FIRST-PERSON: Reaching out with compassion

EDITOR'S NOTE: This monthly column about the issue of homosexuality by various authors is a partnership between Baptist Press and the Southern Baptist Convention Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals.

CLINTON, Miss. (BP)--When I learned someone in my family was gay, I was devastated. My emotions were in turmoil. I felt rage and confusion. I knew God was the answer, but I could not wrap my mind around how to engage God in what I thought needed to be done. I searched and searched for help but could find none.

Five years passed before I discovered a Focus on the Family Love Won Out conference in Memphis, Tenn. There I gained understanding, found hope, and discovered a program of support for family and friends of those dealing with same-sex attraction. I heard testimonies from individuals who had received the ability to control their same-sex feelings or had been totally healed. I also heard testimonies from parents who had gained understanding of their child's struggle and were able to minister compassion without compromising God's Word.

My husband and I began attending a support group, thinking we would get our loved one healed. The Bible verse about removing the log from one's own eye before removing the speck from another's quickly became real to us.

That was nine years ago, and my life has been transformed. No other issue would have driven me to Jesus more fully than this. I have found the peace the Bible describes as passing all understanding. Deep healing within me has occurred, and it gives me the ability to communicate more honestly and effectively with my family and others.

As a result of that program, my husband and I felt called to begin a ministry, "In His Time," in April 2001. During these eight years of ministry, God has continued to heal my woundedness and shown me how to receive His love.

We now hear story after story. We hear the stories of children who want and need parental love yet feel rejection. They say they do not want these same-sex feelings -- that they pray and pray and ask God to remove the desire, but it doesn't happen. We hear the stories of parents who cry out to God in anguish, not understanding how "this" could happen in their family. They relate that they have been good parents, gone to church, taught their children the ways of the Lord. We also hear the stories of pastors and church workers trying to understand and deal with their unwanted attraction toward those of the same sex. As they come to our ministry, we know that the Lord's unfailing love is calling to them.

In His Time earlier this year partnered with Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., and the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board to offer a Restoration Grace conference to encourage and equip the church with knowledge and resources to actively respond in a Christ-like manner to a world impacted by homosexuality. Bob Stith, the gender issues specialist for the Southern Baptist Convention, was one of several speakers who brought a message of hope and change.

We heard heartbreaking stories from people -- including pastors -- whose families have been touched by this issue. But we also heard stories of triumph. Attendance has increased at our weekly meetings, and more volunteers want to get involved. One young woman who attended the conference has given her life to Christ.

All across our Southern Baptist Convention people are struggling and hurting because of unwanted same-sex attraction in themselves or those they care about. This attraction is beyond my or your ability to change, but the Holy Spirit has the ability. It is God's desire that we reach out with grace and compassion to those who are hurting.


Judy Williams and her husband Jerry are co-directors of In His Time ministry in Clinton, Miss. For more information about ministry to homosexuals, contact Bob Stith, the SBC's National Strategist for Gender Issues. He is available for speaking engagements and interviews and can be reached at bstith@sbcthewayout.com.

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