"My Name Is Alex Jones" | Steve Ray | Foreword to No Price Too High: A Pentecostal Preacher Becomes a Catholic by Alex Jones (as told to Diane Hanson)
I will never forget the phone call that evening. The unfamiliar voice on the other end of the line said, "You don't know me, but my name is Alex Jones. Of all the men in all the world I need to talk to you."
I was a bit surprised and hesitatingly said, "All right, what can I do for you?"
Alex said, "You converted from Evangelical Protestantism to the Catholic Church, right?"
I said, "Yes I did. "
Then Alex quickly responded, "You are the only one I know of who has done thatso you will understand what I am going through, Can we talk?"
A few days later we met at a Big Boy Restaurant in Detroit. We had a delightful time, and I knew I had discovered a kindred spirit. I was impressed with Alex Jones the first time I laid eyes on him. He had a seriousness about him, but his soberness did not overshadow his sense of adventure and curiosity. I could see the intensity in his eyes, and as we began to talk I saw in him a rare honesty and depth. This was not a frivolous man. It was obvious that he had latched on to something and was not going to let it go.
It was the first of many lunches at Big Boy. We talked for almost three hours. I recounted my own conversion to the Catholic Church as I answered his rapid-fire questions. And they were not your average questions. Alex is a thinker, and he was thinking deeply. I still remember his eyes. They seemed to be dancing with the wonderment of a child, yet with the passion for truth of a sage. He was visibly excited, yet cautious and prudent. He wanted to know, but he was not reckless. He knew the Bible well and wanted everything to line up with the written Word of God. His eyes would darken and his eyebrows furl as he wrestled with new angles on the truth as they conflicted with old religious prejudices. I was watching a transformation take place right before my eyes.
The Lord had pulled back the curtain, and Alex had caught a glimpse of the early Church, and that short vision had set him on a quest. This quest was a dangerous thing for Alex to pursue since it could turn his life upside down and bring to a screeching halt the pastor's life he knew and loved. I warned him several times. "Alex," I said, "I want you to understand the full import of the questions you are asking, and the doors you are opening. It is the most exciting adventure you will ever embark upon, but at the same time, Alex, it can bring great pain and suffering. You stand to gain much, but you also could lose your family, your friends, your livelihood, and the Maranatha Church, which you have pastored all these years. You are at a fork in the road, Alex; move slowly and prayerfully."
We talked on the phone many times and continued our monthly lunches together. He was always bright-eyed and full of questions. After the first few meetings, I knew he had gone too far ever to turn back. He had discovered the Catholic Church, the best-kept secret in the world, and like the parable Jesus told of the priceless pearl, Alex was willing to give up everything to own the treasure for himself No price was too high for Alex once he glimpsed the eternal treasure.
A short time later, Alex invited my wife, Janet, and me to his home to meet his beautiful and intelligent wife, Donna. We were soon to find she also had a deep spirituality. She walked with Jesus as few people do, and she talked and lived as though she and Jesus were close friends. She was also, we discovered, not too fond of the Catholic Church or the direction her husband was taking. We tried to listen and share without pushing. Donna also had the eyes and manners of a person deeply concerned about truth and willing to take a stand for truth no matter what it cost her. And at this point she thought that truth was against the Catholic Church. But we loved her passion for truth and knew that if she continued to oppose the Church with honest questions, she would eventually see the fullness of the faith, and the Bible would open to her as never before.
My wife, Janet, took a liking to Donna. She prayed for her every day and kept in close contact. Had my wife been pushy with Donna it might have been the perfect excuse for Donna to bolt and run, but Janet was calm and patient. She knew that Donna was honest and that the truth would eventually dawn on Donna, and she wanted to be there to guide and coach her along the way.
I will never forget one day when I was reading my e-mails: I called Janet to come quickly. With smiles of joy and tears in our eyes, we read the words from Alex: "Donna wants me to tell you she is Catholic." Donna probably expected that we wouldn't believe it, but we did. Even though her conversion had taken a different course and time frame than Alex', we had seen the transformation coming. In conversations, we had seen the same "dangerous" wonderment and curiosity in her eyesat least dangerous for one who wanted to withstand the Catholic Church. We had known it was just a matter of time. We rejoiced at the words we read in that e-mail. Janet called Donna to congratulate her.
The rest is a matter of history and is well told in the two stories you are about to read in this book. The reader is fortunate to have two heartfelt stories in one. They are very different stories, yet they dovetail so beautifully. God is a master craftsman, and you will see his skill as he worked in this family, knitting two souls together as they traversed the dangerous and unknown paths. God shone his light on their paths, not far into the future, but only the light they needed for each step. Even if God had given them a glimpse of their lives together as Catholics now, they wouldn't have believed it.
We were very emotional at the Easter Vigil Of 200 1. A significant number of members of an African-American Pentecostal congregationfifty-four persons in all (including two who entered later on Easter Sunday)being received into the Catholic Church was not an everyday occurrence. Janet was Donna's sponsor, and I kept my camera flashing. It was joyful and moving. We had grown to love Alex and Donna dearly. To see them enraptured before the altar brought tears to our eyes and the eyes of many others. This was the end of a long journey for them. It had been a journey fraught with pain, loss, suffering, and betrayal. But it had also been a frolicking adventure filled with excitement, the joy of discovery, the making of new friends, and joining in the sumptuous feast of the Church. The journey had been bittersweet. But now on that eventful evening, one journey ended and another began.
Looking back on the whole process, we again marvel at the hand of God working in two wonderful souls. We are filled with joy at the blessings God has poured on them and their family since they set their faces like flint to follow God's lead no matter what the cost. We also marvel in the great blessing these two have been to the Church world wide. They are opening doors for many folks who would have never been open to the fullness of the faith in the Catholic Church. With great pleasure, I watch as Alex preaches to large crowds who are deeply moved by his story and wisdom. I join them as they laugh and cry and are moved to deeper commitment and love for our Lord Jesus Christ.
You are about to embark on a great journey. You are about to share their joys and sorrows. Alex and Donna have opened their souls to us and have invited us to share their intellectual, personal, cultural, religious, emotional, and theological struggles. You will be blessed and encouraged. You will be challenged and edified. You will thank God for this brother and sister in the Lord.
Author of Crossing the Tiber
August 8, 2005
Stephen K. Ray was raised in a devout, loving Baptist family. His father was a deacon and Bible teacher and Stephen was very involved in the Baptist Church as a teacher of Biblical studies and lectured on a wide range of topics. Steve and his wife Janet entered the Catholic Church in 1994. In addition to running a family business, Steve spends time researching, writing, and teaching about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church, Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church, and St. John's Gospel: A Bible Study and Commentary. He is currently producing a 10-video series for Ignatius Press called The Footprints of God: The Story of Salvation From Abraham to Augustine, filmed on location in the Holy Land. His website is www.catholic-convert.com.
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