Category : Stories of Hope

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My reality with men was either they walked out on me or abused me. There was no positive influence by them at all in my life.

- Jill Mackin

A Former Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights Activist Surrenders To God’s Call

Jill squareJill Mackin’s Story

I give God all the glory when I say “former.” The word tells us “And such WERE some of you, but, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

I grew up in a turbulent home In Crofton, Maryland where my mother and alcoholic stepfather fought constantly. My biological father walked out on us when I was 6. My mother battled with ill health and depression and wasn’t really available for me emotionally. By the time I was in 2nd grade I’d been sexually abused by a neighbor across the street. The abuse would continue through my stepfather well until I was the age of 13.

I first began experiencing same sex attractions when I was in the 3rd grade. The Lord led me to himself when I was 14 years old and for a few months I was on fire for God through his word and church. It wasn’t long though before peer pressure crushed that fervent spirit and I began using drugs and alcohol to fill the deep void I seem to carry around on the inside.

My reality with men was either they walked out on me or abused me. There was no positive influence by them at all in my life.

I went to my first gay bar in Washington, DC at 17 and I thought all my problems were solved. Other women and men just like me! Now I could feel normal! But this wasn’t normal at all. It only fueled my alcoholism and drug addiction further. The people I seem to meet and hook up with were like me alright, they drank as much as I did and used drugs as hard as I did. I never felt love; all I ever experienced was liquor/drug fueled lust.

Of course, I didn’t have that realization at that time, only years later would I come to recognize the truth. My cycle was go look for the love in the bars, drink, dance, find another woman who was just as emotionally needy as I was, go home with her, wake up hung over and in shame over the night before, repeat the following weekend. This pattern would continue for 10 years.

When I was 27 I was introduced to a 12 step program that would bring me my first taste of recovery from alcoholism. At that same time I took a job with the Human Rights Campaign Fund (now called the Human Rights Campaign). They are the nation’s largest gay and lesbian civil rights organization, located in Washington DC. I worked in their development department and was educated on all gay/lesbian issues. Given the opportunity a few times to take part in lobbying activities on Capitol Hill on behalf of the gay and lesbian political agenda, I jumped in full force. I attended and was politically active in both the March for Women’s Lives (pro-choice) in 1992 and the National Gay and Lesbian March on Washington in 1993.

It was also during this period that I began visiting various denominations “looking for God.” I went to a Unitarian Universalist church, the Metropolitan Community Church and even a gay and lesbian Jewish synagogue! Needless to say, He wasn’t at any of those locations. Frankly, I believed God was okay with my lifestyle and I rationalized it by telling myself “God would rather have me loving people than killing them.” Deception, utter deception.

After my time at the Human Rights Campaign, I went on to work at the National Association of People with AIDS first as their development associate and then as their development director. I was still immersed in the politics and culture of the gay and lesbian community.

In August, 1997 I moved to London, UK with my partner. In 1998, my partner went to Ecuador with a Spanish language immersion course and I was left in the UK alone. God got me right where he wanted me.

Out of nowhere the thought came to me “What does God think of my homosexuality?” I began reading liberal (John Boswell and Troy Perry among others) views on Christianity and homosexuality as well as the conservative views. I also went out and purchased a bible and read all the passages pertaining to homosexuality. The explanations of those passages by the liberal views simply were not lining up with what the Bible seemed to say rather straightforward, to me. Romans 1 was not about male temple prostitution! It was about ALL people who practice homosexuality!

God had opened my eyes to the truth of scripture. When my partner returned from Ecuador, I took off the gold ring she’d given to me and put it down, telling her “I cannot live this way anymore.”

I’m not going to say I walked with God faithfully afterwards. That isn’t true. I went through a great deal of pain and depression and I relapsed into alcohol abuse off and on for the next few years. But I have been celibate since that time, in 1998.

My identity is no longer found in the gay and lesbian community but rather in Christ. I no longer live with a void inside my spirit. God has filled that void with himself and I am grateful for his work in me. He has done it all; it’s nothing I’ve done. I don’t really identify as ex-gay either. I don’t hear people in church identifying as ex-gossips or ex-adulterers. I’m just Jill, a woman who desires to serve her great God and walk in fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

My Girl & His Girl

Meleah AllardMeleah’s Story

I’m a Pastor’s daughter, and I walked down the aisle of Calvary Baptist Church asking Jesus to be my Savior when I was 9 years old. As a child I loved attending church, singing in the choir and being part of my youth group. I even went on a mission trip at 14. However, my family had a lot of problems and there were many times when chaos ruled and no one wanted to go to church. So I’d hop on my bicycle and go alone. My parents are good people. Throughout my childhood, I learned valuable things from them. Daddy’s generosity is legendary. He often picked up hitchhikers and they’d leave his car with the gospel in their heart and my daddy’s coat on their back. He’s a prayer warrior. I saw him on his knees countless times throughout childhood. I know his faithful prayers for 10 years are what brought me back to God.

My mother taught me perseverance; to hang in and not give up. I watched her do it for years. Mother said Daddy was either the best husband and father in the world or the worst nightmare, sort of a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde. He was, during those years, a rageaholic, totally controlled by his anger. When he would lose his temper, he’d become verbally and physically abusive to my mother, sisters and me. One name I remember being called often was “the devil’s prostitute.” WORDS HAVE POWER! Mother was often discouraged and depressed. There wasn’t much physical affection, either between my parents or toward us girls. I remember hearing the words “I love you” only a few times in my life. One of those few times is a vivid memory. I was 15, and lying in a hospital bed after I’d attempted suicide with two bottles of pills. Thankfully God had other plans for me. Compounding these serious family problems was the abuse I suffered at school. I was bullied and called names. It was not a safe place. I became interested in boys at a young age. Mother called me a “boy chaser.” In reality I was a love chaser and was desperately seeking love and affection. Boys took advantage of that weakness. I became pregnant at 15, after having sex for the first time, and was abandoned by the father of my baby. My family rallied and helped me to raise my daughter so I could graduate from high school BUT something happened internally for me. I made a serious turn at that point. I’d begged God for years to change my messed up family. I knew He could. I knew He was all powerful, but nothing changed. Things just seemed to grow worse. I took that to mean that He didn’t care. When we feel like we are being rejected, we retreat.

There was also my church family. They weren’t blatantly ugly over my pregnancy, but I remember the looks of disdain and whispers as I walked by. The message came through loud and clear. I had been demoted from the preacher’s kid on the front row to the prodigal on the back pew. I was mad, and I blamed God for the shortcomings of his people. I remember saying, “OK God, if this is what you have to offer, I don’t need you.” I turned my back on God and my faith, and became a prodigal child. At eighteen my daughter and I moved to Florida where I had friends. They invited me to a gay bar for the first time. I was apprehensive, but I was more curious…so I went. The experience was “surreal” and unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. One of the things that drew me in was how totally accepted I felt. I didn’t feel judged for my past and people were interested in me. So I went back again and again. In a short time, they began to feel like my family. It also wasn’t long before I was pursued by a woman. I’d never had that kind of attention before. I don’t know how else to explain it other than, it was intoxicating. To be wanted and desired when I’d always felt unloved and unwanted was overwhelming. I’d always loved and admired women. When all the other girls had posters of boys in their rooms I had posters of Marcia Brady and Farrah. When a woman put her arms around me for the first time it felt like something I’d always needed but never had. It wasn’t about sex. I was again desperately seeking love, affection and acceptance and buying into a lie about how to attain it.

