30.0 Christian Enlightenment

by Elizabeth Stephens

Pastor Clarence and his wife Judy who pastored the local Nazarene Church in Santa Monica stopped by later that day in the evening to speak to me about knowing Jesus. I had never heard the Gospel before. Yes, I had seen the Robe and the Ten Commandments and I at the time I wished I had a faith that I could believe in like that.

I had no idea that Jesus was behind that faith. When I would share my Buddhist faith sometimes I ran into Christians that would tell me that Jesus loves me and I would tell them, and Buddha loves you too. I did not know any better. Although I studied the sutras and letters from the Buddhist founder, I had never been faced with the truth and when I heard it that night, I gave my life to the Lord. I cried and knew this was right. We, James and myself came to know Jesus Christ on the same day, which unbeknownst to us at the time, is a very unusual occurrence.

The pastor left and there we were new creatures in Christ. There would be a reordering of our lives.  We were going to have to rethink many situations, thoughts, family, even our daily routines. Together we had over 30 years of Buddhist practice, associations, acquaintances and friends. What made things much more challenging is that we lived across the street from the North American Headquarters. The next day we gathered together all our items of faith and returned them across the street.

(Sometime within a few years of being hired at the phone company, that same building was purchased by the Buddhist organization that I belonged to. I went to so many meetings at this location.)

James dropped them off at the front desk, to a mutual friend named Ann at the front desk. James told her he was returning these items and she said they have to go back to the temple, she thought they were from some of our members. James said no, he was not playing by their rules anymore and with that he dropped off his cargo (the Gohonzons, and the small scrolls), turned and left the building. He then took our handcart, loaded our large butsudon (our tall three door Buddhist altar) onto it, and walked it across Wilshire Boulevard to Morning Sun, a Buddhist altar store owned by Archie, whose family had been in the Buddhist altar business for over 300 years in Japan. (Much later, it was purchased by a Buddhist named Tina).

James, our son Eric at the time and I in 1981. Photo by Chris Casler.

James, our son Eric at the time and I in 1981. Photo by Chris Casler.

Tina Turner in Life Magazine Article (she purchased our old butsudon).

Tina Turner in Life Magazine Article (she purchased our old butsudon).

Not one person knocked on our door and when most of our members found out, there was shock in the camp. In the Buddhist scripture there is a term about stepping over the bodies of the fallen ones that have left the faith. Thank you Lord Jesus for you will not leave us nor forsake us, ever.

What does a new creature in Christ feel like? I had to learn to stop rout chanting, for a parking place or while I was waiting. It was so strange to run into former friends as they were afraid of us and would be so nervous and uncomfortable. It was as if the truth might rub off on them so they had to get away as soon as possible.

Once I ran into an old friend, Valerie and she was happy to see me. She drove up with her kids in the car. She said her husband is not a member and does not like her to talk to members. I told her great as I was not a member anymore; she was mortified and quickly left.

As for the Jewish contingent of my family, they accepted us with open arms when we were Buddhists and now we got the cold shoulder when we became Christians. I had heard rumors that there were actual funerals held for Jews that became Christians, but up until this time I had not believed it. Now I was rethinking the situation. Since that time the communication has fallen off and no matter what we did or did not do, everything was looked down upon.

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About James and Elizabeth Stephenshttp://www.worldviews101.comJames and Elizabeth Stephens presently live in Southern California and have been married since 1978. In 1999, James completed his MA in Leadership Development at Fuller School of Intercultural Studies and in 2010 Elizabeth completed an Associate in Science in Business Information Technology at Pasadena City College. They have three children.

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