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The filmmakers want to crack open your heart.

So that even if you've heard -- or you think you've heard -- everything you need to hear about being Christian and being gay, about feeling unwelcome in a church pew, you will be willing to open your heart.

To listen again.

"We're deep believers in the power of hearing someone's story," Daneen Akers says.

Daneen is a new mom and a former English teacher. Now she makes documentaries with her husband, Stephen Eyer.

The California couple made a movie about fibromyalgia a few years ago.

Now they're traveling the country for three months, gathering stories for a second film -- a documentary with an irreverent title about a serious subject.

They stayed in Lincoln last weekend with their baby, Lily, and their video equipment.

And while they were here, people told the filmmakers what it's like to love a church.

And not feel loved back.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church takes an official position on homosexuality. It's a-love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin position, the couple says. Not so different from positions some other denominations take.

Not as damning as some others.

So why single it out?

Because Daneen and Stephen grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and taught in Seventh-day Adventist schools. Both had grandfathers who were SDA pastors.

Adventist is what they know.

It's a culture, almost an ethnicity, Daneen says.

The church and its members proudly stand apart.

Adventists worship on Saturdays. They don't eat meat. Their children attend SDA schools and colleges. They gather at camp meetings. Become close as a community.

Robb Crouch misses all that.

The 39-year-old Lincoln man heard about the filmmakers through an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Adventists called Kinship.

And on Saturday, he sat down to tell Daneen and Stephen his story.

He told them about struggling with depression after he came out in 1997. About his fears of losing his family and his job.

And his desire to change the church he grew up in -- and misses.

"It was really amazing to know that Daneen and Steve and the company behind them are interested in giving our community -- gay Adventists -- a voice," Robb said a few days after his interview with the filmmakers.

"It will enable us to share who we are with a larger audience."

In Lincoln, the filmmakers stayed with the mother of a gay man, a woman who spent years feeling alone with her secret.

They interviewed local SDA faculty members. They talked to gay church members and to gay students still not ready to come out.

A theme has emerged from all of their interviews here and across the country.

"Everybody said they prayed mightily to be changed," Daneen says. "They knew how hard it would be for their families and their churches."

And they couldn't make sense of the notion of love the sinner, hate the sin, because that was who they were -- the way God, it seemed, had seen fit to make them.

"You can't believe that God rejects part of you without feeling damaged," says Daneen. "It affects you in profound ways."

So they filmed gay Adventists talking about attempting suicide, about feeling alone and alienated.

"Struggling so hard to reconcile their faith with their sexuality," Stephen says.

"They just want understanding within the church and compassion."

That's what they hope the film accomplishes. Change in the church. Change in people who see their gay friends and neighbors telling their stories.

In making their documentaries, Stephen does most of the camera work. Daneen asks questions.

She sat across from a gay man last weekend, and listened to him talk.

It's not about sex, he said. It's about love.

"He longingly misses his church. He aches for his church."

His heart cracked open long ago.

Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 473-7218 or

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