Following God's Call


by: Lloyd Thornhill


I wanted to tell you a little about my partner Bob and I, and our hearts for God's gay and lesbian children. For 20 of our 31 years together we were not Christian, in fact, we spent most of our time looking at the bottom of a bottle.

I used to love watching Jimmy Swaggert on TV. His music was truly anointed. Then he would start walking up and down the platform attacking homosexuals, and saying they would burn in hell. This really affected me and whenever I drank the thought ran through my mind, that God didn't love me, in fact, no one loved me because I was gay. Then one winter night about two weeks before Christmas I went on a drinking spree. In a very drunken stupor I drove my car across a bridge in downtown Vancouver. The last thing I recall was knowing I couldn't carry my burden any longer, so I pressed the gas peddle to the floor. At 75 miles an hour I ran into a concrete barrier. The firemen had to remove me from the wreck with the "Jaws of Life." The police thought I had died in the crash, but later on as I looked back to that night I realized that God's hand was on my life. He had work for Bob and I to do.

About a year later Bob and I quit drinking, and lost most of our fair weather friends. We felt such a void in our lives. In March of 1988 we began planning our vacation. As we scanned several travel magazines the name Phoenix came to me as if someone was telling me we should go to Phoenix. When I mentioned going to Phoenix he asked if I was crazy. He said there is nothing in Phoenix except desert. But, I would not let it drop. For some reason we needed to be in Phoenix. So the Lord prevailed. We headed to Phoenix. We booked a wonderful hotel in Scottsdale, and it was very enjoyable, but that void was still there.

As we sat at the pool one Saturday afternoon Bob read me an article in the local paper about something called a Holy Union taking place at an MCC church. For some strange reason I suggested we go to a service the following day. Bob said, now I know you are crazy, we haven't been inside a church in 20 years. But, again I heard that voice saying we needed to go, it was important to be there. So I asked for directions to the street where the church was located, and on Sunday morning we started off on our quest. We became lost during our journey, and had no idea where we were. But I didn't know that the Holy Spirit was in control of the car. I took a few turns and drove down a rather scary street. Then we found ourselves in front of a tiny church with the name, " Casa de Cristo Evangelical Church." We were terrified, and quite nervous about going in. They were in the midst of their first service and we could hear the beautiful singing. The next service was to start in an hour, so we decided to go for coffee and decide whether to go, or not. When we arrived back at the church there was an angel standing outside, who welcomed us with open arms, and a big smile. Her name was Betty and I know that God used her in a mighty way that day. She encouraged two broken gay men to enter God's house, and be changed for evermore. Thank you Jesus. As we entered the sanctuary I realized that I had never before seen faces like I was looking at there. There was no doubt that these were gay and lesbian people, but their faces appeared to be shining and there was a peace I had never seen before. Whatever it was about them I knew in the depth of my soul I needed the same. All through the service I spent my time being anointed by the beautiful worship, and hung on every word of the pastor's message. To me it was a taste of heaven.

After the service Bob and I moved to the fellowship hall and met some of the folks. The pastor approached us with a handshake and warm smile. He introduced himself as Fred Pattison who was a former Baptist Minister. He said that he had left the church for several years because he wasn't accepted by his denomination. The way he put it was that he became a "Whore." But God would not remove His hand from Fred's life, and He led him back to ministry. Fred invited us back for the evening service which he said was more casual and there was a time of sharing. We said maybe, with no real intention of returning. But as we drove back to the hotel and shared our thoughts, we realized that what we found was too good to let go. We did return that evening and while the people were singing " Let's Lift Up Holy Hands" we surrendered our lives to the Lord, and made Him our Lord and Savior.

We returned to Vancouver a short time later but found that our jobs did not satisfy us. The strangest things began to happen. One night we were at work late and a young woman approached. She asked why Bob and I were still working. I asked what she was talking about, because I had been working at that government job for 20 years, and I had my pension to consider. She just said that she felt we should be in ministry. One morning a short time after that discussion I was sitting in our living room, Bob came downstairs and said today is the day, isn't it? I said yes it is. That was the day in August, 1990 that we left our secure jobs and followed Jesus.

God has blessed Bob with a beautiful singing voice, so we returned to Phoenix where our life changing experience had started. We spent 6 months there studying under some anointed pastors, and singing at churches, including MCC and many nursing homes. When we returned to Vancouver we left the MCC church we had been attending because Jesus was not welcome at that church. Pastor Johnson and his wife Shirley began Sunday services at Liberty in April, 1991 and that is where God led us. Since that time there have been mountains and valleys in our lives, but God has been with us every step of the way.

I have always had an ache in heart for people from the so called ex-gay movement. I picked up a little booklet at a church booth one day. The book was the testimony of a man named Frank Shears. It described how he overcame his homosexuality and now was leading an ex-gay ministry in Vancouver. As I read the book I felt a real burden to pray for this very confused man. A few months later I noticed a man sitting in the back pew at church, he was quietly weeping. The same man came to our Tuesday evening bible study, and I was impressed by his knowledge of scripture. A few weeks later at our monthly potluck I sat next to this same man. In order to start up a conversation I asked him what church he had attended before coming to Liberty. He said Burnaby Christian Fellowship. I knew all about that church because they had the ex-gay ministry there. So I asked, "What do you think of this guy Frank Shears?" His response was, "I am Frank Shears." We became close friends, and remained so until the day he died of AIDS. Frank was so well known that a month before he died CBC did an interview with him for national TV. He said that the only regret he had was telling so many young gay people that they could change. He knew that there was no possibility of them ever changing.

I didn't realize just how big a struggle it is for some people to reconcile one's sexuality and spirituality until a former board member of Liberty asked me a strange question. This man was in his 50's and his question was, do you believe that God heals. My response of course was yes. Then he asked, why hasn't He healed me? I didn't know what was wrong with him so I asked. He said, he hasn't healed me of my homosexuality. The only thing I could think to say was, God won't heal that which isn't sick.

Copyright ©1999 by the author


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Books:

Uncommon Calling : A Gay Christian's Struggle to Serve the Church

Chris Glaser


Stranger at the Gate : To Be Gay and Christian in America

Mel White



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The Evangelical Network


Also In This Issue:

Coming Out as Sacrament in Argentina

Danger of Inhospitality






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