About a year later at 20 years old, I moved home to NC, and found in Asheville a large gay community. I became entrenched in it quickly and before long they felt like family. I dated women for a while, but it wasn’t long before I met and began a relationship with THE woman – the one with whom I thought I’d spend the rest of my life. She and I lived and raised my daughter together for 8 years. I felt, for the first time, what I thought was real love. It sure was powerful. It had such a grip on me but during the last few years of that relationship my discontent grew because her love was not deep enough to fill that empty well within me. I remember lying on my couch late one night. It was the first time I’d talked to God in years, I said out loud, “I know this is wrong, but I love her and I can’t leave. Please God,” I begged, “Change my feelings so I can leave.”  I can hear His response as plain today as that night. He said, “No Meleah, You Leave and I’ll then I’ll change your feelings.” That was NOT the answer I wanted to hear. It was another two years before I had the courage to leave. God used a number of situations to orchestrate my return to Him, but the main thing was my child. I began to be concerned for her spiritual welfare. No matter how I was living I knew that I was a believer and that if I died I was going to Heaven, but I wasn’t so sure about her. I hadn’t darkened the door of church in 10 years. My parents had taken her when they could but that wasn’t often. “Coincidently” a coworker invited me to her church. All I remember her saying was it was a great place for kids. Never underestimate the power of inviting someone to church because that Sunday in that church began a life change that continues today. So it was Easter Sunday, and I knew that was a Sunday I could sneak in undetected. That church was different, and I knew it immediately. It was the warmest, friendliest place I’d ever been. They didn’t have fake smiles but instead they exuded the joy of the Lord. Within a few minutes of arriving, people were hugging us. We were strangers and they treated us like long lost relatives returning home. The music was vibrant and moving. They sang praise and worship songs. I’d never heard those before. These folks were worshipping uninhibited and unashamed. It was something else. During the service that deep and empty well within me began to be filled to the point where it just overflowed out of my eyes and tears streamed down my face. I knew what I had to do. At the end of the service, I ran down the aisle and asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. It wasn’t “surreal” as it had been in the gay bar, it was SO REAL. My decision wasn’t hard, but walking it out would not be easy. I knew I could not stay with my girlfriend though. In that moment, the love I experienced from HIM overshadowed all other love, even my love for her. So He had been true to His promise. After that church service, my girlfriend and I spent the next three days crying together. She tried to talk me out of leaving. I tried to explain to her what had happened to me, but she couldn’t hear me through her own pain. She left. It was very hard. She’d been my best friend for 8 years. That was over 20 years ago and A LOT has happened since then. Healing has been a process. God has blessed me with a husband and with him I have experienced true covenant love. Marriage is not a sign of my healing because quite frankly I went into it way too quickly and still very broken. I was a mess, he was a mess and we did NOT make a message! We made a bigger mess for a long time. But we stuck together through the super-glue of Jesus, and He has worked it all out and brought a healing to me that I never could have found through any other avenue. Because God has such an amazing sense of humor he gave a man-hating former lesbian three sons! Through all 4 of my men I have learned about the beauty and glory of manhood, so today I am a man-lover. God has also blessed me with two granddaughters, from my lovely, married, Christian daughter. The one who I raised for the first 10 years of her life in a lesbian relationship is a wonderful mother and is crazy about Jesus…a picture of his marvelous mercy.

Almost a decade ago, God said it was time to come out of the Christian closet. I’d been there for 13 years, hiding, wearing a mask, terrified that if they knew about my past in homosexuality it would NOT go well for me. If you remember I’d experienced some negative consequences in that arena after getting pregnant at 15. But the Lord said it was time to be free. Freedom is exactly what I found. Once I was truly known, I could experience the feeling of being truly loved. So much of my deeper healing has happened over the past 10 years. My husband and kids have been there every step of the way, supporting and cheering me on. My willingness to be transparent allowed God to birth a ministry which has redeemed my life in a very practical way. All those early years weren’t wasted. God is using it all. It has brought tremendous healing! Romans 8:28 is as real to me as my name. Being a part of Exodus for the past 8 years has allowed me to be exposed to teaching that has given me a revelation of God’s grace and has changed me in ways and brought freedom that I could have never imagined. I assure you this journey is SO worth it. My identity has been all over the place in my lifetime. I was a lesbian prodigal. When I came “home,” a Christian Counselor called me a Prodigy but I never felt like one. I tried to believe I was His Princess, but I’ve never been able to fully receive that either. I always felt like more of a Warrior Princess. My identity has been in being a wife, mother, professional career woman and many other things that were only meant to be roles. Today, I know I’m simply Meleah…His Girl and that is truly all I need to know! He loves me more than I love my girl and that is amazing to me!! I know three things for sure. 1) He loves me and nothing I could ever do will make Him love me less. 2) He will never leave me or forsake me. Again, none of my shortcomings or failures affects His nearness to me. Jesus already took care of that problem. 3) Lastly, He has a most excellent plan for my life. It is so much grander than anything I could ever dream up for myself. I’m living it. Oh…I know one more thing…all these things are true for you too.

I made the commitment to be involved with Truth's Mens Ministry. Finally, I met guys just like me that had similar stories and similar struggles that I could relate to; they soon became good friends.

Amazing Grace! By Hope for Wholeness’ Prison Correspondence Leader

Michael’s Story

This year I turned 50 years old, certainly a milestone in my life, as it is for anyone.  It has taken me a long time to share my story; this testimony comes with great trepidation and leaning on God.  Though I have been on the leadership team with Hope for Wholeness now for over two years, I have waited until now to publicly share my story.  Fears of rejection and pain have plagued my life for far too long, including the scars from early childhood. Now, I finally believe that this is God’s timing and plan that I step forward in this way.

I was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1958, into a   Christian home with an older brother and three younger sisters.  Though there were hard times growing up, my father and mother did their best to provide and care for us very well during those years.  My father was what I would call an authoritarian.  It was his anger that he showed when disciplining me that caused me to fear him and draw back from him.  In distancing myself from him, I felt very different from him and could not understand him.  This situation left an emptiness inside of me.  Through this, I was unsure how to connect with my own gender; without realizing it, I was seeking male affirmation.  Due to this lack of understanding, I was fearful and thus shied away from involvement with sports and normal relationships with other boys.  Instead, I spent more time with my sisters than with my brother and his friends.

Around the age of twelve, I joined the Boy Scouts, which ended very badly.  On one of our camping trips, our assistant scoutmaster took us to his house.  That weekend there was, among other things, heavy drinking with black lights and strobe lights and loud music.  As a part of this “camping trip,” I ended up being molested by several of my troop members including my assistant scoutmaster.  It was many years later, during counseling, that I realized that it was my lack of male affirmation and my deep hunger for male attention that left me very vulnerable to such an attack, especially in how I later responded.  It was the type of attention that I began to seek and hold onto while attempting to connect in any way with other males. The way I chose to connect was destructive, and I knew it was wrong. This behavior continued through all of my teen-age years.

During this time, my parents were oblivious to the events of that night and my sexual acting out.   Each week, living this now secret double life, I attended church with my parents as if   nothing were wrong.  Even though I was in church each week, I had not grasped the concept of salvation and thus had not   accepted the Lord as my Savior.  I did not consider myself “gay,” and tried to keep up the front of being like all the other guys, though I ended up being taunted by male peers. Towards the end of my teen-age years, my secret was found out, which ended in my being abandoned by all of my friends. This deep hurt left me empty and alone.

Fortunately though, at the age of twenty-one, an African-American woman at my job reached out to me and invited me to a revival going on at her church in downtown Charleston.  It was at this revival that I asked Jesus to come into my heart.  Though excited and most certainly transformed, becoming a Christian did not immediately fix my problem.  My sins were forgiven, but I was still drawn towards the same sex as I was in my past.  Out of a fear of losing others in my life, I would confide in few sharing little if anything about my struggle.

Later I attended the College of Charleston, where I was a member of Campus Crusade for Christ.  Through Campus Crusade, I met and befriended many great Christian guys.  Things were starting to look better for me.  However, I still did not want to share my past for fear of losing my new found friends.

In 1984, I graduated with a degree in French with a desire to teach.  A year later, I moved to Aiken, SC, to take a teaching position at a local high school.  A year after moving to Aiken, I joined North Aiken Baptist Church where I met Sandra; one year later, we were married (1987). Before asking Sandra to marry me, I did what I felt was right and confessed my past failings with homosexuality; fortunately, she did not reject me.  My confession to Sandra actually drew us closer to one another.  She and I felt, and certainly hoped, that my struggle was behind me and that marriage would take care of the rest.  Unfortunately we were both wrong.

