Sunday, October 3, 2010
It's A Small World (or God's Timing Isn't Always My Timing) - by Clint
Last year, Fr. James had my wife and I record our conversion story here on this blog. If you care to do so, you can read it here. When we were in Estonia and I first came into contact with Orthodoxy, I realized that my days receiving income from protestant churches as a missionary were coming to an end. That created a fairly significant quandary. What job would I get to support our family? Where would we live? How could both of those issues be arranged so as to allow for our family to learn about, and eventually become, Orthodox?
It was at that time that I came across a very insightful article on a blog. It was called "Orthodoxy in Dixie," written by a mission priest in western North Carolina, Fr. Joseph Huneycutt. Realizing that I needed to talk to someone from "my country" that could speak Orthodox, I sent Fr. Joseph an email, asking some questions.
So began a long "email" relationship. Since 2004, Fr. Joseph and I have corresponded fairly frequently, sometimes more often than others, but never more than a few months between contact.
Those who know my family might be interested to know that I even called Fr. Joseph on the phone one night (NC time), when he was at his secular job, where he worked for income during his mission work. We talked about the difficulties that I was going through, as I was losing my missionary job at the time. That is right, I called from Estonia! Fr. Joseph suggested that we might consider moving to his area, where we could become catechumens and become Orthodox. It sounded great to me!
I scoured the internet, looking for any job that I might be able to get in his area. However, due to various circumstances, it was not to be. My wife was still not fully on board with the whole Orthodox thing, at that point. Moving to NC didn't seem like a good idea to her. We had no family in the area, and it just seemed to be a plan that wouldn't work. It had taken several months from the first suggestion to move to NC, to the final decision to NOT do so. When I finally let Fr. Joseph know, he told me that he understood, and that he was in fact soon moving to Houston, Texas to work the parish of St. George.
So we moved back to the San Antonio area for awhile, before I took a job in Virginia, where the whole family finally decided that we did need to be Orthodox. Now, as I mentioned, I still emailed with Fr. Joseph on occasion, even during this time, but since I was no longer in the same "isolated" circumstances as I had been, those conversations tended to be more of the "how are you doing" types of emails. Of course, if you know your geography, you know that VA and NC share a common border. So as I became more involved in becoming Orthodox, I got to know several people who actually knew Fr. Joseph. In fact, we had an icon commissioned by an iconographer, who had been baptized/chrismated by Fr. Joseph.
It was during that time that I got to know Fr. James Early through this very blog site (St. Jame's kids). With his help, I was able to get a job in the Houston area, and we came to worship at St. Joseph's. My family became Orthodox. I still corresponded with Fr. Joseph, and finally had the chance to meet him in person, last year. I was able to see him a couple of other times at gatherings and to share brief conversations with him.
As you know, our beloved pastor, Fr. Matthew reposed this past July (Memory Eternal!). After the appropriate time of mourning, Fr. Joseph was assigned to pastor St. Joseph's. So now, I find myself being pastored by the first pastor that I THOUGHT I would be pastored by! It only took 6 years for our plan to come to fruition. We are only 1000 miles away from where we first thought we would be united. But here we are.
So I have to wonder, why did things not "work out" the first time, six years ago? Certainly, I don't know the full answer to that, but I have a few considerations.
1. I have been blessed to know several other priests, some of are now reposed, that I probably wouldn't have been able to know, otherwise. Fr. Matthew, Fr. James Kenna, Fr. James Early, Fr. Christopher Foley, Fr. Michael Furry and others come to mind. Each of them has had a significant impact on my spiritual journey.
2. My wife had an authentic environment in which to discover the truth and beauty of Orthodoxy for herself. Had we moved to NC, I might have pressured her and caused her to reject the truth. Instead, it all worked out.
3. I learned more about myself: my limitations, strengths, and motivations.
In any event, I am blessed. God has surrounded me with caring and godly mentors and priests. I am drawn closer to our Lord by their example. Fr. Joseph is certainly one of those who has been instrumental in my journey and I look forward to what the future holds.