“Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” (Phil 1:27-28)
This verse served as the theme of our 2011 LHM Fundraising Celebration Banquet. As people entered the beautiful Great Hall of Park Cities Baptist Church, the exotic flowers on the table stood tall and gave hint to the theme.
As people arrived you could sense the anticipation of all that was to come. The night opened with a greeting from Bob Stith, chairman of the Board, with introductions of LHM staff, board and thanks to those who had helped to make the evening a reality. The meal was served and the sound of friendly conversation swelled and filled the room like notes from a fine symphony.
Soon a band took the stage and began to perform “The Battle” by Chris August as video played on two large screens on each side of the stage. The video beautifully and terribly portrayed the sentiments of most of the secular world regarding the work of LHM and other like-minded ministries who help people deal with their sexual and relational woundings. The harsh words of criticism and disbelief were punctuated with black screens with white words proclaiming the truth of scripture and the exhortations of the Word to stand firm in the midst of those who would oppose the Gospel and the truth.
The riveting musical offering and video presentation was followed by Ben, a twenty-something male who has been living in the Hope House for the past year and a half and is now in a leadership position in the House. A minister’s son and faithful Christian, he shared his story, his struggle with same gender attractions and the recent realization that the very things he had so longed for in a man was indeed to be found in a man, but not one of earthly origins. What He needed most was not a mere mortal, but a Savior, and that Savior was Jesus Christ. He was indeed able to meet the needs of his heart and He had. Ben shared that he knew Christ must be his all and in his time at the Hope House, living and working with other men and purposefully processing his feelings, fears and life, he was able to embrace the reality of Christ’s sufficiency.
Ben’s moving testimony was followed by another short video with several short testimonies of men, women, and young adults who have found hope and help while participating in LHM. They boasted not about the ministry per se, but the Christ they found at the ministry and the ways they have come to know Christ more intimately and surrendered to Him more fully.
Robert, a mature man who has been involved in the ministry for many years and now serves as a men’s small group leader, traced his life from birth to present. He began each section of his talk with the words, “His name was…” and the words that followed told of individuals who had impacted his life for good and for evil. As the story unfolded before listening ears, Robert revealed the dark secret he had so skillfully hid behind marriage and church participation. Married for over 30 years, abused as a child, wounded as a young adult by taunting and teasing, he had spent some 25 years in secret, anonymous encounters with men at a lake.
“I don’t remember what his name was, but it was preceded by ‘Officer’ and he arrested me.” His arrest caused his life to spiral to an all-time low. In desperation he ran to the only unchanging reality of his life. He continued,
“His name was Jesus, and He has made all the difference in my life.”
The beauty of His redemption in Robert’s life was amazing and powerful.
Robert’s testimony was following by another video of LHM participants, folks who had found each other at LHM are now married and others who are still journeying through their life and walk with the Lord. One particular family shared how, in the deepest, darkest place in their life, LHM stood with them in reaching out to their son. Though involved in LHM for several years on and off, Garrett left the Hope House one day and was missing for three months while deeply involved in drugs and the gay scene. Through tears, his mother shared how LHM loved Garrett, loved her family, and stood with her through those dark days. Garrett shared that he is now home, walking again with the Lord, and finding joy and peace in obedience to Christ and His ways.
Hope took the stage with charisma. This beautiful, powerful, and self-assured woman shared how for years, she had been a gay-rights organizer and activist in Seattle, WA. She was out, proud and vigilant in her pursuit of gay marriage and equal rights for the GLBTQ community. But in the midst of her protest and writing gender mapping curriculum, she found Christ and ended up at LHM. Her journey with Jesus has been marked by deep healing from early childhood horrors and years of believing lies. Once she rejected her femininity, but now realizes that she is a women, a beautiful creation of a loving and caring God, and she is walking in that new identity. Her story was riveting and epic, but paled in comparison to the magnitude of the Gospel’s impact upon her life. She was a new creation in every way.
Ricky, the executive director, shared from Phil. 1:27-29 answering three simple questions:
Who is Living Hope Ministries? – “A group of individuals who are seeking to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”
What does Living Hope really do? – “We stand firm in one spirit for the Gospel. We walk side by side with people towards Christ. We proclaim the truth that is the Gospel.”
Where is Living Hope going in the future? – “Wherever He leads!” Though all our plans are tentative, LHM has immediate plans to open a satellite of LHM in College Station, TX in 2012. There is also hope to start a satellite in Waco, TX and New York, New York.
At the end of Ricky’s brief challenge, an amazing group of LHM participants took the stage for the singing of “The Stand” by Hillsong. As the choir sang and the band played the chorus swelled with the words
“I’ll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned.
In awe, of the one who gave it all.
I’ll stand, my soul Lord to you surrendered,
all I have is yours.”
…the audience spontaneously rose to their feet, arms lifted heaven-ward, and voices belting out praise to the Father!
A final challenge was made for people to stand with Living Hope Ministries in sharing the truth of Gospel with those who are struggling with their sexual identities.
Dr. Dennis Wiles, pastor of First Baptist Church, Arlington, closed the evening with a powerful word of praise for LHM and a challenge to continue forward in the pursuit of Jesus.
When the final prayer was prayed, hundreds of people saw the power of the Gospel impacting the lives of individuals, calling them out of despair and bondage and into freedom and life.
As people exited the venue one attendees comment summed up what many were saying, “You guys made much of Jesus!” And that is exactly what LHM intended to do. We want to see Jesus lifted up and exalted for when He is, men and women are drawn to Him and healing happens.
Many thanks to all those who prayed, helped, and gave to make the evening our best banquet in LHM history. To Him be the glory, great things He has done!