Hope Extended, Hope Received
I had given up. Well, almost. I had grieved God again. I thought I would never have another chance to be in ministry. “I’ve blown it – again!” “Maybe it’s not in me to be victorious in this area of my life.” “Who would ever want me to represent Christ on their behalf?” “I’m never going to overcome homosexuality. It’s going to linger and haunt me for the rest of my life.” These were the thoughts that were going through my mind when I met Ron and Ann Marie Elmore.
It was 1998, and I had left the mission field early. The struggle of trying to be sexually pure was too much. I couldn’t handle it. For some crazy reason, I was sent to a country where men hold hands, and literally lay all over one another all the time. I didn’t tell any of my friends on the field about my struggle with homosexuality. I didn’t want to be labeled. I didn’t want people to think about my past every time they looked at me. I was ashamed that I had ever experienced homosexuality. I was more ashamed that I still struggled with it. I tried to handle it alone, but I couldn’t. Defeated, I returned home.
I had never visited a ministry like BIM or attended an Exodus conference. I couldn’t get past what people would think or the shame I would feel. You see, I was successful in every other area of my life. I was senior class president. I played on our state championship basketball team, and I was named Mr. High School as a junior. I was popular and loved by everyone. I remember a girl telling me one day, “You don’t have any problems. You have the perfect life…” Man, was she wrong! I may have appeared to have it all together on the outside, but on the inside I was miserable, lonely and sometimes suicidal. I couldn’t handle this struggle on my own.
That is when I decided to go to an Exodus conference in Greensboro, NC. I was certain I would not see anybody I knew. I determined not tell anybody my name or where I lived. I was going to see what this conference was all about. IT WAS LIFE-CHANGING. I overcame a great deal of shame at this conference. I saw how people were willing to admit their weakness and still hold their heads up. I heard statements like “We’re all sinners.” “We can’t help it that we struggle with homosexuality. Did you ask for it? Neither did I.” I saw people laughing and loving each other. I was encouraged in the area of my life where I needed encouragement the most. It felt good to be there, but it still felt scary.
That’s where I met Ron and Ann Marie. I tried to remain anonymous, but Ann Marie was persistent. She told me about BIM and kept inquiring about me. I could tell she cared for me. I finally told her I had been on the mission field. I couldn’t believe it. She had been in the same state where I served in the middle of Southeast Asia. There have probably never been more than 50 Americans in this place throughout all of history. We immediately bonded! She introduced me to Ron. I couldn’t believe they were married, and she knew all about his past. Hmmm . . . I was intrigued. My head was being lifted up little by little.
Ron and Ann Marie had me over to their house. I told them my story. I wasn’t good at talking about all that yuck. I shared with them my testimony like a news anchor tells the news—without emotion—just the facts. You know, I was molested as a kid, introduced to hardcore pornography as an eleven-year-old, experimented with homosexuality with an older teenager in the community, etc…Ron cried. I couldn’t believe he was crying. Why would he cry? I was sure he had heard plenty of horror stories. He explained to me that he was broken for me because I had stuffed all the pain in my life and never took it to Jesus with tears and brokenness. My healing was beginning. I just didn’t know it.
I admitted everything to the guys at BIM. I told them of my struggles and insecurities. I received so much affirmation there. I received hope. I received healing! Being a poor seminary student, I never had money for a book or a conference, but BIM always took care of me. I attended faithfully, but eventually I had to move. However, I stayed in touch with Ron. In fact, I still call Ron even though I live in another state and many years have passed. Every time I’m in Raleigh, I try to attend BIM. I wish there was a group in my area. The closest one is a two-hour drive. Too far!
Now, I am living victoriously even though I still struggle. I am the senior pastor of a growing church. I told the pastor search team and the elders about my past and that sometimes I still struggle with homosexuality. I was certain they would not want me, but they asked me to be their pastor. I love them. They love me. I have a group of men that really know me and love me. We ride horses together and travel together. They hug me. All the love and affection I was longing for I am receiving in healthy ways. No more homosexuality. Sure, it still nags from time to time, but I’m over the guilt and the shame. In fact, I’m getting married soon. My fiancé knows everything about me and loves me. I can’t believe how much God is blessing me. I feel so free. I never thought I could feel so good, be in ministry again or find a beautiful woman of God to marry me. Praise God!!! I thank God for Ron and Ann Marie and everyone else at BIM. And I thank God for everyone who supports this ministry that makes a difference in so many lives. I love you all!
