Marlin and Patsy Hawkins spent "the hardest twelve years of their lives" holding in a deep, dark secret. They've spent the last six years encouraging others not to do that.
The Hawkinses said it was hard knowing their son, Mike, was living a homosexual lifestyle from age sixteen to twenty-two. But when he turned from that lifestyle, yet was diagnosed HIV positive less than a year later, that's when the pain became almost unbearable.
And until Mike was hospitalized with full-blown AIDS about four years after the HIV diagnosis, the Hawkinses kept silent about the illness.
"The fear of isolation is a real motivator for silence," said Marlin Hawkins, controller for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. "But when you have a loved one with AIDS, you need support from others. We found when we went public with it, the more people knew, the more they cared about us.
"We especially encourage people to tell their church family," he added.
That's the motivation for the AIDS support group started by Marlin and Patsy in 1992, just months after revealing Mike's condition.
"Mike asked us to start a support group for families and friends of those who have AIDS or had lost loved ones to AIDS," said Marlin. "We told him we didn't know anything about that, but Mike just smiled and said, 'You'll learn.'"
Since starting the group, which now meets at 7 p.m. the fourth Thursday of every month at the Baptist Building in Oklahoma City, several members with AIDS have died, including Mike, who was thirty years old.
"We've now passed the second year anniversary of Mike's death," Marlin said. "The last thing he told us was 'Keep my story going.'"
Mike's story is one of regeneration, that there is hope for the homosexual.
"Mike believed that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination unto God, that homosexuality is a choice, not a genetically inherited trait and that freedom from homosexuality is not a plan, but a person, namely Jesus Christ," emphasized Marlin.
Mike spent the last years of his life crisscrossing the state to share his deliverance from homosexuality and warning young people of its dangers.
He was the founder of CAN (Christian AIDS Network) designed to minister to AIDS patients, provide support for family and friends of AIDS victims, and provide AIDS education in churches and schools.
The Hawkinses say their AIDS support group has seen people open up and share the hurt about their loved ones' lifestyles.
"We have decided to expand the group to family and friends of those living in the homosexual lifestyle, who are not HIV positive," said Marlin. "They also need someone to talk to about how they can live with those in this seemingly impossible lifestyle."
Although the group is relatively small (there are fifty-six on the monthly newsletter mailing list) inevitably there is one person at each meeting who really needs that time, Marlin said.
"One lady came to only one meeting," he related. "But the whole meeting was her letting out her emotion and us praying with her."
Marlin said one couple came from a town 100 miles outside of Oklahoma City.
"When I asked the husband how things were going, he dropped his head, broke down and cried, and began to talk. The support group was a breakthrough for that man that night. He had a complete change of attitude. He needed that time."
"We let them know it's all right to cry," said Patsy. "We've all been there. We understand what they are going through."
Patsy said one of the difficult things before they went public was listening to people talk about homosexuals and making jokes about them.
She knows first hand that the tragedy of AIDS is no joking matter.
"It's real hard to listen to people make fun of homosexuals when it affects your family," she said.
The Hawkinses said they recently went to the funeral of a son of a couple in the support group.
"This young man had been defensive of his lifestyle, and estranged from his family," Marlin said. "But a few months ago, the family had reconciled, and while talking with his brother over the phone, from his hospital bed, the young man prayed to receive Christ. He died less than a month later."
Marlin emphasized they put forth a strong evangelistic approach at the meetings.
"One of the toughest parts is meeting the needs of family members of someone who has died of AIDS and was not a Christian," he said, "because I don't know how to give them hope."
In December, 1995, six months before Mike's death, the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) filmed Mike's Story, as a part of the Missions USA Video Magazine. The video has been expanded with out-takes from the interview with Mike.
In addition to the nine-minute Mike's Story, the video includes a segment For Those Who Struggle with Homosexuality, which uses quotes from Mike to help those who struggle see there is hope and healing, and Understanding Homosexuality, with quotes to help pastors, youth directors, counselors, and parents understand the sources of the choice of a homosexual lifestyle to enable them to better minister.
Marlin said the video, the support group, and the family's testimony of their walk through AIDS are ways to "keep Mike's story going."
"It's not for the purpose of lifting Mike up, but to get the message across that you can change from homosexuality."
For a copy of the video Hope for the Homosexual, contact the Customer Service Center at 1-800-223-1123.
For information on AIDS support groups, contact:
First Stone Ministries
1330 N. Classen Blvd., Suite G-80
Oklahoma City, OK 73106
Deliverance from Homosexuality
Accounts like Mike Hawkins' story are becoming more frequent. In fact, thousands have been delivered from homosexuality, and the message of freedom is spreading.
One of the messengers is Michael Johnston, a former homosexual with AIDS. Johnston, president of Kerrusso Ministries, serves as national chairman of The National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day, an annual event designed to counter the pro-homosexual claims of militant gay-rights organizations and introduce homosexuals to the One who can deliver and heal — Jesus.
"There are thousands of men, women and young people who have rejected a homosexual identity and gone on to live healthy normal lives," Johnston said regarding the campaign. He readily acknowledges that the walk out of homosexuality can be a difficult one. "These individuals desperately need to know that they are not alone and that many are willing to guide and encourage them." Johnston walked away from homosexuality in 1988 after living for eleven years as an active homosexual.
Since rejecting homosexuality and embracing Christ, Johnston has devoted his life to spreading the good news of Jesus and combating the claims of pro-homosexual activists. He has served as chair of a political action committee opposed to pro-homosexual policies, and currently serves on the steering committee for the National Campaign to Protect Marriage. He is also host and producer of Truth Under Fire, a weekly radio broadcast dedicated to monitoring the homosexual movement in America and providing ministry to individuals, and family and friends of those, struggling with homosexuality.
Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, featured Johnston in two television ads which aired during the controversial "coming out" episode of Ellen. In one ad, Johnston described homosexuality as a lie, and Jesus, who is Truth, as the key to freedom. In the second, he chided those who would hide the grave threat of AIDS behind the humor of a sitcom.
In advance of The National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day on October 11, observed at simultaneous rallies in Seattle, Wash. and at Harvard University, Johnston said, "Homosexual activists are promoting a lie. The idea that anyone is uncontrollably driven by sexual desire or that deviant sexual desire is an acceptable foundation for public policy denigrates the individual and makes a mockery of legitimate civil rights struggles."
For more information on Kerusso Ministries, contact them at:
P.O. Box 2399
Newport News, VA 23609
e-mail: [email protected]