Former transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay men and women, including an Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting survivor, will be gathering in the nation's capital for a worship event next weekend to proclaim how Jesus Christ liberated them.
Attendees from across the nation will assemble at the National Sylvan Theater from noon to 3 p.m. on May 5 for what is being called Freedom March.
Daren Mehl, president of the group Voice of the Voiceless, says he sees the event as "an opportunity for those of us who have a new life with Jesus to come together in fellowship and praise Him for the love and grace available to everyone who seeks it [and] to testify publicly of the life-changing grace available to leave the LGBT identity for something greater," he told The Christian Post on Friday.
Mehl, 40, is a Minnesota native who identified as a gay man for approximately 10 years. Today he is married to a woman and has two children. He will also be at next Saturday's march.
"Jesus instructs us to love others as we love ourselves," he said when asked what he hopes this event communicates to the LBGT community, many of whom have been wounded by religion.
"When anyone spews hate toward another person they are clearly not operating according to the Holy Spirit," Mehl said. "It is extremely sad when this happens and I hope that [Christians] would be convicted of their sin and repent and reconcile with those they hurt."
He told CP that when he encountered the Gospel his entire value system, purpose for living, and beliefs about who he is changed, including his sexual identity.
"Jesus asked me to lay down my identity at His feet and surrender it for a new one in Him. I decided the gay label and lifestyle didn't align to my desired identity as a Christian. Trying to align my choices in behavior to my Christian identity took years of struggling, and sometimes it was quite painful," he said.
He believes this Freedom March is necessary to showcase the many formerly LGBT lives that Jesus has transformed and to encourage those who are struggling with their sexuality and are seeking answers, many of whom often feel they are alone.
"They are not alone," he stressed.
Luis Javier Ruiz, a survivor of the June 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were murdered by Omar Mateen in what was at the time the worst mass shooting in modern American history, will be participating in the May 5 march.
"I should [have] been number 50," Ruiz wrote on his Facebook page Friday.
"Going through old pictures of the night of Pulse a memory were (sic) my struggles of perversion, heavy drinking to drown out everything and having promiscuous sex that led to HIV. [T]he enemy had its grip and now God has taken me from that moment and has given me Christ Jesus. I've grown to know [H]is love in a deeper level."
Ruiz lost several friends that night.
"I should [have] been number 50," he reiterated, "but now I have the chance to live in relationship and not religion, not just loving Christ but being in love with Christ and sharing [H]is love. I know who I am and I am not defined with who the enemy says I used to be but who Christ Jesus says I am."
Read more about men and women who left homosexuality and transgenderism on The Christian Post.