Sunday, July 31, 2016

Act Two, Scene Ten - "A Couple of Hyenas"

This post is part of my on-going story that I have been telling through this blog.  If you are just coming here for the first time or if you need to catch up, you can catch the earlier parts of the story in Setting the Stage or Act One.  See the navigation panel to the right labeled My Story.  I hope that my sharing of my story is helpful, encouraging, informative, or at least entertaining for you.  Please feel free to comment or contact me.  Thanks!

            While, I do wish that I could have learned what I needed to learn sooner and became comfortable with myself much faster, I apparently needed to take the time that I did in order to figure out who I was, and I am certainly thankful for that now as I do not still have those lingering questions about my identity in terms of being both gay and a person of faith.  Honestly, those were good times. It wasn’t as though I spent the entire time being miserable and held captive against my will.  Also, let’s remember that I entered my ex-gay period as an adult, of my own free will, and that they were merely assisting in what I had asked them to help me with.  This is very different than situations in which children are forced into situations aimed at changing their sexual orientation or coercing transgender to deny their true gender identity.

            I want to share with you what is probably one of my fondest memories from my time at my former church.  In 2004, I believe, I went on a mission trip.  In churches like the one that I went to, adult mission trips were less common.  They were usually seen as a development tool for young people, high school and college-age.  Well, since I didn’t begin attending church until I was 20, I kind of missed out on that phase of life in the church and the experience of going on a mission trip as a rite of passage.  So, when the opportunity came to go on a trip to Uganda as part of a group of adults from my own church, I jumped at the opportunity.

            The purpose of the trip was not to teach people about Christianity or to win souls for Jesus like many of the mission trips that young people from my church would have gone on.  This trip was, in terms of the work done, more similar to the work that I see done by adult missionaries now in my new context within the United Methodist Church.  We went over to build a classroom that would be used to educated children who had been orphaned through war, poverty, and disease.

            We spent a total of two weeks in Uganda, mostly in the vicinity of the county’s capital, Kampala.  During the first week, we built the classroom.  The second week was supposed to be more of a vacation.  During this time, we went on a safari.  On the day that we transitioned from the area where we had been working on the classroom to going further out into the countryside for the safari portion of our trip, we had been on the bus, more like a large passenger van, for a very long time.  When we finally arrived at the safari resort area, it was evening, and the group was divided as to whether or not we should go to the building where we would be staying or if we should have the drive take us out into the surrounding area to see if we could see any animals now.  We had to decide as a group because each choice required the driver to go in different directions.  Ultimately, the majority of the group wanted to go see animals.

            In the back of the bus, and part of the minority, were my former pastor and I.  We both just wanted to get to our rooms and our beds.  We were tired.  We had been on a bus for hours, and, at that point, we were getting more than a little slap happy.  We did see some animals that night.  Now, while others were only excited to see more animals by each one that they saw, he and I were sitting in the back thinking, if you’ve seen one giraffe, you’ve seen them all.  So, we were just in the back, I think, getting a little annoyed at first, and, then, we just started checking off animals, giraffe, check; elephant, check; gazelle, check; zebra, check.  Eventually, we got to the point that we were laughing hysterically each time we could check an animal off, and, then we would roll our eyes and laugh some more when people wanted to see more.  It got bad enough that the guide up front even had to tell us to be quiet which only made us laugh more.  It probably isn’t that fun to read my description of it, but I laughed so hard that night.  I had many good times with my pastor and the other members of that group and my church as a whole, but I don’t think I ever laughed as hard as I did during that evening as we rode around in the back of that bus and just laughed and giggled more insanely than any hyena we ever would have encountered out on the grassy fields and plains of Africa.

I share this because I feel that so much of this blog focuses on my inner turmoil surrounding my own acceptance of all aspects of who I am as a person.  I want you to know that it wasn’t all conflict and turmoil.  There was genuine joy and fun as well.

       On a much more serious note, what I did not realize at the time, by being a part of the actions of a conservative church in Ohio in support of the actions of the Kampala Pentecostal Church in Uganda, I played a role in introducing the conservative theologies in that country that have contributed to the horrible treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in Uganda.  As I mentioned above, our efforts in Uganda were aimed directly at supporting the education of children, but part of the education they received was a conservative understanding of the Bible and Christianity.  In some small way I feel that I contributed to the mindsets and attitudes that plague the United Methodist Church now.  

Twitter: @culbs1138

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