I was born in Ravenna, Ohio, on September 6, 1955. My parents were faithful members of the Ravenna Assembly of God church, my mother was a Sunday school teacher, and my father was a Sunday school superintendent. They fell in love, were married in the church, and about a year later I was born.
Our little family moved to Warren, Ohio, where my first sister was born 18 months later. We stayed there for about a year and moved to Chicago, Illinois, where my second sister was born. She died when she was less than a year old; my parents were heartbroken.
We moved back to Ohio, to the outskirts of a small village called New Melford, to a small farm surrounded by cow pastures, corn fields,
and rolling hills. My father was a machinist working in the tool-and-dye trade, supporting our family in this manner. My mother was a homemaker and my sister and I played among the cornfields and cows.
My grandparents on my father's side were nonreligious, though my great-grandmother was a member of the Ravenna Assembly of God. My grandparents on my mother's side were members of the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana, and my grandfather was
a Church of God preacher. Every Sunday, my great-grandmother would take my sister and me to church in Ravenna, where I learned the rudiments of bible stories in Sunday school.
During that time, my father began drinking and stopped going to church, while my mother converted to the Roman Catholic Church, praying the rosary at home and going to Mass in Ravenna on Sundays and holy days.
In the summer my grandfather would take my sister and me to Church of God camp meetings in the ancient mountains of North Carolina, where I learned to love grits, fried okra, and hominy.
It was there, when I was twelve, that I accepted Jesus as my personal savior and preached my first sermon to a bunch of children at the camp meeting children's school. It was about Shadrack, Meshek, and Abednego and the furnace of fire. My grandfather was very proud of me because of this.
I began to read the bible, which was given to me by my Sunday school teacher and decided to read a chapter a day; thus began my forty-plus year bible reading and study. When I turned thirteen, I was baptized in my home church, the Ravenna Assembly of God, by single immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
My family moved again, to another farm my father bought for six thousand dollars; it was six and three tenths hectors. Life on the farm was slow. We had a horse, a pony, a goat, a milk cow, three dogs, two cats, a pig, two geese and about a hundred chickens for eggs and meat. One-half of the property was a grove of trees, and the other half was a hayfield.
A few months after I turned fourteen, on January 17, 1970, my father died from complications on the operating table. My mother and sister were devastated; I was in shock. After I turned fifteen, I ran away from home, winding up in Coconut Grove, Florida, near Miami. I drifted away from Christianity, joined a Hindu cult, and stayed with them a couple of years. After a while, I drifted away from them and struck out for religious parts unknown, always reading the bible but making up my own beliefs.
I went to Berkeley, California, and then to San Diego, where I stayed off and on for the next twenty years. I kept traveling around the country, going from Florida to California and up to Portland Oregon.
I went to various Pentecostal churches, both Trinity and Oneness. I was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and was basically a spiritual ball of confusion.
THE MORMON CHURCH
About 1975, I hitch-hiked to Salt Lake City, Utah, and stayed there a few months in the summer. While there, I took the obligatory tour of Temple Square. I had never heard of the Mormons before that. I was raised in the Ravenna, Ohio, area when I was a child and later found out the Prophet Joseph Smith visited various villages in Portage county, where Ravenna is the county seat.
After I took the Temple Square tour a few times, I would go down to the desks on the lower floor they had for reading various church books. I started to read the Book of Mormon and was inextricably drawn into the narrative. When I got to Lehi's dream and Nephi's interpretation, I was absolutely awestruck! Part of it gave the history of America, from Christopher Columbus to the last days. I thought to myself. "How could such an ancient book be so astoundingly accurate?"
I think I read the Book of Mormon the first time in one or two sittings. In it was doctrine, history, prophecy, war, love, envy, and every other human emotion and circumstance. It struck me soundly that the Book of Mormon was so much like the Bible, yet infinitely plainer and easier to understand.
It answered all my questions about the mysteries so darkly contained in the sacred writings of the bible, clearly portraying the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of the Living God. As I continued to read it, I became convinced in my heart that "these things are true".
The crowning point in my conviction came one night. I was asleep and had a dream. In my dream, I was walking along the banks of a deep, flowing river. As I stopped to look at the water, I saw a book floating on top of the rushing water; it had a black-leather cover. Then I saw another book rising out of the water; it had a brown-leather cover. The two books rose up in the air, were joined, and became one book.
Then I woke up and knew in my heart of hearts that I had had a dream from the Lord about the Book of Mormon and the Bible. After that dream, I needed no more proof: I knew the Book of Mormon was true and nothing could convince me otherwise. I continued to read it; I must have read it five or six times from cover to cover that first summer.
I left Salt Lake City and continued my travels around the country, constantly reading the Book of Mormon. Every place I went, I would try to find a church that believed in the same book I did, I must have attended at least twenty or thirty different LDS chapels and ward houses around the west and southwest.
I finally made it back to Denver, Colorado. While there, I started to attend the Denver first ward. It finally dawned on me that I needed to join the Mormon Church, so I took the six Missionary discussions once a week. In June of 1976, I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.
I couldn't find a job, so I left Denver and hitch-hiked up to Portland, Oregon, where I met and married in a civil ceremony
a beautiful eighteen-year-old Swedish-Norwegian girl from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her name was Janet Fay Olson. We moved to her home town, there to start a new life with each other.
