I want to give my testimony today because God has given me a new life. I used to blame Him for all the things that went wrong but now I know He cares for me. I want to tell people that He cares for them as well.
I was brought up in Ireland and when I was young I went away to a boarding school. I was taught that I must go to Mass and every Sunday the priest preached about what was right and what was wrong. I knew very early on that if you were gay then you were a sinner.
When I was 9, I and 3 other boys, were sexually abused by the priest. It went on for over 3 years. My life was shattered. Because of what was happening I felt bad and dirty. I lost my belief in God. I reported the abuse to the school doctor but I was told I was a liar and severely punished. My best friend hanged himself because of the abuse.
I left school at 14 years old and worked on building sites and trained to be a carpenter. In 1984 I had a motorbike accident. I had a head on collision with a lorry. I broke most of the bones in my body and took 6 years to recover – 2 years of that were spent in a wheelchair. I thought God was punishing me for being gay. At times I was suicidal.
In 1988 my mum died in a car crash. I was totally devastated and couldn’t get over it and drank heavily as I couldn’t cope with the grief. Again I felt punished by God.
As I came to terms with being gay I felt isolated. One day I went into confession and told the priest I was gay. He told me to get out of the church and not to come back.
I hated the Roman Catholic church and I felt God hated me. Homophobia in my home town made life miserable. I felt I should never have been born. I made several suicide attempts. Once I was ready with a loaded gun ready to pull the trigger and the family dog came to find me and jumped up wagging his tail. It felt like the dog cared and at that time it felt like no one else did.
Friends helped me to come to England and start a new life. I came to Blackpool with two of them for Pride 2008. I was drinking in Taboo bar when I saw a Liberty Church beer mat and curiosity made me come and see what the church was like. When I walked into the church building I was uncomfortable, remembering what had happened to me. I told Nina it wasn’t for me and I left.
I then lived in a hostel for 6 months. It was a very stressful place to live in. Something inside told me to go back to Liberty because there were people there who would help me. I was nervous about going back because of memories being stirred up but that inner sense kept telling me to go.
I came the night Gena was giving her testimony. I sat at the end of a row of seats. As I sat there I felt Jesus was sitting beside me (where there was no seat) throughout the service. I felt the warmth of Him there and He said ‘You’ll be ok. You’ve got a fresh start now.’
It felt like He opened my heart to receive his love.
That was the first time I experienced His love. I went home singing and as I walked down the Promenade He went with me. He warmed my heart right through.
When I got home he said to me ‘You’re part of my family. I was always there with you’. I knew He accepted me as a gay man. I felt like I was the lost sheep He had come searching for and He had brought me back.
I came regularly to Liberty. The warmth of Him stayed with me. I wanted to know more about him. I realised I had blamed him for all the bad stuff in my life. I didn’t find any answers as to why all these terrible things happened. Somehow I can accept that despite it all He loved me. Perhaps there are reasons for it that are beyond my understanding. I don’t feel I need to search for answers. I just want His love to carry on.
I found that I can be me, a gay man and God loves me. I know He loves me. I had always thought that when I die God will look in a big golden book and tally up all the good and bad I have done before deciding my fate. Now that image has changed. I know that that golden book has just got my name in it and a one way ticket for me into heaven.
In April this year I collapsed and had to have major surgery on my lung. I almost died. The night before the operation I was frightened. I found a bible in the hospital locker and read part of a psalm we had read at Liberty. I felt God with me taking care of me. He gave me peace. I felt all the prayers of the people in my church family who love me.
He has given me a reason to live. I know He has got things planned for me. When my time is up I have no doubt that I am going to straight to heaven.
I wrote a prayer to finish:
I said a prayer for us today, And know God must have heard.
I felt the answer in my heart Although He spoke not a word.
I didn’t ask for fame or wealth (I knew He wouldn’t mind).
I didn’t ask for treasures of this earth. (I knew He wouldn’t mind).
I prayed that He’d be near you all. At the start of each new day.
I asked for happiness for all. Because God loves us all.