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From an early age, I sensed the hand of God on my life.
Living In Guyana, South America, with my missionary parents, I remember accepting Jesus into my heart as a five-year-old. That experience was very real to me.
Unfortunately, another memory from my early life is not so pleasant. One day in a grocery store, a man came and began molesting me. I ran outside and told my father, who dashed in to find the man. His search was unsuccessful; when he came out, he was very angry.
On the drive home, my father didn’t explain that he was angry with the other man, not me. "That must have been really wrong,” I thought. "I must have displeased Daddy.” I think from that day on, I began rejecting men.
Another time, I overheard my father talking to Mom. "I have a hard time loving Patty. I see all my bad qualities in her." Although I knew my father loved me, I never felt as much loved as my two younger sisters.
By the time I reached adolescence, my family had moved back to Canada. I’d long since forgotten about the molestation when I was six. Then an older cousin raped me. During the whole episode, he told me, "You're ugly and fat. No man would ever want you."
Afterwards, his wife held me in her arms. "I feel close to you," she said soothingly, "and I love you. I think you're very beautiful."
This bizarre event began to draw me into the lesbian mind-set. I started to masturbate and, though I'd try to repent, it kept happening.
I'm not repentant, I thought, so I'd better stop talking to God. He doesn't love me anymore. My prayer life soon dried up.
I went to see my pastor. "How are you doing, Patty?” he asked.
"Do you really want to know?”Then I exploded. "I’m doing awful. I...I hate this church...and everything about it!”
Rather than finding out what was wrong, he gave me a lecture. "You should be ashamed of yourself! You have good parents, and a church that teaches you the Bible...”
After a few minutes, I’d heard enough. "I know all that,” I retorted and stood up to leave. "Good-bye. I’m not coming back.”
I went home and told my dad I was walking away from God. Rather than being shocked, he said, "Patty, may I pray with you?” Then he asked God to take everything I did and turn it to ashes until I made Him Lord of my life.
Soon after, I quit high school and found my first job. Then Karen, a friend from work, took me to a gay bar. When I walked in, my first words were, "Now I know where I belong.” It felt like home. I was only 17 years old.
Karen and I became lovers. Initially, I tried to copy the loving relationship I’d seen in my parents’ marriage.
"Karen, I love you," I told her one night. In response, she slapped my face. I said it again, and once more she hit me. She couldn't receive my love. It was a foretaste of what lay ahead in our relationship.
I soon discovered our commitment didn’t stop Karen from fooling around with other women. To survive, I learned how to play the games.
"If I act jealous, she’ll be gone,” I reasoned, so pretend just the opposite. At the bar, I’d ignore her and flirt with other women. She’d hang around me all evening, to make sure nothing happened. I had her right where I wanted her.
I was a heavy drinker and gained quite a reputation as a street fighter, although I never fought women--only men. Some bars had a lot of straight men coming in "to have fun”. All it took was a guy asking me to dance, and I’d attack with full fury. I hated men.
Karen and I broke up three times during the time I knew her. After the second time, I moved back home. One evening, I tried to commit suicide. My parents had left at six o’clock
Twelve hours after I’d taken the pills, the concentration of drugs in my body was still above the lethal level. "It’s only a miracle that you’re alive,” the doctor told me later.to go out for the evening. I swallowed some pills and went to bed. The next morning, my mother found the empty pill bottle in the garbage and ran to my room. She and Dad rushed me to the hospital.
Miracle or not, I wasn’t happy. "God, I just want to die,” I screamed. "You won’t even let me do that!”
Soon I was back to my old ways, living with Karen, hanging around lesbian bars and taking acid. No one understands what I’m going through, I thought. If anyone does, they’re as stoned as I am and don’t care.
One night Karen and I were drinking at the bar. Somehow I got in a fight and she found me unconscious in my car, covered with glass. When we got home, Karen confronted me: "Listen. If you don’t shape up, you can just ship out of here.”
I glared at her. "You’ve said that one too many times. You’ve kicked me out before, and then asked me back. This time, I’m leaving for good.”
I went to stay with Pat, a straight girlfriend who was separated from her husband. She was very understanding: we were both grieving over our broken relationships. One evening, we talked about God’s unconditional love. Pat was a new Christian, and she encouraged me to talk to God about my messed-up life.
