I would like to share with you a story of Rejection, Redemption, Rebirth and Forgiveness.
On March 31, 1962, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, light-skinned boy was born to an 18-year-old African American woman and a 23-year-old African American man. Her fifth child, and his first child with her. After 12 hours of labor and 22 stitches, when she was finally given her son, she said, “That’s not my baby, that’s a white baby.” After several tests of confirmation and reassurance from the doctor that this child was hers, she took him home.
In 1965, when the woman had seven kids, the young boy, along with his siblings, were taken from her and placed in foster care.
His new-found home was full of Christian love, some good ‘ole southern discipline, and five new siblings, all foster kids as well. Three boys and three girls total—they were the Black Brady Bunch. His foster dad worked and provided for the family while his foster mom was a stay-at-home mom who could really throw down in the kitchen. That house always smelled of great food and you could certainly feel the warm abundance of love that went into everything his foster parents provided.
It was there where he learned the meaning of God’s love, a belief in Santa Claus, and the occasional quarter left under the pillow by the tooth fairy. Those were great times and he could not be happier. It was also there where he gained his love for musicals and singing along with them. I’ll explain in a minute.
In 1967, the boy’s biological mom came to take him home to live with her and his biological siblings and now the total was eight—four boys and four girls. The moment of his arrival he knew that the Black Brady Bunch had its final season. His mother was a dis-fellowshipped Jehovah’s Witness who didn’t go to the Kingdom Hall (their religious institution) much but still practiced this faith of her parents. Everything he became accustomed to i.e… Christmas and Santa Claus, Thanksgiving, or any other pagan holiday, were a just a memory in this new household. But he still found solace in those musicals and singing along with them. This was quickly frowned upon by his other siblings who gave him not-so-pleasant nicknames such as “sissy” and “punk” and some I can’t mention. These harsh and unpleasant names caused him to become very sensitive, so he cried a lot and always felt like an outsider.
The year 1977 came with a new lease on life and new discovery. He went to high school and, luckily for him, a high school that had a great performing arts department, a great choir and a great music teacher who not only taught him music but taught him the meaning of having class and dignity and respect for oneself. To this day, he is proud to call this teacher mentor and friend.
At this new school he connected with other like-minded souls who enjoyed musicals and singing along with them. It was also a beginning of great discovery for him. He finally was able to connect with kids who shared the same internal struggle about these new feelings that he couldn’t share with his family.
Needless to say, because of those new discoveries the not-so-pleasant nicknames at home became more prevalent. Even his mother began to believe them, so much so that she made this declaration— “If any of my children turned out to be what I didn’t have them to be, I will disown them.”
But it didn’t matter because in 1978 at age 16 he was on his way to Rome, Frosinone and Fiuggi, Italy for two weeks with 23 other great young singers to sing for the Pope.
In 1980 he graduated from high school and a more confident, outspoken young man emerged. With that confidence secrets had to be told. So, he decided he was going to share his new feelings with his mother, but still remembering that declaration she made. Diana Ross and her new hit song, “I’m coming out,” made the confession easier. His mother, true to form, held strong to her declaration. She shared staunch words of her so-called wisdom and shouted, “Make sure you read Leviticus 18:22!”
The 80s brought on some trying times. The new illness, made popular by a famous actor, was unfortunately taking away a lot of his new musical friends and fear was high not only in that community but in society as a whole. One day he saw a sign that read, “We’re looking for a few good men.” He thought, “You too?” but he digressed. The slogan was for the Army— “Be all you can be.” Thinking that it could change him, he gladly joined. For four and half years he toured Europe and the United States singing with the all Army Soldier show. So much for change.
In 1987 he was honorably discharged from the Army and reluctantly came back to Baltimore. Upon his return, crack cocaine was all the rage and three years later he was hooked.
In 1990 he cleaned up his act, brushed off his Broadway and moved to Atlanta and began to take control of his life. He finally decided to read that passage in the Bible that his mother shouted out on their last encounter. It read “Any man that lies down with another man and does what he would with a woman has committed a detestable act.”
Reading that changed everything for him. So, he embarked on what he thought was the straight and narrow. He delved head first into religion, becoming a church gypsy, getting baptized a total of three times in three different denominations, the final one in the religion of his mother, hoping to gain her love and respect. In 2013, in Atlanta, GA, he was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness and his relationship with his mom could not be better.
Even though he was taking his relationship with God a lot more serious, he still struggled with the passage he read in Leviticus. How could a God of love feel that way about him and a lifestyle that he didn’t choose? He was quickly reassured when he read Psalm 139: 16, “You saw me before I was born. Everyday of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
During the years of estrangement from his mother, she lost her vision and kidneys to diabetes. In March 2014, he moved back to Baltimore to care for his mom. He held her in his arms as she took her last breath on Thanksgiving Day of the same year. He was happy for her transition because she suffered no more. But on that day, however, two people died — his mother and him — but an awesome rebirth transpired and he was reminded of the passage in the Bible that says, “They that worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Oh, the joy of freedom. He now walks in that truth and his spirit truly feels connected to God.
With that connection came a great place of worship with warm, inviting people from all walks of life who are guided by a pastor who really has a passion for all people. Thank you, Pastor Andrew, and Brown Memorial. Life is grand.
My name is E.W. Satterfield, and I approve this message. Be blessed.