January 6, 2014

Meet John Terech: A Story of Coming to Faith


We are pleased to announce John Terech as ECO’s new Director of Operations. John is tremendously gifted, bringing more than 20 years of leadership experience in finance, administration, and ministry. In this new role, John will assist Brenda Smith (our COO, who is stepping back to part-time) in financial, legal, and insurance operations. He will also support Dana Allin (Synod Executive) in ecclesiastical operations, including resourcing congregations and presbyteries. But what we love most about John is his heart for ministry and love for Jesus. Here, in John’s own words, is some of his story — including how both personal and national tragedy awakened him spiritually.

Raised Catholic, But Not Religious

I was born in Long Island, New York in February of 1970. My father was a Long Island Rail Road employee and my mother was a homemaker who eventually became a real estate agent; they both grew up in Long Island. We were a blue-collar family; Polish on my father’s side, Irish on my mother’s. I was raised a Roman Catholic but not very religious in any way. My parents thought it important that I get all the sacraments offered by the Catholic Church, but we did not attend church regularly. We were middle class, as were most people in my neighborhood, and I attended public schools. My childhood is filled with fond memories of playing with my friends from dawn to dusk. I was a very good student and a good athlete. Looking back, I have some great childhood memories.

After graduating from high school, I made my way up to Boston and attended Boston University from the fall of 1988 to the spring of 1992. It was a very interesting place for me spiritually. Upon arrival I couldn’t help noticing how many Jewish students there were on campus. Where I came from in Long Island, there were two Jewish students whom I can recollect. But at B.U. it seemed they were far more numerous than the Christians and other faiths represented. In my first semester there, I got acquainted with many Jewish students, as well as a Hindu student, who remain some of my best friends today.

One Day I’ll Never Forget

One of the key events in my life happened just after I returned to B.U. for the second semester of my freshman year. I walked to my English class on January 25, 1989, and at the door stood my aunt and uncle who had traveled up from Long Island to meet me. They had some bad news to deliver. My father had passed away the day before from a massive heart attack at our home. He was only 42 years old. It was incredibly unexpected and I was shocked from the news. When I made it home, the funeral proceedings were the most difficult thing I had ever had to deal with. Our church’s priest visited me, and he did give me some comfort about heaven and the probability that my father was now in a better place. I still wonder about that based on my biblical knowledge today, but of course I pray for that to be true. The event awakened me spiritually. I took a week off and went back to school. The people at B.U. could not have been nicer about everything, and I continued my studies and graduated right on schedule.

I worked in the financial markets in New York City after graduating and continued to do so for 13 years. My career went from securities operations in a Japanese bank, to trust work at Chase Manhattan, trading Latin American securities at Robert Fleming, then European equities at BT Alex Brown, and finally Collins Stewart. I met my wife, Patty, at one of the companies we both worked for (Robert Fleming); we were married in 1999. Life was good. She, too, was a Catholic and we were married at the church in Long Island where both my parents and maternal grandparents had also been married. In February of 2001, our first son was born. We named him John III. We had him christened in the Catholic Church in New Jersey, where we had settled in our first home.

The Day The Towers Came Down

Seven months later, our lives were changed forever, as were many others: September 11, 2001, had us both crying out to God for help. I was in NYC that day but safe, several blocks away from the disaster area of downtown Manhattan. I lost a few clients, and my wife lost many friends from her days spent working at Cantor Fitzgerald. When I finally made it home, I knew at that point that I needed to get close to God. I went to the Catholic Church in our hometown, as did many, and I wept. That began the process of us finding out what we were going to do with our lives. I knew I wanted out of New York City, and to put down roots in better, more peaceful surroundings for my family.

It took years, but I eventually purchased a restaurant in southeastern Florida and we made our way to Palm City in 2005 to raise our two boys. Joseph was born to us on January 24, 2003, coincidentally on the anniversary of the same day my father had passed away.

A New Place to Call Home

Our first week in Florida, we visited Palm City Presbyterian Church — and we knew that God was calling us there. It was through the ministry of Palm City Presbyterian that we were saved, and we became hungry for the Word! Our Senior Pastor, Richard Anderson, put me to work immediately, first as the Youth Ministry Director, and finally as the Chief Operations Officer. I eventually took on the role of Director of Family Ministries and Chief Operations Officer. Palm City is a 600-member congregation on a beautiful campus; it was one of the first churches to join ECO.

Patty and I sold the restaurant we purchased, the one that had brought us to Florida, and Patty also took a job at the church. I became active in Presbytery, at that time as part of the PCUSA. I chaired the COM and the Council for a total of four years. I also enrolled in seminary, and I’ve now completed most of the work toward my Master of Divinity, first through Gordon Conwell and now at Reformed Theological Seminary.

In there also, on June 10, 2008, my daughter Lindsay was born. So the five of us are following Jesus and making the most of it! I believe God has put me here for the purpose of expanding His Kingdom, and I plan on using my spiritual gifts to do that to the glory of God. As part of ECO, that is certainly becoming more of a reality. Did I ever in a million years think this would be how my life would turn out? No, not at all. But as the old saying goes, “if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans!”

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