Category : Stories of Hope

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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.

PRAYING EFFECTIVELY (A Review of Praying Effectively for the Lost by Lee E. Thomas)

A few months ago Art McQueen, our office landlord and mentor, gave me a copy of Praying Effectively for the Lost. I have always known Art to be an intercessor. For years he has held prayer vigils at his office for intercessors and office devotions. His life and family have been strongly outlined by his commitment to God and prayer.

Despite this, I let it lay on my desk unread. When Art invited Pastor Lee Thomas to Spartanburg to speak on the book, I was fortunate enough to attend. His concept focuses around 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” I have to say that I was enormously impressed with Pastor Thomas on his command of God’s Word. Never have I heard more scripture quoted on praying effectively as when Pastor Thomas taught how the lost are bound and how we are instructed to pray effectively for them.

The small book is given free of charge, as a project of “Praying Effectively for the Lost” a 501 © 3 organization. He has traveled the world since writing the book to speak on praying effectively for the lost. There have now been over one and a half million copies distributed around the world. It is now believed that over two million have come to Christ due to the direct influence of the book.

The book starts off by boldly saying, “The lost will not and indeed cannot be saved unless someone prays for them.” It derives this from John 8:44 “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire;” and Acts 26:18 which additionally tells us that they are under his power. Mark 3:27 tells us that the “strong man” must first be bound, meaning Satan and the stronghold that he has on the lost, “In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.”

Thomas instructs, and I have found it to be true, that we all have mental strongholds. The lost though have spiritual and mental strongholds that they must be freed from through prayer before they can come to Christ. An example he gave was of the time he and another pastor visited a woman that did not know Christ. She had an obvious mental block to hearing what they had to say. Both Thomas and the other pastor heard a word from the Lord at the time, “molestation.” They asked her if she had been molested as a child.  She instantly broke, crying uncontrollably. This woman had a stronghold of unforgiveness against the person who had harmed her. They told her that she would have to press through the pain and forgive this man in order to move forward in life.  She was unable to and therefore unable to hear anything about the Lord.

In chapter five, Spiritual Warfare, he shares,

“The primary purpose in praying for the lost is NOT to convince God to save them for He is ‘not willing that any should perish’ (2nd Peter 3:9)….rather, it has to do with spiritual warfare—freeing them of demonic influence so they can be saved. The lost are prisoners which Satan refuses to release (Isaiah 14:17), slaves under Satan’s authority and jurisdiction (Acts 26:18), children of the devil (John 8:44), blinded to the gospel (2nd Corinthians 4:3-4), ‘energized’ by Satan (Ephesians 2:2), helplessly held in Satan’s grasp (1st John 5:19), and a strong man’s house (Mark 3:27. Of course, a lost person doesn’t know that… He thinks he is free (that’s part of his lostness)… Mark 3:27 is what I consider to be the most important verse in the Bible concerning winning the lost to Christ.  Jesus Himself says, ‘No man can enter into a strong man’s house and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.  If this verse means anything, it means that no lost person will ever be saved unless someone frees him from the demonic influences that control him….this freeing process is accomplished through prayer!”

This book cuts through everything and goes to the heart of the matter. You will want to study this powerful tool, devouring it, underlining throughout, as I did. Then, go back, and read each verse that he shares as he usually only shares a small portion or just shares the verse address. With only 43 pages, including a testimonial chapter and commitment page, the book is designed to not take long and get you to praying.

On page 27 he shares, “It’s difficult to win homosexuals to Christ—not because God doesn’t love them or because the gospel is not powerful enough or because you don’t care enough. But this is such a powerful stronghold that much prayer, fasting, persistence, faith, etc. is needed to break it.” While I don’t know how much fasting was done for me when I was in the gay lifestyle, I absolutely know that a number of people were persistently praying for me. I bear witness to the information he shares in this book being true in my own life. He speaks of asking the Lord to separate the lost person to draw him or her away in order to saturate their mind with God.  This was so true in my life. I started to physically feel the void in my heart for the Lord, feeling my own depravity, my own lostness, feeling drawn by the Lord to Himself. Though I did not know what was going on at the time, I can look back and see how the power of prayer and His working in my life brought me to the place of walking away from homosexuality when the gospel was presented.

Don’t miss out on this powerful tool. We have started including a copy of Praying Effectively with everything we send out. You’ll be glad that you took the time get a copy when you become the prayer warrior God has called you to be.

 

  • A Long Journey Home By Steve Parker

A Long Journey Home By Steve Parker

I’ve often shared about my struggles with homosexu­ality and how the power of God has set me free. What is sad, however, is that I could have found that free­dom many years ago if I had been willing to open up and talk to other members of the Body of Christ about the issues in my life.

