I was raised in a Christian home with my family being in many denominations, primarily Four Square, which to me really just seemed like a blending of Baptist and Pentecostal practices (“Bapticostal” as they say). There was a big emphasis on the Bible and the gifts of the Holy Spirit: speaking in tongues, prophesying, faith healing etc.
As a youth, I remember my father talking about how much Christ loved us and that He died for our sins, to save us. So I said “The Sinner’s Prayer” and accepted Jesus in my heart. As I grew into my teens I became less interested in religion and Christianity as a whole. I pretty much lived as an agnostic and really only cared about myself. I always carried with me a love of nature; and it would be when I was either deep in the forest, in a park, or just in the backyard being still and quiet that I was brought back to my days as a child finding quiet places to hide—and I could feel God’s presence.
I spent most of my teen years searching. I looked to drugs and alcohol, hoping to find something. I started to notice a lot of the people I grew up with partying with living that lifestyle, or even worse seeing the effects of drugs in their life. I decided then to actually live my life for God and became active in church and seeking God. It was at this time that I was introduced to reggae music and, through that, the Rastafarian faith. So much of Bob Marley’s music is saturated with Scripture. (In his latter days he was baptized Orthodox.)
I was fascinated by these people who shunned society and sought to live simply. They also had an immense love for the Scriptures. This is what got me to search the Bible, seeking answers. I really started to get into the history of the church and the Bible. I felt that the Christianity I had been given didn’t tell the whole story. I only knew of the tradition I had been given and of the Roman Catholic Church. I wanted to know how and why they were different. I started digging deeper and found out about the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia.
I was excited and told my wife about this Ancient Church. She wasn’t surprised at all. She herself was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church as an infant. But she was given Orthodoxy very ethnically with little to no emphasis on faith. My wife and I spent many years visiting churches and landed at a non-denominational church for a few years. We enjoyed it for a time, but slowly their teachings evolved and changed making us question what we believe. We knew we didn’t believe what they taught about God, but what did we believe about God?
We ended up leaving that church and spending a few months “in the wilderness,” searching Scriptures, praying, reading various books, and coming together to discuss what we were experiencing. My wife and I both had attractions to “Eastern” religions thinking something might be missing from our current practice. We tried this for a time, but it didn’t stick. I wasn’t ready to whole-heartedly abandon Christ. My wife had visited the local Roman Catholic church a few times and enjoyed it, but it didn’t really land with her. I suggested maybe trying an Orthodox church. She had read about an Orthodox reading room in Forest Grove that maybe we could visit first. We went and asked a bunch of questions. We met Jodi Hailey, who later became a dear friend, and she talked with us for quite a while and suggested we visit the local parish she attends in Beaverton called St. John the Baptist.
So we went without the kids to our first Liturgy on Zacchaeus Sunday of 2015. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew I was home. The icons, the incense, the chanting, all of it just enchanted me. My wife and I brought our children after that and kept attending services and fell in love. We had (and still do have) many questions, but God met us where we were. On Holy Saturday 2016 we were received into the Church. Myself and my children were baptized, and my wife and I had our marriage blessed.