From Russia With Love

by Kenny and Tami,  parents

It was June 26, 2012 when a good friend of ours sent us some screen shots of an Instagram conversation that rocked our world.

We were in Haiti spending time with kids we have since adopted when we got the photos.  I still remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach—a mixture of heartbreak and dread.  Our then 17 year old daughter was in a relationship with another girl.  Suddenly time that was supposed to be spent focusing on our kids in Haiti was spent trying to figure out what we were going to do and how we would respond.

That day, time seemed to stand still. We immediately did what we could from Haiti. We prayed. We cried. We wondered what we would do. We shared the news with a couple of very close friends who were with us and we wondered what we would encounter when we returned home. What we heard when we returned were the typical phrases that all of us who have friends or family members who struggle have probably heard,

“It just happened. We are in love.  God must have given me this relationship because surely He wants me to be happy. I won’t stop seeing her.”

Fortunately, our daughter was scheduled to attend a church camp the following week and she went ahead and attended. Thankfully, she responded to God that week and when she returned, there was a completely different attitude from her. She knew the relationship was wrong and she knew she needed help if she was going to have any hope to overcome the feelings she had. While she was gone to camp, we had already found Living Hope. We scheduled an appointment with D’Ann, the Women’s Ministry Director. During our time with D’Ann, we got a thorough lesson on some of the factors that make some more susceptible to same sex attraction. Our daughter was a classic case—a child who was taken from her home at a young age, lived in an orphanage for 3 years, and missed out on some of the key developmental steps in her early relational development. We also learned about the weekly Bible study, worship, and small group support offered through Living Hope.

My wife and I remember attending our first night—we were apprehensive to say the least! But once the worship started, we realized that what we were experiencing may have been one of the most genuine worship experiences we had ever experienced. The people in the room—both those who struggled with same sex attraction and the friends or family who were there supporting them—were looking for hope. We were counting on God’s grace and forgiveness to overcome sin. We were confronted by clear teaching straight out of God’s Word that both convicted and challenged us. We participated in small group sharing and prayer that first night with a room full of strangers.  But it wasn’t long before those friends and family members became friends, prayer partners, and encouragers for us.

Early on one of those friends mentioned to us that he started coming to Living Hope for his child, but now he came not only for her, but for himself. At the root of all sin is our desire to put ourselves in God’s place. We want to call the shots. We want to be the boss. We want to decide what is right and wrong; what is good and evil. The Bible tells us our hearts are deceitful and when we follow our hearts, many times they lead us astray. It is only when we obey God’s truth that we find freedom—for He promises that the truth will set us free!

We never imagined we would be dealing with this issue in our family and I don’t really know why. Many families are affected by homosexuality. Ironically, we prayed about being involved in an unreached people group.  We soon discovered most involved in homosexuality are unreached because I think Christians are afraid of them. Christians are afraid to wade into the messiness that is inherent in any sin, but especially one that is condoned by most in our society, even encouraged by many who call themselves Christians. Other Christians will ignore the gay community or simply judge it.

We also recognized that this sin is now the “taboo” sin in many Christian communities. We don’t talk about it and we pretend it doesn’t exist in our town, our school, or our church.

We have gained a great deal of respect for those of you who are struggling with this issue, but continue to seek God. Many folks don’t have the kind of support we have had for our daughter and many more are searching for a Christian community who will wade into their messy lives with honesty, transparency, and truth. I am thankful for those who serve in Living Hope who are willing to do that for thousands of people around the world.

The journey has not been easy and there are days that are really hard. We have definitely had our ups and downs these past fifteen months.

We know our story isn’t finished and we don’t know how it will end. Our daughter still struggles. Not too long ago we were having one of those hard times, and I told her that when I thought of her, I still thought she was the cutest girl I had ever seen. The first time we ever laid eyes on her, nearly 11 years ago, I thought she was the cutest girl in the entire group of orphans who had come to visit Texas families from Russia. And I promise, she was. Now, as an 18 and a half year old today, I still think she is beautiful! I also know she is worth fighting for and we will continue loving her no matter her decision. We won’t stop trying to help her, and we certainly won’t stop holding out the truth of God’s word to her.

We have shared our story with our small group and now they pray for her, encourage her, and support her. We have recommended Living Hope to some others who have needed support and resources. I don’t know where we would be in this fight without the ministry of Living Hope. And after coming for the past 15 months we can agree with those who told us early on—you start coming for your friend, for your spouse, or for your kid who struggles, but you keep coming because you find  YOU need it too. We look forward to seeing what God will do in and through us and our daughter.