Although I received the Lord into my life at an early age, I became an atheist during my teen years, and by the age of 20 was a heavy drinker and into a variety of “recreational” drugs. Through a series of events, the Lord revealed Himself to me and to the amazement of many people, I became consumed with a zeal to serve the Lord. I would often spend hours a day praying, reading the Bible, and witnessing to others. I used to come to church on Sunday and testify to the number of people I had led to the Lord that week. I eventually became a licensed minis­ter with my denomination and started a campus ministry at UNCA.

But all this time, I struggled with a dark secret. I often battled with homosexual lust. I had begun hav­ing sex with other guys as a child, having been introduced to it by an older student at school. It had ful­filled a deep and unmet need to be approved and affirmed by other males, and it had sunk its claws deep into my soul. And when I had come to the Lord at 20 years old, the desire to drink, smoke, and do drugs all went away. But I still had the desire to be with other men in a sexual way.

For nearly five years, I struggled with this temptation. And although I never acted upon it during that time, I would at times go to places where I knew homosexuals hung out, often in the guise of witnessing to them. I did this because I was drawn to what I knew was going on there. Abandoned by many of my friends and church family, I too was equally devastated and, after a few months, turned my back on Christ. I fell back into a life of al­cohol, drugs, and promiscuous gay sex.

For the next 15 years, my life took various twists and turns, too many to detail here. But it ended in total shambles, running from the law for drug-related offenses. I was living on the streets of San Francisco, eat­ing out of trash cans and shooting methamphetamine in my veins. At that point, I was really ready to die.

But God, who had never given up on me, was more merciful than I could imagine. He brought me back to NC and sent me to prison for a year. While there, I came into con­tact with a man who mentored me and helped me understand the roots of my sexual struggles and, more im­portantly, how to be set free from them.

That was nearly five years ago, and I cannot begin to say how grate­ful I am! The freedom from homo­sexual temptation now is truly awesome, and I want to share with everyone I know that, no matter what they are facing, there really is freedom in Christ! In fact, I’m writ­ing a book on the subject with a good friend of mine who’s come on a simi­lar journey. It is a book about liberty for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, but the principles that we share really could apply to a variety of life-controlling problems that many believers face.

The first chapter of that book is about transparency, the need to be open and honest about whatever sin we’re facing. Without a willingness to put our needs out on the table, lit­tle or nothing can be done about them. In fact, we feel so strongly that this is the necessary prerequi­site to freedom that we go so far as to say that, if one is unwilling to ‘”fess up” about their struggles, they might as well put the book away, because it isn’t going to do any good. As long as our sins are secret, they remain in the dark. The dark­ness is the area where the devil oper­ates. But he only has power until we let the light in. I John 1:7 reads, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Walking in the light, the place of full disclosure, the place of trans­parency, is the key to being cleansed of sin!

Sadly, it is in the gathering places of believers, in our houses of wor­ship, that people seem to be the least able to take this step toward liberty. Everyone at church seems to be all smiles with not a problem in the world. They have what I like to refer to as “church face.” Even if their world is falling apart, their marriage is ending, their kids are on drugs, and they’ve lost their job, they smile and tell everyone that everything is okay. Is it any wonder that so many seem to be unable to find freedom?

This behavior, I believe, is rooted in the fear of others opinions. We too often base our sense of self-worth and validity on what other people think of us. This means that we are too often more concerned with pre­senting a “false image” of ourselves designed to cultivate the approval of others. And nowhere does this false image get more “play” than in church.

It is that fear of others that kept me from seeking help from the Body of Christ with my homosexual strug­gles. If I had felt that I could have been honest and open about my temptations, it’s very possible that I wouldn’t have lost 15 years of my life. And while it’s awesome to see God take those years and turn them into a powerful testimony, a lot of people besides myself paid an awful price because of my inability to seek help.

It is encouraging today that many Christian authors and leaders are writing and teaching about the need for transparency. It is even more en­couraging when we see that transparency put on display by pastors and elders who are willing to stand up and say, “This is what I struggle with, this is what I need help with.” It is essential that, when this hap­pens, others in the body of Christ come alongside them and shower them with support and affirmation. It is also vital that we be open to see how we might emulate their behav­ior in our own lives.

After all, when they do this, when they set aside their fear and say, “I’m only human. I need help,” they are putting on display for us how we need to live. They are modeling for us a key to making our lives more real, honest, and connected with God. They are teaching us to “walk in the light as He is in the light.” Isn’t that what we pay them to do?

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