Luis Ruiz heard the gunshots, smelled the gun powder, and felt sheer terror as a muslim gunman brutally mowed down 49 people inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL in June of 2016.
Ruiz barely escaped with his life. “I fell on the floor and heard people screaming. Everybody ended up trampling over me. I was bruised and in pain. I couldn’t get up,” Ruiz recalled. “I called my mom and told her, ‘I love you guys. I’m sorry.’ She could hear the gunshots and she flipped out. I could hear her tell my family, ’They’re going to kill my son.’”
The call died and Ruiz tried to get up.
“This guy comes to me out of nowhere. He picked me up and took me all way down to the 7-11 across the street,” Ruiz recalled. “He told me, ‘We have to pray.’”
Although in shock, Ruiz did pray with the man. But in all the commotion Ruiz lost track of him and never saw him again. “I looked for him. He was my hero. I would have been stuck there.”
Now, he says Jesus is his personal Savior and he’s no longer gay.
“I survived because I believe God still had a purpose for me,” Ruiz says. “My life really did change after Pulse. I am a different person now. Life is really a blessing. … I hate that I lost so many friends, but at the same time I know these beautiful guys are all in heaven. My life has changed, but do hate the fact that it took this tragedy to change my life.”
“I should have been number 50!” Ruiz wrote in a Facebook post.
“Going through old pictures of the night of Pulse, I remember my struggles of perversion, heavy drinking to drown out everything and having promiscuous sex that led to HIV,” he continued.
“The enemy had its grip, and now God has taken me from that moment and has given me Christ Jesus. I’ve grown to know His love in a deeper level. 2 out of the 49 were my close friends and are no longer with us. They lost their life that night. I should have been number 50 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 His love. I know who I am and I am not defined with who the enemy says I use to be – but who Christ Jesus says I am,” he posted.
Ruiz is just one of many young people who have voluntarily abandoned their LGBT lifestyles and embraced Jesus. Now, they’re rallying at the nation’s capital this weekend, to share their stories in what they call a “Freedom March.”
“I am a living example that there is revival in the LGBT community,” MJ Nixon, an ex-lesbian and co-founder of the march, said. “When I came to Christ He really showed me the truth of my real identity.”
Nixon is CEO of Uprooted Heart, a ministry devoted to helping those struggling with homosexuality and transgenderism find Christ. She recently produced a documentary called Here’s My Heart , which shares the testimonies of 12 millennials who have left the LGBT lifestyle.
“I was just longing for someone to love me,” Edward Byrd, one of the people featured in the documentary, recently shared in an interview. “I had changed my name. I was starting to wear makeup. I had grew my hair long.”
Like many others, Byrd had tied his identity to rainbow flags, partying, and sexual promiscuity.
“Chasing after all those things in that lifestyle made me feel wanted. Made me feel like I was accepted by this group that loved me and made me feel accepted for who I was,” said Joshua Buchanan, who also shares his testimony in the film.
“I was tested in 2009 and found out about a month later that I became HIV positive…When you find something out like that it literally shifts the course of your life,” he said.
The identity they created eventually crumbled.
“I was feeling like my life would never be more than what it was. Which was broken, which was chaotic, which was aimless, which was loveless,” Fetima McCray, another cast member said.
But despite their lifestyle, God continued to reach out to them and show them His love.
“I thought that being a homosexual was the most detestable, the most degradable sin that one could ever be a part of and that God would want to have nothing to do with me. But I found that God loved me in spite of me. I found out that it was my sin that God was drawn toward me, that he gave his own life for me,” said Ronald McCray, who is also featured in the documentary.
Nixon believes it is time for the church to embrace and love the homosexual community, especially in an age when more millennials identify as LGBT than any other generation before.
“The church should be the number one thing that people think about to say ‘this is the safest place I can go and I can be open about what I’m going through,” she said. “God sent His son so that not one would perish…and that is everyone in the homosexual community.”
For Pulse survivor Ruiz, he found immediate support through Catholic Charities. Although not Catholic himself, Ruiz said the organization offered open arms. He praised the staff of Catholic Charities for showing him love and helping him through applications processes to gain assistance with his finances.
“It gave me a whole new perspective about the church. (The staff) showed me and other victims how we could all come together as one. No matter what our background was they said, ‘We are still going to help you. We love you,’” Ruiz said.
–Metro Voice and wire services