So Urmas and I had sprung our Orthodox “epiphany” upon our poor unsuspecting wives. And I do think they were unsuspecting. To that point, I suppose they thought we were just goofing off or something. Dabbling, perhaps, but never really converting. But we blew that thought right out of the water at our little dinner party.
We were living in a mini-stalemate for a few weeks. Each Sunday, Urmas and I would head to the Liturgy. As we walked out the door, Kadri and Debbie would get together to conspire against us. I think there was even a phone call or two back to the United States to mothers about should they stay with us and live in a two religion household or should they leave us, etc. Thankfully, their moms were a level-headed and advised a calm and cool approach, so no lawyers got involved.
Urmas and I did have a formal meeting with His Eminence, Met. Stefanos, where we asked several pointed questions and got some sage advice, regarding our situation. His advice was to continue to do what we were doing, to learn about Orthodoxy and just follow the path before us. Pretty much any reservations that we had at that point were dealt with in this interview and we both became 100% committed to becoming Orthodox.
I mentioned that I was talking with Fr. Joseph Huneycutt. At the time, he still lived in North Carolina and we were actually looking for jobs in his neck of the woods, just in case.
Then the roof caved in. I don’t want to get into details, because some of it is personal and some has to do with Urmas’ family. So for privacy sake, I will just hit the highlights of the next few weeks. In early June 2005, Urmas and I determined that we had to make a move. We couldn’t ride the fence any longer. We sent a letter to our sponsoring churches back in the US and informed them that we needed to begin planning our return to Texas. We gave several reasons (all of which were true), and honestly we skirted the Orthodox issue, as we were trying to cause as little disruption as possible.
Apparently, telling the eldership (leaders) of a Church of Christ that you no longer hold to traditional CoC theology is still considered a pretty big deal. Lots of disruption ensued. To make a long story short, within three weeks, Urmas and his family was back in the USA. We would have been on the plane with them, but we still were working on the immigration paperwork for Tommy, so we had to hang around for another four months.
It turned out to be four of the longest months I have ever lived through. If you know me personally, you know that I tend to be upbeat and humor-filled. However, I actually think I flirted with depression around September of that year. For the past year, Urmas and I had gone down this road together. We had struggled with the theology together. We had wrestled with the logistics of it all together. We had even faced the wrath of our wives over this situation together. Now we both found ourselves alone, separated by 8,000 miles. We both began to crack.
Understand that Debbie was not just non-Orthodox. She had become ANTI-Orthodox. My dallying with Orthodoxy had cost us our livelihood and our dream. We had spent years trying to move to the mission field and in one fell swoop, I had killed that dream. We had worked for years for little churches that could barely pay us enough to eat. But as missionaries, we were making more money than we ever had before – even with the lousy exchange rate (and don’t get me started on that). Now it was all gone. Preaching of any kind was out. I had an English degree, but wasn’t certified to teach. The only thing I was really qualified to do, I couldn’t do anymore. So, needless to say, Debbie had had all of Orthodoxy she wanted.
The Hale kids and Debbie, who is thinking "I'll smile for the picture, even though my husband has lost his ever-loving mind!"
During that summer, I started an online Masters program with a state university in Alabama. This one differed from the religious courses I had taken before. Of course, my gravy train for education had dried up, so I was on my own. So I began the new program, which was a Masters of Arts in Teaching English degree. I was hoping to finish it by the next summer and then get a job teaching at a community college.
Little did I know that the cracks in my armor would grow and things would take a most unexpected turn in the coming months.