An Unfamiliar Harvest -- a Transgender Revelation
Unconditional love appeared to be easy for Jesus, often befriending the “chiefest of sinners” in His biblical journeys. It was a type of love His detractors loathed to embrace and His followers are still finding ways to fail at, even thousands of years later.
It was following the 2017 General Council in Anaheim, California, when pastors Dwight and Dottie Dozier of Great Bend (Kansas) First Assembly of God received a peculiar message with no explanation.
The couple was out on a leisurely drive taking in the scenery in northern California following General Council. Having pastored in Kansas for decades, they were familiar with the harvest of grain, corn, milo, and hay; but they had never seen pistachios or pomegranates harvested.
“God spoke to both of us on that day,” Dottie recalls. “He told Dwight, ‘I’m bringing you an unfamiliar harvest’ and then God spoke to me, telling me ‘I’m about to turn the tables on the enemy.’”
Eighteen months later, God began to slowly reveal the meanings to His messages.
“I WAS ADOPTED”
When Michael Cresci turned 6 years old, his parents shared with him that he was adopted. From that point on, young Michael struggled with feelings of abandonment and rejection, wondering — right or wrong — why his birth parents didn’t love him enough to keep him.
“I was always searching for acceptance, from everybody I ever encountered,” Michael says. “I based every decision in life on that acceptance or rejection.”
As time passed, although he was involved in sports with other boys, he found that he was more comfortable around girls. He also had a growing sexual addiction. By the time he was 16, he was secretly going from his Islip, New York, home into New York City on weekends, dressed in drag, and “hanging out” in the gay and lesbian clubs, while continuing to attend school on weekdays.
“This led me into drugs and alcohol very early on,” Michael admits. “My parents had no idea how to deal with me. When my mother got sick, my father became her primary caregiver; I took care of myself. I went to where I felt acceptance and a type of unconditional love — the gay community . . ., but my [gender] confusion kept growing.”
When he was 25, Michael and his brother got an apartment in Deer Park, a suburb of New York City. It was there Michael attempted suicide for the first time. Depressed, plagued with subversive fantasies, and not knowing where to turn for help, his first attempt was almost his last.
Getting an extension cord and fashioning a noose, he went into the boiler room and stood on a brick. At the time, he still wasn't sure if I was going to go through with it, but his foot slipped off the brick and he began to hang.
The slow strangulation went on for about 90 seconds, Michael going unconsciousness.
“I think God intervened by stretching out that cord enough where my toes began to graze across the floor, enabling me to breathe and regain consciousness for a split second,” he says. “I threw my hands up, grabbed a pipe, and pulled myself up and free.”
The attempt scared Michael — he knew he really didn’t want to commit suicide, but he also didn’t see any other way out.
Michael’s former coach heard about his suicide attempt and reached out to him, inviting him to church, but in the 90s, gender confusion was not something most churches — especially small churches — knew how to effectively approach.
“They were trying their best,” Michael reflects, “but I just didn’t feel an unconditional love from them — I just couldn’t see how it would work out for me at the time and rejected what they offered.”
A TOTALLY NEW IDENTITY
Through the help of rehabilitation programs, Michael stopped drinking and using drugs. He then moved into New York City when he was 27 and immersed himself in the gay and lesbian community, living as a transgender individual. He admits to struggling with all kinds of sexual fantasies while his new friends encouraged him to embrace his transgenderism. Through the advice of a therapist, he began taking hormones and going to a support group — suddenly he felt better.
“Within three months, all fantasies and sexual inhibitions became normal and went away,” Michael says. “I thought, This is the answer! I’m in the wrong body and if I pursue this, I’m going to be happy — at least I was sold that bill of goods by this community.”
With the strong encouragement and support of the LGBTQ community, Michael underwent reassignment surgery — there was no going back.
“In my mind, I thought the surgery completed me — my body represented my mind,” he says. “I really thought I was making a sober decision, but it was based on a false understanding.
“I was looking to fill that hole in my heart, and I came to realize changing my physical sex/appearance didn’t fill that hole . . . . By 2010 I realized that I did not want to live my life as a transwoman (male to female) . . . I had made a terrible mistake.”
