by Scott Lewis
I was born and raised in a good Baptist home with a solid Christian foundation. As you are probably aware, as a Baptist we believe that the early church fell away from the true Christian faith and was not resurrected until the Protestant reformation.
Growing up in the midst of the cold war, I learned of the persecution of Christians in Eastern Europe but always wondered who were these Christians if they were not Baptist who were willing to be sent to Gulags and risk executions?
As I became a teenager, I heard about the Eastern Orthodox Christians behind the iron curtain and the Greek Orthodox. When I approached my older brother and asked about this he said they were just (Eastern European Catholics) and that pretty much ended my interest at the time.
After high school I got married and went to work. My wife was Pentecostal so i tried to believe in their doctrine but their doctrine just did not add up. Many times I would wonder how the church could just disappear for almost a thousand years and then reappear and be divided into so many denominations and so many doctrines all claiming to be the real church.
As the years passed, we divorced and it was a terrible time. But I never forgot the faith I received from my upbringing. Over the years I watched with much delight as the iron curtain came down and Communism came to an abrupt end in Europe. I watched in awe as those (Eastern European Catholics ) almost instantly reappeared and found this fascinating that these people could have survived in those closed societies and with such faith.
As America got involved in nation building, I watched in horror when we started bombing Christians in Serbia and could not understand why we would do this. And then a few years latter in the middle East as Christians started being rounded up and slaughtered as Iraq and Syria spiraled out of control and wondered who are these people and what denomination are they that are being beheaded with all manor of barbarity.
And then it was all I could do to hold back the tears as I saw those brave Christian men being led to the beach to be sacrificed in Libya. Who were those brave men who were lined up on the beach to be Martyred but could have saved themselves? All they had to do was renounce our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. These were surely not the western-style prosperity name it claim it Christians like us here in America. What I saw was straight out of the Bible. These men were dying for his name’s sake.
This reminded me of the Christians I had heard about in my youth in Russia who refused to denounce our Lord and Savior, sent off to Siberia were and were never to be heard from again.
Who were these non-Baptist Christians?
By this time through the miracle of the internet I started searching to find out who these Christians were in Iraq, Syria and Libiya being led to slaughter. That is when I began to find the answer to the question I had asked my Brother those many years ago in my youth.
I finally remarried to a fine Woman who was a non-practicing Roman Catholic. At the time, I was working as an inspector on new pipelines being built in South Texas. Being very far from major population centers one of the things we liked to do was read and as the holocaust was just getting started in Syria I was reading a book about the Celtic Church at the time and as fate would have it I became Facebook friends with an Orthodox man named Ken from southern Illinois.
This started my search into the Orthodox faith. As I read more it started to dawn on me that the Church never went away. To the contrary, we in western Europe went away from the Church.
As I stated at this time, I was in the middle of reading a book about the Celtic Church and it became occurred to me that the British Isles must have been the last bastion of Orthodoxy in western Europe up to the Norman invasion. At this time, I still considered myself to be a Baptist and to this day I thank God for my Baptist upbringing.
We eventually finished the job in South Texas and went back home to East Texas. By the time we got back home another Facebook friend from Oklahoma, Fr. John Filipowicz Phillips told me of St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Beaumont, Texas that was only 20 miles from where I live. I discussed it with my wife that it would be nice to visit the church and she agreed.
As soon as we got back home we visited the next Sunday.
When we stepped in to the church I was in awe at the beauty and the Holiness that permeated every nook and cranny. On walking in a very elderly Gentleman came over and asked if this was our first time in an Orthodox Church when we replied it was he asked if he could sit with us and would answer any questions we may have and we gratefully accepted his offer. Of everything I had read and studied, nothing could really prepared me for this. I had never made the sign of the cross or felt so humbled in a church before. The Priest and people were some of the most genuine I had ever met.
We started going every Sunday and finally we got up the nerve to speak with the Priest Fr Michael and asked if we could join the Church. After questioning us about our walk with the Lord he said yes but wanted to give us some classes to catch us up on Church history which we in the West know little of. We attended classes and were Chrismated at Christmas. And that Gentleman who asked to sit with us that first Sunday was to become my Godfather and mentor, Tod Mixon.
To any of my Protestant Brothers or Sisters who seek a deeper walk with God and think the original Church died out like we were all taught then find the nearest Orthodox church and visit it with an open heart.
You will not regret it.