Following is the Testimony of Carla, the founder of SSA HOPE given in Maine, NY, April 2013, at the Gender Matters Conference
As Agnes poured out her questions in a thick Italian accent, full of pain and anxiety, my own heart wrenched. And when she said, “This has destroyed our family. Why God wants to destroy our family?” it cut through the last four years, ripping away the carefully constructed layers of thick skin that I had fashioned so I could function, so I could go on believing and loving God. Agnes’s raw emotion brought me back to that first desperate year, the exhaustion of being continually spent in prayer and study and plans of how to fix this, not only of how to fix our son but how to restore our family which had been literally ripped to shreds.
The day of discovering our son’s SSA has always seemed to me, a day of death - an end to life as I knew it. On some mental timeline of my life, I can draw a big, fat, black line on that day separating years of joy and laughter, of normal ups and downs, and a contented happy faith life, from a new profound sorrow, deep pain, tortured anxiety, and a shattered trust. Agnes’ searing despair and overwhelming fears brought me back in time, hearing my own pleas and bargaining with God. Then Agnes told me something something shocking; she had given God an ultimatum telling Him: “Change my son or take me. I can’t take this anymore.” And even as Agnes' pain reeled me back in time, and my very soul echoed those old sentiments, I could see my own rebirth on that timeline, one that continues to unfold today. That first year, I was like the Walking Dead. Smiles were few, and laughs were rare, both fading as quickly as water down a sand hole. Yet, God in His infinite mercy continually held me. He nursed my wounds with a salve of hope, and tenderly bound them with a gauze of trust.
Hope and Trust are what Agnes needs; they are what I need. A steady diet of hope and trust is what everyone in this battle with SSA needs.
The pain I experience over my son’s SSA is for me the worst kind of pain. Why, I asked myself, why is it the worst pain? Worse than loss, worse than death, worse than cancer, worse than any torture, rejection, or loss of love. Beyond the immediate shock, the embarrassment, the paralyzing fear of what people would think, beyond all that lies the worst pain, and for me, it remains so for one reason and one reason only: My son has separated himself from God and the Church. NOTHING else matters. It is and has always been my true sorrow; my only fear is for his immortal soul. If he came home tomorrow with a girl strung on his arm and proclaimed he was 100% SSA free but still had no faith, my sorrow would remain as deep. For as long as he is separated from Jesus and the Church, I pray my tears will not stop storming heaven.
This page has been published to better explain the the founding of SSA HOPE. I have continued this work for 9 years now. We have been joined by several hundred who have written to us asking for help and support and consequently joined us in daily prayer. We have expanded to Facebook and are gaining more friends and members. It is not for me that I continue to keep my identity private, but to respect my son and my family. Please feel free to contact me privately via the website or a message on Facebook. Just ask for "Carla" with any questions. Thank you for understanding and respecting my family's privacy. January, 2018
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"Hi. I’m Carla, founder of SSA HOPE. I'm a mother of eight children, one of whom happens to carry the burden of SSA. Our journey as an SSA family began just over four years ago. It has been such a roller-coaster ride of pain and blessings, I hardly know what to share with you. So I prayed to the Holy Spirit for help in writing this talk, and God sent me Agnes.
Agnes is an Italian immigrant living in Boston, and her son is gay identified. Garry Ingraham asked me to call her because she was very distraught. I called her last week while recovering from the flu. We talked for nearly two hours. Agnes’ faith was simple and uncomplicated.
We are a big family. We have eight kids and now three granddaughters as well. When I married my husband he had no faith, practiced no religion, and he never spoke of God, but I fell in love with him, and I was satisfied with his promise to allow our children to be raised in the faith and for us to practice our religion. God blessed our marriage with children and filled our house with laughter. Over the years, the Lord called me to a lot of church work, teaching religion, directing programs, serving on councils and boards. From there I went on to writing and editing for national publications. Through this barrage of church work, we continued to have children, and I taught each one of them the faith at every opportunity. The children were taught to pray for their father’s conversion, till all nine of us were doing this every Sunday. We practiced our faith, but somewhat quietly in front of him, saying grace at meals, praying in the car, and at bedtime. So in all our devotions, we “prayed behind daddy’s back” for his conversion. My husband was and is a very pragmatic, logical sciencey-engineer type, who believed what could be proven and pretty much ignored what couldn’t. I was aware talk of religion made my husband uncomfortable, so religion became a non-topic between us.
Now, fast forward to three days following our discovery of our son’s same sex attraction. That night my husband and I lay in bed with the TV on but neither of us really watching. With my zippered prayer binder on my lap, and literally not having slept for 72 hours of solid prayer and supplications, I was absolutely drained and incapable of saying one more prayer. I turned to a small book of sermons by John Vianney I had tucked in the back of my case, and the first words I landed on gave me comfort. I looked over at my husband, who I knew was suffering too, and I read the passage to him. Well, he grunted and rolled over, and I chastised myself for bothering since I knew he hated religious talk.