A year after being married, I was studying abroad in France to further my education.  One afternoon, I stopped in a side-street bookstore where I noticed gay pornography.  As I began to look, a man came up close to me.  Out of fear, I immediately left.  He followed me from the store, catching up with me.  Unfortunately, I wound up committing adultery against my wife that day.  The next day, I called Sandra back home and confessed everything.  She was deeply hurt, angered, and saddened by my fall.  By God’s grace, she forgave me.  Though difficult and time consuming, we worked to rebuild and restore trust in our marriage.  As a part of this effort, I began the difficult and shameful process of opening up to Sandra about my struggle with same sex attractions.

Though I was sharing more with my wife, I was sharing with no one else.  How could anyone understand? They would most certainly reject me as everyone had in the past.  I believed that I could overcome this attraction all by myself, telling my wife as little as was necessary to keep our relationship intact.  In 1996, our Church got a new pastor—Pastor John from Minnesota.  This is an important part of my story because John was close to my age—only three years younger than me—and shared many of the same interests.  Sandra and I hosted John and his wife at our home during their candidacy weekend.  John quickly became a good friend, one that I could relate to as a guy.  He was more than just a pastor, but a real friend.  There was no way, though, that I was going to risk losing him as a friend for fear of being rejected.  I would make sure that he would never find out.  I had found a friend that I was determined to keep and not disappoint with my past.

The years continued and so did the secret battles.  Finally, in 2002, my secret came out, which forced me to confess everything to John.  I felt that I was going to lose him, but the opposite could not have been more true!  He met me with incredible love and grace.  He showed me what true Christian love was all about!  Next, John and I had to meet with the Elders of our church.  There, I was again met with incredible love and grace.  Their desire for me was to get help so that I could be healed and freed from my past.  One Elder, Pastor Blain, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Michael, I love you!”  The others did as well.  That is what I had been looking for all those years: to hear someone tell me that he loved me and that I was of value and of worth.  Those words began to change my heart, making me realize that I was not alone and that I could trust others with my secrets.

The Elders recommended that I seek out an area Christian counselor for help, to which I agreed.  During this time of confronting and dealing with the deep wounds of my past, my battle became more intense.  There was a series of events that almost caused me to lose everything.  I was desperate at that moment in time and cried out to the Lord to do whatever he had to do even if it meant exposing my past shame openly.  I did end up going through a crushing time of being exposed that, praise God, allowed me to become even more open and honest about my past.  For the first time, I was being real about my past struggles with homosexuality and my secret battles with those around me.  I was finally becoming free.

It was a slow process and after a year of counseling, I felt that I still needed to go deeper.  Sandra and my counselor encouraged me to call Focus on the Family to find a support group.  I did and found Hope for Wholeness in Spartanburg, SC.  In March of 2003, I met with the Executive Director of Hope for Wholeness, McKrae Game.  I learned more about myself in that first three hour appointment than I had ever known before.  Later, I learned that McKrae had noted in my file: “Lives 2 hours away—Travel may be difficult / unrealistic.”  Thankfully, he was wrong!  I made the commitment to drive the necessary miles and spend the necessary time to be involved.  Finally, I met guys just like me that had similar stories and similar struggles that I could relate to; they soon became good friends.  For the last five years, I have been making the drive up to the Upstate, the first two years as a participant and the second half as a leader of the men’s ministry for Hope for Wholeness.

These years have taught me that I could not fight this battle alone.  Through this whole time I was in church, in prayer, and in God’s word, but I was trying to do it all by myself.  I needed help that I was not getting, even with going to a local counselor. I needed help, so the Lord brought me to Hope for Wholeness and I became truly honest about my struggle. McKrae and Hope for Wholeness have taught me that it is through being open about my failings and temptations that I am able to receive the support and friendship, genuine prayer, and freedom which are impossible to find inside the darkness of secrecy.  There is hope and help for those who struggle with homosexuality or any other temptation, whatever it might be, if we are willing to come out of the darkness.  I no longer fear rejection, or being alone, for I know that I have true and everlasting friends.  My wife and I could not be happier with the progress that we have made in our relationship.  We continue to grow together and are strengthened as husband and wife. We have now been married over twenty years!  I now have greater and deeper relationships with the Lord, with my wife, and with the men the Lord thankfully has brought into my life.

As for the future, I will continue to be connected with Truth in some way to remain open and honest.  I now spend a great deal of my time volunteering with Truth helping men, just like I was, that are too far for help or are in prison and wanting help.

God’s amazing grace has given me victory over darkness. He saved a wretch like me and to that end, I tell my song and my story!

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

This is my song and my story of how God’s grace saved me from the grips of homosexuality!

I wanted help, but I kept this sexual addiction as my shameful secret from everyone, including my church family, my wife and my children. I was sure that my life would be over if anyone ever found out what I was doing.

Living Two Different Lives is Very Stressful By Tony Moore

TonyTony Moore’s Story

I grew up in a close-knit Christian family. There was never any doubt that my parents loved me. My father was the busy pastor of a small church who also worked another full-time job. I grew up with strict Christian discipline, and our family life revolved around the church. There was little time for anything else. I didn’t get to spend much time with my dad or with other boys my age doing “man stuff.”

There were no other boys in our neighborhood, so I played with my sister who was one year younger. Even at school I was more comfortable playing with girls. I was not interested in sports; I preferred music, drawing and reading. In second grade, my teacher wrote on my report card, “Tony needs to spend more time with the boys.” She was right. From childhood, I was the shy, quiet kid trying to hide my true feelings. I thought I had plenty of reasons for shame. When I was about six years old a man whom I admired molested me. This sexual encounter led me to believe that this was the only means to acceptance and intimacy with another man.

Although I was never molested again, I found myself waiting for it to happen. To my young mind the reason it never happened again was because I wasn’t good enough; I didn’t measure up. Feelings of inadequacy began to take root in my life. What I really craved was closeness with a man, but I associated it always to the sexual act.

By my early teen years I found myself equally attracted to boys and girls. Emotionally, I still enjoyed the company of girls and would sometimes do the boyfriend/girlfriend thing just to keep a friendship. But puberty seemed to come slow and late for me. It reinforced my insecurities to see physical changes in other boys at school. I didn’t realize it, but my desire to become a man turned into lust. That lust for manhood led to homosexual desires. I began to believe that I was gay. At the same time, I knew I could never speak my feelings out loud. Sexual issues were never discussed in my home or in my church. I felt obligated to resolve this issue on my own.

These feelings stayed repressed during high school and college even though they were always just under the surface. I never acted on them during those years in any way. Living in a dorm where other men respected me did wonders for my ego and self-esteem. My best friend introduced me to a sweet girl and we started dating. For the first time, I had an intimate relationship with someone who affirmed me and loved me. I was sure that since I had never acted on any homosexual tendencies, I could keep them repressed and her love would be my healing.

We were married after our second year of college with my secret turmoil intact. We were very much in love, but our love did not bring healing. I had never become a man. In my own mind I was still a little boy, so my wife became my nurturer, almost like a second mother. This dysfunctional relationship worked only because we dedicated our home to the lordship of Jesus Christ and because of my wife’s unconditional love for me. We had four children, and even though my struggle caused tension in our home we kept the appearance of the perfect family. I became a minister and a strict disciplinarian as my father had been.

Several years into our marriage a friend brought an x-rated video to our house, which I watched with him. At first, I was repulsed by it, but I found that through pornography I could fulfill my fantasies without actually acting out. So, one movie led to another. Movies led to magazines. Magazines led to the internet. I continued to delve deeper and deeper into pornography until I found myself addicted and unable to break the cycle.

Eventually, when I found myself alone with a gay friend, fantasy wasn’t enough. I gave in to his sexual advances and to my own lust for a period of time. After these encounters, I knew that something had to change.There was no fulfillment or happiness for me in that kind of relationship. What I had been looking for since I was a six-year-old boy was not found in sex with another man.

I wanted help, but I kept this sexual addiction as my shameful secret from everyone, including my church family, my wife and my children. I was sure that my life would be over if anyone ever found out what I was doing. I imagined that I would lose my ministry, my livelihood, my family, my friends, and possibly my freedom, my health and my life. I did not realize how the opposite was true. By holding onto these shameful secrets, I was literally killing myself.