Michael became paranoid about his secret — choosing to make all new friends to keep his true biological gender unknown. He says signs of mental illness began to emerge and he started drinking again. He then turned to a variety of religions — including Buddhism, Judaism, even religious yoga, but nothing filled the void.
Over the next six years, Michael says he grew increasingly confused, wanting to no longer be a transwoman, but he knew of no way to change back completely — the reassignment surgery had seen to that.
He began isolating himself more and more, choosing to become a truck driver to further limit human interaction.
In 2016, now living on a ranch in Kansas — far from the influences of his New York life, but still identifying as and dressing like a woman — he made his second suicide attempt; this time he used a gun.
“I had the gun in my lap and I picked it up and began playing with the trigger,” he recalls, “and the gun went off in front of my face — I got scared.”
Unable to bring himself to end his own life through violence, he decided to drink himself to death. “I began drinking heavily every day,” Michael says, “but months went by and nothing was happening.”
But the combination of heavy drinking and mental illness came with a price. His emotions were raw and shredded — he was easily offended and he wasn’t going to let anyone get by with offending him.
“I decided that I would do something that would put me in jail for the rest of my life,” he says. “So, if someone at a business offended me, I would go by at night and shoot up their building with my gun — I was doing a lot of damage.”
The police identified Michael through surveillance video, and he fled the farm, driving into nearby Great Bend. There he finally decided his best choice would be to face the consequences of his actions. He returned to the farm and, shortly later, the police raided the farm and arrested him, believing they had arrested a woman.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
While spending several days in the state hospital for evaluation, Michael heard some women talking about going to the Central Kansas Dream Center in Great Bend — a place that helps people. His lawyer was able to get him an application and, ultimately, instead of being sentenced to jail, he was sent to the Dream Center (in addition to accepting judgements requiring restitution for the damages he inflicted on businesses).
While he was in jail, he started reading the Bible. He knew he needed Jesus, but Michael struggled understanding what he was reading. But 1 Corinthians 13:11 (. . . When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.) stood out to him, and it was a verse that he clung to.
As there was no reason to doubt that Michael (Michele) was a woman, the Dream Center staff placed him on a women’s floor at the center. The center is founded and directed by Kimberly Becker, an AG minister, with Randy and Lisa Parr (Missionary Church Planters and Developers with AG U.S. Missions), serving as the work skills coordinator and assistant director, respectively.
Unfortunately, despite his desire to be Christlike, Michael’s time at the center got off to a rocky start.
“When he first came in, Michael was a habitual liar,” Becker recalls. “There was a lot of resistance and a lack of trust, that is, until he went back to jail.”
Even though Michael gave his life to Christ and was baptized in the Holy Spirit early on in his stay at the Dream Center, a battle for his soul was in progress. Three days a week, eight hours a day he spent in the classroom, learning about salvation, identity, the Holy Spirit, and more while also learning and applying Scripture. Yet trust was a mountain he seemed unable to climb.
But midway through the program, an outstanding warrant was discovered. Michael had to go back to court and subsequently spend 17 days in jail. The staff from the Dream Center was there for him, supporting him, throughout the time. When he was released and returned to the center, his trust had been earned and it was clear that the Holy Spirit had been victorious.
“From the start, the staff told me they loved me,” Michael says. “I was like, ‘What do you mean? You don’t even know me!’ but it was my first real experience with unconditional love.”
After serving the time in jail, Becker quickly noticed a change in Michael’s attitude and behavior as he applied himself in his studies and fruit of the Spirit began to make itself evident in his life.
First Assembly, where the Doziers pastor in Great Bend, has a close connection to the Central Kansas Dream Center. The men and women of the center attend First Assembly, with the Doziers often becoming parent or grandparent figures in the students’ lives.
As Michael drew near to completing the discipleship program at the Dream Center, he needed to establish and meet with mentors. One was Dottie.
“Michele [Michael] requested that I become her mentor,” Dottie says. “I’ve mentored many women at the center, so this was not an unusual request. We began meeting once a week where we would discuss what she was journaling and nuggets she had discovered in her Bible reading throughout the week at the Dream Center.”
I AM NOT A WOMAN . . .
