The Story Of My Life

A Short Autobiography
Early Childhood

Evan is all smiles at age four!

I was born in Hilo, Hawaii, in 1983.  Calling Hawaii home for a tall caucasian boy is quite unusual.  Most islanders stand out with their bronze-tanned skin and their island accents.  However, my dad was recruited by the local college to play basketball there, and my mom was his long-time girlfriend who jumped at the chance to move with him to the islands.  They were from Northern California—a small town near Santa Rosa to be exact.  He was quite the athlete and was quickly recognized as the star player on his college team.  Since Hilo was a small town with few attractions to grab the local’s attention, the basketball team became the talk of the town.  My dad was elevated to small-town celebrity status, and he and my mom couldn’t part with the little town and the small island that they now loved.  That, and they got pregnant with my older sister.

Robin (my sister) was born in 1979, then Kyle (my brother) in 1981.  I was the third child, and Levi (my younger brother) was the fourth.  I was born in 1983, an he in 1984.  My parents worked really hard to ensure a good upbringing—even managing to send us to a private Christian school all the way up until High School.  We were brought to church almost every Sunday, though we fought my mom and dad to stay back almost every time.  It was through these experiences with church and private school that I had my first encounters with the Bible and with “Christianity”.

I wish I could say that these encounters were always positive.  No doubt, that was the intention of our church’s Youth Ministry Leaders and all of my countless Bible teachers.  Yet because of a lack of “sound doctrine” (II Timothy 4:3) and a culture of hypocrisy; (Matthew 15:7-9) I found myself believing in God and the Bible as His word, but not believing that anyone could actually follow God or live out the Bible.

Evan’s siblings: (from left to right) Levi, Robin, Kyle and Evan!

I attended church camps, religious school plays, youth group events, and many other religious activities.  I sincerely tried to change my life several times, but found myself lacking the power, support, and self-control to sustain these changes.  In the end, I wasn’t able to do it.  Then I noticed that those along side of me, who were also attending the same events I was, weren’t able to change either.  They were doing the same things I was, indulging in the same sins I was, and they seemed just as lost as I was.

Eventually I reasoned that if I can’t change and if none of these other religious people can change, maybe no one could change.  Maybe the Bible was a standard that is too hard for anyone, and this was all some kind of sick joke from God.

Finding The Truth

I knew my life was pretty messed up.  I was doing things that—as a kid growing up in a religious environment—I never thought I’d end up doing.  My life was quickly spiraling out of control.  All the while, I was losing hope that I’d ever make it to Heaven.

During this time, in my twisted view of things, I saw my older brother heading down the same direction, except even deeper.  I knew I was messed up, but I would think, “At least I’m not as bad as Kyle.”  He had pushed the boundaries of morality—or shall I say immorality—much further than I.  And so it was a shock in August, 2001, when Kyle and I were having lunch at my parents house, and he started to pray before he ate his meal.  I mean, we had grown up in a religious environment and all, but this was not something we had ever done.  Maybe we would pray for a meal as a family, but certainly not as individuals before eating our food.  Not to mention, this was Kyle, the one who was “worse” than me!

One of the newspaper clippings form Evan’s high-school basketball career!

I proceed to stare at him while he prayed, head bowed, and eyes closed.  I couldn’t even begin to eat the delicious sandwich I had prepared for myself.  I was stunned by what I was seeing!  He finished his prayer, looked up, and realized that I had been staring at him while he was praying for his food.  Recognizing very quickly that his actions demanded an explanation, he began by saying, “I guess your probably wondering why I’m praying for my food?”

I said emphatically, “Yes, I am wondering that!”  He then started to tell me that he had been studying the Bible with some people on our college campus, and that he was intending to get baptized on the following day.  Needless to say, this explanation was far from adequate in helping me to understand what was happening to my brother.

He asked, “Do you want to come to my baptism?”

Not sure what to make of everything, but curious to what was going on, and more than anything, skeptical, I responded, “Yes, absolutely.”  In my mind, there was no way this could be sincere.  I started to think, “Maybe there’s a girl he likes at church?” or “I wonder what his angle is here?”  Either way, I had to find out.

I went to this new church he had been going to, and was very quickly greeted with awkward hugs coming from men of all shapes and sizes.  I did appreciated their enthusiasm, but this was not something I was at all familiar with.  I sat through the whole service, and was actually very challenged by the sermon.  Finally, it was time for Kyle’s baptism.  This was what I was waiting for.  Would he really go through with this?  Did he really change?  Remember, I did not think it was possible for anyone to genuinely change and live by the Bible—and certainly not my messed up older brother!

He did go through with it, and my skepticisms were confronted by the reality that he actually changed.  In fact, I watched him like a hawk for two weeks, waiting for him to go back to who he was.  However, there was no going back for him.  Instead of going to parties, clubs and bars, he was going to Bible studies, church and devotionals; instead of trying to pick up women, he was trying to pick up people to study the Bible with; and instead of living a very immoral lifestyle, he became a model of morality for the other players of his basketball team.

