Friday, February 12, 2010

Family (An MK Comes Home, Part 21)

James with his parents and sisters in the mid 1990s

When I was received into the Orthodox Christian Church on Holy Saturday of 2003, one of my sisters lived a two days’ drive away and the rest of my family was on another continent. My parents knew that I had been attending an Orthodox parish since returning from Russia, and in February I had sent them an email announcing and explaining my decision to enter the catechumenate. Mom needed reassurance that Orthodoxy believed in the Bible, but mostly she was just glad to see me being serious about my Christian faith.

Before St. Stephen’s, I had casually attended a handful of Protestant congregations but had not become a meaningful part of any Christian community in Florida. So there were no ecclesial ties to sever; there were few concerned friends in need of lengthy explanations. My religious friends were glad to see me attending any church at all, and my non-religious friends were indifferent. Becoming Orthodox didn’t end or weaken any of my relationships.

James with his cousin Halley in the late 1980s

And because I became Orthodox just before finishing college, the transition into the Church complemented my transition into the next phase of life. Becoming Orthodox didn’t cause much social or relational stress that moving to Korea wouldn’t have caused anyways. Indeed, the Church in Korea was an anchor that relieved stress and helped me adapt to local culture.

So the transition was rather painless, in terms of good relationships with friends and family. Being a serious Christian strengthened my bonds with my family and with my friends. My folks are enthusiastic about my vocation as a missionary—they’ll be just across the border in Kenya for several months each year and will get to spend more time with me than they would if I were in, say, North Dakota.

James with his parents, sisters, and brothers-in law in December of 2009

In other ways, my transition from an angry nonbeliever to an unworthy Christian has indeed been painful. But it has been a healthy struggle, a slow process to know my own self well enough to give myself over to God’s care and to grow closer to him. And I’ve been blessed with good family and friends both inside and outside the Church who support and encourage my life in Christ.


Steve O'Donnell said...

I would be curious to know how you answered the question that your mom asked you. I get that asked too a lot from my non-Orthodox friends, and I don't really know how to respond.

rjhargrav said...


Really, I just said, "Yes, Mom, we believe in the Bible." And the more she comes to services and experience the constant wash of Scripture that is Orthodox Christian liturgy, the more she is reassured that this is indeed the case.