Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Short History of a Conversion Part 2

    My years at CHC (Christian Heritage College) were very formative in my life. Not only did I make friends that have lasted even to this day, I learned much more about my Christian faith. One of my first classes was an apologetic class that dealt with the geologic column and radio active dating of rocks, etc., all from a Christian point of view. This was something that I had never heard of, a young earth and a reasonable explanation for it. In my Bible classes, I learned more about God's word than I had learned in my life up to that point. In retrospect, I don't remember much of Church history before the Reformation being taught in any classes, but if any alumni happen to read this, and this was not the case, please correct me. It is not my intention to paint an incorrect picture of my education, but this is what I remember from my time at Heritage. I do remember reading St. Augustine's "Confessions" in a Christian Literature class, but that was about the extent of early church fathers writings that were presented to us.

    I was also learning to fly small airplanes while I was at CHC. They had a Missionary Aviation program (which they still have, I believe) that was run out of Gillespie Field. It was an extreme experience to learn to fly and I have some great stories about it, but that is for another blog.

     I started working at a drive through dairy store while at CHC. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, it is an open air store where customers drive up, usually place their orders from the car, and we would go and get what they needed, usually a gallon of milk on the way home from work, or beer, bread, yogurt, you get the idea. Anyway, one of the services that Hank and Linda DeGroot offered was a delivery service to restaurants and taco shops in the local area. During summer break, I would stay in El Cajon and work full time and I would get to do the Taco Shop run on Tuesdays and Thursdays. What was great about this was I would get free food at just about every stop! Everybody would offer me something to eat! It got to the point where I would just take a soda, I couldn't eat so much. One of these Taco Shops was El Ranchito in Santee, where I met the girl who would steal my heart forever. We didn't start dating until 1984, 2 years after I graduated, moved to San Francisco for graduate studies at a Southern Baptist Seminary, then moved back to San Diego because I had too many problems in the Seminary.

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is located on a beautiful spot of land called Strawberry Point, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley, California. I went there in January of 1983 to start my studies there for my Master of Divinity degree and to start my career as a minister. Apparently, the theological mindset from CHC rubbed off on me too much for GGBTS standards and I ran up against theological thought that I did not agree with. I  became stubborn in my views and it cost me a semester of academic probation. During that time, I was working as a Youth and Music minister in a small So. Baptist church in Concord, Ca. My second semester, I was working 30 hours in the church and taking 12 units of graduate studies, and commuting 50 miles each way twice a week. Needless to say, I burnt out pretty quickly and found myself back in San Diego.

     I started helping out in another small Baptist church, and also started to pursue a certain cute Mexican girl who at first didn't want anything to do with me. Martha finally relented and agreed to go out with me for one date.....we've been married now for over 26 years! During our dating, we both made the conscience decision to focus on the commonalities of our faiths instead of the differences. We found more in common the more we shared. There was still a cultural divide to cross, or to bridge, and it took a long time to do I said, we've been married 26+ years, we still are building bridges together.

     When we were first married, I was still helping out in my parents church with the music (to this day I find it ironic that I was doing music ministry, since I don't even read music, but I can read and keep time). It was my mission to "convert" my wife into the Baptist church, I never voiced that, but it was always in the back of my head. We eventually moved out to Lake Elsinore, California, where again, I was helping out in a Baptist church, but by now, Martha had started longing to return to her Church. There was a small Catholic Church in the downtown area, and we would go to the Spanish Mass on Saturday and the Baptist Church on Sunday. I would not go up for communion at Mass, because I was aware of the doctrinal differences that prevented me from doing so in good conscience. It was at this time, that I started to look into the Catholic faith, but only to satisfy my own curiosity. I spent many a long talks with the parish priest who was very patient with me and answered all my questions the best he could. He put me on the path that would inevitably give me the answers I was looking for. He mentioned a three volume set by Jurgens called "The Faith of the Early Church Fathers" and was a collection of the writings of various early Church fathers, from Ignatius (who was a disciple of the Apostle John) and Polycarp (a disciple of Ignatius) to Augustine and Justin Martyr. It was by reading these men, who lived so close to the time of Christ, and in the case of Ignatius, was a disciple of one of the Apostles and could have actually know Jesus, that I started to see teachings that were not consistent with what I understood about my Christian faith. They way they worshiped, their liturgy, was so much different than to what I grew up with. This is what led me to investigate further the claims of the Catholic Church. In those investigations, I fell in love with the liturgy, the teachings, the sense of wholeness in the church.

Does this mean that I had turned my back on all that I had learned from my parents, my instructors, my pastors? No. Like I said in Part 1, I am forever grateful to my parents for bringing me to Christ. It is the primary responsibility of the parents to "bring up a child in the way they should go, so when they are old they will not depart form it". My parents taught me to be inquisitive, to ask questions, to be open to what God has for my life, and then to follow Him wherever He might lead. God has lead me home to the Catholic Church. My spiritual journey continues to this day. Like all of us who are on that journey, it will not end until 10 minutes after we die, then it will be a forever homecoming in Heaven. Until then, we have a home here on earth, that is in the Body of Christ, His Church. My journey continues, but it continues within my home, where I can explore the riches of all that God has, I can look honestly at myself and never worry about being rejected, for I am accepted just as I am.

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