I was born into a catholic family, so of course I was (sprinkle) baptized as an infant. Growing up, I remember some Sunday school sessions, but we did not go every week. By the time I was in 3rd or 4th grade, my mom was divorced, moved to a new house, and was rarely taking us to church. Since she felt the need for us kids to get some sort of religious upbringing, and since a nearby Baptist church had a bus to pick us up, we started going to Sunday school and service. This is where I heard the question, “who would like to ask Jesus into their hearts?” My hand went up, and I was saved!
I remember a few non-Sunday outings and Awana sessions. It seemed like all the kids knew so much more about the Bible than I did. I also liked the songs they sang. The Baptists seemed so cool!
Fast forward a couple more years. We had moved from Traverse City to Grand Rapids, mom’s hometown. Now we started going to the catholic church mom grew up in, and I started catechism classes. By the time you get to 9th grade, you start Confirmation classes to become considered responsible for your own faith.
I cannot say, though, that my faith was very important to me at this point. Church was just something I did once a week, not a lifestyle. Also, I began to question the Bible and what it contained, and who God really was. Going off to college did not help matters–I became very agnostic.
I married for the first time at the age of 26 to a non-practicing catholic. It was only after our first child was 4 years old that we started going to church and had her baptized. Now my faith started to grow again for the first time in years. I started volunteering at the church and eventually taught catechism to elementary school kids.
It was about this time that I started asking myself questions like “why doesn’t everyone participate during the week, instead of just on Sunday?” and “why is the church so different from the book of Acts?”
My marriage fell apart after 15 years. Let’s just say it was a long time coming and looking back on it, there was definitely things we both should have done differently. Sadly, and most importantly, God was not at the center of our marriage.
A few months later, I met the wonderful woman that would become my beloved wife. Mara was raised at first in a Baptist church while in foster care, but in a Lutheran church after being adopted. Soon after we were married, we went to a catholic church, but only a few times, and we decided that Catholicism was not for us. I knew the history of the Reformation, that each side had problems with the other, but I knew that individual people are saved, not denominations. So off we went in search of a church: Methodist, Baptist, charismatic, non-denominational, newly planted, well-established, even a home based church…all in the quest for a “home church.” We were looking for the elusive “Acts” church through it all. Plus we were becoming more and more dissatisfied with the commercialism and consumerism of Christmas and Easter, year by year. We deeply questioned the reason for these “holidays.” They were not in the Bible, so why were we doing them?
Sometimes the answer you’re looking for comes from the most unlikely source. In the meantime, we had become interested in homesteading. During our search for homesteader stories and tips on YouTube, my darling wife discovered An American Homestead. She then found Zack’s other channel, New2Torah. We didn’t know what to think at first. We did find the Mr. Anderson series very entertaining and informative, but I tried to find arguments against Torah-keeping, since “everyone knew” that the Cross changed everything. Right???
Well, we bought a piece of property, started a garden, and lived off grid during the spring and summer in a vintage travel trailer. No power, no internet, no running water, no jobs, reading our devotionals and Bible in the evenings. We loved everything about homesteading–we had found our niche! But unfortunately the wild animals loved our free garden buffet! But with winter quickly approaching, and no harvest, we were forced to go back to Babylon. We rented a hotel room month to month. Because it had free internet, we watched more homesteading videos. One of which was called Growing In Faith Farms (now renamed Off-Grid with Doug and Stacy). Doug and Stacy also happened to be Hebrew Roots followers, just like Zack. But we weren’t ready for Torah yet.
So another spring came around, and back out to the property we went to try again. This time our stream and running spring dried up waaay earlier than the year before. This was too much of a challenge for us. We went to live with my brother-in-law down in Tennessee. This didn’t work out–disastrous even. Then on to Muskegon in an apartment. It was there, December 2016, that we found a video about the pagan origins of Christmas: Truth or Tradition and that changed everything! We looked at each other and knew this was what we had been searching for! We quickly found 119 Ministries and The Way documentary. We discovered that God had a name, and it was YHWH! Wearing tzitzit came soon after.
Funny thing about tzitzit: they not only remind you of YHWH’s rules, but also lets you find other Torah keepers in public. Happened to me while getting supplies for Passover 2017 at Meijer. I saw a woman with a head covering (another public display oftentimes), looked over to her husband’s waist, discovered the fringes. Said to him, “Hello, brother!” and flashed them my blue threads. Garret emailed me a few months later to say that he had found a home fellowship in Byron Center. Frankly, at the time, we thought we needed something a little closer (because we were back on the property by this time).
Then we moved to Spring Lake. We were feeling so alone in our walk–we had tried to share our new understanding with our son and his wife, even giving them a Bible with YHWH’s name restored, but they rejected the Truth and that Bible.
Despite this rejection happening, YHWH soothed our hurt…opening the door by honoring our desire to no longer have to work on Shabbat! I went down to part time at work, but am still making a full time wage, and no more weekend hours. HalleluYah!!!
One night while I was at work, Mara was crying out to the Father, asking Him to please guide us to a home fellowship where we would fit in. Immediately after this prayer, Yah guided her to the NYSTV Facebook group and she found a couple from Byron Center. She messaged them, asking if they knew of a home fellowship or were a part of one. Now understand, that this was 3am–she was not expecting a reply when she messaged Matt and Summar. But, by Divine Appointment, they responded right away, saying that they host a fellowship in their home and we were welcome to come! Mara was so excited to tell me the blessed news when I walked in the door a few hours later. I said to her, “I bet that’s the fellowship Garret is going to.” We went the very next week and just fell in love with the group. We all have the “iron sharpens iron” mentality and really enjoy each other’s company while studying the Torah portions. We have found our home at last! All praise, honor, and glory to YHWH!