Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stories From the Pews: Integrity Georgia's Powerful Witness

Michael Wood
Convener, Integrity Georgia

I recently went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic which completely changed me and my life, I hope, forever.

This past June fellow Integrity member Fred Richter and I were part of a mission trip organized by the Rev. Tar Drazdowski of Christ Church Valdosta, which included 30 people from 5 different dioceses of the Episcopal church and 1 diocese of the Roman Catholic church. This trip marked the 10th year that the Diocese of Georgia has come to Campamento Monte De La Transfiguracion in El Pedregal. The team flew nonstop from Orlando to Santo Domingo on June 18th and rode in a chartered bus to our destination in the mountains in West Central Dominican Republic.

Reverend Tar instructed that we were to be “Christ for them, not to them". While Fred and I went primarily as missionaries of our diocese, we did not leave behind that we are active members of Integrity Georgia. Our Georgia chapter is committed to showing Christ's spirit in us, through our presence as neighbors, friends, co-workers, and fellow parishioners at the communion rail. We pray that our witness will reveal the love and light of Christ that we wish to share. Many gay people here and in the Dominican Republic have been turned away by religion. However, Christ has not turned us away. We exist to fill-in that hole in the hearts of gay and straight people that was created by being left at the closed door of religion.

Fred and I were merely present as Episcopalians. We worked together with men and women to build new roofs on small homes, (these homes house 8-15 people and are no larger than most peoples' living room). We also hung new ceilings in a dormitory bathroom; removed an old fence to make room for a newer one. Most importantly we were present and Out. One missioner approached me and Fred to ask us about being Out. Shortly afterward he came out and is our newest member of Integrity! (In Georgia one can still be fired for being gay, so he has to be careful).

I was moved by the joy and caring of the Dominican people. This trip has taught me to appreciate the blessings that God has seen fit to give me. The Dominicans have helped me far more than I could have ever hoped to help them. They are poor in material things but as individuals they are the richest people I have ever met.
In addition to our mission outside of  the US, Integrity Georgia, of The Diocese of Georgia, has donated a new sign to the Episcopal Campus Ministry house, as part of our outreach to Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia.

Integrity Georgia has begun work with Episcopal Campus Ministries in Savannah, Statesboro, Augusta, and Valdosta, Georgia to further the ministry of Integrity Georgia.

The Georgia chapter is committed to showing Christ's spirit through its' presence as neighbors, friends, co-workers, and fellow parishioners at the communion rail. Their prayer is that their example will reveal the love and light of Christ that they wish to share.

"Stories From The Pews" is a continuing series about the experiences of Integrity members throughout the church. If you have a "Story From The Pews" that you would like to share, please contact Integrity USA Director of Communications Louise Brooks at tvprod@earthlink.net. We would love to post your story.

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