Sea.
In Cairo branch fashion, it was a family event, with the branch members as the extended family. The fact that everyone is so far from their relatives means that church members go out of their way to provide friendship, comfort, and a sense of familiarity for one another. Something about the people of God bearing one another’s burdens, comforting those in need of comfort…
So we all met at the church, piled into cars, and drove in a modern caravan, no camels involved, to Ain Sukhna, a beach resort area about an hour and a half away. We passed some of the resorts until we arrived at a more isolated stretch, where our caravan of Mormon minivans with diplomat license tags pulled over on the side of the road. We walked across the street and climbed down onto a narrow jut of beach and rock surrounded by aqua water. I guess I didn’t really think the Red Sea would actually be red (don’t laugh at me – you’ve all thought that too at some point), but I definitely never pictured it as being so stunningly blue.
We spread out towels and blankets and settled onto the sand for a prayer and a hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” one of my favorites. As we sang about the beauty of the world God’s hands had made, I found myself overcome. I looked at the calm water, once such an integral part of the journey of God’s people and a continuing symbol of divine deliverance, and then around at the branch members who had been gathered together as a family to welcome a boy into their community. I felt God’s greatness and presence.
The boy walked out into the Red Sea accompanied by his grandfather, a striking white-haired man who in church the day before had shared his experiences about losing his wife to a prolonged illness and then finding strength in Christ again. With the words of the baptismal prayer, the boy was immersed under the waters of the Red Sea and emerged dripping wet and grinning ear to ear. I found myself smiling too as I looked out at the pair dressed in white, standing waist deep in the blue water with the sun dancing on the gently lapping waves.
After the baptism, we celebrated with fresh juices and cake, then waded out into the sea and swam for a while. From shore the sea floor appeared to be brown and ordinary. But once I put on a snorkeling mask and peered below the surface, I discovered a million vibrant colors: blue coral, bright fish, sea urchins waving in the current, and shells that I had only seen as decorations in people’s homes. I snorkeled around for a while enjoying this panorama until I heard a shout. Having just watched Shark Week on Discovery Channel, I panicked and shot up out of the water. To my relief, it wasn’t a Mormon baptism version of “Jaws.” A dolphin had popped up next to one of the swimmers! We rushed out of the water and to the top of the rocks, where we watched it continue on its path across the Red Sea, a second one trailing behind in the distance. Once they had disappeared from sight, we slowly climbed down and gathered our things together for the drive back to the city.
Cross-posted at State of D’Nile.