Updated: Jun 6
Up through age five, my dad made sure I and my little sister went to Sunday school every week. If we didn’t go to church, we couldn’t play outside. I tried to miss church once and had to stay inside all day. Too sick to go to church? Too sick to play. Dad took us every week, but he didn’t go.
My dad went to Vietnam when I was in the first grade. He was a helicopter pilot flying equipment in to troops where the fighting was. Dangerous. We moved to Texas to live next door to my grandparents, so that my mom would have help with the two of us girls.
My grandmother was a very godly woman. She loved the Lord. I just wanted to be like her. She had a peace about her that I'd never seen before. We went to her church.
I remember one particular Sunday when I was in the first grade Sunday School class. Our teacher put us in a circle and showed us a picture of Jesus with children on His lap.
She told us that Jesus loves the little children. Jesus wants to be our father. And my dad wasn’t there, he was in Vietnam. When I heard this, I felt an amazing love and peace surrounding me. I wanted the love of a father, and my father was missing. I was
just inundated with this love, love from God, and I didn’t know what it was, it was weird. I was just six. I had no idea what it meant. I can still feel what it felt like today. Nothing really changed after that. But, I had a Bible that my grandmother gave me, a King James version, impossible to read. I just wanted to hold it all the time.
My family kept moving around. In Virginia, I went to Sunday School. In Australia, I attended a Church of England girls grammar school. All along the way, I was learning about God. Our Church of England school had chapel every morning, singing hymns and a small devotion. We had church every Thursday, an Anglican service where a priest came and swung incense around, cleansing our sins. We had divinity class three times a week. There we learned all the stories of the miracles, memorized them, regurgitated them. This was three hours per week for four years, from 6th grade to 9th grade. It seemed harder than college.
When we came to San Francisco to live at the Presidio, I wanted to go to church, but my family wouldn’t. I was too young to drive myself and really missed church. After I graduated high school, I attended a summer church group and loved it.
When I applied to college, I asked for a Christian roommate and got one. We started going to a Baptist church. It was like heaven. But then my roommate got into partying and stopped going to church. I was 17, and I stopped going to church, too, because I had no one to go with anymore. I was a Christian but there was so much I didn’t understand.
One day, my sociology class showed a video of a Catholic priest who gave up everything to serve the homeless. Right there in class, God said to me, “I want you to give up everything to serve Me too.” I got out of my seat and ran to the dorm saying, “Don’t let Evelyn be home, don’t let Evelyn be home!” Alone in our room, I held up my hands in front of the window and said, “I give you everything!”
But still I was isolated, living in a party dorm in a party school, and not interested in partying. I was very lonely. God was my comfort. On Friday and Saturday nights, I immersed myself in the Bible. I grew and grew, and I wondered, “how can they be out partying when they could be doing what I’m doing?”
For my second year, I arranged to live off-campus with a Christian I knew from high school. But all summer, I was really scared about going back.
And then God stepped in again, just as when I was six. I had a dream. In the dream, I was sitting under a tree (at the time, I didn’t know, but after I went to live in Morocco, I knew it was an olive tree). The Lord Jesus came up to me. He said my name and touched me. That’s all He did, just touched me. I felt this amazing peace. I woke up and got on my knees and said to God, “I don’t deserve this.” The peace lasted for months and months. I returned to college and joined a Bible study. I was mentored by a Campus Crusade staffer and had numerous Christian friends. It was just like heaven.
Looking back, I believe that God totally protected me. He stepped in at critical moments. He directed me away from many temptations in college. He fed me from His word and stayed with me in the lonely times. God has been constantly revealing himself to me, stepping into my very mundane life. It’s really God’s story, not mine.
*This is the first in a series called Faith Beginnings.