Newport News, Virginia - Recently the Chalmers family of Newport News mourned the death of the man they all called "Papaw." Papaw, whose real name was Douglas Chalmers, died three months ago at the age of 82 after a year-long battle with cancer. While the family was saddened about losing Papaw, they were confident about Papaw's eternal destination, that is until a recent film made them question that confidence.
The trouble began over the weekend when the family gathered together to celebrate what would have been Papaw's 83rd birthday on Saturday. Richard Chalmers, Papaw's son had managed to obtain a copy of a film showing Papaw's baptism at the Newport News Church of Christ over 40 years ago. It was what the family saw in the film that now has them scarred that Papaw may not have made it to the Pearly Gates.
"I had found the film in Papaw's cedar chest after he passed away" said Richard Chalmers. "I was able to find a machine and watch it. I then paid a guy to have it transferred to DVD so that we could always have it. I naturally decided to bring it to the celebration this past weekend for everyone to see."
The family watched with smiles on their faces, until daughter Cortney Contrell noticed something strange.
"Courtney said 'Did y'all see that? His right big toe didn't go all the way under!'" said Richard Chalmers. "We ran the movie back several times and watched it over and over again, and we all saw the same thing. As Papaw was being dunked in the tub of water, his right foot came up and his big toe came out of the water about an inch, which means that he was never properly baptized."
While such an issue might seem insignificant to some, to the Chalmers family it's an matter of eternal importance.
"In our branch of the Church of Christ we believe that baptism saves you" said Thomas Chalmers, the eldest son. "If you're not properly baptized, if you don't get completely immersed then your not really saved. You've got to get all the way under that water or you just won't make it to heaven. We're all scared now, because as far as we know that's the only baptism that Papaw ever had."
The family is disparately searching records to find if Papaw was ever baptized again over the course of his life. But they they fear that all of their searches will turn up empty.
"We're bracing ourselves for the worst, but we're not giving up hope yet" said Thomas Chalmers. "Papaw really loved to fish, and on a number of occasions he went with his pastor buddies. Perhaps on one of those trips he may have been re-baptized and we just don't know about it. We're currently trying to track down all of our old ministers through the years to see if they know anything."
The incident has since prompted the entire family to get re-baptized over the weekend.
"We're not taking any chances" stated daughter Elizabeth. "How terrible it would be to have to suffer in hell for all eternity because of a toe."