Tornado to Triumph

by Samuel

I was a sophomore in high school and ready to end it all. I never had the guts to actually think the word suicide, but I had prayed enough times for God end this struggle with no answer that death would have been preferable. I was too scared to talk to my parents about it, but too afraid of the unknown to end it myself. I had been imprisoned by my gay pornography addiction for almost six years (yes since I was about ten when it began) with no end in sight. School was a chore, my family was on the rocks, and all sense of hope was leaving, and leaving quickly.

I grew up in a Christian home, so in situations like these, I knew exactly what to do: read the articles in the teen study bible my parents bought me. Granted, that’s not exactly what you would call searching the scriptures, but it did bring me to an article on homosexuality with the address to the Exodus International website. I quickly scribbled down the link with full intention to look them up the next day. The next day arrives, and I find myself sitting back in my room wondering where the last three hours had gone after a massive porn binge. I finally decided that was it. I went back to the computer and made my first attempt at getting help. There were no local ministries in my area I could get to without my parents’ knowledge, but there was this link for some kind of confidential forums supported by a church in Texas. This was my first encounter with Living Hope Ministries.

I would spend the next four years being fed by an ever-changing community of young men and ladies who honestly shared their lives, and for the first time I felt like I was alone in the world. Yeah, I liked boys, but apparently there were people out there who believed I didn’t have to be a slave to my desire. Yet, while the forums gave me an opportunity to grow in some areas, pride and self-delusion kept much of the growth that needed to happen stunted until God decided to intervene.

One Sunday I was sitting in the second row where my family always sat and I was radically called to full-time vocational ministry in a moment of intensity that was second only to my salvation experience. That was great, but I now had a problem: How could I serve God and still struggle with same sex attraction? Once again, I felt very alone and instead of pressing into Christ and his call on my life, I jumped headfirst back into pornography.

God left me alone for a little while. I stayed in church and grounded in the scriptures during my first few years in college, but only because that’s what was expected of me. I had sought counseling, but due to my school schedule, I only made minimum progress. Then God blew my world away. One winter morning of my sophomore year of school, I woke up as usual, pressed my clothes, went to class, and then headed to work. That night I drove back to school past fallen trees and broken power lines to find what looked like a war zone where my school used to stand. A tornado had hit just after dinner time and had not only destroyed my school, but had taken with it everything I owned except the clothes on my back and the car I was crying in.

Long story a bit longer, the insurance money I got to replace all I had lost provided just enough extra for me to attend my first Exodus Freedom Conference that summer. For the first time, I was going to get to meet Ricky and many of the guys on the forums I had interacted with for so long. What I thought was going to be a week of “feel-good” breakout session turned into something completely different. God showed up in a huge way. Every workshop, every conversation, every big group session was full of one simple but profound message from God: You must trust me if you are going to make it the next few months. What I didn’t know then was that a letter was waiting for me at home from my university. Tuition had skyrocketed after the tornado, and it was no longer financially possible for me to continue my education there.

Well, God did say to trust him, right? So that meant the money was going to come through, right? I started making plans to take out the loans required for the fall semester in faith that God would provide. I had every door slammed in my face except the one that said I was never going back to my old school. Within 48 hours of me releasing my dreams and my goals for my education, I had found a school that would take my major, started the application process and was ready to move. Four years earlier I had found an unknown ministry who provided a safe place for me online. In the following years, God used insurance money to allow me to finally meet the leadership of that ministry. But that very day, God had used a tornado that destroyed my life to send me within driving distance of the very ministry he would use to put my life back together. Within a week of getting the news I would have to leave everyone I loved, I was 600 miles away from home and starting a time in my life that God had planned almost five years ago to the day.

So here I am, almost ten months after my move, living a life of faith I had only dreamed was possible. If you had told me this time last year, I would be in Texas seeing the hand of God moving daily in my life in ways only God can explain, I would have laughed at you. I sit weekly under the teaching of Ricky Chelette, one of the greatest pastors I have ever been blessed to meet. I have a group of guys who know exactly what I’m going through and love me like brothers. I am best friends with my father for the first time in my life and have a family and community who love me in spite of full knowledge of my struggle.

I can’t promise God’s going to change your life in a whirlwind. For most of us it really will be in that still small voice ever calling us to the Father. Regardless of the details, when God places a calling on your life and sets you in motion towards that calling, I can promise you he has every step already planned out. I should know. I’m living it!