Rolando first caught my attention in a Sabbath afternoon hour of prayer. He came with his Adventist girlfriend and her daughter from a previous marriage. We all welcomed him with sincerity knowing that he possibly wasn't of the Advent faith.
After that initial contact I noted that no one ever befriended him and this seemed to cause his Adventist girlfriend concern. When I took it upon myself to approach the man, I could see her gratefulness by her friendly manner every time she saw me every time we met.
I learned bits and pieces of what he believed and it fascinated me while it alarmed others. In a small study group in which the pastor was present Rolando mentioned that he had studied metaphysics before he had become interested in Christianity. I was the only one in the group that responded positively to his statement.
Later that week he told me he was in the process of reading the entire Bible and that he was making great headway. I envied the man for his thoroughness and lamented by obsessive detail to footnotes and meditating on just one verse which causes by complete reading of the Bible to proceed very slowly.
Yesterday, again I noticed that no one was engaging him in conversation after church and that he was walking around looking for someone to talk to. I took it upon myself to approach him and greet him, if nothing else. The conversation we had was mostly him talking and I'd pipe in bits and pieces that I felt were of value. As he spoke I was concerned that perhaps someone more traditional in Adventist beliefs should be talking to him, but I quickly asked God to help me say the right thing. As he spoke of his attendance at other Christian churches I found myself trying to carefully present the value of the Advent message. In part I did it for his Adventist girlfriend whom I knew would appreciate someone saying positive things about her church of choice to a man that was becoming more and more important in her formerly single life.
What Rolando told me would, no doubt, alarm most Adventists in attendance that morning at my conservative/mainstream Adventist church. He told me that in a church which he couldn't quite identify he had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands by the minister of that particular church. He described that he himself had not fallen to the floor as had others when similarly touched on the forehead. But he assured me that the realization and the enhanced spiritual altered state of consciousness that he experienced then and continued experiencing for days after that were the most life-changing and gratifying experiences he had ever encountered.
Years ago I myself would have run away or excused myself as courteously as I could after having heard him talk of this Spirit gift or Spirit baptism.
He told me that he came to his senses in the midst of his heightened sense of being with the realization that even though he'd like to only focus on this awareness of the Holy Spirit he realized that he had duties to his fellow man and their problems, as well.
He told he that having been a communist he had immersed himself in Marxism as well as philosophy and metaphysics when he lived in Cuba. But, he said, nothing compared to the joy and excellence of being immersed in the Holy Spirit experience.
I shared with him what I could courteously about my visit a year ago to a charismatic church. The only complaint I cared to tell him was that the Christian rock music used almost non-stop in the service was too loud for my ears. He said that it was probably a good idea to have Christian rock to keep the young people coming to church. The church was full of young people so perhaps his statement was valid.
I wanted to tell him of my experiences with the Holy Spirit. We exchanged cell phone numbers so perhaps one day soon we'll get the chance to have another conversation like the one we had yesterday.
When his Adventist girlfriend showed up and said they had to go home to lunch, he thanked me and told her about the incredible spiritual conversation we had been having. It was more me listening to his experiences, but perhaps that was more important. I did very little witnessing or evangelizing and what little I shared about Adventist authors I had read in the past few years, was of interest to him.
Now my question is this. Is this man and his experience of Holy Spirit baptism as valid as that of the Spirit-filled Adventists in attendance on this past Sabbath morning? Or, more alarmingly, is it more valid that anything I've encountered in my many years in the Adventist movement?
I'll need to study more, pray more and encounter more people who claim they have a valid experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.