My Heart. Pulse Shooting.
I’m currently in Anchorage, Alaska, 4 hours behind my home city of Orlando. Orlando, a city whose every heartbeat centers around theme parks and attractions. The world vacations here. As the world looks on, tragedy breached our walls. I woke this morning to texts of “Are you okay?” and “Have you heard the news?”. I was transported back to the morning of the Oklahoma City Bombing. I was awakened by a friend to tragic news from my home state. This type of evil is not something you get used to. It is a loss that steals your breath away and freezes your soul to the core. I have been in ministry to the gay and ex-gay community, since I walked away from homosexuality in 1998. After spending 1999 in Oklahoma I moved to Orlando in January of 2000. I fell in love with Orlando. Nothing closes for long. There is something to do every moment of the day. A year after I moved, American lives would change forever as terrorists stole away our national security and momentarily, our confidence to travel by air. I worked for Sea World at the time and on 9/12 there were 400 people in the park. It appeared that evil had won. Orlando was quiet for a few months, as if holding our breath in anticipation of what was next.
Fast forward to these past few days. As I texted one friend after another and found them safe, my heart quieted a bit. The ominous weight of death plagued my heart for days. This senseless, barbaric tragedy happened in my city, to my community. Stuff like this doesn’t happen in Orlando. There are young men and women in their 20’s and 30’s who entered eternity last night. There are family’s deprived of brothers, sisters, uncles, fathers and daughters. Someone’s little girl will never come home again. Unspoken words will never be voiced. That should cause each of us a moment of pause for prayer. Now is the time to mourn for those who lost their lives, minister to the wounded and step alongside families experiencing loss. If we can be the church to the LGBTQ+ community in Orlando, then evil will not triumph and we will be true servants of Jesus.
I have had the privilege of doing life together with a few gay men in Orlando. I have witnessed their God-given gifts at work. I have experienced their talents at theme parks and church services alike. Like it or not, I have given guidance to young men about abusive boyfriends, breakups, divorce and suicidal thoughts. I have hugged and held them when they were hurting and supplied them with furniture, food, time and tears. In short, I have given them my heart. One doesn’t have to agree with another's sexual orientation to share Jesus with a world in pain. My years as a gay man, serve as a reference library as I minister Jesus to the LGBTQ+ community.
How much longer can we be Christians who worship God openly on Sunday, yet hide Him away for the rest of our week? If we can meet a human need and we choose not to do so, the bible calls that sin. You might find yourself asking, "Do I have a ministry?" The answer is yes. If you have a heart and a voice, you are equipped to minister to the victims of this heinous crime. God tells us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Satan has brought the fight to our city. He has taken loved ones and souls from us, who are dear to God.
20 years ago I could have easily been one of those young people in that club. I grew up in a Christian home. I knew all the right things to say and do. I had also been hurt and wounded by the church and most, every man I encountered. I didn't set out, looking to be sinful. I was looking for a safe place to belong and be valued; to quiet the source of my raging pain. I was running from demons inside my head. The clubs were my safe places. They still are to many men and women in the gay community today.
Christian friends and family. It’s not time to picket and criticize. It is time to pray that Jesus would reach your gay friend or loved one them with the message of eternal life. Find out the name of every club in your city, gay or straight, and commit to pray over them. Google the club addresses, get in your car and commit an act of drive by praying. Some people go clubbing for a night of partying, but for some in the gay community the bar is their church, social club, home away from home and a refuge from the world. Lest we forget how many safe places we retreated to before Jesus finally led us home. Respond with grace. Listen well. Share the truth of the gospel. Pray relentlessly for the lost souls. They may not know what's at stake. We do.
To my gay friends and their families. I am deeply, sorry for your loss. I may have physically left the gay community, but my heart remains for those who are alienated, rejected and wounded. May God bless you and keep you safe. I pray that you will experience the love of Christians around you and that each of you would experience the love of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ loves you. God loves you. If you have been marginalized by the Christian community, I pray that the Holy Spirit would not only comfort you, but draw you to a loving church community. I pray you would experience the true nature of God. I pray against any enemy that would steal, kill and destroy further. That each and every one of the remaining survivors would experience full recovery. I praise God that so many people were able to escape the club safely. May God guide the hand of the doctors working to save lives. May you feel the comfort of the Holy Spirit as we begin to heal as a city. I pray all this in the name of Jesus.