Project Conversion

Project Conversion


Heather’s Voice: How Project Conversion has Forever Changed Our Family…

posted by abowen

Today’s post is written by Heather Bowen:

How in the world could a year where some of the days seemed so incredibly long pass by so quickly?  Here we are with only 11 days left in 2011, and Project Conversion in its current state is coming to a close. What an eventful, yet rewarding year this has been. For the most part, I am glad it’s almost over, but a small part of me is going to miss it. Yes, you read that right, despite all the complaining I may have done, a part of me IS going to miss our year of Project Conversion.

You see, this may have been Andrew’s project, but no one in our family will ever be the same because of it. Andrew has changed from a self-indulged, bitter, condescending person who would challenge, belittle and berate anyone’s religious views into a person who is a lover of all faiths, who will defend each and every faith as though it were his own.

When we first began discussing Project Conversion in the last few months of 2010, I seriously thought there was no way he would be able to morph into 12 different religions. I thought he was too set in his ways and too hell-bent on destroying any notion of religion too be able to lovingly embrace not one, but 12 vastly different religious views. Let me be quite clear with you, the Andrew we all know and love now is a complete opposite of the Andrew I knew 14 months ago. This change did not happen overnight on January 1, 2011, and there were more than a couple of occasions throughout this year that the old Andrew began to rear its ugly face. It was a gradual process. Through each month, I was able to see this beautiful transformation into the person he is today.

My entire spiritual life was shaken up this year. As a somewhat new Christian, my faith was tested, transformed and strengthened. There were moments of serious doubt. There were moments of complete clarity. There was even one particular faith that I seriously considered converting to myself. There were months that made me uncomfortable. Going into the year, there were a few months I thought I would enjoy more than others, and for the most part, those months I thought I would enjoy turned out to be my least favorite. The months I thought would make me the most uncomfortable turned out to be some of the most peaceful months. I had my own prejudices revealed to me and was able to see first hand many stereotypes and myths debunked. I’ve learned many lifelong lessons. I’ve learned just what it takes to make an interfaith marriage work. I’ve learned what it really means to respect and accept others, focusing not on our differences, but focusing on what brings us together.

Perhaps one of the greatest results of Project Conversion has been right in front of my eyes the entire time. Our beautiful daughters have learned so much this year. Two sweet little girls, ages 6 and 7, can tell you more about these 12 religions than most adults. They aren’t uncomfortable around men wearing turbans, rather they can explain to you why turbans are worn. They can go to a Catholic Mass on Wednesday, visit a Muslin Masjid for noon prayers on Friday and attend our Baptist Church on Sunday and not complain at all. They enjoy it all. Their nonjudgmental, innocent desire to learn and accept others is simply beautiful. They have no ulterior motive. Jesus was right when he said “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” Luke 18:17 Children accept all people regardless of race, sex, financial status or religion. Watching my children embrace each one of the religions their Daddy has practiced this year has made it clear to me that children really do have it all figured out. Now, if only the adults could figure it out. I recently asked our daughters to recall some of their memories from the year…here are their responses.

Shaylie: Thoughts on the year in general: “It was kinda weird. I liked drawing pictures, especially the picture of Lord Shiva and the Wiccan one…I liked painting the tripundra on Daddy’s face in the Hindu month.”

“I liked jumping over the fire in our backyard (referring to Naruz in March for Zoroastrianism). “I mediated

Andrew and the kids during salat (prayers)

with Daddy before I had my tonsils taken out in June. It helped me think about my surgery and relax.”

“I remember he got on his prayer mat and did those cool moves” (Islam- August). “I remember his turban and kirpan.” (Sikhism- September) “I remember I woke up excited because it was my birthday and Daddy was a new religion and I got to learn more about it”. (October- Wiccan). “I remember he had to wear white robes and had to walk everywhere and sometimes we would force him to get into the car.” (Jainism- November) “And this month he is Catholic, and I like the Catholic church, it’s pretty”.

 

Nevaeh: “I liked ringing the bell in Hinduism.”

“I sat with Daddy while he meditated and he told me about it.”

