TOM'S STORY 

 

My name is Tom.

As a small boy I asked Jesus into my heart one evening. It was an evangelical meeting and my parents took us more for political reasons than religious ones. I heard a speaker that night talk of eternal life and he gave an altar call for salvation. My parents were not followers of such an emotional religion, so I did not go forward but waited until I was home, knelt down beside my bed and asked Jesus into my heart. He came in and from that time I had a desire to know God more.

It was about a similar time that another primary school joined our little school for a short time and brought with them some strange new games. There was a lot of sex play between the boys and girls at school and I was rather frightened by it all and confused. When it was found out my mother told me not to touch a girl again.

I had already shared the secret sex play happenings with some others and although the games did not continue at school they continued with these boys. The play intensified when I was sent to live with the family of these boys for a couple of years to be closer to secondary school. All this happened before I entered puberty. I did not, as a young boy, think about these games as anti-god. I knew they were naughty and were to be kept secret.

My relationship with my father as I was growing up was poor. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps. He was a great sportsman. I had no idea how to hold a cricket bat. I could not ride a horse. I was hopeless at team sports. It probably didn’t help that there were only nine children in my Primary school when I was 11 years of age. Team sports were not really possible.

My father drank quite heavily at times. He had had a bad heart and a heart attack when I was eleven. He told me then that if he died I would have to take over the farm. I prayed for him to live and he did. However, our relationship was not good. Looking back, I see that he didn’t know how to handle me. I think now that he probably loved me but did not know how to show it. I felt rejected by him as he often seemed to be angry with me. I grew to despise him and felt he was hypocritical.

I could not wait to leave home and did so when I was seventeen. I immediately joined a church as I had this desire to follow God. However, I was very aware that I was attracted to boys. At college, I went out with girls now and then. I kept my secret desires to myself.  I fantasised and masturbated. At times I contemplated suicide.

Some students discerned that I was a bit different and there were oblique suggestions made about my sexuality, but I denied their implications. I did well academically and went to Melbourne for a third year, where I really enjoyed my life, kept attending church and had several girlfriends. I found my faith was a good excuse for not having sex with anybody.

I kept on with my faith as I entered the work force and over the years was involved in church, Bible studies and youth groups etc. I truly wanted to serve God.

However, as I moved into my twenties in the 1960s there were changes going on around the world. Ideas of freedom and a revolutionary spirit were moving among youth. Sexual mores were being challenged. We were at war in Vietnam and my number had been drawn. Music was changing. There was a harder and more intense edge to life. The times were a-changing.

I began to find church boring and began to drift away from church and more into the hedonistic life of my friends.   I was tempted more but felt extremely guilty even though little happened.   I had to finish my three year training for teaching and teach a year before I had to go into the army. Later, it turned out that I was not able to go to war.  But at this time, this demand on me, added to the tension in my life.

I received a job offer to go and work in another country and I took it. Papua New Guinea (PNG) was not yet self-governing and I found myself with many responsibilities and away from any friends, family or restrictions. I thought of going to a church but didn’t. I was quite lonely over the first few months and then as the years went by and I had had some negative experiences with women I began to reach out to men for sex.

It was so easy. There were sexual partners every night. I spent some time travelling Europe and had sexual experiences in many cities.  I returned, believing that there was not a God. How could God have made me this way? Once I had made this decision, it was a relief. I was free to do anything. I began to drink a great deal. Sex obsessed my mind. I thought of little else, yet I continued in my work and did well. Generally I came to know and be fond of my partners in a shallow way, but all the time my heart was hardening until sex was becoming an end in itself. I dabbled in the occult. I believed in the survival of the fittest. Sometimes I went out and picked up five different guys in a night to take home for sex.  I did not use protection and at times had to have medical attention. Fortunately AIDS was not yet on the scene.

One day when I was in my office, the police visited and took me back to the lock up. Homosexuality was illegal, someone had said something about me and in my naïveté, I said things that confirmed their suspicions. I spent some hours in a cell before they charged me and released me.  I felt numb with shock. Going home I climbed a hill behind my house and cried out to that God whom I had convinced myself did not exist. ‘Help God!” I called.

I could see my whole life disappearing. I would lose my job, I would be rejected by my friends. My sexuality had been a secret as it was illegal. I would be in gaol for years. I was full of shame that my secret life was exposed and full of fear of the future.

However, my two word prayer was enough to change things. Amazing things began to happen. God began to put in place a plan he had been working on well before I cried out.

There was a girl I knew – Joan. She was a strong Christian and we had gone out together, years before. I had even written to her and told her I was gay while I was travelling around Europe. I had not heard from her since I wrote. However, I thought, we had a spark and I needed to get out of this whole situation I was in, so I wrote to her again explaining the mess I was in and asking her to come up to PNG and marry me.

After some time I received a letter from her, saying she was coming up and had a teaching position to go to. She had, even before I had written, made arrangements to go to PNG.  I greeted her at the airport with vague mumblings about getting married. She said to me "I would not consider marrying you until you were born again, baptised in water and baptised in the Holy Spirit.”

