Patrick Rattey's journey here as the new minister of praise and worship at First Baptist Church was a long and sometimes perilous one that began on another continent 58 years ago. Rattey was born in what is now Zambia, in south central Africa, to an English/Irish father and an Afrikaans mother. His father was in the mining industry. To that point, life for young Patrick had been good. Then, at age 14, his world was turned upside down.
"I loved my life there," Rattey said. "Then one day my father came home and said, 'Pack the car. We're leaving now.' It was quite a shock to my two sisters and me."
It was 1964, and the British had returned the rule of what was then Northern Rhodesia to its people. People with white skin were in danger, Rattey said. The family left their 5-acre farm with just a couple of cases of clothes.
"We just jumped in the car and left everything behind and took what we could carry and fled," Rattey said. "As we would go down the road, the indigenous people would pick branches off the trees and scream a word called 'Kwacha' (freedom) and beat the car with these branches as we drove past. It was very scary ..."
The family settled in South Africa, where Rattey's father became a representative for a U.S. company that provided metals for welding. Rattey was sent to a school where the Afrikaans language was used.
"It was like being thrown into a school where everybody's speaking Portuguese or something like that. I was lost, and I lost a couple of years of school that way, but eventually, I learned the language," Rattey said.
Later, he went to a boarding school. He learned to love music and began playing the trumpet in the school band. Then, at age 16, he discovered the Beatles.
"I used to listen to them on a little crystal radio," Rattey said. "One day I came back to school and some kids had some electric guitars. From there onwards, I fell in love with it and just started playing music. I joined the choirs and did musicals. Everything I did revolved around music."
Around that time, Rattey's father joined the mining industry in Zimbabwe. Patrick had been in several schools by then, and when he was finished with his education, he entered the military. He served three years in the Rhodesian army, tracking down insurgents who had come across the Zambezi River into Zimbabwe. Unable to accept bookings during his tour of duty, he had to put his budding musical career on hold.
Meanwhile, Rattey's parents moved back to South Africa and divorced. "I came home and everything was upside down," he said. "I'd been to so many schools. I didn't know who I was. My whole life was in a total mess."
Knowing that "there must be a God out there," Rattey began searching for him while he traveled from town to town playing the electric guitar professionally.
For a time, he lived on a farm in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains and practiced an Eastern religion, Sant Mat.
"I was what they called a Santsangi. I abstained totally from meat and fish and poultry and only ate vegetables. For 2½ hours a day I would meditate."
Rattey was taught that he would be able to begin astral traveling, but it didn't happen. After three years, he decided the religion wasn't working for him, so he left and went back to playing and recording music while traveling from town to town.
It was a lonely life.
For about two years, he attended a Mormon church. That religion didn't work for him either, and he felt more confused, but he later came to believe that God was using those experiences to draw him closer.
Rattey was in his late 20s and entertaining hotel guests at a number of Holiday Inns as part of a trio when a pretty young woman approached him during one of his performances and asked him a pointed question: Do you know the Lord Jesus?
Not wanting to miss the chance of getting to know the attractive woman, he told her he did not but asked if she could show Jesus to him. The next day, he talked with her and her mother at the hotel pool.
"She spoke about Christ, but by that time I'd been completely disillusioned, so I was listening with a half ear."
Finding that the young man's schedule would soon take him to their town of Durban, the women invited Rattey to visit them at their home. The following month, he spent a Sunday afternoon with the family and was invited to go with them to church that evening. He agreed.
"They took me to a full-gospel church. I was very disinterested, having the experience that I'd had," Rattey said. But during the sermon, he says, he felt God calling him and he responded to an altar call. He was directed to a back room, where he was counseled by a young man.
"We prayed, and I broke down and I wept. I was overcome with emotion. I felt shame and I realized I was a sinner walking the wrong road. Every other encounter was more an intellectual lookout. Suddenly my conscience was awoken. For the first time, I felt that an energizing life was in me. That was my introduction to Christ.
"When I came out of that room, this young lady and her mother and all their friends in that congregation stood around the doorway of the room and they started laughing and hugging me and kissing me. All of a sudden there was all this love. That was the way God had brought me to him. Almost from that moment on I aspired to give my life to God."
Rattey began serving in local churches and helping to rescue people with addictions. Soon, he was singing and enacting Bible scenes in the city square with a group of Christians. Sometimes they'd minister at the beach.
Eventually, Rattey married a Christian woman named Anna-Marie. They had a son, Raymond. The couple formed a recording studio and produced Christian music and videos.
Life again was good.
Rattey's younger sister, Marilyn Kortweg, had moved to the United States 25 years before and become a U.S. citizen. With violence increasing in South Africa, she urged her brother to come to the United States. But Rattey wanted to be where he could best serve God and was praying for a full-time ministry.
One day, robbers broke in to the home and studio and held Rattey, his wife and an employee at gunpoint. Having a gun held to his forehead, Rattey said, was not enough to make the family leave South Africa. It would take a call from God to do that.
In November, that call came when he was invited to become a minister at his sister's church.
"We had a strong network of friends that we loved in South Africa, and we were very happy there. We had no desire to come. But the moment the offer came to minister, that's when God triggered in me the okay."
After some glitches in the visa process and a lot of prayers said on two continents, the Rattey family arrived here in May.
"I loved the country from the moment I set foot on American soil," he said. "We know now that this is God's will."