I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1967.  My father’s family was Catholic and my mother’s family was Lutheran (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod-LCMS).  My mother was the spiritual leader in our family.   I can remember attending Sunday school at the Lutheran church and I also remember going to kindergarten at the Lutheran Church in New Orleans.  My mother was a very active Lutheran.  She taught Sunday school to the little kids and was our ‘room mother’ for my kindergarten class.  I can remember being taught to love the Bible and Jesus.  I knew that I had been baptized when I was a baby and that Jesus loved me.  I remember church being a fun place to attend and I particularly enjoyed being with my mother and the rest of her side of the family at church.  This all changed when my maternal Grandmother died.  I was about five years old at the time.
Within a year after the death of my Grandmother, my mother had stopped going to the Lutheran Church and had started attending the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs).  During this time, my father would take us kids to Catholic Mass periodically where we would all fall fast asleep.   I had no idea that my mother was no longer attending the Lutheran Church, so I would beg to go back to that church.  However, soon my entire family started attending the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses and within about three years, my Father, my Father’s parents, and one of my Father’s sisters (all Catholics) left the Catholic faith and became Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs).

So, from the time I was five until I was 29 years old, I was a JW.  As a JW we attended five meetings a week.  There was no worship service.  All of these meetings are classes designed to teach how to convert others to the JW faith.  I got really good at doing that.  I started going from door to door distributing Watchtower literature when I was six years old.  I gave my first sermon in front of the congregation at age 8.  By the time I was 19, I was giving presentations at conventions of JWs that had thousands of JWs in attendance.  After high school, I became a pioneer minister of the JWs, which means I spent 1000 hours per year going from door to door.  Eventually, I was invited to serve at the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, which is where I met my wife Kathy.  I spent a year there.

Kathy and I moved to Louisiana after I left the headquarters and we were married in August of 1988.  I started attending college and earned a degree in chemistry from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1993.  Kathy and I moved to Arkansas in 1994 so that I could attend graduate school at the University of Arkansas.  I devoted all of my time to my graduate studies in Biochemistry and left God behind or so I thought.  We lived for a couple of years in what Kathy describes as “spiritual limbo” where I even questioned God’s love for me.  Like the Israelites, I had a short memory of all the blessings God had given to me, one of His children, who did not know Him very well.

Nevertheless, God allowed me to get in touch with numerous Christians mostly Protestant on the Internet during this time and their discussions with me were very helpful.  At some point, Kathy and I both expressed our belief in God and our desire to worship with other believers.  Around this time, I had started doing research in the big doctrinal areas where JWs and Christians disagree and realized that the mainline Christian Churches represented the teachings of the historic Christian faith much better than the JWs.
Kathy and I wanted to find a church to attend and I had been speaking with my Lutheran relatives so we decided that we should attend a Lutheran Church.  Eventually, we started attending a Lutheran church in Arkansas that belonged to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  We joined that church about a year before I finished graduate school.  Once I finished graduate school, I started teaching at Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska in January 1999.  This college is part of the Concordia University System that is owned and operated by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  After arriving in Nebraska, Kathy and I thought we were finally home.  However, God wanted to give us so much more.
When we first moved to Seward, NE, the Mormons had just started building a church in this small town.  They had been visiting many of the Lutheran parishioners so the local Lutheran church decided to teach a Sunday school class on the teachings of the Mormons.  One of the comments the Pastor leading the discussion made was that the church that Jesus founded would always exist and would never be destroyed.  He made this point because the Mormons teach (as do the JWs) that the early church went apostate sometime in its history and that God chose Joseph Smith (the JWs would say Charles Russell) to restore his true church on earth.  He quoted this passage:

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”-Matt. 16:18

I was sitting next to Kathy and I took out a piece of paper and asked the question.  “If this is true, then what was Luther doing when he broke away from the Catholic Church?’
It was also “roughly” during this time that I started to try to share my newfound Christian faith with some friends of mine who had just recently left the JWs.  I would try to demonstrate to them that certain teachings like the Trinity, immortality of the soul, etc. were the true doctrines of the Christian faith and that the JWs are wrong to deny these teachings.  I would use the Bible to try to “prove” it to them.  Their response was, “How do you know your interpretation is correct since when we were JWs we would interpret those verses 180 degrees in the opposite direction?”
So, I said to myself, ‘I bet there were other writings from Christians who were around during the time of the apostles who could shed light on what the early church really believed.’  So, I started reading the early church fathers.  First, I read some letters that were written around 98AD by a Christian Bishop named Ignatius.  In his letters he talked about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and he referred to Jesus as God. However, he also described the early church as “Catholic” and he said that ‘the true church is the church where the bishop is’.  Since as a Lutheran we had no bishops, I found this understanding of the Church troubling.
I also read a book written by a 3rd century bishop named Eusebius on the history of the Christian Church.  Eusebius described the early church in such a way that I could see that the early church looked a lot like the Catholic Church.  The main difference being that the Catholic church of today was a lot bigger.  I even read a church history book where the Protestant historian admitted that the Church used apostolic succession (although he did not call it that but he described how apostolic succession operates) to fight heresies in the second century.  And, I discovered that if it was not for the Catholic Church, I would have no idea what books belonged in the New Testament because they decided that for me in approximately the 4th century after Christ!

Now, you would think that with all of this data, that I would have become Catholic right then.  The answer is no.  About this time, I happened to become reacquainted with a friend from high school.   His name is Jim.  Today he is Father Jim and he is a Catholic priest.  Father Jim is himself a convert to the Catholic Church.  He was raised a Presbyterian.  Father Jim and I would have these deep conversations on religious doctrine and history via email and we would agree pretty much all of the time.  Father Jim would say that I was more Catholic than some of his own parishioners.  I would always say, “I am not ready to swim the Tiber just yet.” And he would say, “What does the Holy Spirit have to do, whack you over the head with a 2 X 4?”  Finally Father Jim challenged me to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and said that if I found anything wrong with it to let him know and if I did not then I would know what I had to do.  So, during the summer of 2002, I finished reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and some other books written by Scott Hahn and by this time God had finally found his 2 X 4.  I came home one day and told my wife that it was time for me to become Catholic.

Kathy and I agreed to attend the RCIA program at The Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln, NE.  This program taught me how to become Catholic in a different sense since I was already Catholic in an academic sense.  While attending RCIA, I was taught how to attend Mass and how to pray the Rosary as well as The Liturgy of the Hours.  During this time my wife, Kathy, also realized it was time to come home to the Catholic Church.  So at the Easter Vigil in 2003 Kathy came back home to the Catholic Church and on Pentecost Sunday 2003, I had the privilege of entering the Holy Catholic Church as well.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Emanuel Burgos on June 21, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Great story and testimony! Thanks for sharing and for creating this blog! Great stuff!


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