Above, Francine’s Bible study group praying for Laura. Inset, Francine with her daughter Laura.
What does a mother have to do to see her prodigal child turn from sin and run home to the Father?
Nothing short of total surrender according to Francine Perry, mother of Laura Perry, a former transgender, now transformed and set free by Jesus Christ. (See related story here.)
In an interview with Francine Perry, American Family Studios learned how her daughter’s amazing transformation was spurred in part by the transforming surrender exemplified in Francine’s own life.
A painful realization
Francine and her husband Paul believed they had done all the right things as parents. So, in July 2008, when Laura tearfully announced her plans to live as a man, they were devastated.
“I could not believe this was coming into our life,” said Francine. “This didn’t happen to people with kids that had been raised in a Christian home, in Christian school, and in church every time the doors were open.”
In desperation, Francine turned to God in total surrender.
Truthfully, God had been working in Francine for months through a video Bible study she and Paul were attending. Since the videos went too fast for her, she transcribed the videos into group study booklets.
“I was spending seven, eight hours a day listening to the Word of God,” Francine explained. “As God’s Word began to wash over me, He was preparing me.”
But nothing prepared her for the total surrender God required through the next nine years before Laura’s miraculous transformation.
Early on, Francine looked for ways to fix her child. But God explicitly let her know that working on Laura was not a joint venture. Instead, He instructed Francine to work on her own relationship with Him, while He worked on Laura.
Obediently, Francine surrendered her daughter into the hands of God.
A gradual process
But surrender was a continual battle. Initially, Francine was angry over Laura’s decisions, so communication between them was strained.
Eventually, Francine and Paul visited Laura for routine lunch dates. They celebrated small things (birthdays, holidays) but avoided using her chosen male name of Jake, calling her “honey” or other terms of endearment instead.
“As my husband and I were becoming more involved in Bible study, God was changing both of us,” Francine stated.
God changed Francine’s heart in other ways too. Through intensive scriptural examination, she began to see Laura as a victim of Satan’s seducing lies. As a result, she was able to love Laura with the unconditional love of God.
“I didn’t love what she was doing,” said Francine, “but I loved her. And I really felt like as long as I was working on my relationship with the Lord, He would work on her. I just had to wait.”
A prideful reckoning
During the wait, Francine also discovered Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray and began praying for the true humility Murray described.
One weekend, Laura called and asked to come to church. Sitting at the piano on the church stage and looking for her daughter in the crowd, Francine was very uncomfortable.
“God convicted me that Sunday morning,” she confessed. He made her see that she was more concerned about what people would think of her than [Laura] being there and hearing the sermon, which was on the prodigal son.” (See Luke 15:11-32.)
Francine’s conviction led to further surrender and further searching into God’s Word. She even began teaching a women’s Bible study on the kingdom of God. The group grew and grew, until more than 100 women participated.
Those women surrounded and supported Francine as she faithfully waited for God to transform her daughter. And for many of those women, Laura became a symbol of their own prodigal children. They believed if God could bring back a transgender, then He could bring back anyone.
Amazingly, when God brought Laura back, He used those women, their prayers, and that Bible study to do so.
A joyous return
It began quite innocuously. Francine’s Bible studies were growing to the point that people were asking for online resources. Since Laura had a background in media, Francine naturally turned to her prodigal daughter for help.
Offered the job of building, creating, and maintaining the Bible study website, Laura quickly agreed to the seemingly easy task since she definitely needed the money.
“I didn’t ask her to do anything particular,” said Francine, “but she began having to read the lessons because she was writing a little summary. I didn’t ask her to do that; she just did.”
Laura also started asking questions. She would even ask about the topic for Francine’s next class. After sharing notes on the judgment seat of Christ, Francine began to see real glimmers of hope in Laura as God’s truth began to take hold.
“One Sunday afternoon, I got home from church and there was an email from her,” stated Francine. “She said, ‘Mom and Dad, I have decided that … I cannot live this way any longer.’”
For 36 hours, Laura would not answer her parents’ frantic calls and texts. Those were possibly the longest hours of Francine’s nine years of waiting.
Finally, with one phone call, the wait was over. The prodigal called. She was coming home.
Laura’s journey as a Christian woman was just beginning. But as her transformation continued, the women in Francine’s Bible study were there for Laura’s every step.
“God has given me a group of women that were with me in the pit,” said Francine, “and they have witnessed the miracle. When Laura came home, these women surrounded Laura too.”
A prayerful promise
As a result of the women’s constant love for Laura, Francine felt led to create a prayer box to hold the names of other prodigals. Now, those same 100 women pray at least one hour monthly for the names in that box.
When a prodigal prayer is answered, the women remove that particular name from the box for a time of praise. So far, they have celebrated 17 times for 17 returned prodigals.
But the wait continues for the mothers of other prodigals named in their prayer box, just as the wait continues for praying mothers worldwide.
For those mothers, Francine offered a final word of hope: “If you will submit to the Holy Spirit, and let Him work in you, He will work on your prodigal. And you will see a miracle in your life.”
Editor's Note: This originally appeared in the print edition of the AFA Journal and was first published online here.
More on surrender
Francine Perry and daughter Laura share their journeys to total surrender in the American Family Studios (AFS) documentary In His Image, to be released this fall. Direct quotations in this story were excerpted from the AFS interview.
Absolute Surrender and Other Addresses is a collection of nine sermons from Andrew Murray, beloved Dutch Reformed pastor, teacher, and author. Though first delivered in the late 1800s, Murray’s sermons still offer powerful and practical lessons on how God expects, accomplishes, accepts, maintains, and blesses the complete surrender of His children. Find it at online and retail booksellers.