May 24, 2014 is a day that I’ll always remember. It was a Saturday. It was sunny. It felt typical. And I never thought that this day would have such an impact in my life. It’s the day that I had what I would call my “quarter-life crisis”, a distinct epiphany that would drastically change the course of my spiritual career.
That Saturday afternoon our service group was working in our territory and a street called Hemlock (I still even remember the street). But I was dragging. I was working from door to door solo at the time and had just hit a bit of a wall. At the time, I was balancing working 50+ hours a week as a restaurant manager at California Pizza Kitchen and regular pioneering. I had closed up the restaurant the night before (meaning I didn’t leave until around 1:30am), I was closing that night (meaning a comparably late night) and I was opening the following morning (meaning I needed to be there the next morning at 7am). Dreading another one of my common Sunday morning work days running on four and a half hours of sleep and the upcoming high level of business for Memorial Day, ideas just flowed to my head. And as they did, I started texting my friend Khristian.
“I’m having a big epiphany,” I texted him in between doors, “I want to quit. I want to move somewhere and go do service in another country!” He replied that he was just having a conversation with his service partner about that.
“Honestly,” I continued typing, as the thoughts raced through my head, “I’m having a sudden awakening! There’s so much more than CPK.” Before awaiting a response, I quickly added, “I have a lot of praying to do…”
He agreed that it’s so easy to get stuck in the same routine and that there really is so much out there to do. “I mean imagine moving to Spain. San Sebastian or whatever. And helping out an English or even Spanish congregation out there,” I continued to muse, “Ahh it would be amazing… so much running through my mind!” I told him I wanted to vent to him more about it soon.
But “soon” wasn’t enough for me. I started talking to the people working the street that day with me, expressing how much I really wanted to make something happen. And then I turned to my dad. We hadn’t been out in afternoon service for too long but I wanted to really take the time to express my ideas.
“I’m having a quarter life crisis (in a good way). I wanna talk soon. It’s not super major. Just a lot of thoughts.” My dad immediately texted me back that he’d be free for lunch within the hour.
Our lunch was significant. We talked at length about my ideas. I examined my motives, I thought about my future. And he and I both realized that this would be an incredible step to take.
I never thought that this day would mean so much, but it got the ball rolling for hugely impacting events to come. In June, I gave the idea more serious thought and wrote a letter to the Spanish branch via my service committee. In July, the branch replied with five options of English groups and congregations that needed assistance. I was so happy to see my number one choice, San Sebastian, there on the list. I’d visited the city twice before that point and considered it (and the sentiment remains) my favorite city in the world. In that same month, I emailed my boss my two weeks notice, I would be stepping down form my position as manager and back into a much less demanding role as a server and shift leader. After agreeing to help out on additional week, I completed my role as a manager on August 8, 2014 which, despite being a great learning experience, was a huge relief.
Fast forward to September, I more heavily researched the congregations in Spain. My conversations with the coordinator of the English group in San Sebastian revealed that the need for assistance in the English territory had dwindled to some extent. So with some extensive research, and plenty of email exchange between myself and the elders of the respective congregations in Spain, I came to decide on a city called Zaragoza. Had you heard of it before? I know I hadn’t. But what appealed to me was the true need to that the coordinator expressed to me. He mentioned that their congregation of about 40 publishers was handling 100 Bible studies! WOW! I couldn’t believe that statistic. I was so excited at the idea of refreshing my seventh year of pioneering with such an overwhelming demand for people to know the truth. My initial thought was to stay for 6 months to a year, but the process for getting a visa for an extended stay was very complex (I’m talking FBI background checks and medical reports, among much more), and would not be completed anytime soon. So I decided to start by staying for the maximum time allowed without a visa, which was three months.
Email exchanges with the Zaragoza coordinator, a British brother named Andrew, quickly helped me to see that these three months would be no mere walk in the park. After confirming with him that I would be coming there, I was quickly assigned two times to read at the Congregation Bible Study, four parts on the Service Meeting and two public talks.
Fast forward yet again to November. It was a random Monday night and I was at Khristian’s house discussing my upcoming plans. “Why don’t we check out some flights,” he suggested. He hooked up the computer to the big screen television and my jaw dropped at some of the insane deals that Norwegian Air offered to fly there round trip to LAX in the $600’s. My palms got sweaty. My mind started racing. Wow. This could be the night I finalize my decision. “Man, I am so tempted to do this right now!” I expressed. “You should!” he replied.
It was getting late, so I rushed home, praying as I drove. As soon as I got home, I sped up to my room and hopped online right away. The deal was there, alive and well, and mine for the taking. Within half an hour, the ticket was officially mine. I remember that my friend Chase was the very first person that I told that it was official. The ticket was mine. I was officially going to Spain.
On May 24, 2014 I would have this spark of an idea.
On May 24, 2015 I would be returning from the trip that saw that very idea come to fruition.