Men and women who once lived and identified as LGBT are set to proclaim how encountering Jesus transformed their lives for the second time in the nation's capital this weekend.
The Freedom March, founded by Jeffrey McCall, is diverse group of Christians who have left the active practice of homosexuality and transgenderism behind and are testifying to the power of the Holy Spirit who set them free from sexual sin and wounds of all kinds.
“I was transformed through the grace of Jesus and found that others have been as well. These marches are a way to ensure that others who have overcome are not feeling isolated and alone," McCall explained in a statement sent to The Christian Post.
"There is an entire community of people that have made this transformation, and we are here to support them.”
The march will occur Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. at Sylvan Theatre, which is situated near the Washington Monument, where it was held last year
The purpose of the march, according to McCall, is to connect those who have left the LGBT life, reach out to the LGBTQ community in each city, and equip local churches that are seeking to know how to minister to LGBT-identified persons.
McCall noted that the march functions as a platform a to both bring people together and build community, and allow those who have been changed by Jesus to share their stories.
Luis Javier Ruiz, who is a survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando 2016, spoke at last year's march and will do so again Saturday. He is instrumental in setting up an upcoming Freedom March next year in Orlando and emphasizes the centrality of knowing God.
“I’ve always said it’s not about gay to straight. It’s about lost to saved,” Ruiz remarked.
“Through the Freedom Marches, we want to spread messages of love and acceptance for people who have shed their LGBTQ identity and show others that we do exist. These marches are our platform to educate, encourage others and share in a community. We’ve had a great response from people, other community groups and churches.”
Fellow Pulse survivor Angel Colon will also be speaking at the march Saturday.
Vocalist and Freedom March worship leader Edward Byrd noted in a Tuesday email to CP that the greatest misunderstanding about those who have left the LGBT life behind is that they are self-loathing and are suppressing their sexual desires.
"They think we are not happy, they think we are unfulfilled when in all actuality we are living our best lives. Not saying it’s always easy but the real joy, peace and freedom we have is nothing I ever known before," Byrd said.
While this is the second such rally to occur in Washington, D.C., another Freedom March was held in Los Angeles in the fall. Similar gatherings are planned for St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 23 and in Orlando on Sept. 14.
The march comes amid intensifying debate in both Congress and in state legislatures across the country as they consider outlawing counseling options for those with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion, known as "conversion therapy" bans, as well as adding "gender identity" as a protected category in civil rights law.
The whole notion of "conversion therapy" is misleading, Byrd told CP, "because the majority of us has never experienced conversion therapy; our experiences were encounters with the Holy Spirit that changed our lives."
"I had never even heard of conversion therapy. I’ve seen references of it in the past but didn’t come into the knowledge of what it really was until recently," he said.
"None of us were ever forced to change or put in a camp; it was a decision that we made to follow after Jesus and His love."