I couldn't really afford it. Three part-time jobs weren't covering my tuition at USC, brunch at the French Quarter, celebrity-studded fundraisers, and trips back to Rock Island twice a year, so my bank account was low and my credit cards were sagging.
But how could I refuse?
So I flew from LAX to Taipei, and then to Bangkok, arriving early Sunday morning. Alan met me at the airport, beaming. "Boomer, my brother!"
I was suspicious -- he had never once called me "my brother" -- but too jetlagged to say anything.
We dropped my bag off at his apartment, grabbed breakfast -- a disappointing bagel with bacon and cheese -- and then went to "his church."
Wait -- something was wrong here.
Alan and I sat on folding chairs with the others. The hymns were in English, contemporary Gospel like"When We All Get to Heaven."
The preacher, an elderly American man, delivered a fiery, screaming sermon. People prayed, raised their hands, got convicted, went to the altar, just like in my childhood fundamentalist church.
What was going on?
"Oh, I didn't start a church, my brother. I didn't need to -- there's already a powerful ministry going on here in Bangkok. God is doing great things."
"But...they're fundamentalists. Are they gay-friendly?"
"There's...there's nothing wrong with being gay," I said, utterly shocked.
"I used to believe that lie. But when I was a stranger in a strange land, God helped me see the light."
Now I understood: in a strange country, with no friends, not speaking the language well, Alan was vulnerable, and fell prey to the homophobic rants of a "God hates gays!" church.
How could I restore him to sanity? Theological arguments? Biblical analysis? Or beefcake?
"It's good that you found a church home, but you're ignoring your call," I said. "God called you to bring homosexuals to repentance, so you should be out there among them, preaching in the bars and bathhouses, wherever they congregate to pursue their sinful lusts."
"Well...yes, God placed that burden on my heart, but I'm afraid the temptation would be too great."
"Nonsense -- you're a spiritual warrior! We're going to Pattaya!"
Pattaya was the Amsterdam of Asia, overbrimming with gay dance clubs, saunas, bars, and clothing-optional beaches. We went to the beefcake show at Boyz! Boyz! Boyz!, while Alan dutifully tried to start conversations about God's hatred of male beauty with hunky locals and tourists.
He pushed away one Cute Young Thing, muttering "Get thee behind me, Satan."
He tried to push away another, but finally let him fondle while he stammered "You can...um...escape this..um...life of loneliness...and pain."
By the end of the evening, he was kissing his new boyfriend, a college student from Paris. And planning, yet again, to start a pro-gay Pentecostal church.
Next: Alan meets my ex-boyfriend Fred and his Cute Young Thing.