Monday night, Coray Alumni Gymnasium was packed with students for the Know Your Neighbor event sponsored by the Sexuality Programming Committee. Laurie Krieg, the executive director of Hole in my Heart Ministries, spoke about her experience with same-sex attraction, expanding on what she had shared in chapel that morning.
Hole in my Heart Ministries is “a compassionate counseling, speaking and writing ministry for those wrestling with issues related to sexuality,” according to their website. The ministry offers counseling services as well as blog posts and podcasts addressing topics like same-sex attraction, marriage, friendship, fear/anxiety and following Jesus.
During the event, Krieg began by speaking about “core needs,” or the emotional needs of every human that are meant to be fulfilled in Christ. However, she explained, people often fill those needs with idols. After a short question and answer session, the audience participated in small group discussions facilitated by student leaders.
According to Rebecca Meyer, ministry associate for care and counseling, Know Your Neighbor is an annual event that has been happening for around five years. “This event is not Wheaton trying to be in fashion with popular trends but equipping students during their time at Wheaton and beyond to receive the blessing our same-sex attracted neighbors offer us in relationships.”
Meyer noted that this was the largest Know Your Neighbor event Wheaton has seen. “For students that I know through Refuge it was deeply encouraging to see so many students attend.”
In fact, the event was so crowded that there was hardly enough room for everyone who came. Students crammed in as many chairs as they could at each table so they could participate in the discussion. “As a fairly liberal (and cynical) Wheaton student, I anticipated a smaller crowd of my fellow left-wingers and allies, but I was blown away when I saw all the people pouring into Coray,” said junior Jill Dowdy.
Many of the students who attended appreciated the ability to learn from the conversation. “The Know Your LGBTQ+ Neighbor Event was of great value to Wheaton College. So often sexuality is mishandled not only in the Church, but also in the secular world, so it was wonderful to hear voices that affirmed the love God has for all people of all sexualities, attractions and identities,” said freshman James Van Drie. Sophomore Forest Welch agreed, saying that he “really appreciated Laurie’s emphases simultaneously on truth and on love.”
However, senior Emily Paddon felt that the event was not as inclusive as it could have been and was frustrated by the portrayal of non-heterosexual orientations as “inherently broken.” “I’m just tired of the assumption that … being content in your queer identity is a negative thing,” she told the Record. However, she appreciated Krieg’s chapel message and “loved what she said about the hole in our heart Jesus longs to fill.”
“I cannot say enough that my heart is to know students who are navigating this, to help them, to see them and to be with them,” Meyer said. “All the conversations I have with students are confidential and if you are a student feeling completely overwhelmed please reach out! Please don’t do this alone.”