Diseases of which I had never heard began to attack my body. I developed ulcerative colitis, pericarditis, debilitating arthritis, and gall bladder disease. There was no family health history to blame for these, and they were not contagious diseases. Each time I visited my doctor he would ask me about my stress level. My answer was always the same, “I’m fine.” He already knew what it would take me years to figure out: stress can kill you.

Trying to live two different lives, one public and the other private, is very stressful. The Apostle Paul describes this lifestyle in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” I tried to manage the sickness and function normally, but it was impossible. The sicknesses took control of me. I became weak, lost weight and became dehydrated due to the inability to eat and the loss of blood. While I knew my condition was serious, I still had hope.

Late one night, I was lying in the back of an ambulance being rushed to the hospital. A paramedic was holding the printout of the EKG he had just performed on me. He pointed to a couple of peaks in the jagged line on the paper and said, “This shows you’ve had a heart attack.”

Those words will put panic in the mind of a 36-year-old man. However, at the very moment he spoke those scary words, I looked past him and saw the city lights through the windows in the ambulance door. I felt an assurance from the Holy Spirit that someday, somehow God would use me to help hurting people in my hometown. I wanted to pursue that with everything within me, but the sexual addiction was so strong that I could not let it go.

Eventually, I ended up in the hospital literally on my deathbed due to the colitis. I was so sick and weak that I thought I would never go home. After a week of unsuccessfully trying medicines and intravenous feeding, the doctor finally performed a colostomy. With many of my family members and friends praying, the nine-hour surgery was a success. I thank God that He allowed me to live to tell the story.

After my recuperation, I finally contacted the Exodus ministry in my hometown. My thoughts were that perhaps they could help me deal quietly with the issues, and no one would ever have to know. The director was gracious and met with me regularly and helped me understand what I really needed. He was a great listener, and he showed me how to allow God to bring healing into my life. I began attending the men’s support group and found acceptance and encouragement from other men who had similar life circumstances. It wasn’t easy, but eventually I was able to confess all my struggles and failures to my wife and to my children. They have truly demonstrated God’s grace to me through their continued love, acceptance and affirmation.

I resigned from the church I was pastoring in order to take some time to receive counseling and to open myself up to the healing of Jesus Christ. My family and I joined a church we had never attended. My new pastor and church family members have walked with me through some difficult days after my denomination informed me that I could not remain ordained. Pastor White has allowed me to share my testimony openly in our church services. I have received grace and have been restored to ministry. On days when I have felt discouraged God has always sent some godly brother my way to offer me encouragement, or a swift kick in the pants – whichever was needed most.

It took me forty years to grow up, but my family is now closer than ever. I am happy and satisfied as a son, husband, father, grandfather, and as a heterosexual man. I am not ashamed to share my story with anyone who will hear it. It took the power of God to break the shame in my life, and it takes the power of God to break the bondage caused by shame.

When I recently read these words from Isaiah 54:4 they seemed to leap off the page at me; “You will forget the shame of your youth.” I realized that it was true. You really can forget the shame. The events have not been forgotten, but I don’t look back at them with shame. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

For two full years I dealt with events of my childhood and finally found freedom from emotional turmoil that had been building up all my life. I didn’t realize the full scope of that freedom until I read the verse in Isaiah. God had removed the shame! Now, when temptations come or when I have an inclination to turn back to my old thoughts or ways, I am not ashamed to ask for help. I have family and friends who will listen. Shame finally has no power over me!

I now find great fulfillment in helping other men who are facing similar situations. As a person willing to openly share my testimony, I am able to see lives changed. Whether like me a man has struggled in silence for years or if he has openly embraced the gay lifestyle, I know that there is freedom from sin and shame. Whether standing before an audience or speaking face to face with another man, I can openly and honestly relate from my own experience the power of the grace of God to remove disgrace caused by my failures. The fact that I am able to minister to anyone at all is evidence of God’s grace continually at work in my own life.

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Tony formerly served as the Associate Director of Hope for Wholeness.  He continues to assist in editing and graphic design.  Tony is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Transformation House, in downtown Greenville. Tony and Judy Moore have been married 30 years. They have four children and eleven grandchildren.

  • Beauty For Ashes  By Stacy Pope

Beauty For Ashes By Stacy Pope

StacyStacy’s Story

Countless times I have written this, my testimony, only to fall again. I have swept my hurt under the rug in order to function while refusing to seek true healing. However, as my desire deepens to know God, I allow true healing to flow giving God room to heal my life. I have not arrived, but I am breaking the cycle.

At an early age, I knew something was different about me-I was attracted to girls. I dressed like and played with the boys trying to become one of them. I hid my body so that my appearance, my clothes, and hair – everything about me reflected this. Looking boyish wasn’t enough; I wanted to be a boy as I felt God made a mistake when He made me a girl. Often, family members asked me if I was gay. Oh me? NEVER! One day my biological father even told that he would make me have a sex change if I didn’t “straighten up!”

To be gay or lesbian in the small town where I grew up would be the unthinkable, which made me bury this confusion further. I was adopted and strongly felt that I did not fit in with my family. In my mind I was the outcast or black sheep. I had red hair and freckles and was often teased for my looks. My trust in males quickly became distorted after being sexually molested by a male family member. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that I grew tired of the name calling and tried to be more like a girl, at least on the outside. As I grew older, even throughout college, my friends and family continued to question me.

Being brought up with strong Christian beliefs, I would run to God then create this disguise for others to see. I was sure that what I needed was to become more and more feminine! I found that wearing makeup and dressing and acting more feminine only created an even greater internal conflict. It was sometimes unbearable. Still in my mask, I began dating and dreaming of marriage and children. Meeting my man of God, whom I had been praying for, became my motivation for getting over this internal conflict in my life. Much to my disappointment, meeting, falling in love, and marrying this man never made the conflict go away.

Having a “normal” life, working, and being mom to two precious boys once again proved to be a disguise. Almost 7 years into our marriage, after years of pushing something down that needed to be dealt with, the inner conflict erupted. In tears, I shared this unbearable secret from my past with my husband. I just could not hide or fight it any longer. I gave him many options of ending the marriage, but he declined them all.

Later, as my feelings grew stronger for women, he began to get concerned about the toll this was taking on our marriage. Countless times, I repeated the same cycle. The fact that our marriage survived is a miracle in itself. My husband knew that God had brought us together and that He would bring us through this even though I was not convinced yet.

Behind his back, I still tried to deal with this on my own, looking for answers on the Internet. What started out as an attempt to get information gave me worldly insight on all that I had fought for so long, and the temptation was incredible. Late at night, after my family was in bed, I began exploring. Chat rooms, email, and online meetings gave way to numerous affairs. My husband knew something was wrong, but our problems had grown so that neither of us cared at this point. I threw myself into work and into this new lifestyle. I went to gay bars and parties; a whole new world had been opened to me. I finally felt free, like I belonged and was accepted for who I thought I really was. I had found the real me.

I lived for the night! I was a mom by day and someone completely different at night. It was as if the night actually hid my new lifestyle and began taking control over me, even throughout the day.

I met several women, in search of this person I had longed for all my life. I found her – one in particular that I fell in love with, and I made what was once an internal conflict now external, and chose her over my family. We were together for almost 3 years before my night life started catching up with me.

Drinking slowly became my escape from this pressure that consumed my everyday motions. Even in my dreams while I tried to sleep at night I began to feel that there was no escape. Becoming two different people was killing me on the inside. Here I had found and fallen in love with this woman I had always secretly dreamed about, and more and more we wanted to be together, but how? My life was out of control. Where could I go, who could I talk too? No one seemed to understand. But just like before, God had not given up on me. He brought a friend into my life that I began to trust. She loved me unconditionally, yet would disagree in love to all that I told her. For once in my life I was developing a healthy, close friendship with another woman. I could tell her everything and yet she always called me the next day to pray for me. I still was not shaken.

