I was born and raised in a close knit, loving, Christian family. Both my parents were involved in the church for as long as I can remember. My father worked for the Boy Scouts and as a result we moved several times during my childhood (Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota and New Jersey) but wherever we were my mom was involved in the church. I went to Sunday school, vacation bible school, and even youth retreats (at the beach) when we lived in New Jersey. I sang in the youth choir and was active in the youth group when I was in high school (New Jersey). I enjoyed church as a kid. It was a place that I felt I belonged and was comfortable. Most of the time we were members of the Presbyterian church but when we lived in Minnesota, our small town did not have a Presbyterian church so we went to the Congregational church. I didn’t notice that there was much difference and when asked one time, my mom told me the critical things weren’t different.
As a single adult with no children, I found it difficult to “fit in” in church. I tried a few times but was dissatisfied so I just quit trying.
I attended a small Methodist sponsored college in Minnesota and As part of my “liberal arts” education (I have a BA in Biology), I was required to take at least 1 religion course. The course I chose to take was a comparison of the major religions of the Western world (Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism [CPJ]). This gave me my first serious look at religion in a much broader sense and introduced me to religious dogma that was, in some respects, quite different.
After college, I drifted away from regular church attendance and membership. As a single adult with no children, I found it difficult to “fit in” in church. I tried a few times but was dissatisfied so I just quit trying. I would go to church occasionally with friends or family but never found a place to call home and did not feel a need to go to a formal church. I saw myself as a good Christian because I tried to treat everyone the way I wanted to be treated (the golden rule has always been a good idea)and I thought of myself as a kind, compassionate, honest person.
When I was asked to write my faith story, my first thought was “I don’t have a faith story” or at least I don’t know what my faith story is. In the past few months as I have been thinking about this I realize that my story is actually in the process of evolving.
Traveling through Europe with 2 friends from college for 3 months on the “$5/day plan” also lessened my hold on any formal, specific church. We traveled through a dozen different countries and met and interacted with a lot of local people. I saw a lot of good but also a lot of bad that came from people who abused “religion”. I became leery of people who appeared to take their own “religion” too seriously, passionately. To me it tended to equate, “intolerance”. To be sure, at this time most of my friends were of the same mind so I became very comfortable in the “light, casual” relationship to church/religion.
When I was asked to write my faith story, my first thought was “I don’t have a faith story” or at least I don’t know what my faith story is. In the past few months as I have been thinking about this I realize that my story is actually in the process of evolving. I realize that my faith in God and Jesus has always been firm but it has always been more intellectual than emotional. The deaths of my parents, a very close friend and even the sudden, unexpected accidental death of my niece did not shake my belief in God, Jesus or heaven. I knew in my head and in my heart they were all safe and in good hands. I also think of God as benevolent.
Recently, I have found a church family and I have begun studying the Bible. It happened somewhat by accident. A lifelong friend who was staying with us said to me one Sunday, “Come on, we’re going to church.” My sister had been attending church since we moved to Delaware, but I had been content to stay home. One Sunday the music director said the handbell choir needed more members. I thought, “No, I wasn’t ready to get involved.” At the end of the service I found myself volunteering for bell choir! Not long afterward I was invited to serve on the church session. That idea was really scary, but here I am serving as Outreach Elder!
Although there was no sudden AHH HAA moment in my life that made me think “Wow that was God”, my faith has always been there.
More Faith Stories
I remember being in church and going up to the altar and crying. I was so tired of the life I was living. I needed help. I felt a sense of peace at that time and knew that if this Jesus thing can work for some of these other guys, then it can definitely work for me.
I said to myself, “Why should anyone envy me and want to be in my shoes?”
God has led me to amazing places in my life, so let me explain how God led me from South Carolina to Kenya.
We built the first church with great difficulty. We went back to the States and the board asked us to become mission staff with the Outreach Foundation. That was 25 years ago, just about, and we’ve gotten more involved with Kenya as days and years went on.
I am a chef by profession. I’m happy because I do what I love. Now I work at Villadise Tours and Safaris, where I meet so many different people coming from far. Being helpful is just a blessing to other people.
Then God started tugging on my heart. There was a church sermon series that was about taking your God-given dream off the shelf. I was like, “I don’t know what my dream is. God, if you have a dream for me you’re going to have to tell me what it is.”