by Joey Heath
My journey is a lot like a lot of the other Christians I know and I’m willing to bet that others from the South can really relate to this. I grew up in a home in which we went to church every Sunday. It is kinda one of those things that is just expected of all good families in the South. So my entire life I learned about the Bible and gained a lot of knowledge about the Bible and Jesus.
When I got to middle school I joined the youth group at my church like all good kids do. At this point I was still a pretty good kid and I pretty much did what I was supposed to do without getting into much trouble. I quickly rose in the youth group to a position of leadership. By eighth grade, I had become the jr. high rep for the Savannah district council on youth ministries, which gave me a spot on the Conference Council on Youth Ministry (CCYM). For those that don’t know, the Methodist Church is broken down at different levels. I was in the South Georgia Conference and that includes about half of Georgia, and the Savannah District covers Savannah and the surrounding counties. OK, so back to the story, as part of the CCYM I helped plan the conference youth events that were held including the weekend retreats. This meant I was at every retreat for two years. The interesting thing is I would go to these retreats and every single time I would walk down the aisle and say the pray and accept Christ. The problem is, I never really meant it. I did it because I wanted everyone to see me and think just how great I was. I would leave these retreats and then go back to my normal life without God being involved. This continued through the end of ninth grade until my term of office was over. After that I started to realize that it wasn't cool to be good and go to church and so I started to conform to my friends and slowly slipped away from church and started following the crowd. By my senior year, I had completely stopped going to church and felt I didn’t need to go ‘cause I knew it all and it was boring. At the same time I still thought I was a Christian and that I was saved.
Now onto the college years. I got to college and was excited because I no longer had to have my parents on my back about not going to church and I could really live the college life of partying, drinking, and having sex and nobody could stop me. The funny thing is that it didn’t happen the way I planned. I got to college and wasn’t partying all the time and I wasn’t having the time of my life. Something seemed to be missing. Then one day out of the blue I decided to go over to the Wesley Foundation (Methodist Campus Ministry) and visit. I ended up going to one of their worship services and started going on a regular basis. I was really searching for something at the time and the people there seemed happy so that is the only explanation I have for my going. It was through that ministry that I felt God speaking to me. He told me I needed to get my life straightened out and get right with him because though I thought I knew him I really didn't have a clue who he really is. Finally one night I just cried out to God saying I’m not happy with my life right now and nothing is going right. People keep telling me you are the key to happiness so let’s try it your way. So I asked God to take over and since then, I have had God's presence in my life, and he has had my life in his hands.
Now as you may have noticed, I haven’t talked at all about my experience with being gay during this. The reason is because at that point it wasn’t even really on my radar. I was in such deep denial about my feelings for other guys that it wasn’t something I ever even considered because at that point in my life I didn’t see being gay as a possibility for me. But that is the mentality you get growing up in a conservative household in the South. So, the summer after I got saved I was on a traveling ministry out of a town that I knew nobody in. The only people I did know were the other ministry team members and during our down time it was our time apart. This gave me a lot of time during that summer to be by myself and do a lot of self-reflection and really figure out who I was. As I stated before I spent a lot of time in high school trying to conform so this was really a task. One of the conclusions I came to that summer was that I am in fact gay. Now what to do with that was the big question. I was of course of the opinion that it was a test and something I had to overcome and change.
So when I got back to school that fall I told the Wesley campus minister. For the next year and a half I struggled hard. I prayed everyday that God would take the feelings away from me and spent many a prayer session in agony crying my heart out because it never changed. By this time I was heading into a depression and not telling anyone because of fear they would hate me because of my feelings. Then one day while doing a search for gays and Christians I came across a site called “God loves Gays”. My first post to the site was really creative or at least I thought so. I called it "God loves gay, God hates homosexuality" in the post I explained my view on things on how I felt God loved gay people but hated what they did. Then one day the leader of the group contacted me. We started chatting a couple times a week over the internet. After talking to her she helped me to see a side I had never really looked at. She showed me through her own life that it was possible to be Christian and gay and that God was OK with me being this way because he loves me regardless of anything I could ever say or do. It took a long time of chatting with her and a lot of prayer and Bible study. But after almost a year of talking with her, I got on one night and told her I was gay and that I was OK with that. Shortly after, I told God too just to make sure he was OK with it. LOL. It’s now been a year and half since then and my life has changed so much. I am out here at school to just about everyone. I no longer worry about others finding out. While this has cost me some ministry opportunities, such as leading at the Wesley Foundation and helping with the church youth group, I just remember that God is always there for me and everything whether good or bad is used for his glory. I have found true happiness in Christ and in being myself and I thank him for that everyday.
I also came out to my family about a year ago. It was really hard but I knew I had to do it. So I told my family at dinner one night that I wanted to talk to them after dinner. So after dinner we all sat down in the living room and all eyes were on me. I started out by reminding my family how happy they were to see me because I had been gone for almost 3 months. Then I got really quiet. While I was working up the courage to say the words, my mom just blurted, "What, are you gay?" It took me a little bit aback but I answered, “Yes I am”. My mom didn’t take it so well and things were a little hard for a while but they have improved some. The rest of my family has been pretty good so I believe it will just take my mom some time and she will come around. Well that’s my story, hope you got something out of it. God Bless!
©2009 Joey Heath
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This testimony has been reprinted with his permission.
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