Watching what were once strong Christian values disappear before my eyes, I slowly became a ticking bomb. My closest friends, my family, and my lover knew something was wrong as I pushed them farther and farther away. During this time my partner was also ready for more commitment and wanted me to choose. There were times I would rather have killed myself than to deal with pressure and the choice I now faced. There seemed to be no relief. At times I would be so happy and on top of the world, yet other times I would find myself just weeping before God and everyone around me, an unraveling basket case. I could barely get out of bed each day and put one foot in front of the other. How could I have grown up feeling like this from childhood? I knew I was hurting my family, but what was so wrong with this new me? I began to question my Christianity and whether or not I was actually born this way. None of it made any sense to me. I was on a mission-a mission that almost destroyed my life, marriage, my family, and me. I concluded that either I was going to kill this in me, or it was going to kill me.

In desperate need of help, once again, I fell back on my face before God. No more secrets! Something had to give. I started looking over the Internet again for help. Amazingly, I found there were so many others like me. I began ordering books, CDs, anything on same-sex attraction. Facing this fear and learning that I was not the only one in world like this became encouraging! With my unconditional friend cheering me on with prayer and support, God was restoring my confidence in Him and in myself.

Proverbs 18:24 says, “A friend sticks closer that a brother.” I now had two such friends. All these transpiring events began to bless me and open my eyes that something else was at work here in me. My friend and I drove 5 hours to the Upstate for a meeting at Hope for Wholeness that began to turn my life around. She sat there as I wept before these strangers and poured my heart out to ask them for help. McKrae encouraged me and showed me even more painful steps that I needed to take to get my life and my family back.

Now with new friends, a witness beside me, my best friend, to help hold me accountable, God began to move in my life! All the uncertainty and fear I had carried since childhood began to disappear. This deep dark secret was coming out yet my friends and family loved me through my pain. Next was the decision to return home to my family and my husband and walk out this healing journey. It has been a steep climb and I begin every day knowing that God created me, and I am His and He is mine. Change? YES, it is possible. I am going to leave it all to Him that created me.

I did not choose to have same-sex attractions, but I did choose to act on my feelings and longings opening a huge door to sin that flooded my life and family. To say they are completely gone is irrelevant, but I can honestly say I am not controlled by those feelings any longer. I am determined to drive out this giant that has lived IN MY LAND for so long.

Today, I look back and am just amazed at where I have come. Now, I see myself through the eyes of the One who created me and concentrate on my relationship with Him as He speaks to me through His word. I have learned a lot about the roots of same-sex attraction and have come to terms as to why I had such strong tendencies. With this knowledge the days get easier and easier. I am glad I asked for help. “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find.” Although, sometimes I have not been in a place where I have been willing to receive the answer-it is available for me. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the TRUTH will set you Free.” I long to keep my heart pointed in the right direction and to find the true me that God made me to be.

God has blessed me with so much unconditional love through this journey. He is truly faithful! Day by day He is restoring the years “that the locust have eaten.” I love my husband more than ever, daily learning to turn it ALL over to God. I am not where I want to be but I am not where I used to be. Day by day God is bringing beauty from the ashes.

A thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains-should I stumble again, still I’m caught in your grace. From the Inside Out (Hillsong)

Changed Forever…A new life in Christ By Miranda Pettit

Miranda’s Story

My childhood probably wasn’t very unusual, and it certainly wasn’t terrible.  My dad worked to support my mom and four children, of which I am the only girl.  He was also an alcoholic, drinking with his co-worker “buddies” while on the road working, sometimes for two- to three-week intervals.  He would come home and continue his drinking, sometimes railing at my mother about her deficiencies, accusing her of things that he was actually doing, and this behavior, thankfully, rarely ended in physical abuse but always with verbal abuse.  Both of my parents loved me, but neither was equipped to really know how to love and affirm their only little girl. I found that my affirmation and acceptance were more readily available by being athletic and making good grades.  I learned to excel at both, preferring being a typical “tomboy” to being a little girl.  My dad worked hard to meet our physical needs, but he was ill-equipped to meet our emotional needs.  My mother lived in such fear of displeasing my dad that she was ill-equipped to meet our emotional needs as well.  But she did try to meet our spiritual needs by taking us to church.

Early on as a child, I felt a difference in my walk with the Lord. Most times I would sit with my mom so I could listen to what was being said instead of being distracted by passing notes and the whispering of my friends. But with this difference, I had yet another noticeable difference that separated me from all girls in general.  Early on in life, I realized that I had attractions for other girls. Of course, like most little girls, I had my boyfriends throughout elementary school, but that was just something I did thinking it was normal to do so. This “phase” I thought I was going through did not pass as I assumed it would.  When a guy was interested in me, I put up a huge wall and assumed that every guy who was interested wanted ONE thing, and I wasn’t going there.  So throughout my teenage years, I neither had a boyfriend nor desired one.  But I was fantasizing about girls/women excessively.  Though most of my fantasies were not sexual in nature, I could dream of being a guy having girlfriends and all the things I assumed every girl would want in a man.  I was so unhappy with being a girl and had such disdain for who I was. I thought to dream about being someone else—a guy, no less—was the only way to make me fit in, to make me “right.”  I never considered myself gay or lesbian because I felt my thoughts were innocent enough—I never did anything to pursue my attractions toward females, so, therefore, I wasn’t gay. In my thought life I was a guy, so that would not make me gay.  Maybe this was a way to justify my thoughts, but it worked. This struggle from my earliest remembrance as a child would follow me for 33 years.

My first same-sex relationship happened my senior year in high school. When I went to college, I was more exposed to lesbianism than I had ever even imagined.  Until that point, I thought I was the ONLY person who struggled with same-sex attractions and feelings.  I was wrong.  I finally didn’t feel so weird or different.  I didn’t fit in with my campus ministry group of “straight” girls, and I didn’t fit in with lesbians on campus either.  I could not find a balance in trying to walk two lines, and I could not find peace.  Much of my inner conflict was likely the result of my own convictions.  I was so confused and torn between emotions and spiritual conviction. Then my world came crashing down when one of my brothers “outed” me to my parents while I was in college.  But I chose my girlfriend and the life I was living over my parents’ wishes.  This choice only added more shame, guilt, and confusion to my life.  I really wanted to make the right choice, but I chose emotions over conviction.  I wanted to have the “right” feelings for both sexes, but I was in an emotional and spiritual battle.  My convictions kept on being suppressed and ignored. And those convictions only persisted and became even stronger as I continued in relationships with women.

The last and longest of all my relationships lasted six years.  By this time I had almost embraced the gay lifestyle because I figured I would never change no matter how hard I prayed.  I struggled spiritually,obviously because of my convictions. I had a storm inside my heart that no one else knew but me, and I felt lonely and all alone.  I thought most of it was discontentment with myself because the relationships lacked what I wanted or needed.  I was searching for that happiness, peace, and joy that I thought I could find in the “right” person.  But my problem was that I was looking at the wrong people.  That happiness, peace, and joy could only be found in one person, Jesus. And that became real to me in August 2004.

After ending my six-year relationship, I realized that I was “looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces” as the old Johnny Lee song goes.  I came to a place of desolation and brokenness in my life.  I was completely empty inside.  It had everything to do with my running from the Lord all these years trying to find in other people and things what He freely offers.  For so many years I was so scared of what I was going to have to give up and do if I followed the Lord that I walked away from Him trying to find my own happiness and joy…and do it MY way.  Well, MY way was wrong, empty, and not what He desired at all. I finally gave my life to Jesus and asked Him to help me. I asked him to help me find wholeness and my purpose. I needed healing and restoration from the same-sex attractions and pursuits that I’d had all these years.  So after 15 years of actively living as a lesbian, the Lord worked a miracle in my life.  He transformed my life, replaced wrong, lustful, habitual thoughts with pure ones; replaced desires for same-sex intimacy with natural, God-ordained ones; and gave me a testimony so I could reach other women who are dealing with those same struggles. I am blessed now more than ever because I know in my heart I am in His Will and am living the life He intended…a life more abundant (John 10:10).  Joel 2:25 says that “the Lord will replace and restore for you the years the locusts have eaten.”  That is so true—all those years I “lost” trying to live MY way and pursue avenues that were not intended by God have been replaced by wonderful, godly relationships with other men and women, including a strong, godly woman who is my best friend and partner in ministry, Kim Broadhead.  I have a supportive, loving church family, and I have also had areas of my relationships restored with my own family.  The Lord brought me to Hope for Wholeness in 2005 to partner with them in ministering as the Women’s Leader to women and girls who want help and support in overcoming their struggles. Sometimes I wish I wouldn’t have made the choices I made but God has turned it around and given me hope. He dusted off the old me and gave me a new life in Him that is better than I could have imagined! What a blessing.

