Howard is a pastor at Aurora First Christian Church. He has been a volunteer at the Mission since 2008 and has been mentoring men in the New Life Program (NLP) since 2015.
What initially drew you to the Mission and to serving this population?
I’m an ex-felon, an ex-addict and an ex-homeless person. I believe that I’m not defined by my past or what I do, but by being a child of God. I got out of prison in 2008 and I always wanted to go back and be a pastor in prison. I have a friend who used to work for the Mission, and he said to me, ‘Why don’t you come in with me because these guys need to hear your testimony.’ I went in and talked to the guys, and he said to me, ‘These guys have never acted the way they acted when you were sharing your testimony. You have a connection with them.’ I think The Crossing is more my calling than preaching in prison.
What are some of the things you do as a volunteer?
I teach Bible study three nights a week. One thing I teach is the “Exchange Life with Christ,” which is based on Galatians 2:20-21. It’s all about what the new life is and what it truly looks like. It opens a lot of people’s eyes to the power of grace. I also pick guys up from The Crossing and take them to my church.
What is one of your favorite parts about volunteering?
Connecting with the NLP guys, because we are all in this together. It’s just more beneficial to form a relationship than it is anything else. You can teach people a million things, but the relationship is the best part of that. It’s important to give them an understanding of what family and fellowship are. We hang out and get to know each other. Like last Thanksgiving, I had three graduates, a couple of former participants and one guy still in the program at my house. They’re all still family, and I figure these are long-term, long-lasting relationships.
What would you tell someone to encourage them to volunteer with the Mission?
The lives affected by it are priceless. Everything we do has eternal consequences, and you could be giving somebody forever because God used you to pass a message on to somebody. You could be the one that God used to change their forever.