Praise for the Parelli-Ortiz Other Sheep seminar on the Bible and homosexuality

Bible Society of Zimbabwe translator gives praise for the Parelli-Ortiz Other Sheep seminar

KATHMANDU, NEPAL.  by REV. STEPHEN PARELLI.  AUGUST 11, 2014.

Petros Karekera, translator at the Bible Society of Zimbabwe (Shona Study Bible Project), in praise of the Parelli-Otiz seminars on the Bible and homosexuality and related topics, wrote:

“I am from Harare, Zimbabwe. Attended the Bulawayo workshop. It was beautiful and enlightening, enjoyed every bit of it. Steve and Jose are just but good to work with.  Love you guys, you are doing wonderful work for God. Love it.”

Jose presenting

Jose Ortiz presenting at the Bulayawo, Zimbambwe, Parelli-Ortiz Other Sheep seminar

Karekera’s unsolicited recommendation was submitted to the Other Sheep Exec Site on July 28, 2014 as a “Reply” to the article “20 LGBT attend Botswana seminar on the Bible and homosexuality.”

You can view his post at the end of the article “20 LGBT attend Botswana seminar on the Bible and homosexuality.”

Karekera attended the full-day July 16, 2014, Zimbabwe Parelli-Ortiz Other Sheep seminar in Bulawayo.  Karekera is a board member of Other Sheep Africa-Zimbabwe.

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This blog was written on August 11, 2014, in Room 261 at Gokarna Forest Resort, Kathmandu, Nepal, and was published to the Internet on the same date from the same location.

Giraffs in Zimbabwe on to Vics FallsPhoto at left: Steve Parelli catches this picture of giraffes crossing a far-north Zimbabwe road which runs from the boarder of Botswana/Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

You can view more photos like this at Parelli’s Facebook album “Roadside Wildlife; Matobo National Park – Botswana and Zimbabwe

Pro-LGBT Ugandan activist returning home from meetings with Other Sheep in Kenya, finds his house and offices partially destroyed

House and offices of pro-LGBT activist Ochieng vandalized in response to Court’s sudden decision to hear the Anti-homosexuality Act, says Ochieng

KATHMANDU, NEPAL.  by REV. STEPHEN PARELLI. AUGUST 2, 2014.

The Kampala home and offices of Ugandan activist Brian Ochieng, founder and director of Bisexual Movement Uganda, who partnered with Other Sheep in 2012 in sponsoring a seminar in Kampala for 200 people, was partially destroyed, reported Ochieng through WhatsApp to Jose Ortiz of Other Sheep who received the unconfirmed report in Kathmandu, Nepal, Friday evening, August 1.

Brian's house

Photo showing damage to Ochieng’s home and Bisexual Movement Uganda offices caused by anti-gay neighbors, it is believed.

The five photos received from Ochieng, shows the damage to be extensive.  Several outside and inside walls, as well as the roof, have been torn wide open, in some cases where windows, it would appear, once stood. Ochieng says he will “apply for an emergency fund” for temporary housing and for “working on my house.”  He asks, in a text to Ortiz, “do you have any advice [for finding emergency funding].”

Court decision to overturn the Anti-homosexuality Act insights acts of violence
It can only be surmised, but it is thought, even as the media has pointed it out in general throughout the country as a rational possible reality, that anti-gay Ugandans vandalized the house and offices in protest to the Court’s sudden, and locally-unpopular, decision to hear the case against the infamous Ugandan Anti-homosexuality Act.

U Activists with Micahel Steve and Jose

Five Ugandan activists with Rev. Kimindu of Kenya (far left) and Jose Ortiz and Steve Parelli – third and fourth from left, standing.

When asked in a text message from Ortiz, “Do you think this attack has anything to do with the court case about the anti-gay law,” Ochieng texted back, “Yes. They became furious and since the community knows my involvement in the [LGBT] struggle . . . “  Ochieng texted that the home and offices were “taken down on the 30th [of July] at night”  He says he arrived home, from Kenya, to the extensively damaged house, around 11:00pm on Thursday, July 31.

