OPELIKA, Ala. (BP)–Meet Kim Cowen. Raised in north Alabama, Cowen has led a life filled with alcohol and drug addictions and has been arrested on three occasions. She has struggled with homosexuality for 43 years.
As Cowen shared her story with pastors and ministry leaders in Alabama’s Tuskegee Lee Baptist Association, she recounted that when she was arrested for drug trafficking the third time, she cried out in desperation, “Lord, if You’ll help me with this mess I’ve made of my life, I’ll do whatever You want me to do.”
When Cowen was released four days later, she knew her life was different. “I knew I had met Jesus Christ that day,” she said.
She subsequently met Rick Hagans, a member of First Baptist Church in Opelika, Ala., and founding president of Harvest Evangelism, a nearly 30-year-old ministry dedicated to reaching the hurting with Christ’s love.
Cowen immediately enrolled in Harvest Evangelism’s women’s rehabilitation program, and within a year she knew there was nothing Christ couldn’t do.
“It took something that huge in my life to make me believe He could set me free from homosexuality,” Cowen said. “Every day, my prayer was ‘Take this homosexuality away from me.'” Quoting John 8:36, she added: “and if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.”
That was six years ago.
Cowen now leads Hi-way Ministries, a Monday night support group in Opelika for men and women struggling with homosexuality.
“The goal is not for them [just] to be set free from homosexuality but to be free to receive all God has for them, to be holy in Christ,” she said. “It’s a safe place for them to come — to keep them from going through struggles alone.”
Joe and Marion Allen, members of First Baptist in Opelika, know those struggles well. Eight years ago, their 26-year-old son was killed at a time when he was attempting to retreat from a homosexual lifestyle. Now the Allens are on a mission to share their story with others and help support people going through the same struggles.
The Allens host a family support group the second Thursday night of each month for parents, friends and other relatives of people struggling with homosexuality.
Hagans said it is the church’s responsibility to show Christ’s love to these individuals.
“We have been silent and we have been self-serving,” he said. “And the truth of the matter is there could be 100 Kim Cowens, but instead of their name being written on the Lamb’s Book of Life, it is written on some tombstone because the church did not put their money and time and pulpit where it belongs.”
Brittany N. Howerton is a staff writer for The Alabama Baptist (www.thealabamabaptist.com), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.