I took her advice, "Lord,” I prayed later that night, "people are telling me to clean up my act and love You, but I don’t know how. If You want me, You can have me.” Then I told Him: "but if you take me, I don’t want to be a Christian who just keeps a pew warm. I want to move mountains.”
Then I saw a picture in my mind. I was down in a pit, with chains and filth all over me. And Jesus was there. But He wasn’t standing over the pit, saying, "Come on, I’ll help you up.” He came down into that pit, threw His arms around me and said, "Pat, all I’ve ever wanted was you. I love you for who you are.” Since that night, my life has never been the same.
I didn’t change overnight, though. For the next six months, I still went on dates with Karen. Then my friend Pat went back to her husband, and I moved home with my parents.
About six months later, I was sitting on our couch at home. It was New Year’s Eve. I’d sat there every day for a week, looking out the window and trembling all over. "Pat, wha
t on earth is wrong with you?” Mom finally asked. "I’m not sure,” I said, "All I know is that God and Satan are fighting in me. My body is the battleground and I don’t know who’s going to win.” Unknown to Mom, Karen had asked me to move back with her.
"God,” I screamed inside, "I need a miracle!” I’m not sure what I expected in response, but nothing happened. So I gave into the enemy and went over to Karen’s apartment.
"Hi,” I said to her, walking in the front door. "I’ve come back.” To my amazement, my atheist lover scowled at me. "You love your God to much. Get out of here!” Instantly I knew that God had answered my prayer.
I went back home. The phone rang, and it was my pastor returning an earlier call I’d made to the church. "Pat, you asked if you could sing at church tomorrow? Yes, that would be fine. We’ll look forward to seeing you then.”
I hung up and the phone rang again. It was Karen. "I’m sorry, Pat. Please come back.” But I’d already made a new commitment to go back to church, back to God. "It’s too late now,” I told her, "Our relationship is finished.”
My New Year began the next day with my solo in church about God’s wonderful grace. That day - January 1, 1980 - was a fresh start in my life.
Through the previous six months of battling with Karen, I’d lost my job. Then I heard about an opening at the Intervarsity (IVCF) office in Toronto. I went to the interview, and got the job.
After working for several months, I took my boss out for lunch. Karen was beginning to phone me at work, and I wanted him to know about my background.
"Pat,” he said, "when I interviewed you, I knew there was something you weren’t telling me, but God stopped me from asking.” He said they would stand beside me in dealing with Karen.
Working at IVCF was a time of healing, as I learned to relate to other Christians, basking in their friendship and acceptance. Even in the midst of my fears, I prayed that I would love God enough to risk loving other people.
Eventually I went to Ontario Bible College. After graduating in 1985, I was approached by three missions to go overseas, but I only had one burden: ministry to homosexuals.
I threw out a fleece: "Lord, if you want me to stay in Toronto, bring one person into my life who is gay.” The next week, my sister told me someone in ex-gay ministry had preached in her church. I called him up, and he invited me to the group. Ten days after my prayer, I was sitting in a room surrounded by twelve people coming out of homosexuality. That was the beginning of ministry to people who experience same-sex attractions. God has since led me to be involved in ministry throughout the world.
During my ministry work in Toronto, I also became involved in Exodus; first serving on the Exodus North American board; then becoming the International Director for Exodus Global Alliance.
My involvement with Exodus has brought me into the international scene, where I am involved in assisting the formation and development of ministries throughout the world--Europe, Latin and North America, South Pacific and Asia.
The cross-cultural experience of my formative years in Guyana, my involvement in the church and in homosexuality, and my experience of laying the structural foundation for the Toronto ministry, have all been a part of God's plan and preparation for my present ministry. It is awesome the way God has brought all these things together in His sovereign way.
Although there’s still more healing to be done in my life, God has already done miracles. Twenty-five years later, God continues to do miracles in my life. I am now married to a man who loves me and supports me. God called meto be involved in ex-gay ministries throughout the world and then into church ministry. As I continue to grow in the Lord, I have learned that my responsibility is to be obedient before the Lord, to do my best. God will do the rest. Whatever the future brings, it’s reassuring to know I’m in His hand. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
Editor's note: Patricia Lawrence was the director of a ministry in Toronto, Canada from 1985 to 1995 and the Executive Director of Exodus Global Alliance from 1995 to 2008. After finishing two terms as Director of Exodus Global Alliance, she became a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Toronto.