Unknown to me, the words would play over and over in his head all night long. He had something of a vision where he saw himself on the steps outside of the church. Behind the big closed doors, he heard his whole family inside praying the Creed. While he remained outside, he could see all of us in the pew, and he wanted so much to join us but he kept hearing us recite the words, “I believe in God…” His struggle continued until he couldn’t stand any more, and finally he screamed, “How can I say I believe if I don’t?” Immediately he heard a voice saying, “But you do believe,” and in that moment, he realized he did. He told God, ‘I do believe,” he cried and began saying the Lord’s Prayer, and he felt wave after wave of what he could only call the “shimmers” and what must have been pure grace. He began talking to God for the first time in his life. All night long, crying with joy, he prayed. You can only imagine our joy, after 25 years of separation in faith! God had given us this gift of unspeakable grace. His conversion, the joy of finally being united in the faith was surely meant to strengthen us for this trial. It’s easy to see my husband’s conversion as the first fruits of our son’s SSA.
I wish I could say my husband’s conversion was the answer to our son’s problems and that life was rosy after that. Of course, what kind of cross would that make? No, in fact shortly after this, our young son announced that he would not go to church, that the Church was anti-gay, and therefore anti-him. No amount of logic or church documents or quotes could convince him otherwise. He had done his “research,” searched for his answers, and come to his own 15-year-old conclusions. Our pastor advised us not to force him. In church, I was devastated anew. In the pew, I remember standing by my husband after 25 years of waiting for him to join us on Sundays. I remember looking down the line of our children and not seeing my son. It was as if one had been traded for the other, and I remember silently screaming at heaven, “NO, No fair! NO! Not like this -Not one for the other! This can’t be happening!” But I knew in my heart as I still know, God has a big fat plan for our son, a big fat plan for each and every one of us. I just have to hope and trust.
Meanwhile God called me to a new kind of church work. In a nutshell, I studied everything I could find about same sex attraction and how it develops, and founded two educational websites and an online prayer community of loved ones united in daily prayer. God led us to so many young men and women, mothers and fathers, who wrote to us looking for help, for answers and for prayer. It is ironic that God allows us to help so many, while we are still unable to reach our own son. But I trust (there’s that word again) that God will provide someone to help my son when the time comes for the fulfillment of His plan.
The Ordeal with my son was for me as his mother a living hell. Our son made a decision to stop taking to his father and I. His silence was shocking, only speaking to us when he absolutely had to like needing a ride. He would not eat with us and took his meals in his room, and if we entered a room that he was in, moments later he would exit. His treatment of us affected the whole family. We were always a loud, happy, joking kind of family. The kids never argued long or stayed mad; the silent treatment was practically unheard of - it would be like shooting yourself in the foot and missing all the fun. Our son’s treatment of us was so complete and chilling; it leveled the whole family emotionally. I was already clinging to my faith, or I fear this sword thrust daily in my poor mother’s heart would have killed me. Our son would call us Darrell or Carla when he did speak of us twisting the sword. So often I could feel my heart literally, physically, ache as if a real knife were stuck there.
Silence is not always golden, but this gold would be tested in fire. Our son’s silent treatment lasted nearly a year. Talk about hope and trust. It was as essential everyday as breathing air. It was a long struggle, and we had a lot of heavenly help, but one day, poof, our prayers were answered. There’s a whole miraculous story to that gift. Again, I wish I could say when he started talking to us, that everything was all better, but no, while some of that dark cloud lifted, the original problems of his loss of faith and his denial of truth remain. For now and until God wills, we all agree to disagree as we “pray behind his back,” waiting for God’s big fat plan to unfold. We continue to undergo trials with him and with our other young adult children as well. Trials that test our faith in fire, that crush us emotionally, and drain us mentally.
Remember that timeline? Remember, the big fat black line…the day of death? Well now, I see it differently. In St. John’s gospel, chapter 12 verse 24, Jesus tells us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me.” And where did our Lord lead us? To the cross, to the crucifixion. Our loving Father allows us the great dignity of participating in redemption through our trials, our sufferings united to His son’s. Those who carry the cross of SSA, either directly or as a parent or loved one, must be crushed like the grain of wheat. We must die to ourselves. Only then will we be united in Jesus and the Church, only then will we bear much fruit. Not only for ourselves and our loved ones but for all the Church. Our suffering has infinite value when united to Our Lord’s on the cross.
So I pray you keep your Faith, and grow in Love, and cling to Hope and Trust like the lifeboat they are meant to be. Please pray for my son and for all who bear the cross of SSA. May God bless you."