My Story: Index
Continued from part 6...
Debi and I talked quite a bit about our new-found realizations.
One thing that started to depress me was that, if all the commandments of the Torah were still valid, then everyone I knew was breaking a lot of commandments! (At the time, I thought that all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, were obligated to keep all of the laws of the Torah. Later, as I continued to learn, I changed my mind about this. More on that later.) I knew that if I saw a fellow believer committing a sin, I should tell them about it, and help them to repent. However, after I read Restoration, all I could see was how much my friends and I were sinning! And I felt paralyzed to do anything about it.
Since I was still on the ship heading back to the States, had a lot of time to read, pray, and reflect on this. I read all of Lancaster's books that we had on board, and any other "Messianic Jewish" books by other authors, too.
I didn't tell many people the details of what was going on with me. I felt too ignorant, confused, and, due to the knowledge of all the unknown sinning going on, even depressed about it.
When we got back to the States (January of '07), I couldn't wait to get on the internet and start researching. I found that Lancaster was a teacher at a congregation in my home state of Wisconsin, and that his congregation had a website on which several of his teachings were posted. I immediately downloaded all of them, and put them on my mp3 player to listen to while working. (This practice I'd been able to continue for several years, and it has been the source of much of my learning.)
Two of the most influential teachings that I listened to were Lancaster's series on the book of Acts and the book of Hebrews (and several years later, on the book of Galatians). It appears that these teachings have been taken down. However, many similar teachings can be found at www.bethimmanuel.org and www.ffoz.org.
Needless to say, I started keeping as many of the commandments as I could. I stopped working on Saturdays, I celebrated the Feasts, I stopped eating pork and shellfish, I wrote commandments on my door (cf. Deut. 6), I threw away my clothing of mixed wool and linen fabric (cf. Deut. 22:11), etc. My Christian friends and coworkers were a bit taken aback, but in general they let me do my thing.
At first, one difficulty of keeping the Torah was that I was lonely (and a bit bored) doing it alone. Well, not completely alone, but almost. What I really wanted was a community of Torah-keepers to belong to. So, after doing a bit of research, I decided I wanted to visit Mr. Lancaster's congregation, Beth Immanuel, in Hudson, WI. The only problem was that I didn't have any money, and thus no way to leave Friend Ships.
One day, however, I had received some cash from a friend that I had met in Virginia. He'd heard that I was in need, and had the generosity to send me some money. This allowed me to take a bus to a friend's house in Texas, where I was allowed to live and work for the summer of 2007.
I continued to try to keep the Torah, and became more convinced that I needed to belong to a Torah-keeping community.
When I saved up enough money, I took the bus up to my parent's house in Wisconsin. I informed them of my plans to visit Beth Immanuel in Hudson, and prepared myself to leave.
On sort of a whim, I thought I'd look in the Hudson newspaper (online edition) for apartments and jobs near Beth Immanuel. Surprisingly, I found a cheap room for rent that was 2 blocks from the congregation. Not only that, but I was able to set up an interview for the following week at an aircraft component repair station in Hudson.
"Hm," I thought. "Instead of just visiting Hudson, I could actually move there."
And that's what I did. I got a ride to Hudson from somebody I found on Craigslist, and moved into the room on Orange St. in Hudson just as soon as I got in town. A few days after that, I had gotten the job at the aircraft repair station, and was attending Beth Immanuel on a regular basis. It was August of '07.
Wow, life can change so quickly.
Needless to say, the Beth Immanuel community was a little shocked at my arrival. However, I think they soon learned that I was sincere and not too crazy to be much cause for worry.
For the next four years, Beth Immanuel and community life was almost all that I was really concerned about. I immersed myself in learning, reading, Torah, etc. (I had a lot of beliefs that I needed to un-learn, as well, and then learn again, only properly) I developed some great friendships with people who were of like-mind. One reason I was excited to live in the community was that there were several people living there who were much more educated in Torah than I was. By spending lots of time with them, I was able to acquire lots of information (and inspiration) that propelled me toward greater understanding and observance of Torah.
That's what I'll write about next.
Go to part 8...