After spending most of his life as an atheist, new believer Thomas Roberts was baptized in early September during his final days.
Roberts, who passed away on Sept. 9, was dying of lung cancer. He was wheelchair bound and dependent on oxygen tubes to breathe, but he had one final wish: he wanted to be baptized.
Neither Corey Agricola, a chaplain at the University of Alabama Birmingham Hospital, nor the palliative care team were going to stand in the way of Roberts’ desire to be baptized, according to a post from UAB.
Roberts knew he had only days to live, so the team at UAB had to act quickly. Agricola spoke with Roberts’ physician, Dr. Ashley Nichols, to make sure he could be taken off oxygen long enough to be entirely submerged underwater.
Once he got Nichols’ approval, Agricola and a team of medical staffers went to work.
“Dr. Nichols made it clear he would only be able to be off oxygen for a few seconds, which meant we couldn’t roll him down the ramp in the pool wheelchair, so we had to use the chairlift to place him in the pool,” the chaplain said.
Agricola described Roberts’ harrowing baptism as “the greatest day of my career,” which has spanned 20 years of ministry, seven of which have been at UAB.
Standing in the poll, the chaplain read Romans 6:4-11, which states:
For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
“Thomas, you never thought you would preach a sermon in your life; but you preached today,” Agricola before baptizing Roberts. “You made an impact on people who you do not even know.”
He added, “We thank God for the good and perfect gift of this day. This is one of the greatest days of your life, Thomas, because we are celebrating your new life.”
Roberts was surrounded by his wife, son, two sisters, niece, and nephew.
Gina Gibson, one of Roberts’ sisters, said her brother’s baptism brings her “complete comfort and peace” because she “know[s] where he is going now.”
“I don’t have to worry about it,” she continued. “Now there will be great joy just knowing where he is going. He is at peace. He was born again. You could see that on his face after the baptism. He was born again.”
David Gibson, Roberts’ nephew, praised the team at UAB for being so helpful and accommodating. “You moved everything around — all of the departments worked together to make it happen,” he said. “I give all the glory to God, but you guys rocked it.”