This was all good and well, but then it hit me:  “If he was able to change, and he was worse than me, what does that mean for me?”  Was it actually possible to change?  I didn’t think it was, but he was clearly a living a contradiction to my belief.  Eventually, after wrestling within myself, I spoke to Kyle.  We started talking about all the changes he’s made in his life.  Then I asked him, “Would your church be able to do the same Bible studies with me that they did with you?”

He was excited about my question, but didn’t want to show it.  So he answered back smugly, “Yeah, I think we might be able to work something out for you.”  That was it.  Two weeks later I found myself praying over my food and getting baptized on September 2, 2001!  I had found the truth!  It wasn’t impossible for Kyle to change, and it wasn’t impossible for me to change!  Anyone can do it through the power of God’s Word, and through God Himself!

The Drifting of The Church

Five of the six college basketball players that were baptized into the campus ministry!

Despite radically changing my life, my Christian walk started out a bit rocky.  I had been dating a girl for almost two years prior to becoming a Christian, but had ended our relationship so that I could build my relationship with God. (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1) I genuinely cared for her, and I was hoping that taking the giant leap into Christianity would be the example that she needed to see, and that it would propel her to do the same.

At first, this seemed to work!  She began studying the Bible, and even started making some major changes in her life.  My hope began to build that we could date once again as Christians – this time, however, the right way!  Sadly, my hopes were crushed on the night before she was to get baptized.  She called me and told me that she no longer wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, and that she had met another guy that she wanted to date.  I was devastated.  And like Jesus being tempted in the desert right after His baptism, Satan began to tempt me to walk away from God.

I’ll always remember a phone call that I had with my older brother, Kyle, who had been a Christian only one month longer than I.  He had been reading a book that he was being inspired by, and as I shared about my dilemma and how I was being tempted to give up, he shared a perspective that the book had given him.  He said, “Evan, if you quit, if you give up, this earth will be the only Heaven you’ll ever get to experience; but if you stay faithful and push through, this earth will be the only Hell you ever have to endure!”  Needless to say, that was the motivation I needed to push through!

Little did I know, however, that this phrase would be a catalyst for me in the years that would soon follow and the challenges that they would bring.

Evan & Kelly are married in Kona, Hawaii, on July 16, 2005!

Early on as a Christian, we experienced radical growth, biblical mentorship, extreme sacrifice, uncompromising commitment, and an abundance of fruit!  In fact, our tiny campus ministry of five ballooned to 17 in just a year!  We were held accountable to biblical standards, and frequently met up with each other to share our faith, to pray, or even to just fellowship with one another! (Acts 2:42)  Things were great, and the church was doing well!  Yet none of us could have anticipated the storm that was brewing on the horizon.  

In February, 2003, just a year-and-a-half after I was baptized, Henry Kriete, a Kingdom Teacher, released an open letter to our movement of churches, called “Honest To God”.  In his letter, Kriete highlighted many of the problems and systemic issues that existed in our family of churches.  I believe he was well intentioned, and was genuinely trying to help. However, pre-existing bitterness, attitudes, doctrinal disagreements, frustrations with leadership choices, and financial pressure, had already been building in the movement – blowing up like a balloon at full capacity.  As it turns out, Kriete’s letter was the perfect needle. 

The balloon that was the movement I was baptized into, exploded.  Thousands of disciples fell away or left the church, church members began rebelling against church leadership and angrily opposing them, and many basic biblical practices that we had become accustomed to were tossed out like rotten fruit or stale bread.

Since I was still a very young disciple, I didn’t completely understand what was happening.  I couldn’t grasp why a letter written by someone so far away had any bearing on what was going on in our small church.  “Couldn’t we just stick to the Bible and not worry about all that stuff?” I reasoned.  But the damage was done.  Slowly but surely, the church drifted into lukewarmness and shrunk into being almost completely non-existent.  

Evan & Kelly begin building a “paneled house”!

I must take personally responsibility as well.  During this time, I too began to drift.  Like the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, I began focusing on my own “paneled [house].” (Haggai 1:4)  I got married to my amazing, beautiful wife, Kelly, in the summer of 2005, and then graduated from college that winter.  Kelly was working with autistic children full-time, and I had started a business with my dad and younger brother, Levi.  Our business was started out of my parents garage, building custom kitchens for people, but quickly expanded into a huge warehouse.  We did very well!  So well in fact, that it afforded us the opportunity to build our own house.  Kelly and I bought property, designed our own home, and began the process of building. 

Evan graduates with a Bachelors Degree in Communication!

