My path to Orthodoxy began with the Lutheran Church (Evangelical Church in America), where I was baptized and raised in a faith with an appreciation for liturgical services and a sense of the sacramental relationship between man and God. It wasn’t enough, though. After a disinterested period during my early college years, I slowly rediscovered my interest in the church life through encounters with Evangelicals and campus ministries. I started occasionally attending a Lutheran church close to the Texas A & M campus, but it was a visit to a boyfriend’s Pentecostal church in deep East Texas that solidified my preference for liturgical worship. After graduation in 1987, my husband and I moved back to San Antonio (we had been married in my childhood Lutheran Church in 1985), and I started going back to church with my mother. She was thrilled, but I did it reluctantly, knowing that at the time I was doing this I was still seeking something different. I think my search for the Orthodox faith really started as a young adult’s desire to do something rebellious, adventurous and different.
In early 1990, I had started a new job and one of my co-workers was a young Greek woman. My impending renewal of membership at my childhood church and my doubts about this spiritual commitment were the topic for a casual conversation one day. She off-handedly mentioned that she was Greek Orthodox and suggested that I visit her church. She was definitely not the model one thinks of as an evangelist, which just goes to show you the Lord uses all His children for His purposes even when they don’t know it themselves. It also serves as a warning that what we say or do can have the most important or the most devastating consequences for someone’s soul. My co-worker’s advice made me pull out the phone book and find an Orthodox Church - in this case, St. Anthony’s - and just call the priest. I made an appointment to meet him at the church mid-week, showed up for the next Sunday Divine Liturgy, and never, ever went back to my Lutheran Church. Mind you, only the previous Sunday I had stood up in my Lutheran Church and made a pledge to renew and recommit myself as a faithful Lutheran. Four days after meeting with the priest, I stepped into the very worn and unspectacular temple of St. Anthony’s and was instantly “hooked." The beautiful church you see today is so much different from the former building with the “ambiance of a VFW Hall,” as St. Anthony’s priest Fr. Dmitri Cozby used to say.
On the feast day of St. Herman of Alaska, December 13, 1992, I was chrismated into the Orthodox Church and took the saint’s name of St. Joanna the Myrrh-bearing Woman. It was undoubtedly one of the most important and life-altering days of my life. I have now been an Orthodox Christian for 20 years, and I can’t say I’m a better example of one today than I was in 1992. My initial convert zealousness (or overzealousness) has changed into something stronger and steadier; a faith that must be constantly renewed by a commitment to the sacraments, church attendance, prayer, fasting, and spiritual reading. I would not recommend Orthodoxy as an easy path or one to take on a whim. Since my chrismation, I have had many spiritual struggles, even crises of faith, but I can say I do not regret becoming Orthodox for one instant. And with God’s mercy and despite my own failings, at the end of my earthly life, I look to eternal life in His Heavenly Kingdom.