I was raised in the "perfect" family in rural North Carolina. My parents always gave me room to grow and explore life through church, community theater, and time alone to play, read or be quiet with God. My sister and I were best friends while my family stayed very involved in our Southern Baptist Church.
One summer, as a high school sophomore in the NC mountains, I felt a very real calling to become a missionary. God spoke to me a way that I had never experienced until that moment. I was ready to run out and tell the world about this wonderful God that I had grown up with. I waited and waited for that plane ticket to drop out of the sky, but nothing happened.
Two years later, I returned to the same place discouraged because God had not led me to Africa and beyond. I was headed off to college and had no idea what God had up His sleeves. During that retreat, I realized that the mission field isn't necessarily halfway around the world. It could be halfway around the block! Our own backyard has so many needs and so much despair.
While in college, the mission field was the huge university community that I now called home. I became involved in a Christian campus group which encouraged us to explore our values and beliefs for ourselves. They didn't push the answers down our throats, but showed us the importance of asking questions. I also met a wonderful friend who began to help me ask real questions about my sexuality. He had abandoned his church and I had ignored my sexuality so we broke down stereotypes of one another as we searched for wholeness. I already knew the answers, but had buried them deep in perfect world in which I had grown up. I couldn't possibly allow myself to be the person who blemished the family. So I struggled in silence...
Until my Dad announced that he was leaving my Mom for another woman. KABLAM! My world came crashing down, but at the same time, my closet door flew off its hinges. My dad gave me an incredible gift -permission to be human, to be real, and to make mistakes.
So, here I am today, an openly gay Christian, with a not-so-perfect family (my parents remarried 2 years later). I am out to my family who have shown me how wonderful unconditional love can be. It's still not perfect but we're working on it.
Meanwhile, my mission field has changed from the university setting to the thousands of gay men and women who live in my backyard. Those who are at the end of their ropes and have turned to drugs, alcohol and one-nighters in search of what only God can provide. Hope. Peace. And Love. My hope and prayer is that someway, somehow, those of us who have this love and know that God loves us -no matter what- will wake up and look around at our neighbor who is crying out and reach out and really care.
With hope and love, David