It all began when a church friend stopped Jane Doe in a store and said, "We're praying for you and your family." Jane was taken aback, because she wasn't aware of the friend's genuine concern.
It turned out Jane's son had called the friend's daughter to tell her that he was in the homosexual lifestyle.
That was May 1998. In the months since then, Jane and John Doe (the names of the people involved have been withheld for reasons of privacy) have searched for God's help and guidance.
"When we first learned of our son's chosen lifestyle, I made the comment that nothing good could come from this. It is our family policy to find the good in any situation we face, because we have learned that where good can be found, there also is the Lord," John said.
Now, however, something good has emerged. A Love in Action seminar at First Baptist Church, Louisville, Miss., the home church of the Does, drew fifty-seven people in February and has prompted the formation of a church support group.
The seminar was for parents, grandparents, ministers, and anyone else who wanted to know more about how the church can respond to homosexuality, Jane said.
It was led by the staff of Colorado-based Love in Action ministry and included the testimony of a former homosexual man and lesbian woman, plus the testimony of a couple who took care of their son as he died of AIDS.
After hearing the shocking news from her church friend, Jane went straight to her husband, who called their son and asked three questions: Are you gay? Are you sure? Did you call these people and tell them this?
The answer to all three questions was "Yes." They drove that evening to his apartment to find out more.
"We were devastated," John said. "Numb. You heard him say it, but you didn't want to believe it. At first you think it is just a phase. Give it a while and he will get over it."
"We didn't understand homosexuality," Jane added. "It is not just a phase. He had changed, displaying flamboyant mannerisms we had never seen before."
"We started asking questions and he would answer. We were not educated about this. It was embarrassing," John said.
"Our son is a Christian. He told us he is still God's child, but he said he was not in God's will. Later, he started saying God made him this way," Jane said.
Their son had been a leader in the youth group of their church. He spent a summer doing missions work and struggled for a while with whether God was calling him into the ministry, Jane said.
"He was the kind of youth that other young people came to for spiritual help," she said. "Now, he is just the opposite."
As a mother, Jane felt an immense need to try and "fix" her son.
"You go back over everything in his life, from when he was a baby and on, believing there must be something you did, something you can fix," she said.
She began calling everywhere trying to find out information so she could fix the problem.
Her calling led to the discovery of a Love in Action-sponsored support group meeting on Wednesday evenings at Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn.
"From the support group, we learned how to deal with things, and we learned about what was to come," John said.
They immediately learned that the first goal of a homosexual is to try and conform his family into accepting his lifestyle as normal.
"All ten families involved in the support group said the same things happened to them. He would come home. He knew exactly what buttons to push in us, upsetting us," John said.
"The support group focuses on conformity. We can either conform to the Holy Spirit's leadership in our lives or we can conform to Satan's lies and deceptions," Jane said.
The support group also indicated that the Does would experience a predictable pattern of behavior from their son, much like that of a drug addict or an alcoholic:
Financial troubles. "He was spending all his money and would spend all of ours if allowed," John said.
Compulsive lying. "Five of every ten words out of his mouth would be a lie," Jane said.
Multiple sex partners. Jane said the literature they read indicated that a male homosexual may have hundreds of partners in a year, while a female lesbian may have only two or three partners in a lifetime.
Compulsion to stay in contact with homosexual friends and lovers. "When he would visit, every 20-30 minutes he would be on the phone calling someone," Jane said.
Revising family history. "He told me one day, 'All mothers of gay men know their sons are gay.' I told him that he could take one mother off that list because I never had any idea he was gay, but after being told this over and over again, some mothers just give in and accept it as fact. They conform," Jane said.
Argumentative. "He can be very convincing. He never stops trying to conform us. He even gave us a book that says gay people are created this way by God," Jane said.
Other addictions. Addictions like drugs and alcohol, are often involved.
Defused personal boundaries. "From our support group we learned tough love and how to hold to personal boundaries," Jane said.
"You also learn how not to feel guilty all the time. You learn how to not give in to thinking that if I just go along this time maybe it will bring him back," John said.
Shocking behavior, plans, and comments. "Like the first time he told us he was going to marry his lover – we would have been shocked, but we were ready for this because of our support group," John said.
Severed relationships and blaming. "When you don't conform, then they get very angry, sever the relationship, and blame you.
"At first, he would come home, sometimes two or three times a week. Now he hardly comes at all," John said.
When their son learned they were attending the support group, he even started to belittle them about it.
"Our support group let us know how to deal with all of this. We invited him to go to counseling and we all went for one session, but he wouldn't go back. 'You need counseling. I don't,' was his response," Jane said.
"I told him I had been (to counseling) and would go again if he would, but he said no.
"I realized that what was happening to our son was just what the Bible says – he exchanged the truth for a lie," Jane said.
The Does have struggled with their son's choice to enter the homosexual lifestyle. Yet, they feel it has actually strengthened their relationship with each other and with God.
They hope that out of the seminar in their church similar support groups will be started around the state.
"The support group can be a safe haven for those who are struggling with this issue," John said. "We have acknowledged God in all of this. It is nothing we have done. We are two little grains of salt in the sea, but God uses us.
"We hope and pray our son will one day hit low enough to decide he no longer wants to be in the lifestyle," John said.
"I believe when you pray and ask God for help, God answers," Jane said.