“We liked dressing up like Shepherds for Passover and hearing the story about Moses” (April-Judaism). “Buddha had peanut butter on his toes that month.”

I am not quite sure what to say about that one.

“He wore his Kufi in August when he was Muslim.”  “I got to wear a turban too.” (Sikhism- September) “I thought he was a witch” (Wiccan- October).  “Jain monk- we made a song about that” (Jainism- November). “I like the Catholic church, I like to see the big Christmas tree and then Jason comes and talks to Daddy and we get to go into the dress room where they (the priest) dress up for Mass.” (Catholicism- December)

———-

Despite all the memories of inconvenience I may have, they didn’t express one negative memory. Well, the Buddha might not appreciate having peanut butter on his toes, but other than that, their memories of the past year are fun and positive. I really believe they have learned more in this past year than they ever could within the walls of a classroom. The lessons and values learned will be carried with them throughout their lives, and for that it was all worth it. The struggles, the arguments, the tears, the doubts, the time spent away, the sleepless nights, all of it, worth every minute, because our family will never be the same.

Rest assured that even though 2011 is ending, the ripples of PC are just starting. I know that our family was not the only family affected by this year.  PC has challenged every aspect of every readers life. How will you continue the ripple?



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abowen

posted December 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm


Ron,

She considered the Baha’i Faith



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Amy T.

posted December 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm


Hi, Heather. I can’t imagine how this year has been for you and your girls. It certainly has reached me as I read along with Andrew’s studies. I have shared PC with friends and family, and have been disappointed to see that most of them blew me off. Where is their curiosity? Are their minds closed or are they so stuck in their comfort zone that they won’t spend some time learning and stretching? Well, It has meant a lot to ME, and I guess that’s all I can be responsible for. Thank you Bowen Family and Andrew!



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Kevin Young

posted December 21, 2011 at 8:48 am


I was going to ask what advice you might give someone who is happy in their religious convictions but wants to have more open, friendly dialogues with people in all faiths, then I happened upon the following, which may encapsulate what Andrew has been teaching us by his example this year:

“There is only one way to strive for decency, reason, responsibility, sincerity, civility and tolerance and that is decently, reasonably, responsibly, sincerely, civilly and tolerantly.” ~Vaclav Havel (Czech Republic leader and playwrite who passed away last week)



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Crystal Faux

posted December 21, 2011 at 4:26 am


Thanks for sharing Andrew with us this year. We are all better people for your sacrifice, too, Heather and girls. :)



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Colin Faux

posted December 21, 2011 at 4:15 am


Love this family!



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Ron

posted December 21, 2011 at 2:20 am


As a former Catholic, I must say I’m courious which faith you considered converting to.



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J. Lea Lopez

posted December 21, 2011 at 12:25 am


This is one of my favorite posts of the year. I always enjoy hearing your side of the experience, Heather, and I love this even more for getting to hear what the girls had to say as well. Kinda makes me wish I’d grown up in family so open to religious exploration and experimentation like you guys. I’m looking forward to the next ‘ripples’ of project conversion.



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Editor B

posted December 20, 2011 at 8:59 pm


Thanks for this, Heather. After I made our holiday greeting cards this year I realized their message was influenced in no small part by PC. I guess that’s one way to “continue the ripple.”



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Heather Spivey

posted December 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm


I really enjoyed reading this Heather…you are exactly right about children being non-judgmental! They can teach us so much if we just take the time to listen! I have to tell U when I first heard about Andrew & Project Conversion, I was curious how it would affect your family…because I too, have two kids & cannot imagine my husband taking an entire year to go on a journey of this magnitude…but I can see through all of the blogs how supportive U have been & I’m sure it was NOT easy! I was born, baptized & raised Catholic…I have been a member of St. Francis my entire life & I have not had the pleasure yet, to meet Andrew but I do look forward to that day & hope to meet U & your sweet girls as well! Thank U for allowing Andrew to share this past year with us all!!! God bless…Heather



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susan

posted December 20, 2011 at 7:31 pm


You are a gem, Heather. I think that in elementary levels at school, religions of the world could be studied a bit and expose children to all that your daughters are blessed to have experienced. Children accept and understand more readily; this would indeed change the world.



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