In His Grip,
A Past Member of BIM
RISKING THE JOURNEY
It was 8:30 a.m., June 30, 1995. I was sitting in the auditorium at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center looking at the commitment card I was to fill out at the end of Women’s Missionary Union week. What new risk was I willing to run? All week our theme had been, “Risking the Journey.” And all week God had been tugging at my heart to risk sharing my testimony. How could I possibly go public and risk the shame and embarrassment I would bring to my family, my Lord, and myself? After all, I had spent two years as a missionary in Africa. My husband and I had been married for 28 years since then. We had a 25-year- old son and a daughter who was almost 22. Most people thought we had a perfect marriage. Furthermore, I had been a teacher and leader in English-as-a- second language (ESL) ministries in six different Baptist churches over a 25-year -period.
Why would I even think of revealing my lifelong burden and struggle? Let me go back and share the events of the previous six months.
In December of 1994 our daughter sent us a letter that changed our lives. She had decided to enter the lesbian lifestyle. My world fell apart. I knew that I could not read the materials she sent nor deal with her situation unless I brought my own past into the light. As I wrote to her, I shared a secret I’d never shared with anyone and poured out my soul about lifetime struggles with homosexuality and how God had dealt with me and changed my life.
When my husband got home several days later, I gave him our daughter’s letter and a copy of the letter I had written her. After reading them, he came to me, put his arms around me and just held me. He had never known of my struggle.
Over the next five months I experience confusion and depression concerning my own sexuality, memories, whether I should have stayed in my marriage, and what I really believed the Bible taught on this subject. God started to get through to me in May of 1995 as I began to memorize scripture and accept His forgiveness. I finally told God that I wanted to BE what He wanted ME to be and to DO what He wanted ME to do. I realized I was to walk deeply and closely with Him as I absorbed His Word and meditated upon it so I could grow spiritually from within. I began to keep a daily journal of what God was teaching me and how He was leading me.
As I sat in the auditorium, I realized God was giving me the opportunity of a lifetime–a chance to obey Him one step at a time and see what marvelous things He would do. He was offering me the privilege of using my life experiences to minister to others and to be ministered unto by others. I was scared to death, but I knew there would be no further growth with God if I did not answer His call.
So I wrote on the card that I was willing to run this new risk of “sharing my testimony.” I was excited and petrified. I knew I had taken the first step into the journey of a lifetime. I had no idea what the future held, but I knew the One who held the future.
JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME
The first test of my resolve came the next morning when I had the opportunity to share at the 30-year reunion of my missionary group. The response was very supportive. It truly opened up communication.
Up to this point we had only shared our daughter’s situation with a few friends. My husband was the only one with whom I had shared any of my personal struggles. As a result of his forgiveness and understanding along with my new found openness with him and commitment to the Lord and His Word, our relationship had been growing rapidly.
When we got back to Raleigh, spiritual warfare worse than I had ever known set in. It had been more than 20 years since I had experienced anything like this. But I had received my marching orders, and I had to obey. For the next few weeks, it seemed like almost everything I read, heard, or saw reaffirmed God’s call.
Before I could go public I knew it was only proper that I share the basics of my past in person with my sister, our son, and my parents. Then it was only fair to share with some of our closest Christian friends in the many places we had lived while my husband was in the military, as well as with new friends we had made since his retirement from the Air Force. We did not want them to learn this information from a source other than ourselves. I felt led to do this by letter.
On Thursday morning October 5, 1995, I heard a message on Gethsemane. For the first time in my life I had some understanding of what Jesus felt when He said, “Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14: 36). I cried and said, “God, I don’t want to do this.” Then I went to the church, cried over the copier, and handed the first copy of my letter to our Minister to Internationals.
Each letter I handed out or mailed was a traumatic experience for me, but afterwards there was a new sense of freedom and victory in Jesus. After all Revelation 12: 11 says, “They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Secrecy and fear of being found out had been the greatest obstacles to my spiritual growth and other aspects of my life.
Those who responded to my letter in person, by phone or by mail gave love, encouragement and support. I’m sure that most of the others wanted to. They just didn’t know what to say. I regret with all of my heart that I had to be a source of shock, disappointment and disillusionment to those who had trusted me.
God began to show me there was such a thing as ex-gays and ex-gay ministries. My next step was to write an SOS letter to every ex-gay ministry whose address I could find requesting help for understanding my daughter and myself. I was amazed at the materials that were available, the number of Christians who struggled with homosexuality, and the multitudes who had left the homosexual lifestyle.
In April of 1996 I went to my first Exodus Regional Conference. Exodus International is a worldwide organization proclaiming the biblical message of freedom from homosexuality by unifying and equipping the Christian community to minister to the homosexual. It was one of the most inspirational conferences I’ve ever attended, and I’ve been to many.