Thank the Lord she did not become pregnant, because the marriage was destined for failure, mainly because I was too overbearing and drove her to the arms of someone who showed her kindness.
Brokenhearted, I left Minnesota and traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, where I spent the next two months full of sorrow, crying for my lost, one-and-only love.
During that time, I studied Mormon church history and discovered there were more churches that believed in the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I traveled to Independence, Missouri, where I discovered there were about one hundred different churches, all claiming to be the One True Church established by Joseph Smith and claiming the Book of Mormon to be true.
First I investigated the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and was baptized and confirmed a member, mainly because of their claims of lineal succession from Joseph Smith, Jr. through his son Joseph Smith III. Then I found out about the Church of Christ with the Elijah Message and the Church of Christ Temple Lot.
Eventually, I became so confused with so many Restoration churches that I left them all in disgust. I traveled back to San Diego about 1978 and settled in downtown, for a while spending my time in dissipation and riotous living.
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
In 1979 I became fascinated with the Roman Catholic Church, being drawn to it from my love of tradition and ritual. The Catholic Church filled a need I had for devotion to Mary the Mother of God.
I became entwined in all sorts of Catholic devotions, daily Mass, praying the rosary, litanies, visiting beautiful churches, Eucharistic devotions, etc. In the fall of 1984, I became a catechumen in the Catholic Church. However, that year the Catholic Bishop of San Diego decided to delegate his confirmation authority to the local parish priests.
That bothered me a great deal because I was stuck in tradition, knowing that normally the Bishop was the one who confirmed the catechumens. So I said to myself, "If the Bishop won't confirm me, I'm not going to become Roman Catholic!" I stopped going to the Catholic Church and drifted around spiritually for the next few months.
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH.
In 1985, one Sunday about 10:30 a.m. I was walking by St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church and decided to go in to see what their service was like.
I climbed up the steps and went through the large front doors and into the Narthex, where I was confronted with another set of double doors with little windows set in them at eye level. I looked in and was awestruck by what I saw; it was like stepping back in time a thousand years! I stood there stuck at the doors, mesmerized by what I could see, hear, and smell.
The weird Greek chants, the half-tones, and the flowing repetition were enchanting, the odor of the incense was intoxicating, and the color and movements of the priest were hypnotic. I was finally under a spell I could not break.
Suddenly a man at the candle stand woke me up from my trance and asked me if I needed any help. I stuttered and asked if it was all right to go in and he kindly said, " Yes, go in and do what the other people are doing, but don't go up to receive communion."
I went in trembling and a little afraid because I could feel the very presence of the almighty ever living powerful God of the universe. I stood amazed at the experience, and the two hours passed all too quickly. I was in a daze, thunderstruck by the entire liturgy. I had been transported back in time and space, from earth to heaven, from the present to the Holy Cross at Mount Calvary.
I soon became addicted to the liturgy, going to St. Spyridon's Church for about six months, until one Sunday the priest spoke to me in his thick Greek accent and told me that there was a Russian Orthodox church that served liturgy in English once a month.
He thought I could learn about the Orthodox faith better if I could understand what was being chanted in my native tongue.
I began to attend St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in America and went there for about a year, delving ever more deeply into the Orthodox Church, imbibing the fresh waters of eternal life of the Holy Divine Liturgy.
Every Sunday, after communion, the priest's wife would give me a small round loaf of Prosphora (blessed bread, not the Eucharist) with a little triangle cut out of it. I later learned that she had been offering my name to the priest to be commemorated during the Divine Liturgy, praying for my conversion to the Holy Orthodox Church.
During that time, I was reading everything I could find about the Orthodox Church, consuming every book I could lay my hands on. One Sunday, the old priest asked me why I didn't become Orthodox. I had never thought of it before because I was perfectly happy just attending the wonderful Divine Liturgy. That began my thoughts about becoming Orthodox so I could receive Holy Communion.
After a year of pure bliss, I moved from San Diego to Tucson, Arizona, and began to attend Holy Resurrection Antiochian Orthodox Church. What a change; I was in heaven, everything was in English, and I could finally understand what was being chanted.
After six months, I talked to the priest, Fr. Michael Evans, and asked him what I needed to do to become Orthodox. He knew from our talks I really understood the Orthodox Faith and firmly believed it, so he said to me, "You must ask me three times." I asked him, "Can I become Orthodox? Can I become Orthodox? Can I become Orthodox?" He asked me, "When?" I said, "As soon as possible!" He said, "How about this Wednesday?" And I said, "The sooner, the better!"
That following Wednesday, on June 11, 1986, the Leave Taking of Pascha (Easter), I was Chrismated (confirmed) into the Holy Orthodox Church. My favorite part of the Holy Chrismation was when Fr. Michael asked me three times, "Do you reject Satan...?" to which I replied, "I do!", and he said to me, "Then breathe and spit on him!" I turned my head to the left and SPIT ON SATAN!
For twenty six years I have been Orthodox, finally having found my home. For me there is no longer any wandering from church to church. If you ever find the Holy Orthodox Church as I have found the Orthodox Church, there will be two words for you as there were for me: " WELCOME HOME!"
Obadiah Robinson. 10/11/2012.