Monday, December 20, 2010

Forrest Fallows' Journey to Orthodoxy

Forrest Fallows introduced us to Orthodoxy almost three years ago. He had just come completed a trip through Latin America and back. Besides the crazy stories that came from that adventure, we learned that he was baptized and had become Orthodox in less than two months! While visiting him in Tucson, he invited us to attend Liturgy with him. This would become the start of our journey to Orthodoxy and our baptism (which is just a few days away)!

Over the years our separate journeys have had very similar paths regarding Christianity, and ultimately Orthodoxy, which I believe, has led to a connection that makes us closer than brothers. It is with great joy, that I am able to present the story of Forrest's own journey to Orthodoxy.

Forrest's Patron Saint Joachim
(he was baptized during the feast of Joachim and Anna)
It’s been a while since I’ve considered my time at the monastery. When I found the monastery in Mexico, San Antonio El Grande outside of Mexico City, I ended up staying there on two different occasions for a combined time of just over two months. Thinking about my time there now makes me miss it intensely. My whole experience at the monastery was seated in the middle of a Latin American trip that ended up lasting a year. The trip as a whole didn’t have any real specific goals except to fulfill some deep personal longing for something as cliché as adventure itself. I wasn’t looking for something like Orthodoxy, not actively, but now, looking back I can see how I was looking for Orthodoxy all along and didn’t know how to look.

Monasterio de San Antonio el Grande
My draw to Orthodoxy began when I met Fr. Abuna Serafín in el zòcalo of Mexico City. I was a tourist. I was wandering around the plaza and the ruins and the street vendors, I remember when I learned how cheep street food was there. The two weeks prior to me being in Mexico City I was eating food out of my van and fruit I could find growing on the beach. I bought and consumed about five hot dogs, enough to make me feel a little sick. I walked into the beautiful cathedral there in the zòcalo. I mostly remember looking at the art and being impressed by the paintings. While walking through the church I saw a priest unlike any I had seen in Mexico or anywhere else, he had a beard and a byzantine style hat. I nodded and said “buenas tardes padre,” he acknowledged my presence and continued walking by. About ten minutes later the same priest approached me and asked me if I spoke English. According to Father Abuna, which is what I would soon call him, he passed by me the first time and knew that we where meant to meet. We began talking. The conversation wasn’t life changing or even memorable, but I remember knowing that I wanted to learn something from this man. I stayed in Mexico City for a while longer but eventually followed him to the monastery.

Before I go on, I should probably introduce myself a little: I was raised in a Christian home, a protestant, contemporary, American, Christian home, and I thank God for that. I studied theology for two years at a non-denominational protestant bible school and graduated. I’ve served in churches as a youth leader and a worship leader. At one point I was convinced that I was called to pastor a church… Following that inner prodding, I started a home church in my living room with the help of some friends. This experience gave way to some interesting events that I couldn’t have foreseen, first of all, I was rebuked and was barred from leadership at the church where I was serving (I’m not saying they were wrong). The house church was very alive in many ways but also very cynical and, many times, we chose to focus on what we were not rather than what we could be. Our guidance became shaky and in the end I wondered if the house church did more harm than good. Many people that we considered leaders in the house church have since walked away from church and Christianity and God.

In the waning years of the house church I began to consider monasticism. I started reading Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk, and I started visiting a Benedictine monastery in Sothern Arizona. I would stay two or three days, or I would just visit for an afternoon. I was attracted by the surface simplicity while attempting, with the help of God and the brethren, to conquer the complex labyrinth of the inner self. I began to seriously consider my vocation, and wondered if I could join the order. However, the raft of confusing theological dogmas of the Catholic Church held me back, and through conversation with the leadership, I learned that I couldn’t view the abbot as someone who would teach me. In the end I abandoned monasticism as an option, seeing as monasticism is unheard of in the theological community where I grew up and felt comfortable.

The monastery in Mexico was very different. I remember thinking that the lives of the monks were actually the lives Christ intended us to live. For every one of my questions I received a very profound answer. I felt like those who heard Jesus speak must have felt, I was amazed by the knowledge of the Orthodox Church. And then Fr. Abuna proposed that I be baptized. I didn’t even understand what I was doing, or the meaning of many traditions and practices. But, as I told someone at the time, I can learn more about the Orthodox Faith from inside the church than from outside. My heart already knew enough, and I made the decision to be baptized and become Orthodox.


  1. Ahh I just found this story. This explains a lot.


  2. I am feeling the same....
    whats happen to us....?