After speaking to us, Ted assumed that the reason I had decided not to go on the trip to Prague was simply because I had decided not to serve as a supervisor any more (after only three months of holding the position!). In this he was correct. However, he was not at all prepared to hear the specific reason why I no longer wanted to be a supervisor!
A few days after I called Ted, Jennifer and I drove to Zagreb to meet with Ted and his wife Teresa. After a little bit of uncomfortable small talk, I said, “Ted, I don’t want to beat around the bush with you. Jennifer and I have been studying the Orthodox Church, and we have decided to convert to Orthodoxy. Therefore, we will be resigning our positions as missionaries and returning to the States.”
Ted was stunned. I don’t think he would have been more shocked if I had told him that I had murdered 50 people and was on the run from the Banja Luka police! At first, he didn’t know what to say. Finally, he began to try and talk us out of it. He raised objection after objection about Orthodoxy, and I answered them as best I could. All of his objections concerned issues that Jennifer I had grappled with ourselves and had eventually overcome. His greatest problem with Orthodoxy was that the Church does not agree with any of the five points of Calvinism! At one point, he even ran out of the room and brought back a paper that he had written in seminary about the alleged errors of Orthodoxy. Needless to say, I did not find the paper persuasive.
After an hour or so, he realized that he was not going to talk us out of becoming Orthodox, so he changed tactics. Now he tried to convince us to stay in spite of the fact that we were Orthodox in heart—the very idea that I had entertained, but which Bob and Jennifer had talked me out of. I’ll never forget what he said to me, while he was on the verge of tears: “You could open up the Orthodox branch of the International Mission Board!” We were touched and flattered by his persistent attempts to keep us around, but we knew that this idea would not work.
We assured him that we were as sorry to leave as he was to see us go (we would later realize just how sorry after we were back home!). He finally gave up, and made one request of us: that we not tell anyone why we were leaving until after we had arrived home. He wanted first to protect us from incessant questions and possible scorn from colleagues and nationals, and also to make sure that our team’s and our organization’s mission was not undermined. We had no desire to do anything that could possibly hurt our employer, and so we wholeheartedly agreed.
We asked him if we could have six weeks to sell most of our things, pack the rest, and say goodbye to all our friends. He readily agreed, and wished us the best. Even though he could not understand why we wanted to do what we were planning to do, he was still kind and supportive of us as people.
After having talked with Ted and Teresa for over two hours, we drove back to Banja Luka, relieved that this difficult step was over with. Now we were faced with the difficult task of preparing for another cataclysmic change in our lives. Once again, we would be starting over…
1st Sunday of Great Lent: Sunday of Orthodoxy
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