The following story appeared in the April 28 Idaho Catholic Register.
Michael Brown, son of Stephen Brown, is pictured with his wife, Justyna. Her Catholic faith led Michael to the Church. Michael's conversion eventually led Stephen Brown to the Church. (Courtesy photo/Stephen Brown)
Editor’s note: As has been our Easter Season tradition, this issue of the Idaho Catholic Register profiles in our series, “He Left the 99 to Rescue Me,” a number of converts who received the Easter sacraments this year.
By Stephen Brown
NAMPA – I was born Jan. 9, 1957. My mother has said I hit the ground running as a very inquisitive child. As I overheard adult conversations, I would become perplexed in trying to reason with their opinions and thoughts.
I’m sure these conversations were never intended to be overheard. I just really wanted to understand about most anything. When mom’s adult friends, came to visit, mom would tell me to go in another room and play because she was afraid of what I may say to them after hearing their conversations. My inquisitiveness could sometimes embarrass her. I have always had questions because I was always seeking for reason and truth.
My grandfather, Benny Brown, was a minister at Free Will Baptist Church in Santa Clara, Calif., for more than 40 years. He and grandmother would come get me and take me to church every Sunday morning during my childhood. My Dad and Mom would occasionally attend, but with no consistency. Like most kids, I believed all the stories from my Sunday school classes and accepted as truth what my granddad would preach in his sermons.
My parents divorced when I was 7. My mom moved me to Santa Cruz, Calif., to be closer to her parents. That meant I was no longer picked up on Sundays for church. My mom didn’t have a faith, so attending church wasn’t a priority. My time in Santa Cruz became focused on what kids in beach towns do.
Mom remarried a man who she later discovered was an abusive alcoholic. For a while, life was difficult for me. So, at age 14, I chose to move back to live with my father and step-mother. Doing so allowed me a closer relationship once again with my grandparents who pastored the Baptist Church.
One Sunday morning while spending a weekend with my grandparents, I attended church service and answered my granddad’s altar call to step forward and be saved. I remember my granddad falling to his knees and weeping with joy. However, his joy was short-lived because when I returned home, my father, upon hearing that I had come forward for the altar call, accused me of “making a scene” in front of the whole church.
My dad’s ridicule and my desire for his approval became the reasons for my falling away from Christianity and getting distracted with other things. I got into the whole 1970s scene of drugs, partying and wanting to be popular with girls! I started getting into trouble.
I graduated from high school in 1974 and immediately joined the U.S. Air Force. My first duty station was Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. After four years’ enlistment, I left the Air Force and attended Boise State University seeking a degree in literature. I was working different jobs at that time to make ends meet. I soon found out that being a member of the Air National Guard entitled me to get federal grants to help pay for my tuition. So, I re-enlisted, eventually securing full-time employment for the Air Guard. That was my career for more than 30 years.
On a deployment to Kuwait, I attended a Sunday morning service at the military chapel. The chaplain preached about how God was blessing us for the mission we were there to perform. He said that God was on our side. My immediate thought was that our enemies were hearing the same thing from their spiritual leaders; God was with them in their fight, too. That troubled me.
Living in Boise and married with two toddler boys, we met Homer and Harriet Trussel. They were an elderly Christian couple with whom we became dear friends. They invited us to their Church of Christ in Boise, and there I was baptized.
Moving to Nampa in 1991, we began searching for a new church home. We started attending Calvary Chapel-Meridian where we became very involved. I felt the Holy Spirit was working in us. But the church disbanded due to inner-church rivalries. Then in 2000, I went through a divorce. I became angry with life and soon realized that I needed God. I knew that He could be my only comfort.
That realization started my church hopping once again among different Protestant sects. I couldn’t find one sect agreeing with the other in doctrine. One church told me that doing any kind of work or play on Saturday was a serious sin. Another told me that serving in the military was wrong, and I needed to separate from it. Still another preached the prosperity gospel: “You can have everything your heart desires if you first tithe and then ask God for you want.”
Nor could I feel comfortable in the new mega-church surroundings of blasting rock music and a lax approach to worship that seemed disrespectful to God. I found myself becoming cynical of the modern Christian movement in general. So, I adopted the “God knows my heart, I’m OK,” attitude.
Later, I find out my son, Michael, grown and married, was also struggling with similar issues. Like me, he was seeking reason and truth in his life. He was raised in the Calvary Chapel movement and, while in the Air Force, became involved with Campus Crusade for Christ. Witnessing his faith to young people in Poland, he met his wife, Justyna, who was a Catholic.
Still praying for truth, he was led by the Holy Spirit to research the teachings of the Catholic Church. As he researched, he attended Mass a few times and was impressed by the respect and praise of the Catholic faithful when approaching God in worship.
Naturally, I had questions for Michael about his decision to become Catholic. He was concerned for me because I wasn’t attending any church. “Dad, you need to be back in Church and not relying on speculation that Jesus knows your heart,” he would tell me, reminding that we are to seek God first in all things. He pointedly asked me if I was seeking Him with all my heart. Nope!
I asked him to send me his research about the Catholic Church and promised him that I wouldn’t make judgments on hearsay, but on fact. For two years, I received books and literature about the history and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
As I read and researched on my own, I decided to start attending Mass. I fell in love with the Mass. So I contacted St. Paul’s in Nampa to inquire about attending adult OCIA classes. Meeting with Deacon Charles Corbalis, he as-sured me he would contact me upon the start of his next class. During the wait, I continued my research.
To my joy, I am happily being confirmed this Easter season in the Catholic Church. Receiving the Eucharist I will feel for the first time that I’m receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in and full communion with His Church.
Praise Be To God!
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