Americorps, Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, college graduate, Con Man, Domestic Peace Corps, Holy Spirit, ministry, Peace Corps, religion, Spiritual Calling, Spiritual Disobedience, Spiritual Love, Student Loans, Thomas Jefferson, University of Virginia, VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America
(This commences the final segment in the series “Losing Faith.” This segment, Faith Redefined is preceded by The First Loss, and Faith Rekindled. Please see the page Losing Faith for links to all articles in the series. It is also in the Navigation Bar at the top of the page.)
(The second came as my time approached to leave the Center.)
So much of the story up to now, from the beginning of The First Loss in the first article in the series to the end of Faith Rekindled in the eleventh article, has concentrated on my problems and victories with alcohol. The last two parts did very little to advance the timeline. Rather, they concentrated nearly exclusively on my recovery from that disease and the rekindling of a sick, near dead faith.
Furthering the story now, near the end of my allowed time at the Salvation Army, I began to pray asking what should I do? What kind of work was I to do? Where was I to go? The Spirit reminded me that when I was a very young teenager, I received a call to enter into spiritual service.
Wow! In the 37 years since that original call I had gone down such completely different roads with such disastrous results that I had completely blocked this call from my memory. I was overjoyed to for this call to be renewed. This was the second major message and I answered with a loud affirmative.
Perhaps with my experience in the world, I had much more to bring to the field than ever I could have hoped before. I had (and have) a powerful message on the consequences of disobedience and the radical change that can occur even for one as near dead as I was. I had a story of Spiritual Love far greater than any I could have expressed as a young man.
O.K. But, how to begin? I couldn’t go back to school. I was totally impoverished and so far gone in default on Student Loans that there was no way that I could get another. There was no way I could just jump into a ministry with no personal resources or backing from an outside source (or was there?)
I went back to the Spirit in prayer. For the second time in a short time I was reminded of something that my human faculties could never have recalled. I was a college graduate (B.A. polisci) and as such I was eligible for a federal program called Americorps. Americorps ia a domestic Peace Corps and qualified candidates may serve for 3 non consecutive years.
I was qualified. Those serving are paid a cost-of-living stipend and receive valuable experience and resume material. Mot importantly to me, I was being called in that direction to serve and I jumped to it.
I went online and got registered. A nationwide list of programs seeking Americorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) was provided. I narrowed the search to the state I was in and three bordering states and Washington D.C. From that list, five possibilities popped up and I sent in applications. Three of those responded and asked to set up an interview; one in D.C., one in West Virginia, and one in my home state of Virginia, in the city of Charlottesville.
I did a telephone interview with West Virginia and in-person interviews in D.C. and Charlottesville. All this was being done while I was still living and working at the S.A. By this point I was just 30 days away from being there a year. I was established as a trustworthy, hard-working, mature, and sober individual. They allowed me extended passes to go to my interviews across and out of state. The one in D.C. didn’t call back. The one in Charlottesville did.
It seemed as though it was meant to be. mere coincidence seemed highly unlikely. Charlottesville, Virginia is a city that I have loved my entire adult life. It is in the high foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Mountain geography has always had an intimate attraction with the passion of my spirit. I have always considered myself an intellectual and lover of academia and C’ville is the home of the most prestigious institute of higher learning in the commonwealth, the University of Virginia (UVa). It is also the birthplace of the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. with my passion for both politics and history, Jefferson is my hero.
To top it all off, Charlottesville was my point of departure when I left for Colorado and my hard landing spot when I dragged my sorry ass back after my near fatal tenure with demons named and unnamed in the shadow of Pikes Peak. The city is the home of my best friend in the world, with the exception of Phred, and now that I have been living here four years, so does Phred (of course).
All these things coming together as they did and propelled by my new found sobriety and refound calling, seemed too serendipitous to be real.
I went there and interviewed with the Executive Director of Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries. C.A.L.M. is a not-for-profit, faith-based organization that provides support for indigent and at-risk children, teenagers, adults, and families in a targeted neighborhood in a depressed section of the city. The work they did was very admirable. I could not ask for a greater group of people with whom to work with one very notable exception. that person was the Executive Director.
He struck me as very wrong from the very first moment of our very first meeting. He was too glib and evasive, studiously smooth, non-committal for no apparent reason, and he phrased most of his words equivocally. In my life I have personally witnessed and two or three times been victimized by his personality type. It was striking enough and my previous experience with it significant enough that I recognized it immediately and every subsequent observation and encounter only further corroborated my initial impression. He was a huckster, trickster, manipulator and controller.
He was a Con Man.
That was the harshest thing I could say of him after our first meeting. By the end of our relationship, I was branding him much much worse.