This is the last time I’ll be here. The last time I’ll come to this theater to sing, to worship, to dig deep into the Bible. The last time I’ll ever be social with my friends on a Thursday night.

Yes, it’s an odd thing to have a Bible study on a Thursday night; at least that day was being filled with a night of worship. Man, great memories being here in this old theater, seeing the red brick walls, sitting in the rugged incline seats, hearing them squeak when you sat all the way down.

This place had a history to it, and I’m going to miss Renovate and all the awesome things I’ve experienced here.

The first time I came here, I was a very introverted person who didn’t want to talk to anybody, befriend anyone, and who was very self-conscious about the way I looked and acted. The day I walked through the doors of the Lobo Theater, I felt alone. Although there were a lot of people attending Renovate 7 or 8 years ago, I felt like this wasn’t my place to be.

So, I got in line where they were serving coffee and hot chocolate because I love me some good hot chocolate! Then, one girl started talking to me and asked me if it was my first time. Of course, little shy me, I spoke quietly to answer her question. Then, all of a sudden, the lobby lights shut off, and it was time for everyone to go into the main auditorium and worship.

I sat in the back where no one sat by me and I could be comfortable by myself. The auditorium lights dimmed, and the worship leader began to sing. The songs were good and familiar! You know, the same kind of worship songs you hear at church, but with a twist to it, since this place was filled with college age students. After that was done, it was time for the message.

The college pastor was in the book of Philippians, and I came in the middle of the series. Nick was his name, and he was a very passionate person who loved talking about the Bible. He did his best to make it simple to everyone, yet also go deep.

By the end of his message, I was sold. I knew this would be my home church for my Thursday nights, and I wouldn’t regret it after that!

It took years after my first run-in with Renovate to finally break out of my introverted ways and become the social butterfly I am today. Slowly but surely, I made friends along the way. With myself talking very quietly, I had to introduce myself to a person, then reintroduce myself to the same person again, and again, and again. It took a few weeks for them to get my name down, but I had the same trouble too, so I couldn’t really blame them for their lack of memory.

This is where I met two people to whom I finally revealed my same-sex attraction.

One was the assistant pastor at the time, now the college pastor, and the other was a tough, muscular, “leader in the making” man. Hanging out with them constantly, slowly building that trust, that relationship with them, made me break out of my shell and have the courage to reveal what I was struggling with — THE BEST decision I ever made.

Because of this small step, I would be able to be more open to other people in the future, telling them about my struggle with my sexuality.

One of my best memories was taking an impromptu trip to see Hillsong United in Oklahoma City for a weekend with people I didn’t know. They became the first group of people I could call my friends and hang out with from time to time. Beside seeing United in concert, it was a blast playing Ultimate Frisbee (Gold team rules) with them, then going downtown to find a neat ice cream place and bomb lunch!

This is where I started going to a small group, too. I took that first step of saying, Yes, I want to go more in depth in the Bible and with other people. I want to share my insecurities and my doubts with others, too, and be challenged by the leaders, even if it hurts.

Renovate made me feel more alive than ever before. Of course, through the years, it changed with people, but it challenged me to learn from others, to receive advice from those who were mature in the faith, and to be honest about myself. As of now, I’m still in a small group with a whole different set of friends, the best people I could ever be with!

Being more honest and open, I felt the burden lifted off my shoulders, feeling free of the secret that I carried.

Yet, I also found hurt and betrayal from people I thought were my friends. Although this happened, it taught me how to be discerning with people and how to discern my own actions.

Both the good and the bad have made me bold in my faith and tolerant of people who are hurting, even those who have messed-up backgrounds. If I need to call out someone or some people, I’m not afraid to do it, though within the biblical standard.

Most of all, Renovate taught me just to listen to people, and in time, when the time is right, tell them about Jesus or challenge them to look toward Jesus even more.

Seven years of coming to this college ministry, calling it my home, has really changed my life for the better. I’m really going to miss this place, and everything it did in my life! My passion and my convictions were instilled in me from this college ministry.