Soon after that my husband and I became a part of an ex-gay ministry where we live. It provides us with a Christian atmosphere where I can be honest about my life yet be loved and accepted unconditionally. The biblical viewpoint that homosexual behavior is one sin among many is upheld and uncompromised. We’ve grown to know, love and appreciate many with whom we would never have knowingly associated.
In January of 1997 our topic in Bible Study Fellowship was Jonah. God got my attention when the lecturer asked, “How long will you fight against what he wants for you? He knows what is best for you.” I had thought that I was not like Jonah because I had obeyed, but only in part. You see, one and a half years had passed since God’s call, but I could not get the courage to share with my home church. So by January 19, 1997, I knew that the time had arrived. The response was warm and supportive. What a sense of relief!
The next Sunday God surprised me by leading me to read to my local church the same statement concerning God’s call that I had read in the church where I grew up. Again, there was an outpouring of support and an immediate opportunity for ministry.
The study of Jonah impressed upon me that no one would have know of Jonah’s disobedience or hardness of heart if he had not told them. Furthermore, Jonah, Ezekial, and Hosea embodied in their own personal lives and experiences the message God wanted them to give to Israel and to us.
Since that commitment at Ridgecrest, I have begun to realize that everything that has happened to me in my life has been a preparation for this new avenue of ministry. If I don’t share, then all of my trials will have been wasted.
The most important part of this journey has been what I’ve learned about myself and the healing that has taken place. You see, I thought God had changed me before, but the only thing that had happened was that I had “pulled myself up by my bootstraps,” so to speak, buried my past and started rebuilding on the burial ground. I needed to dig up the past, find out why it had happened, deal with it, confess, forgive and let God heal.
God began to show me that early in my life I had rebelled against Him for making me a girl when I wanted to be a boy. At the same time, I also had rebelled against anything that was feminine, including my mother, and had built up a wall against femininity. I had made progress in a lot of areas except with my mother. Thankfully, tremendous strides have now been made in that relationship.
The guilt I carried from a heterosexual experience I had in my teens had never been properly dealt with. I had just confessed it to God, then buried it and buried myself in working for the Lord. After that experience, I had become more and more skeptical about relating to men.
As I was growing up, I had found myself physically attracted to girls and later women. These same sex attractions were never a serious problem that I thought much about or acted upon until after I was married. Why did it become uncontrollable then?
In addition to the causes I’ve already mentioned, I did not have much emotional intimacy with my husband nor with Jesus. I was also going through a lot of spiritual confusion and emotional turmoil. A dear friend and I began to become very emotionally dependent on each other. As time went by, physical boundaries were crossed. In God’s mind adulterous boundaries had been crossed a long time earlier when I let someone other than God or my husband have my heart.
I was shocked and disgusted with what I had done. I had no idea how extremely powerful emotions are, especially when one is not walking in close fellowship with Jesus. I vowed never to let anything like that happen again. But ten years later it did, also with another close friend I had known for years. That was a long and painful experience.
To recover from that I found myself in another extremely codependent relationship that also crossed physical boundaries. I began to realize that I was emotionally addicted to the feeling I shared with my friend. This time I knew I had a problem because she was someone new in my life, not someone with whom I had developed a very close long time Christian friendship. I also knew it would never happen again. And it hasn’t.
But I did come close to losing control of my heart one last time. That’s when I made a vow to God to never again allow an extreme emotional dependency and to let Jesus be my best friend. I now realize that several more of my previous friendships had been affairs hidden in my heart even though the feelings had not been mutually shared and physical boundaries had not been crossed.
I spent the following years burying myself in school, ministry, and other activities to keep myself out of trouble. I didn’t allow myself to get close to anyone because I was afraid it would happen again. But now understanding the causes of my homosexuality and knowing that my relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship in my life, I am being set free from those fears and from my homosexual orientation.
The last weekend of February 1997, my husband and I were privileged to attend the first national “Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays” (PFOX) conference in Washington, DC. In the fall of 1998 we began leading a parents and friends support group through our local ex-gay ministry. It meets monthly and provides support for family members and friends who love someone gay–but who view homosexual behavior as sinful. It has been helpful to me to realize that one definition of sin is “missing the mark” or the “target” God has planned for one’s life. God’s target for me is to accept my God-given femininity and heterosexuality.
I praise the Lord that he gave me the courage to risk the journey of opening my life to others. This exciting journey of a lifetime has only begun. God is awesome!