Ochieng, who attended his first Bible seminar with Other Sheep in 2008 in Kampala, was in Kenya when the house and offices were partially destroyed. Ochieng said no one from the neighbor would identify those who had committed the crime.

On Sunday evening, July 27, Ochieng had left Kampala, Uganda, for the Kisumu Other Sheep meetings in Kenya.

In total, five activists including Ochieng, from three Ugandan pro-LGBT organizations, met in Kisumu with Other Sheep Rev. Stephen Parelli and Jose Ortiz, and Other Sheep Africa president Rev. Michael Kimindu, to discuss some of the particulars of an upcoming educational project for Uganda, funds permitting, on theological and ‘biblical’ alternatives in the area of inclusion, human sexuality and gender identity.

Coptic Bishop speaking

H. H. Rev. Father John Pesa

Ugandan pro-LGBT activists, honored guests of H.H. Rev. Father John Pesa
In addition to traveling to Kisumu to meet with Other Sheep and Other Sheep Africa, the five Ugandan activists were the honored guests of the H.H. Rev. Father John Pesa I of the Holy Ghost Coptic Church of Africa, Kisumu, at the July 29th, all-day Other Sheep Africa event hosted by, and conducted on the grounds of, the Kisumu Pentecostal, African church.  Rev. Stephen Parelli and Jose Ortiz were the featured guest speakers.  They told their individual personal stories about being American evangelical religious church workers who eventually ‘came out’ to their respective constituents, their families and the general public, and who in 2008 were legally married in Sacramento, California.

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This article was written at, and published to the Internet, from Gokarna Forest Resort, Room 261, Kathmandu, Nepal on August 2, 2014.  

Africa is us and we are Africa

Jose and me with our queer Zimbabwean family, together under the African winter sun

HILLSIDE, BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWEA.  by REV. STEPHEN PARELLI.  JULY 21, 2014
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Excerpt: No ocean ever really separated us, for the violent, destructive abuses of our churches by the same names, of society at large with its same actors, and of our families with the same relationships we strive to keep or salvage:  all their combined violations against us – whether in Africa or in America – have colored all our experiences with the same hues, the same shadings, the same outlines, and, in many cases, the exact same particulars.  In so many ways, Jose and I as gays encountering gays in Zimbabwe with similar stories, and gays wherever we are, Africa is us and we (Jose and me and the world) are Africa, especially wherever in Africa, and throughout the world, nationalism is linked to religion and the two are linked to homophobic intolerance.

An open-air LGBT event in Zimbabwe
The Zimbabwean event I will especially cherish, took place two days ago in the out of doors of Africa, in the warmth of the afternoon winter sun, sitting together with others in a circle on benches and chairs.  For me, the tire-worn sandy driveway, the winter-dry bushes and the waist-high, golden-brown grass throughout, and the trees – some bare, some green – outlining the sea-blue, cloudless sky, all gave the sense that this was a special place though common enough for Bulawayo.

Girls, please with Steve and Jose

Steve Parelli (left) and Jose Ortiz (right) with members of the LGBT community of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

“This is family,” I thought
As my husband Jose and I entered by car through the gates of the spacious walled property, I immediately began to scope the area.  There were perhaps twenty-five gays or more, standing or seated on large rocks, causally in groups of three or four or five.  To the left of the driveway was an open-air cooking area; to the far right – a short walk away – was the place we would soon hold our meeting.  We stepped out of the vehicle that had transported us, to greeters who were peering in through the window at us as we were peering back to them and smiling.  From the car I had seen one standing close to the vehicle who catching my smile through the car window, smiled back as he waved.

“This is family,” I thought, “our queer family.”  The world over, it is the same.  Jose and I have often commented how the LGBT experience is a universal experience.  From Zimbabwe to Beijing to Peru to New Jersey – the traits and characteristics of queer family are the same wherever we go.

