It all began late one evening in the spring of 1967. I was sitting alone in our family room watching the movie King of Kings on our first-ever color TV. It was a movie about the life of Jesus, and it held me in rapt attention. At the end of the movie, I started to cry. After I turned off the TV, wave after wave of tears of repentance flooded over me. That night Jesus started me on my journey. The next weeks were the best of my life up to that point. I knew I had a new purpose: to serve my Savior no matter what. I felt incredibly blessed to be given a new and glorious life of faith in God. Little did I know just how far my journey would take me.
I was unsure what I would do with my life when I graduated from Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, California, where I had shown promising ability as an actor. Everyone was shocked that I’d decided not to pursue acting, and even more, to not go to college or find a job. When I was asked what my plans were, my response was that I was going to live in a community with other Christians where we would work the land and hold everything in common. Needless to say, this didn’t sit too well with my parents, and my stepfather summarily ejected me from the house. I became a social outcast, or what was referred to then as a “hippie.” I went off to the Santa Cruz Mountains and lived in a cave for awhile. I tried to enter a Catholic monastery in Big Sur, but the abbot said I’d have to shave off my beard. I said “no thanks,” and eventually joined up with some other hippies at a ranch on China Grade Road near Ben Lomond. It wasn’t long before I went astray from my calling and started living a life that was contrary to our Lord’s teachings. During that time, through wayward living, I did damage to both my soul and my body. I wasn’t to stay that way for long; God had plans for me.
The ranch was closed down by the owner, so I found my way to Eugene, Oregon where I managed to locate a group of Christian hippies, who were starting the first Shiloh House. Upon entering the house, I was asked if I knew Jesus. I said I thought so, and they said I need to ask Jesus into my heart. I asked Jesus to come into my heart, and immediately I felt all the damage I’d done to myself was healed. He brought me back to a state of innocence, completely restored to my former self. I stayed in the house, working as a member of the Shiloh Youth Revival Ministry. In a few years, the ministry grew into a network of houses in major cities from coast to coast supported through agricultural endeavors that served to bring wayward youth back to a life of sobriety and Christian belief. I was fortunate in that I had found a place to be useful to God in some small way. But the Christianity I experienced there wasn’t fulfilling. There was always a desire for something better; something sustaining.
Fast forward to 1978. The Shiloh ministry was closing down. I was set adrift again, free as the wind and ready for another adventure. I ended up in Los Angeles to maybe be an actor, but mostly I was a fish out of water after being in another world for nine years. It took me awhile to get my bearings socially, but it wasn’t long before I’d gone back to school, studied electronics, found work, got married, raised kids, and went church-hopping for about thirty years. The last church I joined before becoming Orthodox was the Charismatic Episcopal Church (CEC). It was there that I studied church history at their seminary and started to learn about Orthodoxy.
Around the time I was seriously contemplating becoming Orthodox, I had a dream that influenced my search. Through discussions with my pastor at the Charismatic Episcopal Church I decided against becoming Orthodox. There was uncertainty about how my family would be affected by my decision. This dream however planted a seed that took some time, but blossomed nonetheless. In the dream, I was in a city searching for a church. I came upon a large building built of polished marble, inlaid on one corner with gold Orthodox-style lettering of all the donors who had made the building possible. But the most impressive thing was experiencing the “unfeigned love of the brethren” among the people that I saw there. This I’ve experienced many times over in real life since I’ve become Orthodox.
A few years later I took a new job in Irvine, California and then moved to Mission Viejo. My wife and I went to the CEC cathedral in San Clemente on our first opportunity. There and then I made my decision that it was time. I’d seen enough folly. I wanted reality. I wanted the true Church. The next Sunday I went alone to visit St. John the Theologian Antiochian Orthodox Church in San Juan Capistrano and found my home. I didn’t think it would happen, but I actually came to love the Church. Not just the people there, but the Church as an entity in and of Herself. She was nourishing me in ways I’d never imagined, bringing me from strength to strength, and from victory to victory, and continues to do so to this day. I’m so grateful that after 40 years in the wilderness, I finally reached the Promised Land.
I was in Mission Viejo for only just a little over a year. In October of 2007 I was offered a new job at Nvidia here in Beaverton. So I packed my bags and of course looked to see if there were any Orthodox Churches in the neighborhood. I visited St. John the Baptist, and have remained here ever since. I was still a catechumen when I arrived, but later I was Chrismated on Nativity in 2007 at St. John the Theologian. It was the best Christmas present ever.