Keith Ineson, an English ex-farmer who works as a Christian chaplain for Churches Together in Cheshire, has often been there for those who are troubled. But after running into a few separate cases involving suicidal farmers who happened to be hiding the fact that they were gay, Ineson opened up a dedicated help line where other gay farmers could reach out for help.
The Guardian reports:
Within six months of launching the dedicated helpline at the end of 2009, Ineson had received 52 calls – mostly from gay farmers over 50, some of whom were single, and all of whom felt imprisoned, thinking that they were the only gay farmer around. The concern is that if Ineson stopped work tomorrow, the helpline would stop with him: there is a need for Christians with rural knowledge and an understanding of gay issues to get involved in the work Keith is doing.The helpline is supported by a network of local rural organizations and an array of churches (including Anglicans, Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, and others).
Ineson, who is himself gay, says its not his sexuality, but his faith, that moved him to reach out and offer support. He believes God is using his sexuality to help people. He says his calling is to stop gay farmers from ending their lives.
One of the cases Ineson handled involved a farmer in his forties who was tormented by a memory from his youth. The farmer told Ineson how he and his dad once saw a man hanging from a tree one evening when they were out walking around their farm. His dad cut the man down from the tree, but when he found out that the man had been trying to kill himself because he was gay, he told his son that he wished he had left the man to die. The farmer carried this memory with him for years, believing his dad would have left him to die if he had known that he was gay too.Ineson's story should serve as an example to congregations everywhere. His is a true example of living with the intention of reducing suffering in the world, rather than further maligning our fellow human beings at a time when they are dangerously vulnerable.
For more information on Ineson's helpline, visit the Gay Farmer Helpline Website.