by Anastasia & Joseph Guiliani
This is the conversion story from ocultism in the Jehovah’s Witnesses to Orthodoxy, and it is not a light read. The account presented here has been edited, but reader discretion is advised. This is a strong story. We are grateful for Ravyn Anastasia and Lee Joseph for permitting us to publish it.
Introduction to Orthodoxy: The Greek Festival
Lee and I went to the local Greek Festival every year and I particularly enjoyed the Church tours. After a few years Lee who was by now working in Security started working for the Festival doing their Security. He got to know many of the Greeks.
In 2009 we had two significant losses, deaths of dear friends. 2010 saw the loss of our beloved 14 year old akita. 2011 continued with more deaths that hit us hard, finally coming to a head in 2012 when I lost my mother, the neighbor who had become like a father to me, and 4 other close friends our own age and younger. It was devastating. From 2009 we had attended 12 funerals, 6 of them in 2011-2012- less than a year’s time. We lost another sweet pet unexpectedly in 2013 just before the holidays. The family situation was at a crisis point with his family. I was at the end of my rope.
I asked Lee why we could not go to the Greek Church and he said
“because we are not Greek?”
In September 2014, I had had a break with my sister that was because of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 17 years after I had left them. I had been feeling demonically oppressed that awful summer and tried to tell myself it was just my imagination because I was depressed and in a dark mood from all the deaths of the last few years. But strange things were happening, and I was having nightmares and it felt too familiar to ignore.
Lee had worked with a Bosnian woman and we had been casual friends with her and her husband for a few years and we knew they were Orthodox Christians. So Lee suggested we go visit them and tell them about our strange occurrences and see if they had any ideas what to do and where to go to find spiritual help. We spent 7 hours at their home one Saturday and went home with the Jesus prayer on our lips and incense in a bag and a prayer rope in our hands. We saw photos of incorrupt Saints and Monasteries and place that even we had never seen before.
The next day Lee and I went to the ‘Greek’ Church.
Our Divine Liturgy
We sat in a row under the icon of Saint Anastasia. I had always loved her, and as a child I would pretend my name was Anastasia. As the Priest and Deacon did The Great Entrance (that we would not be able to identify for some more weeks yet at this time) someone lost a gold button off their robes and it rolled down the aisle to stop right in front of my feet. It did not hit me in the foot, it stopped on it’s own before it touched my foot. It was odd and I was afraid to pick it up because I was not sure if I was allowed to touch it. Someone a few rows ahead of me on the opposite side saw my look of puzzlement and fear and walked over to me and picked up the button and handed it to me!
So still not knowing what to do I gave it back to the Deacon afterward. I told an older lady about it that I met at Coffee Hour and she told me that she would have kept it for good luck! I thought, okay!
So Lee and I introduced ourselves to the priest and he told us a little about the Church. When he mentioned that the relics were St. Anastasia’s I felt almost faint! I asked him if he would be our spiritual father and he said that he would soon be leaving but he gave us the name of another priest who was retired and not permanently connected to any of the local parishes, but who came in to substitute for all of them. We called him when we got home.
The retired priest saw us right away and by the next couple of Divine Liturgies we were made catechumens. We followed him through the Nativity season, learning by doing and reading the Fathers. Lee had been out of work more than 2 years at this time and things we very tight but we were seeing miracles every day. Two deer jumped onto the car, Lee could have been killed—the car flipped and was totaled. But Lee was unhurt. No money for food or for heat but somehow it got paid and we got fed.
As Winter wore on and Spring promised things would go from desperate one day to miraculously taken care of the next day. Lee had work for a week, two weeks, then nothing for a month. I don’t know how we got through it. We had learned to pray and fast. Our priest was asked to substitute full-time for the parish where it all started for us after their priest left just before Lent. So we stopped following him from one parish to another and settled in with the Greeks we had first met.
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