by Jason Thompson (Executive Director of Portland Fellowship)
For years, I tried to hide my growing emotional insecurity and my secret attraction to men. I knew I couldn't tell anyone, until a ray of hope poured into my world.
I was 14 and sat alone in my grandparents' house with a Bible in my lap. Since my father was an Episcopal minister and I was raised in a Christian home, I was familiar with many Bible stories, but that day I desperately needed to know what God had to say about homosexuality. It was clear from His word that God considered homosexuality a sin. This made me more confused than ever.
Not long before, I had had a dream that I was involved in homosexual behavior. I woke up scared and confused. After that, I recognized a growing strong desire to be physically close to my male peers. I felt there was something very wrong with me. I had not asked for these feelings, but as time passed, they only seemed to intensify.
I didn't know where these desires were coming from, and I knew I didn't want them. And I also knew I had to keep this part of me a secret. I prayed earnestly for God to take the desires away, but unfortunately, they didn't go away. "Why doesn't He answer my prayers?" I questioned. And I wondered if God really even cared.
High school was a confusing time. Unsure of my identity, I sought out guys who I could be emotionally close to, all the while wishing for a physical connection as well. One friend and I engaged in some sexual experimentation. The experience satisfied some curiosity that my fantasy life had created. Soon after, this friend became the center of my emotional world. I continued to pray, but God still did not take away my desires.
As a senior, I finally gathered up enough nerve to reach out for help. I found the number for a teen counseling help line and called. After I nervously rattled off my story to the teen hotline worker, she coldly replied, "The guy who deals with the gays will be in on Friday." I threw the phone down in frustration, climbed on my scooter, and sped through the side streets of Southeast Portland, angry and hopeless, wanting to kill myself by slamming into a car. But God stopped me and calmed my heart.
By the fall of 1990, I had a "girlfriend" who went to my parents' church. We started to "date," and I pretended to be interested in her, but the strain of my conflicted feelings was beginning to be apparent to those who knew me. In a frightening conversation, I confided my struggle to her. Surprisingly, she had hopeful words for me. Through a recent sermon she heard, she learned about Portland Fellowship. She gave me the number and I nervously made the phone call that would soon change my life.
Phil Hobizal, the Fellowship director, answered the phone, and after listening to me pour out my struggle, he encouraged me that he could help. Change was possible, and we arranged to meet the following week. His words were the best news I had ever heard. I didn't know if I could wait that long!
A few days later, and still riding on a wave of excitement, I told my parents about my struggle. I approached my mom with the intimidating words, "Mom, there's something I need to tell you. I struggle with homosexual desires." She stopped me and said, "Wait, let me get your father; he needs to hear this too." I tried to stop her. I didn't think I could talk to my dad about my secret. I had always felt distant from him. While I frequently shared my thoughts and feelings with my mom, I never felt like I had that freedom with my dad. Nervously, I paced the floor as she went outside and called my father in. They sat down. I told them that I struggled with homosexual desires but that I didn't want to be gay. I also told them about the hope I had learned about from the Portland Fellowship. It took only a few minutes to say, but it was a lot to drop on my parents.
I left their house feeling a freedom that I had never before experienced. The weight of the secret I had kept for years began to evaporate. I later found out that my parents were up most of that night, talking, crying, and praying. They got very little sleep, and my dad had to preach in the morning. I went to church, and before the service, Dad took me outside. He told me that he had seen many people with serious problems during his years of ministry but hadn't seen anyone deal with a problem so diligently. He told me that he had never been so proud of me as he was that day. Dad truly blessed me with his loving and supportive words. God was providing an answer.
My first year of involvement at Portland Fellowship was difficult. During their Tuesday night meetings I learned about the roots of my homosexual desires, God's plan of forgiveness, and the freedom from homosexual struggle. But occasionally on weekends, I would drive to downtown Portland and check out what was available in the gay community, hoping someone or something could fill the still-gaping pit of emotional need.
Not only did I venture out from time to time, but Pornography had a strong pull in my life, and it was a barrier to my ability to grow in what I was learning about God. It took a full year of participation with Portland Fellowship before I was even able to realize that I could not have it both ways. I could not follow God and continue to hold out hope of satisfying this homosexual urge within.
By this time I was attending Bible college too. Phil asked me if I would consider being a small group leader, and I accepted. At school, I lived in the dorm and began to share my struggle with some of the guys in my section. It was a terrifying risk to take, and although not everyone knew quite how to handle this issue, I didn't experience rejection. One of the first guys I shared with became one of my closest friends.
God had heard me and was answering my prayers. His desire was not just to take away all my problems, but to provide the Body of Christ to come alongside to support and encourage me. It was through being open and sharing my struggle with others that I began to have my real needs fulfilled.
I continued to volunteer at Portland Fellowship and to walk in submission to God. Suddenly, I could see that the intense emotional needs for male friendship were driving my desires. But slowly, through positive male friendships, my homosexual desires began to loose it's power and grip. I was learning amazing lessons, and powerful healing was taking place.
One of the greatest steps I made in the change process began one night with my dad. We set up a time when just he and I could go out to dinner and talk--straight from our hearts. For the first time, my dad and I shared with each other the most personal things in our lives. I felt a new connection to him--one that began to take away some doubt and uncertainty about our relationship.
In January 1993, I became part of the Fellowship staff. I wanted the opportunity to tell people that change was possible, and I particularly wanted to reach teenagers with the good news of freedom from a life dominated by sin.
I continued to mature over the next few years, working in ministry and attending classes to complete my degree in biblical studies. One day, while hanging out with some friends at the coffee shop of the college, I looked across the table and noticed a beautiful young woman. Her smile and friendly nature attracted my attention. With the encouragement of my friends, I got up the nerve to ask her out. She slowly became my first real girlfriend.
Amy knew nothing about homosexuality except that it was weird. But her love for the Lord enabled her to understand this confusing issue. Through her desire to know me better and learn what I did, she participated in the eight-month Portland Fellowship program.
A year to the day from the night of our first date, I took Amy to Multnomah Falls--the spot where my dad had proposed to my mom. I dropped down on one knee and asked Amy to be my wife. She was so startled that I almost dropped her ring over the bridge! Thankfully, she said yes.
Amy and I were married on March 15, 1997, in a beautiful ceremony at Community Bible Fellowship. Our friends and loved ones were right by our sides, supporting us the whole way through. We entered marriage with an incredible honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Since then our lives have only been blessed more by the gift of Children. A great joy and sadness came with the birth and death of our first child, Abbie. She was born with a heart defect and passed away at three and half months. God met us in our grief and reminded us of his faithfulness in our difficulties. A few years later, in 2003 we had Trevor and in 2007 Cody was born to us. My family is not 'evidence' of healing in my life, but rather the blessing of the healing in my life. And I praise God for them all.
Christ is truly a God of mercy and grace. Strangely enough, I am now very grateful to have experienced homosexual struggles. When I submitted them to God, I gave Him permission to mold and shape me into the man I am today. I am thankful that He chose me to help reach out to hurting and lost people, and I am thankful that He granted me the desires of my heart. In Him, there are no secrets. He truly is a great and mighty God!
To take a look at opportunities to share my story and a few video clips, click here.