Steve with lesbians 2

Lesbians from the LGBT community of Bulawayo, Zambia

Gays are the same the world over – some flaming, some shy and reticent
Some, upon meeting us at this event, were more shy than others – reticent and waiting to be approached and noticed (which we did, attempting to greet each one in earnest).  Others were “flaming” with theatrical displays, the afternoon’s LGBT gathering a stage for them to perform on.  It was all there – the traits we’ve come to love that mark gays as gay, the same we’ve seen everywhere throughout the world.

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LGBT people from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Nationalism linked to religion, and the two linked to homophobic intolerance – a common denominator between us
We  - the Zimbabwean queer community and Jose and I – are all cut from the same cloth whatever the particulars of our respective journeys, or whatever the geographical roots of our respective ancestors – a cloth where the shame-filled hiding and the potential ostracism on the one hand, and God’s special blessings on the other hand, meet and similarly shape our various lives.

Jose with one affectionately

Jose Ortiz, right, with a gay member of the LGBT community of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

The personal stories Jose and I told – our stories of loss, rejection, confusion, despair, and of hope and love and victory – warmed all like the afternoon sun, and knitted us together.  I could see it was so, for, in the story-telling voices of Jose and me, the eyes of the hearers spoke back identifying with our sadness and hope and love.  No ocean ever really separated us, for the violent, destructive abuses of our churches by the same names, of society at large with its same actors, and of our families with the same relationships we strive to keep or salvage:  all their combined violations against us – whether in Africa or in America – have colored all our experiences with the same hues, the same shadings, the same outlines, and, in many cases, the exact same particulars.  In so many ways, Jose and I as gays encountering gays in Zimbabwe with similar stories, and gays wherever we are, Africa is us and we (Jose and me and the world) are Africa, especially wherever in Africa, and throughout the world, nationalism is linked to religion and the two are linked to homophobic intolerance.

Story-telling and hot food, like a campfire experience
As we told our stories and answered their questions – questions personal, practical and Bible-and-church related , to each person, one by one, a plate of hot meat, salad and two large rolls, and a soda drink, was quietly brought by one of the members of the group and placed in their hands, everyone engrossed in the discussion.  For me, it was like sitting around a campfire back home in the Adirondacks or at a church camp for young people without the campfire.

Steve with one affectionate one

Steve Parelli, left, with a gay member of the LGBT community of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Taking photos – an excuse to give meaningful touch
It was difficult for people to leave, so it seemed to me.  Everyone posed for photos and more photos.  It wasn’t the pictures that were significant, as important as they were for the memories we had just made, but it was the taking of the photos themselves that seemed to matter the most.  It gave the excuse to actually touch one another, to smile into each other’s eyes between photographer and subject, and amongst those being photographed, and in some cases to tightly hold.  Like family.  Like a family reunion.  Like good-byes to friends you’ve known for years.

Good-bye, but not forgotten.  The oneness we will always cherish.
Our good-byes were couched in terms of cautious hope that we could return someday, the clergy present at the gathering demanding, and planning our return already.

Marvelous and Steve and Jose 2

Marvelous (center), member of GALZ, with Steve Parelli, left, and Jose Ortiz, right. Marvelous was the key facilitator in organizing the Other Sheep and Other Sheep Africa meeting with LGBTs of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

From the activist friend with whom we had met on two previous occasions during our time in Zimbabwe who coordinated the LGBT gathering with the help of the inclusive ‘welcoming-and-affirming’ clergy, to each and every person we met of the LGBT community, Jose and I will long cherish this precious moment when, under the winter sun of Zimbabwe, we met and embraced our queer African family.

 

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This article was written on Sunday-Monday, July 20-21, 2014, in a cottage house of Alliance Française de Bulawayo  in Hillside, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, provided as our residence without charge while in Bulawayo by a generous Frenchwoman Couchsurfer.  This article was published on July 22, 2014 in the early morning hours from the same place about one and a half hours before our departure from Zimbabwe.