 

I longed for affection, nurturing, and care from men but never received it. I interpreted these needs as being gay and suffered in silence out of fear of what this meant and what others may have thought.

In My Father’s Arms By Tom Vinegar

Tom Vinegar | Hope for Wholeness | Director, GreenvilleTom’s Story

In my mind, I can still picture him standing at the bus stop: a man that I perceived as gay.  The thought came to me that I was like him, and I accepted that thought as the truth.  I had been molested by an older man on several occasions and now as a preteen, those memories disgusted me.  I never told my parents or anyone about the abuse because of the trouble I thought it would cause.  Later, it was discovered that this man had molested other children, and this added to my disgust.

I don’t remember ever receiving any information on the issue of homosexuality in school or church.  We also never talked about it at home where I lived in the 60’s and 70’s with my parents and two sisters.  Both of my parents were hard workers and provided for us the things we needed and even some things we just wanted.  My dad worked second and third shifts, so I did not see him much.  However, when I started playing basketball, both of my parents attended many games.

That was the first activity in which I experienced success.  My previous attempt to play baseball had been a disaster.  I didn’t understand how to throw a ball correctly, so the guys made fun of me and often yelled at me.  Fortunately, I grew tall and also developed skills needed for basketball.  This helped me overcome some of the pain I felt from the ridicule of my baseball throwing style.

Around age 14, as I was riding a public bus home from my summer job a man sat next to me.  We happened to get off the bus at the same time, and he gave me his phone number and invited me to come up to his apartment.  I ended up returning to his apartment regularly for sexual encounters.  A few years later, this man moved away.  It was rough to lose him, but I coped with it by playing basketball and participating in other activities.  But, my secret remained intact.  I still felt isolated emotionally from others, and this created even more pain.  I longed for affection, nurturing, and care from men but never received it.  I interpreted these needs as being gay and suffered in silence out of fear of what this meant and what others may have thought.

I wanted to get as far away from home as possible, so I left Cincinnati to attend college in South Carolina.  College life was fun, and I was involved with many activities including playing on the college basketball team.  Through this, however, several guys came on to me with sexual advances.  My desire to keep my attraction to men a secret was strong enough to keep me from responding to their advances.  However, when I would go back home for holidays or summer vacations I would go to bars to find sexual encounters.

When the AIDS scare came it really scared me, but it took me many years to get up the nerve to be tested.  I was so relieved when the results came back negative.  Something broke in me when I heard the results, and I cried the entire hour long trip home, thankful for God’s protection.  I knew that it was because of God’s mercy that I was not infected, and I realized that I could not continue to live in rebellion.  I gradually stopped the sexual encounters and began living for my Savior, Jesus Christ.

I recognized my unworthiness but was so grateful when the Lord called me into the ministry.  This was a call I could not resist.  Later though, as a minister and counselor, I continued to hold onto the secret of my past homosexual activity.  My lifelong fear of being rejected and my lack of faith in God led me to continue this life of silence.  I was determined to go to my grave with my secret. This changed when once, as I was preparing a sermon, I realized that in order to share the Gospel in all its glory, wonder, redemptive power, and forgiveness I would have to share my secret.  I would have to declare that the Gospel applied to even a sinner such as I.

On that Sunday morning in November 2005, I jumped into my Heavenly Father’s loving arms as I shared the story of my past with the congregation.  I gained so much freedom from that experience.  My faith has increased in my Savior, and I have a freedom of expression that I never knew before.  Now, I am so excited to have an opportunity to share the truth that we can all be set free from whatever holds us in bondage.  And the best news: our Heavenly Father loves, forgives, lifts, and really wants to be our burden bearer as He calls us to live in victory for His glory.

I started working the local truck stop and anywhere else I thought I would find a man to love me. By my twentieth birthday, I was involved in drugs and alcohol.

The Prodigal Son Returned By Brian Titus

Brian Titus | Myrtle Beach Satellite Director | Hope for WholenessBrian’s Story

I have a lot of good memories of my childhood which, combined with a lot of other not-so-good memories, have brought me to where I am today. It was God’s plan from the beginning: to take an abused child and the associated pain, and use it with His love and healing for service to others in need. All honor and glory belong to our Savior, Christ Jesus, because of His love for me.

I am the youngest of three boys. My parents both worked to provide a good life for us. My father was a wonderful provider; however he showed very little emotion. He had a drinking problem which often caused him to be absent. To help with the family’s finances, my mother worked as a secretary. She was a wonderful mother, and gave us the care and attention that we needed and craved.

Starting as a very young child, I found myself in one inappropriate sexual relationship after another. It started with same-sex peers’ sexual play, and then went on to many different variations, as older children and adults sexually violated me in one way after another. I was desperate for love and attention from men. I had no real center of gravity in my life with no real knowledge of who God was or even who I was. I fell prey to every temptation and hungered for more.

All through school I was called all the usual names. Through a great many sexual and relational experiences, I had found and developed a new self-image and was proud of it. I was introduced to all the dirty little hot spots, parks, public restrooms, and so on. The next thing I knew, I was looking for love in all the wrong ways and places. I was proud of the “fact” that these men loved me, or so I thought.

At the age of 17, I graduated from high school, moved out of my parents house to live with some friends that I met at the lake. I started working the local truck stop and anywhere else I thought I would find a man to love me.

By my twentieth birthday, I was involved in drugs and alcohol. One night I met a girl in a bar to buy drugs. Through this encounter we became friends, and I later found myself in a sexual relationship with her. From the beginning, I found that I still needed the touch of a man, so I was never faithful to her. One night in the bar, while she was at work, I ran into an old friend who had moved to San Francisco. The next thing I knew I was flying to California. Being from a small town in Ohio, I was overwhelmed by the rampant homosexual culture, in which I quickly became fully involved – including every aspect of this new dark underworld of sexual activity.

After about 6 months, I decided to move back home to my parents’ home in Ohio. They called me their prodigal son; however I had no idea what they meant by that.

Clueless and frantic, I went back to the local bars and to the streets. I always sought what I thought was love. I met another girl through my brother and moved to Texas with her. She knew my history and was something of a player herself. We were together for about 4 years before it all went sour. She moved back to Ohio, and I stayed in Houston. I was there a total of 8 years, roaming the city, looking for my manhood through other men. I returned to the Ohio homestead, and again heard the prodigal son thing.

Again, I hit the local bars and did my thing. I was arrested one night for a DUI. I spent some time in a state work-house, with a year’s probation.

Back to Houston I went. This time I was there for another 5 years. I was quickly back to going from bed to bed and bar to bar. Once again I got burned out on the big city and headed home. I had established a pattern, so after moving home I found another lover that did not last. Then I met a guy who was a bartender at one of the local bars. Shortly after meeting, we moved in together. After about 2 years he was diagnosed with lung cancer. I took care of him until he passed away. His last request was to have his ashes spread in Myrtle Beach, SC.

I was going down the road with the car packed and his ashes next to me on the seat. I called an old friend that I knew from being on the streets in Myrtle Beach as a teen. He offered me a place to stay until I got on my feet. He had a partner living with him at the time, and I quickly became sexual with him. Again, I was in a new city with new men, bars, and alcohol.

One day, in Myrtle Beach, I met a girl that called herself a witch. She was a high priestess in the Wicca occult. Searching, I fell for the occult myself, now studying and participating in Wicca.