As Michael’s relationship with Christ grew, he became convinced that God wanted to use him to help young people from making the same mistakes he made — that the answer for what was missing inside wasn’t cross-dressing, surgery, a homosexual/transgender lifestyle, Eastern religions, or suicide — the answer could only be found in Christ.
“As much as I sympathize with the agony someone goes through if they have gender identity disorder, the problem is his belief, not his anatomy,” agrees Joe Dallas, who is on the board of ReStory Ministries, a ministry endorsed by the AG that equips local churches in addressing homosexuality and gender identity issues in a compassionate, yet biblical, way. “His belief, not his anatomy, has to be worked with . . . and every person, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, must determine the path they believe is the right path for them to come to that understanding.”
At the time, Michael was overseeing a woman’s floor at the Dream Center, having advanced through the curriculum and displayed a true hunger for and growth in God. Becker and Lisa Parr had witnessed Michael’s growth spiritually, but both had an underlying feeling that there was more to his story than he had chosen to share — they just didn’t know what. Finally, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, after being at the center for 19 months, Michael confessed the truth to Becker and Parr in October 2018.
Becker admits being fearful that the “lying Michele” had resurfaced, but an FBI background check confirmed his truthfulness.
“As a ministry, we are working with a lot of people with identity issues,” Becker says. “However, even though we still accepted and loved Michael, we moved him from overseeing women to his own bedroom and had him step down from leadership, letting others know he still had some things to work on in his personal life — everyone else still knew him as Michele.”
With Becker and Parr committing to continue to love and walk with Michael and minister to him to bring wholeness, he also met with Dottie.
“When he told me the truth,” Dottie recalls, “I told him, ‘No matter what, I want you to know that Pastor [Dwight] and I love you very deeply and we’re committed to walk with you through this.’”
With Michael’s blessing, Dottie shared the truth with Dwight. But now Dwight faced a dilemma: what should he do? It was clear that God had Michael on a journey toward spiritual maturity, but what should he say to his congregation and when? Where should he draw lines — and redraw them, if needed? So many unknowns, Dwight bathed the issue in prayer, seeking the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, with Becker and he also communicating with and receiving advice from the district superintendent, Terry Yancey.
One of the tough issues for Dwight was Michael had come to believe Scripture affirmed his lifestyle, specifically 1 Corinthians 7:24: “Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.”
Taking Scripture out of context to affirm one’s own actions or opinions is nothing new — including within the church — and for Michael, who was originally unfamiliar with the Bible, it wasn’t difficult to misunderstand Scripture.
Dwight says the Holy Spirit responded to his prayers, directing him to give Him time and space to work in Michael’s life. Finally, in June 2019, Dwight felt the Holy Spirit guiding him to take action.
Michael who was still living as Michele at the time, and continuing to grow in his knowledge and understanding of the Bible, contacted Dwight to meet with him to talk about another issue. After that discussion, Dwight continued the conversation.
“I again affirmed our love and care for him, but I also felt I needed to be direct with Michael,” Dwight says. “I told him, ‘I want to talk to you man-to-man today because that’s who you are. If you could spiritually and emotionally embrace your God-given identity as a man, what would it feel like?’”
For Michael, it was as if a light bulb clicked on, the Holy Spirit revealing His truth to him — that he was limiting what the Holy Spirit could do in and through him because of his choice to live as a transgender individual.
“Nobody had ever talked to me like that before, man-to-man,” he says. “Not even my father.”
From that point on, Michael knew who he was, but how was he to get back what he had given away?
Michael began with small changes — acquiring masculine glasses, wearing more masculine clothing, no longer using facial make-up or lipstick and he immediately pulled himself out of women’s groups at the Dream Center and church.
Dwight was willing to allow Michael an extended time to make his adjustments, but Michael was focused on moving forward with changes. Dwight called the church board together on a Saturday night, many who knew “Michele,” and with a prayerful and careful introduction — not to mention, some concern — he presented Michael.
“One by one they stood and embraced him,” Dwight says, joy evident in his voice. “They prayed for him and totally supported him. I was so proud of them, they stepped up and demonstrated they are ready to receive the harvest of people God might send to us and entrust in us.”
