It Happened at the Beach

Thirty-three years ago, we published this dramatic photo of a young man standing on a rock looking out toward the ocean at one of our beach baptisms. The baptism was January 2, 1972, the morning after New Years, at Will Rogers State Beach just north of Los Angeles. Recently we received a letter from the brother in the photo, Tom Lamb, who had discovered our web site.

"I passed out the Hollywood Free Paper in the early 70's, mostly on the streets and parks of Las Vegas," Tom wrote. "The photo is of me at 16, standing on a rock at the beach after my water baptism. I am facing away from the camera, soaking wet and being baptized in the Holy Spirit, just me and Jesus." More than twenty brothers and sisters had been baptized into God's forever family in the chilly 50-degree water that day. Tom and his friends had come from Las Vegas in a caravan of four cars.

"One of the guys who got baptized with us that day got saved by reading an issue of the Free Paper he found in the gutter," Tom recalled. "Remember all those papers and tracts people threw away? Some were still used by God." The brother Tom remembers was Chris, who read the HFP the day before at the Rose Parade in Pasadena. He made an unconditional surrender to Jesus while at the parade, and hitch-hiked to the baptism the next day from his home in Long Beach. As he hitch-hiked, Chris prayed for a Christian to pick him up, and sure enough, a brother soon did, and drove him the rest of the way to Will Rogers State Beach for the baptism. Chris came out of the water glowing in the Lord.

For Tom, the photo still "refocuses the day: the salt air, wet hair fresh from the waters of baptism, and of course that rock I stood on where the Spirit fell a little like He fell on Jesus after His baptism. That day helped me to connect with God more, and understand just what I had gotten myself into."

Tom had given his life to Jesus six weeks before the baptism, but wasn't sure exactly what it meant. "Was I a good Catholic now, a Protestant, some kind of counter culture Jesus groupie? I honestly didn't know. And, the notion of baptizing anyone but a baby was as foreign to me as it would be to a modern day Muslim." Confused, he decided to take a walk down the beach just prior to the baptism to "talk to my new friend Jesus about the matter."

"He told me my infant baptism was more of a dedication than a baptism which I had decided for myself. The shirt my sister had just given me for Christmas I had taken off and tucked into my pants like a flag waving behind me as I jogged through the surf. The voice of the Lord continued to speak into my confusion the following parable. The shirt was my old life, a life I had taken off, but still followed behind me. I was to tie it around a rock and throw it into the ocean. As I did so, I tripped and fell into the waves. 'There,' He said. 'If any one asks you, I baptized you. Now, go do it again in front of everyone else.'" Tom did as he was told, and after his baptism, "as I stood there on that rock in the photo, waves of the Spirit were breaking over me like the ones at my feet."

"A lot has changed since then," Tom wrote. "That skinny body in the photo is 25 pounds heavier from years of labor in skilled trades, and the outward changes are nothing compared to all the other changes in my life. I married a girl, Carol, who got saved praying the sinner's prayer in a Hollywood Free Paper, had and raised a family, moved to many places before settling in Michigan. We have seen the Church at some of her best, and, I am afraid, some of its worst. But my friend Jesus has been there through it all. If you were young and experienced Jesus then, well, let's go on together. If you are from the generation of our children or grandchildren, then your wave, my friend, is coming, and will be much bigger than ours was. Maranatha!"

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