All along, I was never truly happy. One day I was in a bar drinking when a girl came in. She and I became very close friends. She had this shine about her as she told me about God and about the church she attended. For about two years, she invited me to visit her church to hear the worship music. Finally, I said yes, just to stop the nagging.

One Sunday in June, I found myself in a church listening to worship music. I liked it. Then the big screen TVs at each end of the church came on. They showed a girl giving her testimony. She spoke of living a life as a lesbian. She spoke of going from bed to bed, bars, drugs, and even the occult. I found myself thinking very judgmental thoughts about her.

Then, I felt the hand of God touch my chest and this voice said to my heart, “Is that not the same as your life? Who are you to judge my child?”

Through my tears, I looked back to the TV screen and I saw myself. I knew that I had just judged my life as I judged hers; we were the same.

Then again the voice said to me, “Take that off in my house”.

I knew that it was referring to the Wicca pentagram on the chain around my neck. When I took it off I fell to the floor weeping, knowing that I was in the presence of God.

When I arrived home, I took the Bible they had given me before leaving the church and, while in my kitchen, I spoke to God, “God, I was raised to believe in you, and this Bible is supposed to be your words. If this is true and you can hear me, I am going to throw this Bible on the counter and let it fall open where it may. If you can hear me, then tell me what you think of my lifestyle.”

I did, and the Bible fell open to Jeremiah 13. As I read verses 7 through 27, I began to cry and knew in my heart that God was speaking directly to me. The last sentence in that scripture asks, “How long will you be unclean?” At that point I knew that my life belonged to Christ.

I was baptized on June 24, 2000, and my life has never been so good. A year later I got the call to ministry. It wasn’t until then that I truly knew what the prodigal son was.

In 2002 I met my wife, Ruth, and we married two years later. We call Myrtle Beach home.  I am truly blessed to be in the service of my Lord.

I was constantly tormented by the same-sex feelings. Somehow I knew the feelings I was having were wrong but I did not know how to change them; therefore, I suffered much pain, guilt and shame while feeling like a freak…not female and not male.

A Monument of God’s Grace By Elsie Odom

elsie-odomElsie Odom’s Story

I was born the eldest of five children, four girls and one boy.  When I was born, Satan tried his best to kill me.  I was born at home and my Grandmother said she had to beat me all night to keep me alive.  You gotta remember beatings back then were not considered child abuse.  God had a plan for my life and from the beginning Satan tried to thwart that plan.

My mother came out of an abusive family and she was the domineering parent whom I grew to dislike because of her verbal and physical abuse. I made many inward vows that I never wanted to be like her. My dad was the submissive one who was away at work during the week and drunk every weekend. I became the product of an extremely dysfunctional, co-dependent family of alcoholic parents who physically and emotionally abused me. Also, I was sexually molested many times over the period of my childhood by different relatives.  Even though, I now know my parents did not intentionally set out to hurt me, I felt rejected and began to shut them out. I made up my mind early in life that I certainly did not want to grow up to be like my mother or my father and I feared men because of the molestation.  I felt insecure, had a sense of shame and no value which led to isolation from my peers. Therefore, I had very few friends. I see now how the things that happened to me affected my sense of who I was, both as a person and in terms of my gender identity and sexuality.

As a child, I remember being a tomboy.  My boy cousins and I would hide from the school bus and and when it was gone we would go to the woods, swing on Tarzan vines, and drop in the pond of water.  Other times we would climb trees and get opossums out of tree hollows, place them in burlap bags and take them home and hang the bag on the clothes line.

My parents took me to church maybe once or twice a year at Easter and Christmas. When I was approximately eleven or twelve years of age, I began to attend church with our neighbor’s two daughters. At the age of fifteen, I accepted Jesus as my Savior, joined a church and was baptized.

I longed for love and acceptance and began experiencing sexual desires toward a couple of my female friends as early as fourteen or fifteen years of age. Those perverted sexual desires manifested into experiences and by the age of eighteen, I had already been involved in two different homosexual relationships. After I was permitted to date at the age of sixteen, I dated many different guys, trying to find the right one who would change the direction of my affections.  I was constantly tormented by the same-sex feelings. Somehow I knew the feelings I was having were wrong but I did not know how to change them; therefore, I suffered much pain, guilt and shame while feeling like a freak…not female and not male.

I met a guy on a blind date and he asked me to marry him. Marriage appeared to be the answer and a way out. I told my fiancé about my previous same-sex relationships and he promised he would be the one who made me forget about them. I believed this to be the answer and would fix my troubled life. We married in 1961, and he became a good provider. When I discovered marriage was not the answer, I decided to visit a psychiatrist hoping he could help me find the answer. Of course, he could not. I then decided if I had a child this would bring fulfillment, so we soon had a beautiful daughter. After 8 years of marriage that was not filling the void in my heart, my husband and I divorced. My husband took my daughter from me and would not bring her back, leaving another void in my heart. I was afraid to fight for her in court because I was terrified of my ex-husband’s threats. He threatened to expose my homosexuality by having the psychiatrist to testify in court against me and also said that if I attempted to get my daughter back he would kill me.

I met a woman in the city and had same-sex feelings for her. I decided in order to go on with my life I needed to move.  There, I could get lost in the crowds and pursue the attraction I was having and accept my same-sex identity.

I searched for love, acceptance, and my sexual identity in all the wrong places which led me into alcoholism, drugs, prostitution and many toxic promiscuous relationships with men; one right after the other. My emotional pain became so great I decided to look for another psychiatrist to find the answer to my desperation. Sure enough, what he told me was what I had heard before, “Whatever you do behind closed doors is your business”.  His answer justified the horrible lifestyle I was living and gave me a temporary feeling that it was okay.

I found a job working at a straight bar as a barmaid where I met a woman and immediately started a friendship with her. This led to a love affair which seemed perfect and lasted for fourteen years. Even though, I was living a life of lies and deception, I was the happiest I had ever been, or so I thought.  We bought a home together and did everything together. We knew no other women or men who had same-sex attractions until my partner met a couple where she worked. We connected with them and began to have home parties and attend gay bars. The acceptance we received felt really good. Despite this, our lives continued on a downward spiral into alcohol and drugs. We both became alcoholics.

I attended Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and checked myself into two different psychiatric units. I was not serious about being free so this accomplished nothing except a time for temporary detoxification. Then early one morning before daylight as I was sobering up from the night before, Jesus visited me in a vision. I was still in bed and I saw Him standing in my bedroom doorway beckoning me to come to Him. He was so real standing there dressed in His pure white glistening robe. The vision was so vivid. I saw the same Jesus I had seen in pictures when I was a child attending Sunday school. I will never forget saying, “Help me, Jesus.”

Two years later after being told by my partner I either had to quit drinking or move out, I decided to get serious and start attending AA meetings once again. Through this time of recovery God was working in my heart. One night as I was returning home from AA in 1985, I looked up into the clear beautiful sky where there were millions of stars, and a peace came over me I had never experienced before. This was my “Damascus road experience”. I know now that was the night God totally delivered me from alcohol because I have not had a drink or even a desire for a drink since then. This was the beginning of turning back to God. You see I had been reading AA’s 24-hour prayer/mediation book for about a year. I know it was the Word of God that had been planted in my heart that set me free. Because the bible says in John 8:32, “if you continue in my Word, you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.”

Once free from alcohol and its numbing effects, I was able to sense the wooing of the Holy Spirit. He led my partner and I to watch Christian television. One night, while watching a TV evangelist, I rededicated my life to Jesus as my Savior and Lord.  This was the “Day a Lesbian Died” and I became a “Monument of God’s Amazing Grace”.  (2 Cor 5:17) Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is new creature: old things are past away; behold, all things become new.”  I found out later my partner also had gotten saved about the same time.

The Holy Spirit convicted us both of the lifestyle we were living. We began to search for a Christian counselor in the yellow pages of the telephone directory hoping once more to find an answer to our hellish lifestyle. We found one, made an appointment, and were told once again, “What you do behind closed doors is your business.” The Holy Spirit within us did not agree with this counselor’s beliefs and He led us in search of another Christian counselor who also did not have the answer.

