By: Cierra Putman
ODESSA - Finding out her daughter Cholene was a lesbian was not an easy for Shari Johnson to accept.
"It was very hard for me," she said. "I'm an Evangelical Christian and I thought it was the end of life as I knew it."
Her daughter suggested she turn to Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays or PFLAG for support.
It took her five years to attend a meeting, but when she did Johnson says she finally learned to accept her daughter.
"After all of that, we are the closest we've ever been in her life," she said.
Wanting to help other families, Johnson decided to start a chapter here in Odessa.
To her surprise, one of her supporters turned out to be a church.
"The worst thing is when a mom or dad rejects a son or daughter that's gay and that's the saddest thing," Father Mark Woodruff of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, said. "Our hope is we'll give those parents an opportunity to talk through their feelings and maybe have a greater acceptance of their children.
Father Woodruff allows PFLAG to meet at the church once a month.
The group and the church hope the partnership will help keep families together and show the community they can still have a relationship with God.
"To know there are churches out there that accept them, might pull them back," PFLAG Treasurer and Gay activist, Jonathan Martinez, said. "Because everybody needs a little bit of God in their life."
After seeing about 30 people show up to their first meeting and more than 500 people have join their Facebook page; Johnson believes PFLAG Odessa is on the right track to mending both family and religious ties in the Basin.
PFLAG Odessa meets the first Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton at 7601 North Grandview Ave. in Odessa, Texas. You can get in contact with PFLAG by email or getting onto one of these sites.