After years of questioning membership in the church, a father joins his daughter on confirmation day to confess his faith in Christ.
Jon-Michael Blowe can jump into high-stress situations with ease. As a firefighter and Capoeira martial arts instructor, he’s ready to tackle life-and-death situations head-on. Something that caused him a little more apprehension, though, was committing to membership at Trinity in El Paso, Texas.
Jon-Michael had his hesitations about joining a congregation after being raised in a non-denominational church and eventually moving away from religion. But he promised his wife, Catherine, when they were married that he’d attend church with her each week—a promise he’s kept for their entire 14 years of marriage, with the exception of the weeks he works.
He was reluctant to attend in the beginning; however, over time, he began to enjoy the history of the church and the Bible through Bible studies with Johann Caauwe, pastor at Trinity.
“That’s where I really started to appreciate the church,” he says. “Pastor Caauwe started going through history, and it was something that I had never gotten from any other church experience before.”
Caauwe remembers these Bible studies fondly. He would discuss the things Lutherans confess and believe and add in historical context. He remembers the thoughtful questions Jon-Michael asked and how deeply he engaged with each topic.
“He was always very honest, while being respectful,” Caauwe says. “The questions he asked were not meant to challenge. He just thought very deeply about everything.”
In 2017, Caauwe accepted a call to St. John, Woodlake, Minn., and Trinity experienced a pastoral vacancy for two years. Catherine started taking a larger role in the church during that time, creating bulletins and helping with music for the services, among other activities. The Blowe family—Catherine, Jon-Michael, and their four children—continued to attend church together each week, but Jon-Michael still wasn’t ready to become a member.
Then, in 2019, Michael Cherney was assigned to serve Trinity as its pastor, his first call after graduating from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. The first thing Cherney did after moving to El Paso was visit each of the homes of Trinity’s members.
He asked questions about what each person liked about the church and the vision of where he or she wanted the church to grow in the future. It was important to Cherney to gain a deep understanding of his congregation and each of its members.
When Cherney completed his visit at the Blowe household, he added another question to their conversation. He asked Jon-Michael, “Since you’re such a faithful attendee at Trinity, why aren’t you a member?”
Jon-Michael told him that he still had some unanswered questions and hesitations.
Cherney responded by asking Jon-Michael if he’d be interested in taking a Bible basics course to dive deeper into his questions and the foundational truths of Christianity. Jon-Michael agreed, and they started classes soon after.
Jon-Michael and Cherney met weekly at a coffee shop and dove into Jon-Michael’s questions. Topics spanned from church leadership to comparing Lutheranism with other religions and everything in between. It was an easy-going atmosphere that allowed the two to engage in deep conversations.
“I was learning too as he and I dove in together,” Cherney says. “Each meeting brought on a new conversation and a new way to grow.”
Initially, Jon-Michael viewed these as meetings he had to attend each week, but soon he began to look forward to them.
“He was definitely skeptical at first,” Catherine recalls. “But I could see his energy change. At first, I could tell that he was doing this for me and that was nice, but then as it went on he began listening to sermons and Bible podcasts in his free time, and I could see that his heart was changing.”
Jon-Michael felt he was learning a lot through the classes about the church, its doctrines, and its history. “It started feeling more and more right for me.”
But the best part for him was the freeing realization that Christ had done everything for him and his salvation. He didn’t have to worry about earning eternal life or wonder if he had done enough to deserve Christ’s love.
“That surprised me and relieved me at the same time,” he recalls. “It was one of the major impacts of those sessions on me.”
Throughout the years, that was one of the most difficult parts for Jon-Michael to understand. Why would he be given this free gift of salvation? Wasn’t there something that he needed to do?
“It was something we had discussed a lot,” Catherine says. “For him to finally understand this truth of salvation was really great.”
Being confirmed in the faith
Halfway through Bible information classes, Jon-Michael had an idea. His daughter Marina’s confirmation day was approaching. What if they were confirmed together?
Cherney loved the idea. Little did Jon-Michael know that this was something his wife was hoping and praying on for years as well. Even Caauwe had mentioned this idea in passing to Catherine years ago.
“I tried to contain my excitement and not jump and kick my feet in the air,” she says, laughing. “But I was pretty excited.”
On June 28, Marina and Jon-Michael Blowe were confirmed together at Trinity. It was a beautiful moment for the entire family and everyone who had gotten to know the Blowes throughout their years at Trinity. Caauwe was thrilled to hear the news as well.“I was really excited to hear about Jon-Michael’s confirmation,” he says. “I knew that he would join the church when he was ready and he wouldn’t do it just to say that he had joined. In his time, he would make that confession on his own.”
Jon-Michael was blown away by the response to his confirmation.
“My 95-year-old grandma, my aunts, everyone was sending him gifts in celebration,” Catherine says. “It doesn’t matter what age you are, we are excited for someone to get confirmed in the church.”
Jon-Michael says that he understands now the cause for celebration. This public confession of his faith was a major milestone in his life.
And Marina’s response to this confirmation day? “It was so cool to be confirmed with my dad,” she says with a large smile.
Living out his faith
Following his confirmation, Jon-Michael felt more confident in his faith and his knowledge of the Bible. He wanted to go out into the world and share the gospel with others. One of the first places he decided to witness to was the Mormon community in his city. He and Cherney set up a virtual meeting with some of the sisters of the church and had an open dialogue.
“We mostly asked questions,” Jon-Michael says. “I didn’t feel like we received a lot of responses, but I think they’ll be able to go back and think more on what we asked and the answers that we were able to provide about our own faith.”
It was a full-circle moment for Jon-Michael, who started Bible information classes by asking questions out of apprehension and was now asking questions out of confidence in his faith to witness to others.
Catherine and Jon-Michael look forward to growing together in their faith in the future. They’ve already seen a perspective shift in how the family engages in daily devotions and seeks the Word for comfort in times of stress or trouble.
For Cherney, he’s struck with the significance every Communion Sunday as he watches Jon-Michael kneel at the altar with the other members. He says he can tell that this was something Catherine had prayed about for years and her prayers have been answered.
“Jon-Michael was already integrated into the church family,” Cherney says. “But when he was confirmed, he became an official part of the family.”
Author: Gabriella Blauert
Volume 108, Number 3
Issue: March 2021