MY FAITH JOURNEY: I am a friend of God
I grew up in a Catholic family. I went to Catholic school through 7th grade. I learned about God and about our relationship to Him and to each other, but I turned my back on Him when I went to high school.
I went to a Christian high school. The school was owned and run by a local Baptist church, but I don’t remember much preaching while I was there. The teachers led by example, and the student body led by example.
I remember one incident in particular. I was a senior, on the basketball team, and smart. That made me one of the popular kids. This sophomore girl started talking to me and let me know she would do anything to be my girlfriend. The offer was tempting to 17-year-old me … I thought about it for a while and decided I couldn’t take advantage of her like that. I let her know she didn’t have to do anything. We would hang out together. She instantly became one of the popular girls. We had a fun six months until I graduated.
I went to Centenary College of Louisiana, Methodist college in Shreveport, Louisiana. I wasn’t interested in studying religion at that time, and I regret just taking one religion class, Comparative Religions.
I met my wife, Patricia, at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, in 1980. It was love at first sight, and we were married in October of that year. She grew up Catholic and wasn’t too concerned about religion at the time. We lived in Houston, Texas, where I worked as a seismic computer programmer.
A couple of months later, I befriended a woman at work. My co-workers were picking on her just because she was a woman, and I helped her to learn and gain more programming experience. In return, she invited my wife and I to her home for dinners. The LDS missionaries would also be at dinner, and after a while my wife and I joined the LDS church, December 1981.
We were faithful members for over 20 years. I had the opportunity to teach adult Sunday School many times, and started really learning about the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. I ordered the BYU textbooks for the Bible and the other books, and learned a lot.
I was falling away from the LDS church before my wife died in September, 2002. I kept attending for the support I received, and because my son was a faithful member. Finally, Christmas 2006, I’d had enough of the LDS emphasis on works. My last sacrament meeting was just before Christmas. Jesus wasn’t mentioned once.
Since my son could drive, he continued to attend the local LDS church. I was driving alone on Edgewood Road one day when I heard a voice say, “Go to that church”, that church being Presbury United Methodist Church in Edgewood, Maryland.
I went, and I had a lot of healing to do. I especially liked hearing I was saved by grace. I needed that message after 20 years of works preaching. I participated in a Tuesday night Bible study at Presbury. It was during this time that I learned a lot about Bible Sociology and Bible History.
After a couple of years of attendance at Presbury, I was asked to be in the SPRC and the administrative council. I became a Lay Speaker and a Certified Lay Speaker.
When I moved to Utah, I moved to Nephi, about 90 miles south of here just off Interstate 15. The closest Methodist church was Hilltop United Methodist Church in Sandy. That was too far for me to drive, especially being sick most of the time I lived in Nephi.
The last month I lived in Nephi, I found a Methodist Church in Eureka, about 20 miles west of Payson. I attended 4 Sundays before I became homeless.
I stayed at the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake City for 11 months. While I was there, I considered it my mission to cheer the other homeless up, to get them talking about anything except our homelessness. I largely succeeded, until I got sick. Starting in November of last year, I got the flu 3 times, a cold at least 5 times, and pneumonia once. Other people did their best to cheer me up, but I was drained of energy.
I lost a lot of weight in the past couple of years. I lost 50 pounds while I was still in Nephi because of illness, and I lost another 40 pounds when I was homeless. I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for my sister and some kind people in this congregation, that gave me money for the additional food I needed to get better.
When I got my job at Xima Software, I received many personal and Facebook messages telling me how blessed I was to find a good job. And it’s true, God blessed me with a good job. But God also blessed me by having me experience homelessness. We like to say good things are blessings from God. It’s harder to say that the unpleasant things are blessings from God, but they are blessings, nonetheless.
I wouldn’t wish homelessness on anyone. However, God and I grew a lot closer by my going through the experience. I’m reminded of the chorus of a contemporary song by Israel Houghton.
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend.