I spent two years in California after having lived in Texas for thirty-five years. Living with my brother and sister-in-law while looking for affordable housing, I enjoyed taking on-line courses and pursuing growth in my spiritual life for the first time in a long time. I developed a particular interest in the sermons of a particular pastor (I’ll call him Pastor A). They were down to earth presentations that were obviously well prepared, very thought provoking, and not at all the usual fluff and fill in that I had heard so often.
Unfortunately, living in California was not affordable, so I initiated plans to return to Texas. Suddenly, the doors that had been open to me in Texas were closed. But I knew God well enough that I didn’t panic; I just looked for new opportunities.
That week I ran across an article about affordable living cities in the United States. I read it with interest and when I got to Indianapolis, they touted the services available for senior citizens, the affordability of housing, and more. “Hmm,” I thought to myself, “Now that I think about it, my mother grew up on a farm in Clark’s Hill, Indiana, just 44 miles from Indianapolis. It would be interesting to explore the region as her family had been in that area since before the Revolutionary war. It would also be great to live in an area that cares about senior citizens.”
About the same time, I had started a brief e-mail correspondence with Pastor A, whose sermons I had been listening to on YouTube. Soon I found out that not only was he in Indianapolis, he was making a transition to leave his pastorate and become an Orthodox Christian. I followed this with interest because I had investigated Orthodoxy as a suitable place for me as I had wanted for a long time to find a church that was as close to original Christianity as possible. Soon, Pastor A posted some videos about an Orthodox church in Indianapolis on YouTube and I wanted to be there.
I had hit the perfect trifecta: 1) affordable living, 2) a connection to my mother’s family that I could explore, and 3) Pastor A (now just Mr. A) and the Orthodox family at this church (Joy of All Who Sorrow). My lifelong dream had been to be able to walk to church every Sunday morning, so I called the church bookstore to ask if there were any apartments within walking distance of the church. Photini (the woman who answered) gave me the name of a property management company that had apartments close by. I later called the church to ask what book they were studying in their Inquirer’s Class. Mary L. told me it was Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, but quickly explained that, in spite of the title, the book was easy to read and understand.
My next call was to the property management company. Nancy answered and asked me when I could come and see the apartment. I explained that I was calling from California and had put my trust in the recommendation from Photini. Over the phone, sight unseen, I rented an apartment. I quickly mailed the deposit check in case she was wondering if this was some sort of prank.
Now came the hard part – explaining to my family and friends that I wasn’t returning to Texas, but was moving to Indianapolis, “It’s just a God thing,” I told them. “All arrows pointed to Indianapolis. No, I’ve never been there. No, I don’t know anyone there. Yes, I know it snows. Yes, I’ll miss friends and family. Yes, I know you think I’m crazy.”
I shipped a few boxes of books and office supplies to myself in Indianapolis, packed my clothes and my new copy of Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, which I had started to read, and flew to Indianapolis. As the plane landed, I felt like I was coming home, just the same way I felt every time I flew back to Austin, but this was the first time I felt it in a different city.
Three days later, I walked to Joy of All Who Sorrow for my first Sunday service. I met Mr. A, Photini and Mary L. During the lunch following the service people introduced themselves. I felt so welcomed and so cared about. It was as if I was a beloved aunt who had finally returned after years of travel. That day I also had an accident: I fell in the church and severely injured my hip. I ended up in the emergency room overnight and on a walker for the next six weeks. The care and concern of the church family was amazing. Here, I was – brand new to them and they were driving me to and from the emergency room, to and from the drug store and to my apartment. Several days later I received a message from one of the nuns, “As your closest neighbor, what can I do to help you?” Embarrassed, but in need, I asked if she could do my laundry. She lovingly obliged.
It has now been three years since my arrival. I’ve had a few more accidents and was cared for each time, without question. While I was in a physical rehabilitation facility, I had visitors and groups of visitors who were so kind and loving, that the staff and other patients asked me, “Are these people all from your church? What church do you go to again?”
I’ve watched the members of this church take care of the homeless who come to their door and provide Christmas baskets of food, toys and household goods for needy families. They also provide occasional talks or poetry readings with special speakers and work together with a local high school in a mutually beneficial relationship. They participate in large community activities with Brother Juniper’s sandwich shop, a temporary booth set up at art fairs. Brother Juniper’s is so popular in Indianapolis that people call the church and come by to ask when and where it will be set up again.
I have been able to participate in many of these programs, but most importantly I attended the Inquirer’s class every Thursday night (we’re still studying Orthodox Dogmatic Theology) and was baptized in May 2015. This is my family; this is my home. I thank God every day for bringing me here, and I look forward to what is still to come.