The Way Home
by Jonathan Russell
After graduating from PAA in 1997, Grant wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do with life. Unlike many of his classmates, he didn't want to attend college right away. Instead he worked, detailing cars to make some money. He went to church. He even participated in worship. But beneath the surface of this worship-leading, church-attending young Adventist was a cauldron of anger, frustration, and uncertainty.
Even the high points on the roller coaster of life were nausea-inducing. At 19, he had his first drink. At 20, he found out he would become a father. Life was full of conflict, full of pain, and in time, full of alcohol.
Before long, most of his income was funding his excessive partying and drinking. "I was not a nice guy," he recalls. "I was not happy with who I was. My temper was out of control." Yet through it all, his girlfriend continued to believe in him.
In the midst of everything, he continued to go to church. Friday night was for partying. Saturday morning was for church with his son and his girlfriend, putting on a happy face and doing the "right thing," even though he really didn't care about church or God. It was at a church event when Grant was playfully nicknamed, "The Chef." The moniker would prove to be prophetic.
When Grant lost his job in 2007, someone suggested that he go back to school. He quickly enrolled in culinary school and began classes. A passion for food was ignited and Grant had found his calling. But God was about to get his attention in a big way.
On the morning of August 18, 2008, his son's birthday, Grant found himself admitted to the hospital in unexplained, agonizing pain. The diagnosis: acute diverticulitis. The prescription: Two weeks in the hospital. Surgery removing 18 inches of his colon. Excruciating recovery.
A few days before Grant was released from the hospital, Pastor Dave Allen stopped by. "Pastor Dave saved my life," Grant says. "It's because of him that I'm going to church. It was that day that my real Christian journey began."
In scripture, it took three days of marinating inside a fish for Jonah's heart to turn toward God. For Grant, it took 10 days in a hospital bed. But God had finally caught up with his heart.
Grant left the hospital with a new lease on life and a new commitment to follow God's lead. "I made a decision right there..., I’ve been through hell and back and it’s time to do something and do it right."
God continued to bless, as Grant quickly got more involved in church. He completed culinary training and became a bona fide chef. He married his long-time girlfriend, the girl of his dreams and mother of his children. He began studying to be baptized.
In October, 2010, the church celebrated as Grant and his son, Matthew, were baptized together. The lost had come home. "The Chef," took his place in the family of God.
But Grant isn't one to do things halfway. He recognized his own need to plug in to the activities of the church. But how is a chef to use his gifts in church life?
Grant muses, "The Bible says, 'Where two or three are gathered, there I am in their midst.' I ask, 'Where do you think they've gathered?' Around food, of course." So he has gone to work using his unique gifts, serving his church, providing beautiful food for church banquets and vespers programs, and teaching cooking classes for Pathfinders.
When the ReConnect Young Adult Vespers re-organized in late 2011, Grant jumped on board with the leadership team, taking responsibility for refreshments and fellowship.
It's been a long journey from directionless teen to rebellious young man, to chef with a heart for God. Yet at every turn, God was pursuing His son, calling back the prodigal chef.
By the way, if you ever get a chance to check out Grant's cooking or ask him about his story, you won't be disappointed.