During this period of time, we attended church, but had become like most denominational church-goers in our commitment.  Very rarely did we have any Bible studies, we often missed church services or events for other priorities, and we contributed very little.  Our church was dwindling, and there were little to no additions (baptisms, restorations, or placed memberships) to make up for it.  Those who were baptized quickly fell away, or assimilated into the same lukewarmness as the rest of us.  

Ironically, although our departure from being totally committed is quite clear in retrospect, we were oblivious to it.  We were like an airplane on a slow descent.  As long as there are no sudden drops and the windows remain closed, the cabin is quite unaware of the drop in altitude.  Likewise, we did not realized how far we’d fallen from our first love. (Revelation 2:4-5)

Our church, too, did not realize how far it had fallen.  We went from 65 committed church members to just 38 barely-hanging-on church members.  We had stopped seeing fruit, and hadn’t seen a baptism for over a year.  Our minister at the time could no longer be supported by the church because our giving was so low.  And this is where things finally began to change.  

The Hilo Story

In early 2006, Kelly’s aunt had been asked to leave her church in Vancouver, Washington.  She had four adopted kids with down syndrome, whom the Catholic church she had been attending felt were too much to handle.  Unsure what to do or where to go, she phoned her sister (Kelly’s mom) and told her about her situation.  Kelly’s mother, Michelle, then called Kelly and asked if she knew of any churches that her aunt, Marylin could attend.  

If you are unfamiliar with the geography of the area, Vancouver is right across the Oregon-Washington border from Portland.  And at the time, in our family of churches, (ICOC) the Portland church was a highly controversial church.  Funny enough, they were also the fastest growing church.  The controversy came because they had been pointing out that our family of churches had become lukewarm, and that we needed to “repent and do the things we did at first.” (Revelation 2:5)

This unpopular message drew attention from all over the world, including ours.  We had been reading the weekly bulletin articles that were posted on their website, as well as tuning into each Sunday’s sermon to hear what was being preached.  Quite honestly, we were being inspired and challenged by the preaching for the first time in a long time.  Our questions were being answered by the Bible, and things were finally starting to make sense.  However, because of the controversy surrounding the church, we kept everything at arms-length, believing it was “too good to be true.”  That is, until Marylin needed help, and the only place to send her was the Portland church.  

Kelly called the House Church Leader of the Vancouver House Church of the Portland Church, Michael Williamson, and told him about her aunt’s situation, explaining to him her desire to be a part of a church.  As she hung up the phone, we were skeptical that much would actually happen from this situation.  Remember, it had been over a year since we had even seen someone getting baptized.  To our shock, though, we received a phone call back just over two weeks later from Michael, telling us that Marylin was getting baptized!  We were stunned!  At that point, our skepticism shifted from “it’s too good to be true” to “maybe it is true?” 

It’s amazing how God orchestrated this situation, as we had already been planning to fly from Hawaii to Washington to visit Kelly’s mom.  Since Marylin got baptized, we thought, “Maybe we should take a detour and fly into Portland to visit the church, and then take a train up to Washington to visit mom?”  This we did.  Our first visit to Portland took place on July 21, 2006!  We flew in on Friday and stayed through to Sunday to go to church!  Therefore our first church service was at the Rose Garden Service on July 23, where the temperature soared to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the Phoenix Church was sent out.  

We were taken aback by the love and enthusiasm of the church, the zeal for the Word of God, and the commitment we saw to love God with all of their hearts.  While we were expected to be greeted with judgement – knowing that we weren’t where we needed to be spiritually – we were instead treated with grace.  In fact, I still remember that that was the title of Kip’s lesson!  (“Grace”)  

You may be wondering what all this has to do with our church in Hilo.  Before this occurred, we had been wondering how to “fix” our church.  Our full-time minister had been taken out of leadership, and my older brother, Kyle, had begun leading the church part time.  We were hearing about the Portland Church, and how they were growing very fast, and also the controversy.  We joked that maybe the only solution for our church is to join with what they were doing in Portland.  In fact, I vividly remember my brother responding to me as I said this with, “I don’t think that’ll ever happen.”  However as time went on, and as our church continued to struggle, our curiosity grew.  We considered the “what-if’s”, and the potential for catastrophe if we did nothing.  

Then everything happened with Kelly’s aunt, and we flew to Portland and saw the church for ourselves.  I’ll never forget my brother and I talking on the phone as Kelly and I rode the train to Washington following our experience with the Portland Church.  Kyle asked, “What was it like?  Was it like everyone’s been saying?” 

I answered, “Yes, it’s just like everyone’s been saying.  This is the church we were baptized into!”  

Kyle then asked, “Do you think I should fly up there and go to their Missions Conference?”  That year, they had scheduled a Missions Conference called Follow The Fire.  

I responded back, “Absolutely!”

It was a couple months later where Kyle flew to Portland to attend the Missions Conference.

The Ministry Calls
To The Ends of The Earth