Like most Christians, I grew up with parents who took me to church every week. I grew up in a different denomination, and my father served in many roles: Sunday School teacher, vestryman (similar to an elder), and wherever else he could serve within the confines of laity. My mother was one of those tireless women, often unseen, whose presence made the church run: cleaning, starching, and pressing altar linens and vestments, arranging flowers, polishing what had to be miles of woodwork, and—the hallmark of any good church—preparing countless meals for fellowship dinners! With that foundation, it only makes sense that I would grow up to be a faithful child. I was an acolyte, covered in cassocks, up at the altar. The church was my home. It’s the perfect story, right? Well, yes… if that is where we ended it. Life, however, had other plans. I will spare the details, but suffice it to say the parish of my upbringing lost its way, and stopped teaching God’s truth, and so began my search for a new church. I was still in college, and as so often happens, the ways of the world replaced God’s way.
Around 2005, I decided it was time to get back to church. Great, right? As I found myself trying different churches in the area, I felt like the title character in a bad version of Goldilocks: I found hot and I found cold, but I hadn’t found “just right.” The beginning of the turning point took place one day in Cranston, Rhode Island when my then-roommate had consumed the last of the milk. As I grumbled down the street to the convenience store on the corner to get something to put in my coffee, I looked across the street at the giant dirt lot and said aloud: “Lord… I have had enough. I want to come home. I need a church that puts you first. And, since I’m asking for things, could you please give me faith?”
God has a wonderful sense of humor, and when he wants to make a message clear, he will not be subtle. The very next day, as I pulled out of the apartment complex to drive to work, there was a sign on the corner of the dirt lot: “Future home of FAITH.” I still laugh, thinking God took me rather seriously. Shortly thereafter came the present building of Faith Chapel in Cranston. I attended a service, and felt an instant connection. The people were welcoming and I heard the words that started my recovery. When the pastor was about to preach his sermon, he said something I had never heard before, but am happy to say I have heard often in the Church of the Lutheran Brethren: “Please open your Bibles and read this with me… I don’t want you to take my word for this. I want you to see God’s words with your own eyes.” Wow. I had grown up knowing the Scripture that cautions us to not lean on our own understanding, but never seen it put into action. It resonated. God is present here.
I would love to think that it was at that moment that I found my faith again, but the defining point was in 2013. Some works take longer, and God had to break out the big chisels to get through my skull. Thankfully he doesn’t give up on anyone—ever. I had to face the greatest test of my life: because of a stroke, I had lost my job. While God gave me a complete recovery, it did not suit my former employer’s timing, and I was released. My new job was seasonal and came to an end. I had no income. Once I found a job, it did not cover the rent. I found myself homeless. Without hesitation, the church supported me. The pastor stored my furniture in the parsonage, and an elder got me placed in a homeless shelter. Ultimately, I found the shelter an unsafe environment for me, and chose to live in my car. In that time, I had my greatest treasure on the seat beside me—the Bible. I read it and prayed, and I felt a calming presence that whispered to my soul, “Trust me.” I would look at the stars in the sky and think carefully of the one who made each of them, and I finally thought, “Yes, Lord. I will trust in you.”
Four months later, the owner of the motel where I work allowed me to move into one of the rooms on the property. I have been there ever since. While it is not a home, I am grateful for it. I have shelter, I can bathe, and I am mindful each time my head touches the pillow that there are others who lack both.
I have had a lifelong issue with my hearing which keeps me from clearly understanding the sounds around me, but I am happy to say I now serve on the worship team at Faith as their first signing member, rendering our worship music into sign language.
Recently, I became a member of the church, not only choosing Faith Chapel as my home, but the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as my spiritual family. Since then, I have had God’s presence working in my life in an even mightier way. One of my goals is to develop my fluency in sign language and to bring the good news of Christ not only to the hearing, but to the deaf.
Where will this story end? This much I know: It will happen in God’s time, and he has not only given me Faith, the chapel, but he has restored my faith.
I have come home.
Devon Craig is a member of Faith Chapel Lutheran Brethren Church in Cranston, Rhode Island.