by Alexandria Lukashonak
The day Father Andrew requested articles on conversion for our Evangelist Newsletter,
I immediately dismissed it from my mind. I concluded that those who converted to
Orthodoxy later in life, who made a mature decision, or those who had a dramatic
happening in their lives leading them to Christ should share their thoughts. As for me,
I had been a "cradle" Orthodox, nurtured in a home where my father took the lead in
bringing his family to church, where he taught me prayers in both English and Slavonic,
and to respect the clergy and their teachings. No problem here with believing in
But like many teenagers today, I wanted to be like my peers.
Unlike my situation, they did NOT have to take a bus, ferryboat, and train to get to
Divine Liturgy on Sundays and holy days. There were NO Orthodox friends of my age on
Staten Island. I was very impressed by my Catholic and Lutheran friends who had church
activities after school and whose pastors gave benedictions at assemblies. Little by
little, I was being drawn to them and their churches. As a matter of fact, when I was
15 years old, I decided I just might want to be Roman Catholic and run next door for
mass whenever I felt like it.
I truly believe God intervened in my decision. The bright idea hit
me that if I wanted to change my religion, I should first learn what I was giving up.
So I sat down with a New York City telephone book, pen and paper, and wrote to the
Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Manhattan. I did not know to whom to write and I was
not sure I would receive an answer, but I wrote:
I am a Russian Orthodox teenager with no church nearby and no
friends nor teacher of my faith. My parents will not allow me to travel to the city by
myself and I feel very isolated. Can you tell me if there is an Orthodox Bible in
English? Are there any books I can read?
A couple of weeks later a package arrived. In it was a Bible and a
book entitled "Faith of Our Fathers." A note written on brown wrapping paper by someone
who was obviously not American said, "God bless you for searching. I hope these will
help." I still have the Bible and the book - the book is really a simple one but I
remember vividly my excitement when I started to read it. How could I give up such a
faith? It has too much to offer! I have never stopped reading, never stopped learning
and marveling at God's Word, His plan for us and His love. I could never leave this
Church with its spiritual riches and heavenly worship.
Recently I heard someone expressing concern about our young people
being drawn away from Christ and the Church. I have learned that if we can teach our
children by our example, to seek Truth instead of fashion, to be a member of the Body
of Christ rather than members of a club, then even though they may be tempted, Truth
will stand the test. Maybe we won't see it today - it may be somewhere down the line.
Life is a continuing journey. Conversion may not be a one-time "been there, done it"
deal. None of us is a completed product!