My story is like so many others that have come through the Mission: drug and alcohol abuse and brokenness. An Eastern Shore, MD, native, I moved to Washington, DC, with my family when I was 17. After four years in the military, in 1989 I found myself aimless, homeless and arrested for intent to distribute drugs. The court required that I complete 100 hours of community service at Central Union Mission.
As part of my service, I was unloading new winter coats that had come in as a donation. I wanted one so badly. Even though I had enough money to buy one, I thought I would be slick and get one from the Mission for free. I gave Mr. Harris my sad story about not having a coat. He quietly wrote out a permission slip and said simply, “OK. Go downstairs and get one”—no strings, no hoops, no deals. This generosity was so free and accepting that it made me feel guilty for trying to cheat; it so touched my heart that later that week I submitted my application into the Spiritual Recovery Program (prior to today’s Spiritual Transformation Program.)
I was accepted the next month in January 1990. At that point, I had met some of the men already. They said, “So you’re who we’ve been waiting for.” The Mission had been holding a bed for 30 days; it turns out God had graciously set me up! I stayed with the program for nine months when I heard God calling me to move on.
With God’s favor and my new faith, I was ready to follow Dr. Hall’s advice: “On the day you come into the Mission, prepare for the day you go out.” I was baptized and became a member of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church. I found two jobs that helped pay my rent at an Oxford House facility; my church paid my first month’s rent and security deposit, and I was determined to repay them.
I became increasingly involved in serving at my church. I was choir director, then men’s Sunday School teacher, assistant to the pastor, deacon, and I even became licensed to preach. My first date with my wife of 16 years was to one of my sermons in the Mission basement.
From those humble beginnings our relationship took off, and, as well, I continued to preach at the Mission once a month for 11 years. Since then, I have become an ordained reverend and, along with my wife Lisa, pastor New Vision in the City Free Methodist Church on Alabama Avenue, SE.
Since I left Central Union Mission, I’ve been drug- and alcohol-free for 21 years. I have answered the call to preach, gotten married, become a dad to two beautiful children and own the house that we live in. My children and I like to donate clothes to the Mission together so my kids can see where I’ve come from. I am forever grateful for the Mission and their kindness and willingness to be used by God to repair and restore broken people.