By Katie Scarvey
Listening to Danny Wallace talk about his life as a young boy in rural Alabama, one is struck by the calm tone of his voice, which belies the horrific nature of the subject matter ó Wallace was the victim of sexual abuse perpetrated by someone he trusted: his father.
At 53, Wallace has gained some distance, some objectivity from the intense pain he suffered as a child.
He’s also gained peace through the act of forgiveness.
Wallace is a survivor, but he’s so much more than that. He has used his life experience to help others through his ministry, and now, a motion picture about his life ó “MASKquerade” ó is in the works.
In a phone interview, Wallace spoke about his past and where it has led him. His speech is peppered with references to light, to open doors. Those are important images to him because his young, unhappy life was so full of secrets and darkness.
Wallace’s goal in his ministry is to be as transparent as possible, and through that transparency, to encourage his listeners to shed their own masks, the things that keep them in darkness and susceptible to the evil forces he believes are at work in the world.
Wallace will speak about his life this Sunday at Trading Ford Baptist Church, 3600 Long Ferry Road in Salisbury, at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.
And what a life he’s had.
Starting at age 5, Wallace was a victim of sexual abuse by his father and others. It was “a violation of love and trust and security,” Wallace says.
He would pray at night sometimes: “If there is a God, if You really do love me, don’t let me wake up in the morning.”
A gift for the piano manifested itself at a young age, and he would perform with his uncle’s youth choir, a bright spot in his troubled life.
“It was an outlet for me, and it caused me to be near the church,” he says.
At 11, he says he found salvation through a revival.
“Up until then,” he says, “I could have cared less if I lived or died.”
Although Wallace’s father has never acknowledged the abuse, Wallace has forgiven him. But he says there were no “warm fuzzies” involved in that decision to forgive the person who had hurt him so deeply.
What he discovered, he says, was that forgiveness opened doors within a spiritual world that he wasn’t aware of.
“Holding on to anger and bitterness ó you’re not doing yourself any good,” he says.
His father is still alive, and Wallace hopes he will find redemption before he dies. He says he’d wish for his father to live to be 200 if that’s how long it took for him to see the light.
“It would be tragic for my dad to pass away and not know the Lord,” he says, adding that he wants for his father to one day “taste a little of what I know.”
His early trauma was followed by a marriage at age 17. Wallace was still struggling, he says, with homosexuality. He was later diagnosed with AIDS.
These days, Wallace is a man on a mission.
“God has given me back so much I never knew as a child,” he says. He has a wife, three children, three grandchildren, is free of AIDS and, apparently, HIV, and has a thriving ministry.
In the late 1990s, Wallace performed with LuLu Roman, of Hee-Haw fame. The two shared their life stories, which both feature intense childhood pain.
Wallace calls Roman “a tremendous lady” and adds that in the last few years, she’s lost more than 180 pounds and is “a skinny little lady for the first time in her life.”
Roman was born in a home for unwed mothers and left on the front steps of an orphanage at an early age.
“Lou spent her entire childhood feeling like no one’s child,” Wallace says. “I guess it is a bond that we share.”
Roman is scheduled to make a cameo appearance in the upcoming movie of Wallace’s life story.
When Wallace gives his testimony these days, his talk about his “deliverance” from the bonds of homosexuality might upset some people.
He is aware of that. But he speaks the truth as he understands it. He does not believe, he says, in “pharaisical religiosity” ó the right-wing Jerry Falwell-style approach of condemnation.
Neither does he believe in the humanistic “do your own thing” approach to human sexuality.
“I have the utmost compassion for those in that situation,” he says ó referring to homosexuality. His preaching is not about judgment, he says, but about helping and healing people who are in pain.
“People in life who are hurting, wanting to be free ó they don’t care what you and I are against, preaching and pointing a finger about.
“They want to hear the words of Christ ó life, love, redemption and freedom.”
Wallace’s recordings are free, and his speaking and concert tours are free as well. For more information, go to www.dannywallace.org.
Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Katie Scarvey