It was a cold day for getting baptized in the Jordan River in Israel. But Pedro and Nilsa San Miguel of Enterprise said they had to do it.
Pedro, an Army master sergeant, said the river’s water was about 40 degrees when they were there. Nilsa said they were provided a white robe and a towel for the event. Still, to be surrounded by so many others representing other religions, as well as rocks near the water that were thousands of years old and were there when Jesus was baptized in the same river, the San Miguels thought it was a great opportunity. They each were asked if they believed in Jesus, and then were submerged in the water and “come back reborn,” Pedro said.
“It was just great to recommit ourselves there in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized and John the Baptist was baptized and everybody, so it was just great,” Pedro said.
The San Miguels’ trip to Israel, which went from Jan. 21 to Feb. 1, was made possible by Freedom Alliance, a nonprofit group that provides services and programs such as therapy trips, dinners and donations for mortgage-free homes for military service members and their families, according to a news release.
Pedro, who spent 22 years in the Army, has been medically retired from the military since 2014 because of a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Nilsa said being home brings peace and quiet, with not as much to worry over. However, on the trip, she said she could see some anxiety and discomfort with him. But Pedro, who said he takes medication to help with anxiety and symptoms, said he was able to cope on the trip by doing things like being alone after dinner and to start again the next day.
“It was a great time. It was tough, but it was a great time,” he said.
Nilsa said that when they are doing things together, she is there to help him out.
“If I can see him getting anxious or if I can see his issues starting to come on, I’m right there with him to tell him ‘OK, it’s OK,’ or I know when to not go to a place or back down or we can walk away from an area,” she said.
Freedom Alliance also provides personnel on the trip who are aware of what the soldiers and veterans go through.
During the trip, the San Miguels also visited sites such as the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, the Garden of the Tomb and the Western Wall.
For the San Miguels, who have two children, it was their first trip in about 11 years when it was just the two of them, Nilsa said. It gave them an opportunity to reconnect, Pedro said.
“After all the struggles we’ve had with my injury, it was great to just rekindle and put that anxiety aside and be able to just connect with each other,” he said. “And being able to connect at such a holy site, such a spiritual place, as Christians we just can feel the spirit.”
Pedro has made other trips through Freedom Alliance. He made his first trip with the organization by himself a few years ago, but struggled and did not participate in some things because he did not have the energy. Things have improved, however.
“Now you see me three, four years later because of these trips and what Freedom Alliance has provided, you slowly see changes in me and growth in me and be able to cope with struggles,” he said.