Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Hales' Journey, conclusion: A New Beginning

Newly Illumined Clint and Debbie and kids, right before their Baptism and Chrismation (with Fr. Matthew, Dn. Mel, and myself behind them) - what a day of rejoicing it was!

We have basically reached the end of the story, at least as it pertains to our family’s conversion to Orthodoxy. When we left off last time, we had just moved to a new town to the west of Houston. I had just taken a job teaching for a rural community college.

Not long after we arrived at our new home, we entered the Lenten season. It was also the time the college started having many teachers’ meetings that were catered. I enjoyed digging through the various offerings to try and find something that I could eat. I got excited at one meeting because one of the other instructors turned and said, “Oh, I am so glad they remembered it is Lent!” I couldn’t wait. I finally would have something besides bread sticks and fruit! Alas, my co-worker is Roman Catholic. The Lenten offering was fish.

But that was about the only bump in the road. It had been a tumultuous road that we had traveled, at times. But the last several months were anti-climactic, as far as turmoil and angst are concerned. We worked hard to fast properly and prepare ourselves for Pascha.

Finally, the day arrived. We all got up early on a Saturday morning and drove to Houston to St. Joseph’s. Fr. Matthew gave us a few final reminders on what to do (mainly directed at the kids to make sure they plugged their noses and things like that). Fr. James and Fr. Matthew took turns doing the various tasks: anointing us with oil, leading us in the questions and responses and things like that. Finally, six years after I first entered an Orthodox Church (and made a fool of myself), my family and I were baptized and chrismated into Holy Orthodoxy.

On a side note, I will let you know that Urmas and Kadri and their children were also received into Holy Orthodoxy on the same day. Unfortunately, we weren’t together when it happened, but we take joy in knowing we did it all on the same day. Our entire protestant missionary team, children and all, are now all Orthodox. God certainly does move in mysterious ways.

Since we have reached the end of the story, I thought I would close with a quick description of how our families reacted to the news. I refer to my family and Debbie’s family (I will let Urmas and Kadri tell their own story some day).

My family was pretty easy. Since both of my parents are deceased, I didn’t have to worry about them. My only sibling is three years younger than me. I don’t usually have to worry about lectures from him. I told him about your plans and he reacted in typical fashion, letting me know that he knew little about Orthodoxy, but that we were brothers and he loved me. Honestly, he probably thinks I am nuts (he has spent most of the last decade as a Youth Minister in the Church of Christ). But we are still brothers and speak several times per week.

The rest of my family is distant enough that it isn’t a big deal, really. I have a couple of aunts who were scandalized. But I am hardly the first person in our extended family to leave the Church of Christ. So it has been fairly smooth in my family.

I am also pleased to say that, overall, it has been smooth with Debbie’s family, as well. Her parents were very supportive. Her dad asked for some “study material” so that he could learn about the church we were joining. We sent him a couple of books that I found helpful in our journey (Bishop Ware’s The Orthodox Church and Matthew Gallatin’s Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells). Her mom just took it in stride. In fact, her mom was able to come to our baptisms/chrismations (her dad was not able to come). Her extended family still talks to us, so I think things are OK on that end, too.

So after a rough start, we have had a very smooth ending.

It has been about two months since we were finally received into Orthodoxy. It has been two blessed months. Sometimes it is hard to believe. I spent so long desiring this that it is difficult to believe that I finally have it. It is amazing to see the transformation in Debbie. (I know I have changed a lot, as well, but it is difficult to see change in yourself sometimes). She went from being so anti-Orthodox to being so pro-Orthodox that I am moved. I think she would live in the church building if she was able to do so.

Anyway, I really appreciate the comments and support that so many of you have shown to me over the past few months, as Fr. James has allowed me to tell our story. You will probably never know how much your love, prayers and comments have meant to me. I am a blessed man to be in a family with people like y’all (sorry, I have avoided the Texanisms as much as possible, but I had to let that one get by).

I do think Fr. James is going to let me write some more blog posts on occasion, whenever I have something that I think is interesting [Fr. James' note: Yes! I think we'd all like to see some more writings from Clint-right, folks?]. So I hope to continue seeing you all here on this site and hopefully, before too long, I can see you in person. I know that will be easy for a few of you, since I see you every weekend. But I also know that there are some of you from various parts of the world that I have never met in person and I hope to do so. We can sit around and swap stories.

Until then, I pray God’s blessing upon you as you continue to walk down the path that He has placed you on. Pray for me, as well, for of all the things I have learned, the most important is that I am a struggling sinner who needs all the prayers I can get.


Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Many Years to you all :-)

s-p said...

Dang...that's all?? You HAVE to come up with more! :) Actually, this is sooo common, men start out obsessed, the wives dig in and kick and scream, then the wife gets on board and in the end becomes more pious than her husband. It happened to me and every family I've had a part in bringing into the Church. It means SOMETHING...go figure. Many years!

charlene said...

Your family's story was wonderfully inspiring. I very much hope you will continue to contribute to Father James' blog.

Jason E. said...


Fascinating story. Thank you for sharing.

It might be interesting to hear your wife describe a couple of the things she thought were crazy about Orthodoxy and how/why she got over them. Others probably are struggling with the same issues and might benefit.

Fr. James Early said...

Jason, I agree with you. I have asked Debbie to contribute a few posts giving her perspective. She's a very good writer and has much to contribute. Whaddya think, Debbie?

Jessica said...

We're certainly glad to have you here at St. Joseph's, Clint, and thanks for all the work that went into writing your story out. You told it very well.

If you stick around Fr. James much longer, he'll probably rub off on you and your story will appear in manuscript form. Watch out!

I'd love to hear Debbie's perspective, too.

Deborah said...

I've already started writing something.

Fr. James Early said...

Yesssssssssssssss !

elizabeth said...

I really enjoyed these as well. Many years and I look forward to posts from Debbie and more from Clint! My small prayers! and many thanks!!