GPPC has been part of me from the beginning. I grew up dripping hot wax on my hands during the Love Feast, learning the Lord’s Prayer with Anne Westrick, and coming to Sunday school most weekends. Please do not ask me who the instructors were! I got older. I also got further and further from the church. My high school years were filled with a lot of good times and tons of competitive soccer (even playing against the Brazilian national team in Spain circa 2004 – no, I wasn’t on the USA national team, yes, we lost 12-0). A subtle foe would also start rear its head, although blind to me during these years. As a VCU fan I was excited to end up a student there. After a brief stint, I decided school wasn’t for me. I soon discovered a LOVE for music and especially The Grateful Dead.
The next eight years of my life were filled with working here or there and traveling the country in the pursuit of peace, love, happiness, and music. From Maine to Florida. Richmond to San Francisco. Nowhere was off limits. Every mile of the journey has been totally worth it. A three week tour in 2010 spent in New England. Who knew that the entire state of New York isn’t Manhattan? I have seen some beautiful places and have been able to cross quite a few things off my bucket list including a 2011 drive to California for a three night New Year’s Eve concert. That sunset in Nebraska is a sight branded into my memory. A massive paper mache beast swung over the crowd as the year of the dragon was rung in with the recycled creation. And visiting 710 Ashbury St where the band was born 40+ years earlier.
In 2014, my life took a turn for the worst which has turned into an absolute blessing. I finally diagnosed myself with the disease of addiction. That subtle foe that showed up in high school was now out of hiding and full blown. Even in the worst of my days, I ended up at the Palace helping out with the cookouts every now and then. As much as I would like to say it was coincidence, it wasn’t. It was God. On July 21, 2014, I started on a journey to a better way of life. I do not find it ironic that a couple weeks before my fourth anniversary I was able to travel to Haiti with GPPC followed by a trip to Colorado with a dear friend to celebrate his third anniversary. What I’m saying is God made me who I am and I am an addict. Through this addiction and, now, recovery I have been able to do and see some wonderful things. I know it is important that “we” keep our anonymity, but it also important that people know that “we” are out there. That “we” aren’t bad people. That “we” do recover.
Haiti was an amazing experience. It went from a “hey, what do you think about…” conversation in Sunday school one day to landing in Port Au Prince very quickly. I would like to thank everyone at GPPC personally for helping to make the trip happen. It was really cool going down there to visit rather than to “fix their broken country”, which seems to be a common trend amongst American groups traveling to Haiti. The sense of unease that came over me at certain times was eye opening. Reacting in ways that I have been programmed to in situations where I was the minority. Having fear that I wish I didn’t have. Getting past it with the help of others unbeknownst to them. Walking out of the airport following strange men thinking, “I’ve seen this movie before and this isn’t going to be good,” only to see Leslie being escorted through the crowd like a celebrity. Putting trust in the process and knowing that everything is going to be ok. God is everything, right? That means there is no good or bad – just God. I wish I could take credit for that, but I heard it the other night and it resonated with me. One gentleman I spoke with appeared somewhat shocked when I told him that we had not done any work. I would love to go down there and help them do whatever, but it is also so comforting to know that they will be ok without me. They are ok without me. I’m not that important. I’m one of them. One of the toughest moments was leaving the mountain town. (I can pronounce it, but I am not going to butcher the spelling of it!) Looking at the children in the eyes thinking if I was ever going to see them again. Are they going to survive? I wonder if they thought the same. I hope that one day we can return to Haiti and some of you can join and experience the beauty of the country and its people!
These days I spend my week working at an outpatient addiction treatment center where I try to share my story with those struggling. There is a terrible epidemic occurring in Richmond as well as the nation and I am grateful that I am in a position to help fight it. My nights are spent at a house in the northside with my girlfriend and her pesky cat, Al. I still love to go see live music and have seen the newest version of The Dead thirteen times since 2015 including stops in NYC, Pittsburgh, and a two night run in Chicago last year at Wrigley Field with my sister. Some might say I’m obsessed. I say DEADicated. Visiting my sister was the first time I had been on a plane in over 10 years. It reminded me how much I am scared of heights. It also taught me a valuable lesson in “letting go.” There is literally nothing I can do to control what happens to that plane. The complete lack of control is somewhat comforting. We are either going to land or we aren’t. I choose to believe we’re going to land.
It is an amazing feeling when a person sees something in you that you are blind to. That has happened twice now since I returned to GPPC – once with Sunday School and now with the Session. It has been an honor and pleasure to serve the church in both departments and to look forward to helping our continuous progression. I love working with the guys from the Palace and believe GPPC’s mission will one day help me get over some of the fears I wish I didn’t have. I’ll end with one of the most current God moments I have had here at church. When Colleen Earp was schooling us on a few creole words/phrases she chose a couple of staples. One struck a chord with me as unusual and most definitely a sign. “Joi de vivre” she said. Joy of living. That just so happens to be the name of a meeting that I go to every Saturday and call home. The joy of living is achieved in many different ways and, in my experience, God is always involved. Thanks for letting me share!
Evan Booth is a Sunday School teacher for our high school youth and a member of the incoming Session Class of 2021. They are sharing reflections in this space.