Some of you know I am the eldest son of evangelical missionaries who served in South America. I rarely admit this, especially outside of church. It makes people squirm, or respond,“Oh, how interesting.” But missionary kids squirm more, because the pressure to follow in the work can be great and the outcome uncertain. I am one of the MKs who found his own way and still managed to hold onto faith, but not without some time in the wilderness.
As a card-carrying missionary son, no one asked what I believed, so it was easy to hide that I was ashamed I did not know. Since I was a teenager, I had been skeptical about the gospel and ambivalent about mission work. I wondered how relatively-affluent Americans could justly teach spiritual transformation to the poor. It seemed that my parents fed only spiritual hunger, and not physical hunger or injustice. Whatever my perceptions of mission work, my doubts about the gospel were even more basic.
In my early 20s I made a splashy exit from my evangelical denomination, to my parents’ dismay. By then, my spiritual life was shaped primarily by guilt, but I found my way to UCC churches, where the message was more affirming. I was baptized at age 26, sang in a choir, even briefly taught Sunday school, and joined a Bible study that inspired me to teach one here. But aside from my love of traditional liturgy, organ music, singing, the joy of the gospel eluded me and I left church. I had a passion for teaching, and the classroom began to feel like my mission.
Marriage and kids have a way of bringing things into focus. We played “Son of a Preacher Man” for our wedding dance, and my family came to accept my choices in life. We took our kids to a little farm church, and when they asked to return we did and found a home. Leaving it was made easy only because we found WCUC and a warm, vibrant community of faith where we have flourished. Here I have at last found my way to the joy of the gospel, but the journey continues.
For me, Lent is a reminder me of this long season in my life, a time to find the joy of the gospel, for it is indeed the power of salvation to everyone who searches faithfully.