To say goodbye is probably the hardest thing I’ll ever do.

But we, the people here and myself, need to stop drinking the milk and start eating meat. Yes, it’s sad that this ministry is ending, but I know something beautiful will come of it.

I have to remember that God is sending us out to a broken world, to reach the needs of people, to share the good news about Jesus, and to mature in our own faith, too.

So, goodbye old friend; I am going to miss you a bunch. Thank you for helping me grow in my faith, convicting me of my sins, and challenging me to be a better Christian.

Acts 8:4 reads:

“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”

Have you ever experienced the end of an era or ministry? How did you deal with this? Are you going through this now?

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    7 Comments
    • Reply Jeremy

      21 December 2015, 6:10 am

      Thank you for sharing that, Matthew. It was so easy to identify with. These breaks and times to move on come to all of us, often unbidden, though sometimes by choice. Not quite sure what the circumstances are of your breaking. Perhaps moving away or finished your college maybe. And sometimes the moving on brings so much pain too that one wants to jump back into the comfort of what one had before. And for some of us it’s the gay thing that results in a need to move on. I used to be heavily involved with church and Bible teaching, preaching, running a small group (I really miss all of that), but when I finally had the courage to come out (just to my family really) I felt I had to make a complete break from my involvement with church, as it would go very badly with some folk if they found out on the grapevine that I was gay. As it was I was outed to the leadership where I was fellowshipping at the time, even though then I was not involved directly in ministry. Today I no longer attend church because I don’t feel safe. I found a church where the pastor was gay tolerant and attended there for a while, but I could not be involved because I was gay (was told so categorically by one of the leaders). However, being me, it was hard not to get involved, so at one point when I was on the verge of offering my help, I suddenly woke up to the fact that, as a gay, the help would not be welcome, and I was not free to make my status known without causing some people huge discomfort. I felt the need to withdraw and, sadly, no longer attend there or anywhere. I have resigned myself to not attending church while I live in this place. I have currently involved myself long distance with a prayer group at an MCC church in another country. It’s a tenuous online link with others that might one day materialize into something more concrete. Pray for your moving on that it goes well and you find an even better place of fellowship and affirmation.
      Blessings
      Jem.

    • Reply Thomas Mark Zuniga

      21 December 2015, 6:00 pm

      So glad you had a place like Renovate for healthy community, growth, and vulnerability. I’m reminded of my own former church and small group and how pivotal both were in my mid-20s. I still feel devastated when I think about how that era ended, and I do often wonder if I’ll ever rediscover such a solid group of people and the accompanying growth that came with them. Despite the lingering pain of letting go, I’m hopeful there’s more good stuff yet to come in that ever important communal department. I hope the same for you, Matt!

    • Reply Bryon

      2 August 2016, 11:54 am

      Within the last year I finally stopped wanting to convince people who didn’t like me that I’m likable. I learned how to be “discerning” with whom I want to befriend and trust. I may be biased, but I wonder if that may be the most important lesson you learned there. It seems to have led to a more fulfilling life, as it has for me. I go to a church like the one you described, and I know one day it will come to an end for me, as my college years did. I mourned the loss of college, and even have dreams today, 25 years later that I’m back there at my current age, trying to rekindle that feeling. I confessed to my entire church last October that I’m SSA. I was telling my life story for “story night” and I mentioned it in one sentence within a 17 minute speech. That got their attention the most. I was accepted and embraced though and I’m not treated any different. For that, I’m very grateful.

    • Reply Alex Cochell

      27 June 2017, 8:00 pm

      Man thanks for sharing again Matt. I feel like our stories are very similar and I’m so glad to hear how on fire you are despite the struggles. I’m praying for you and your ministry man. Preach it! Blessings.

      • Reply Matt 'Ashįįhí

        28 June 2017, 12:21 am

        Man! This was like a year and a half ago! Thanks for commenting on this post! Well, a lot has happened since then, but as you keep on reading, you’ll find out what’s been going on with my life, as of recent. Keep on reading and commenting. I do appreciate it!

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