Christians swept downriver during baptism in Peru, rescued by police

Rosa Jiménez Bartolo gets swept downriver with her brother in a baptism gone wrong | Screenshot: Canal N

Most baptisms don’t end with police intervention, but when two Peruvian Christians got swept away by a river, they needed to be rescued to survive.

According to local reports, Rosa Jiménez Bartolo was getting baptized by her brother, a pastor, in Peru’s Rímac river on Dec. 28. 

With her sister-in-law watching, he lowered her into the fast-flowing river.

“I baptize you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” her brother said in Spanish as he lowered her into the river.

In a video recording of the baptism, Bartolo is seen lowering herself slowly into the hip-high water. As she started to rise, she lost her balance, and the river swept her forward, knocking over her brother. The brown waters carried the pair swiftly downriver, while another church member unsuccessfully tried to help.

The person filming the baptism dropped the camera, and said “Oh my God!” The change from ceremony to calamity took only seconds to happen.

Police responded when a church member asked them for help.

“We were patrolling Ramiro Prialé Highway when we got a request for help from one of her relatives. Immediately, we mounted a search and found them 100 meters from the place, submerged in the water. We rescued them and took them to a medical post,” local police officials told the Peru-based daily newspaper La Republica.

Police saved Bartolo and her brother, who both survived. 

Her brother’s name remains unreleased. The pair both attend an evangelical church, according to a local report

National Police of Peru major Erick Acosta said that people should avoid getting baptized in the Rímac now because Peru’s rainy season creates dangerous river conditions.

“As there were no swimming pools and they are closed in Huachipa, they chose to go to the Rímac River,” he said on America TV.

In the video, the river runs deep and fast. On rare occasions, river baptisms can go wrong with dangerous effects.

In 1992, a pastor and two congregation members drowned in South Africa after being swept away by a river. Police found their bodies hours later.

A similar incident happened in Tanzania, where two worshippers drowned during a baptism in a river with strong currents.

Even indoor baptisms aren’t exempt from accidents. 

In 2005, a Texas pastor was electrocuted in front of 800 people after grabbing a high-powered microphone while standing in the water. He was later pronounced dead. 

Baptism demonstrates a Christian’s entry into a new life through Jesus. In the New Testament, God commands believers to get baptized. In Christian tradition, different denominations have disagreed on the proper time or way to get baptized.

The first baptisms recorded in Scripture happened in the Jordan River.

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