As it became clear that Michael was giving his all to the Lord, the words concerning an unconventional harvest, spoken to Dwight by the Holy Spirit now nearly two years ago, started to take on a clear meaning.
Several weeks later, Dwight brought a sermon message to the congregation titled, An Unfamiliar Harvest. As he concluded the service, providing some background on “Michele’s” journey, he introduced the congregation to Michael, now dressed as a man and sporting a fresh “male-style” haircut. The congregation responded with a standing ovation. At that point, Michael shared his testimony with the church.
“One of the major things in my life was getting my haircut,” Michael says. “I hadn’t seen what I looked like as a man for more than 20 years. I knew all the women there cutting my hair, so when they finished and finally showed me the mirror, I cried for joy for 20 minutes. The last time I had seen myself as a man I was 27 . . . now I was looking in the mirror at a 51-year-old older man. The women kept telling me, ‘You look good, you look right.’”
TURNING THE TABLES
On Oct. 23, with the financial help of individuals from the church and Dream Center, Michael underwent reversal surgery, having his breast implants removed. However, the reconstruction that took place during his reassignment surgery meant other physical changes could not be reversed.
Dallas, who is a former homosexual, explains that Michael’s decision to embrace his biological gender, after living for more than two decades as a woman, is to be celebrated and supported by the church as his choice comes with an emotional and physical price tag.
“For him to take up his cross regarding sexuality is more profound than 95% of your readership will be able to understand,” Dallas states. “It is the right decision, but think of all this entails in his case . . . living for decades as a woman. Just looking in the mirror every morning and seeing a man is a new experience for him.”
However, having come through the surgery successfully, Michael is now more convinced than ever that God wants him to share his testimony. He believes the Holy Spirit wants to work through him to assist those who are struggling with gender confusion and other seemingly “unbeatable” challenges in their lives.
It seems that’s exactly what God is asking as following the church service where Michael gave his testimony, a 70-year-old, third-generation Pentecostal came up to Michael and told him that for 50 years he has struggled to give up smoking, but the addiction was just too strong. However, if Michael could make this change, God could help him give up smoking. According to Dwight, to his knowledge, the man hasn’t smoked since.
“I think of Dave Roever — you don’t need to be blown up by a grenade in Vietnam to relate to his message,” Dwight says. “Same with Michael’s testimony. A gender issue may be the furthest thing from a person’s mind, but everyone has struggles. Maybe they feel trapped with no way out or whatever their struggle, it feels too great to even begin to try to get out, but Michael’s testimony shows there is hope — a person can take the first step on the journey, and God will help them.”
“He is proof when you seek after God, you find your identity,” Becker says.
“What is so exciting is that Michael can speak to people, men and women, like no one else can because he’s been there,” Dottie says. “God is turning the tables on the enemy!”
THE BODY OF CHRIST
Becker believes a loving church and places where people can experience healing, such as a dream center, are vital for reaching individuals struggling with gender issues.
“I run an adolescent girls program as well,” she says, “and all of my girls who deal with gender identity issues, all of them, are suicidal.”
Dallas urges churches to demonstrate love towards those struggling with gender issues or who are already in the LGBTQ community. “Don’t just preach against this, walk with people . . . show them respect and love.”
Admitting that he was unsure how Michael would assimilate into the church following his testimony, Dwight says it hasn’t been a problem. The men of the church have included and embraced Michael as one of their own.
“It’s really no different than if an alcoholic was saved and delivered and embraced by the body of Christ,” Dwight says. “It’s been really cool.”
And now, Dwight is encouraging Michael to pursue ministerial courses and courses that will prepare him to be an effective speaker in a variety of situations and venues.
In years past, the Doziers admit that they weren’t ready for this harvest, and although every person in this harvest will also be unique in his or her own experiences, responses, and path to Christ, they believe God has prepared them, the Dream Center, and their church for this time.
“There are key times, pivotal in our lives, when something shifts in the supernatural,” Dottie observes. “That Sunday morning Michael shared his testimony, something shifted in the supernatural — God was opening the doors to something new!”
. . . the question that remains unanswered is, will others open the doors of their churches and hearts to an “unfamiliar harvest” and turn the tables on the enemy as well?