I developed a hunger for the Word of God and started going to church which I also found in the yellow pages. I began to see in the Bible that homosexuality was a sin.  I justified the lifestyle I was living by revising God’s word to convince myself that if God was a God of love then the love we had for each other had to be acceptable to God. My church attendance started to fall off because I was not being fed the Word of God the way I needed it and I desperately needed God’s Word.

Then through an acquaintance I found a wonderful church, Whole Life Ministries, where the uncompromised  Word of God is taught and where we both felt accepted and loved from the very first night that I walked into that church. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the washing of my mind with God’s Word, I entered the path to healing which was a process to full restoration but extraordinarily fulfilling.   Through the process of God’s precious grace, I was given the ability to give up cigarettes, be healed of low self-esteem, self-hate, co-dependency and many emotional hurts that stemmed from a life
of abuse.

My parents began attending church, became “born again” and delivered.  And after I was “born again” I was able to forgive them and we began a loving relationship that lasted until they both went home to be with the Lord, my dad in June 1997, and my mom in November 1998.  God also reunited me with my daughter and we have had a loving relationship for many years now.

I have been serving the Lord faithfully for almost twenty-five years now. God has given me such a desire for Him and His Word that I have served in almost every area of ministry within the church, to include, being an assistant within the Church’s Counseling Ministry and a Facilitator of the Small Group Ministry.  I earned my Doctorate of Ministry degree in 2003, the year I turned 62 years old.  God has opened doors for me to become an ordained Minister of the Gospel, a Board Certified Christian counselor, a Chaplain, author, international TV and radio speaker and guest.

God placed the desire within my heart about 17 years ago that I was to help other hurting women and men to become free through one-on-one Christian counseling and support/recovery groups.  I founded StraightForward Ministries in February 2008 specializing in ministering to those who have un-wanted same-sex attractions. Since I was not told the Truth when I was seeking Christian counseling, I know God placed it within my heart to be a counselor so that He may use me to impart the Truth of the Word of God to those who are searching for it, as the Holy Spirit leads. Since He healed my hurting, wounded soul and set me free by His grace, He will do the same for all that truly want to be free and pay the price of obedience to His Word.

I found Hope for Wholeness and emailed for help. Interim Directorresponded and said he could help. I talked to him for almost two hours, and for once in 2 ½ years, I was talking to someone who understood.

I Found Hope By A Mother of a Teen Son Helped by Hope for Wholeness

Mother of a Teen

Two and a half years ago, my husband and I agreed to let an 11 yr. old boy come to stay with us. We were licensed foster parents with therapeutic training and experience and had been working with children of various and diverse backgrounds for over 12 years. We had recently advised the private licensing agency that we wanted to take an extended sabbatical from foster care and actually planned to pursue other areas of helping people.

The agency spoke with my husband who has a big heart and cannot seem to say “no”. They wanted us to keep a child in our home for two weeks only, just to see if he was someone that could be helped in their programs. Steven came to us with long, thick, bouncy brown hair and he wore clothes clearly appearing to be those mostly worn by girls. He was extremely effeminate and was often mistaken for a girl. He had been living with his mother and grandmother for most of his life, with the absence of a father. His relationship with his mother was extremely unhealthy and he had obviously suffered years of emotional incest abuse.

During his initial stay with us, he pretended several times to commit suicide. He would come to us and say “I took five pills”. Somehow, along the way we agreed to work with him and his stay became long-term. We happened to have a program manager in the foster care agency at that time who was Christian and she was sympathetic to our concern over his long hair and effeminate clothing. We are Bible believing Christians and we take our beliefs very seriously. We had to tread softly because the licensing agency was funded through the state and we could not make his seeming effeminacy an “issue”.

For the most part, Steven was just “a good boy”. He was not at all aggressive or verbally abusive as so many other foster children we had worked with were. He even had what appeared to be a great relationship with our biological son who is two years older than Steven. He embraced studying the Bible and made it obvious to us that he was very interested in it and the Truth it offered.  He always knew from our practices what we believed; and that was the Bible—the whole Bible. But he had the telltale signs of gender confusion.  He didn’t like to play sports or do anything where he might get hurt.  He always gravitated toward girls.  He wanted to crochet and knit.  I was very distressed by his trends toward the effeminate, but my husband thought he would “outgrow” them.  I was not satisfied with that, so I started researching.

Through a book by James Dobson, I was introduced to the work of  Dr. Joseph  Nicolosi.  I read his book Preventing Homosexuality: A Parent’s Guide.  With each page I read I saw Steven.  It was so obvious to me that Steven was “pre-homosexual” at the least. I kept telling my husband that he needed to spend lots of time with Steven, and he tried to, but was not heartfelt about it as I was. I felt so alone.  There was really no one to talk to.  This was a subject that was highly charged in several ways. People at church were just simply so uneducated about homosexuality even though they were firm about their stand on it.  My other friends or people I worked with were either ignorant of the subject or held worldly views. I kept reading and researching and spent a lot of time at the NARTH and People Can Change websites.  I read everything I could.  I tried to redirect Steven away from his feminine activities and even talked with him about it and he always expressed a desire to get married someday and have a family.  We learned later that he had no intention of being open about his feeling “gay” because he thought we wouldn’t adopt him if we knew.

We also have another person living with us who was too old to adopt but is a part of our family. Steven seemed to fit in so well and just completed our family.  We decided to adopt him and it was final in the spring.  Our eldest “son” who is now 21, was finally able to graduate from high school at the same time.  We planned an adoption/graduation party for them.  The morning of the party our biological son took me aside and told me that he had caught Steven “watching him take a shower”.  From that day on, our lives have been turned upside down.  The revelation of that day was that Steven is homosexual and had been having sexual fantasies about our biological son for over a year and had been “peeking” at him whatever chance he could get. We contacted the program manager who had changed from the original one since we moved from fostering to adoption. Steven was placed in a therapeutic foster home until we could sort things out. His relationship with our son was damaged.  Our son who had accepted and loved Steven as his little brother felt violated and betrayed.

While he was in that home, he expressed his homosexuality to the foster parents and the other people in the agency. We spoke to the therapist that Steven had been seeing for the 2 ½ years he has lived with us.  I confronted him with the question “What do you think causes homosexuality?”  He expressed that he had a “salad” of opinions on the subject.  He believed that homosexuality was environmental but that a small number were born with a same sex attraction.  He also stated that he knew many same sex couples who were “perfectly healthy and adjusted.” He told us that he had asked Steven if he was okay with homosexuality.  Steven said that he believed it was wrong because the Bible states it is wrong. The therapist asked him to forget about the Bible and tell him what he thinks about it. Steven repeated that he believed what the Bible states.

It became clear to everyone involved (the therapist, therapeutic foster family, and the licensing agency) that we were not going to “embrace” Steven’s homosexuality and that we did not believe this was God’s plan for him. We had to consider breaking our ties with them and going it alone. But God was not going to leave us all alone in this.  He has always been there for us in every other situation.  I don’t know why this seemed so different.  But I went back to the places that seemed to offer hope, and those were the websites that had provided so much information for me already.

I went further and found Hope for Wholeness and I e-mailed for help.  Interim Directorresponded immediately and said he could help. I talked to him on the phone for almost two hours, and for once in 2 ½ years, I was talking to someone who knew where I was coming from and understood. Eventually we met with McKrae.  My husband, Steven and I spent over four hours with McKrae, but it didn’t seem like that much time.  I have never seen Steven “listen” to someone the way he listened to McKrae.  Someone had finally gotten into his head and knew what was going on. Steven appeared to bond instantly with McKrae and has never connected with anyone so much the entire time he has lived with us.  I feel safe in saying that Steven has never connected with anyone else ever before; period.  He told us later that evening that he liked McKrae.  This is the kid who didn’t even want a male math tutor.

We know a lot of work has yet to be done.  But God had led us in the right direction.  Where there seemed to be a dead end, God has provided a path for us to take and for Steven to find sexual wholeness. I believe that’s really all he wants…to do what God desires for him and to become the man that God has planned for him to be.

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