I wasn’t really expecting much. It was the vague hope of a numbed mind. I showed her around the town while she was there and she took me to the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) headquarters. It was headed up by a young rough looking fellow called Tom Hallas. He took one look at me and called me a heathen. I didn’t mind as I thought his assessment of me was pretty accurate and I liked his blunt approach.

Joan left to take up a position on Manus Island. Before she went she made me promise to go to church at least once. I agreed.  After she had gone I decided to go to the YWAM church. It met at night in their base house. They ran a service at 6:00 pm. In Papua New Guinea the sun goes down at 6pm. I decided to go late and sneak in the back and leave as soon as the service finished.

When I pulled up at the house, it all looked dark and I wondered why. As I walked up to the house I noticed through the windows that they were showing slides of mission work at Ukurumpa the Summer Institute of Linguistics base (Known in Australia as Wycliffe Bible Translators. I was pleased because, I felt that it would be easy now, to slip in the back door and I would have a better chance of being undetected. I was only going to the service to fulfil my promise to Joan.

I walked quietly though the door with my eyes captured by the slide show. I did not know that on the YWAM base some of the members had small children. To prevent them from crawling out into the night, they had erected a small barrier across the doorway.  In the gloom, I did not see it and walked straight into it. I tripped over it and flew into the room. Crashing down full length on the floor with my breath knocked out of me - ‘Oomph!’ People screamed and jumped out of their seats at this violent intrusion into their meeting. Lights were turned on and everybody gathered to look at this gasping white man lying on the floor. Someone eventually helped me up and supporting me, took me forward to sit up in front with the missionaries!

I had been living a life of pride. I had become hardened and desensitised to people. Now stunned, humbled and embarrassed, I allowed the service to wash over me. I began to listen. I sensed the presence of God among these simple people. They were testifying of a God who provided, a God who cared and miracles that were happening. This was a living church not a formal gathering of religious people. My heart was touched. I did not leave at the end of the service but stayed for supper and talked to the people. I asked Tom and another leader, an American called David Ravenhill to come and see me in my flat the next day.

They came and on what was an Australia Day holiday in 1973.  I shared with them, repented of my sin and had my relationship with God restored.  I began attending services and the team asked me to be baptised. A few weeks went past. The Saturday night before the baptism one of my lovers came around and we commenced to have sex. I felt pulled in half and kept saying, "No! I can’t do this. I am a Christian.” As he left, I said "Don’t come back, I’m a Christian.” I felt terrible. Any faith I had was overpowered by my sexual desire.

Once I was alone, I fell to my knees and thought ‘I can’t be baptised, I’m not good enough to be a Christian.’  I then heard God speaking to me, saying "Who says you are not good enough! I love you.” Immediately, I thought. ‘This thought I have had, is the devil. He is the one who condemns and pulls down.’ I determined to go on with the baptism.

The next day I went to be baptised. The baptism service was to be held on the beach at Gabutu. There were villagers gathered around, attracted by the music and festive atmosphere. The YWAM team were playing guitars and singing. I and others were given a megaphone to say why we were being baptised. It was very public event.

As the water was very shallow, the baptismal candidates had to walk out a long way. When it was my turn, I was asked if I would also like to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Feeling, still shattered by the previous evening experience, I said "I need everything I can to lead a Christian life.”

I was baptised in water and came out of the water speaking in tongues.  A week or so before, I had said to friends about the YWAM team. "They are very nice people, but no one is going to get me speaking that gibberish!” I knew this experience must be from God.

Now I had something that I didn’t have before and I knew the scripture from 1Corinthians 14:4: ‘He who speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself.’ So I determined to speak in a tongue whenever I had the opportunity. A week or so later, driving my car and speaking in tongues, I had an experience that seemed to go through my body like a rushing wind. It was a cleansing, purifying feeling.  My worship and life were now more in tune with God.

Joan agreed to marry me. We became engaged and we were married on a date God had given her three years before. It was amazing.

I wrote to Joan’s father who was aware of the situation, formally asking his blessing on marrying his daughter.  He was a wonderful Christian man; a lay preacher in the Baptist church.  He wrote back quoting scripture, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away behold all things have become new.”  2 Cor 5:17

Our honeymoon in the mountains of the Southern Highlands was all that it should be.  God continued to do great things. I did not go to jail or lose my job and in 1976 back in Australia, our first child was born. He is an amazing God.

Although I still have some same sex attraction, its power over me is broken and I dedicated my life to serving God, His Church and my family.

One of the hardest things was sharing my testimony with my children. I waited until the youngest was almost a teenager to tell them. It was a shock to them.  I wanted to do this so that I would be free to help others who were struggling with same sex attraction and their faith. I now share at various churches, encouraging those who struggle with same sex attraction to stick with Jesus.

I have been a Pastor for over thirty years and ministered in many countries I have been married for forty one years and have three married children and (at the moment) eight grandchildren.  God has continued to do amazing things in my life. He is my Lord and I continue to serve him.