Recently, Whosoever conducted a “Stories of Hope” essay contest, asking readers to reflect on what Whosoever has meant to them over the past ten years. We’ll be sharing these stories as we continue our celebration of our decade of ministry to GLBT Christians. The following story is from one of our runners-up..
“Whosoever believeth in me, though he was dead, yet shall he live.” -Jesus’ words
When I relocated back to my boyhood hometown from Herb Caen’s “Baghdad by the Bay” (Caen’s moniker for his beloved and decadent City of San Francisco) in the summer of 2003, I did not think I would find any gay Christians. Certainly in San Francisco I had been the target of much hatred whenever I dared profess a faith in Jesus Christ, so much do so many people there hate him. I was often suffered discrimination in housing and employment simply because my resume listed my alma mater, Texas Christian University. For twenty years, now, since February 1986, I have been living with HIV. When I was first diagnosed I did not think I would live to see my 40th birthday, let alone my 50th! I turn 52 in March of this year. I believe there are several reasons or purposes for my unexpected longevity, not the least of which is my God’s unparalleled grace. There were people all along who were praying for me, and I believe God has his purpose in keeping me going, against all odds. I was so happy to stumble upon the Whosoever community. I live in a relatively small town (about 30,000 population), suburban and mostly white and mostly far right in their thinking and their religion. Most churches in my hometown are more like exclusive, all-white country clubs than truly faith-based communities. Cross their political lines or challenge their dogma, and you’re out! Fortunately, I have loving and understanding parents. My mom referred me to a Presbyterian church here which has had an active outreach to people living with HIV/ AIDS for nearly two decades. As far as I know, though, I am the only openly gay member of this church, so fellowship is quite limited. From my understanding what openly gay members were in this church died from AIDS over ten years ago. So I feel very blessed to be part of the Whosoever community, knowing that I am not alone in this world, that just because politicians who ruled San Francisco and who hate the very name of Jesus Christ could not keep me separated from the love of God in and through His Son. My personal faith is a quiet one. I don’t go around advertising and shouting it. I hear people who claim to be Christians judging others and condemning others to hell because of the way God has made us. And I hear ministers and preachers teaching their congregations a religion of exclusion and hate. This is much farther from God’s love than I could ever have imagined myself to be, and for a period in my life, growing up in a hard-shell Baptist church, I often felt completely isolated and worthy of suicide. Thank God for my peaceful and loving transition into a family of love and faith while attending Texas Christian University! Thank God for my mom and dad who have grown in their own faith and understanding to ever-greater heights and depths of love. And thank God for the Whosoever community. All of you have been lifesavers. Literally.