“[Being on the streets during the pandemic], even though people had on masks, you could see people’s eyes. You could see how people were judging you and looking at you as if you weren’t a human—like you were the living Embodiment of COVID-19. It was like being a leper.
It was on a night in June 2020 that Marvin discovered God was not only real, but sovereign. He was living on the streets—wandering around aimlessly with three dollars in his pocket—when he came across an unlocked 15-passenger van parked at a car dealership.
“The fear that comes with not knowing where you’re going to sleep for the night is indescribable,” Marvin said. “Every noise sounds like danger. I was desperate and praying—begging—for a roof. When I pulled on that handle and it opened up, I just started crying. That’s really the first time I looked up and said, ‘thank you.’”
In the days to follow, Marvin stayed at hotels with cash he received from panhandling. In the midst of the cold stares, rapidly locked car doors and rolled up windows was a woman who changed Marvin’s life through one simple act. She handed him an envelope that read, “to a friend.” It had a $10 bill inside and most importantly, information about the Mission. “I looked to the sky and said, ‘God, I’ll go there,’” he said.
After staying at the Mission’s emergency shelter for a few days, he learned about the New Life Program. Arriving at The Crossing, the Mission’s residential facility, was nothing like Marvin imagined. “The care you receive from the people who work here is outstanding,” he said. “The way the Mission has operated through COVID is amazing to me—to experience that the Mission isn’t afraid of you; is welcoming to you. It’s uplifting to see people who are truly loving and taking care of one another in ways the Bible says.”
Marvin started his work readiness at the Mission’s Ministry Outreach Center (MOC), a portion of the program that assigns participants to a job at the Mission to instill a strong work ethic and valuable soft skills.
“Work readiness is a wonderful opportunity to take the tools that the Mission gives spiritually and apply them in a safe environment, so that when they are in the world, they won’t be so easily swayed or pushed down,” said Shelly Hardwood, client services coordinator.
Marvin works with Shelly three days a week to help distribute donated food, clothing and other essential items to people in need. He loves giving back to people he can truly relate to. “Marvin, from the beginning, has just been a gentle spirit,” Shelly said. “He has a willingness to serve in any capacity. I appreciate his steadfastness and persistence. He doesn’t just wait for you to tell him what to do, he finds something to do. He is one of the most flexible NLP [participants] I’ve ever worked with.”
Nestled inside the Mission’s MOC is a tidy, neatly arranged store filled with donated clothing, food, hygiene products, and other basic essentials. Shelly and Marvin welcome individuals and families to “shop” at no cost. “It’s about showing compassion in that little bitty window,” Shelly said. “This may be the only Jesus that people see for this whole week or day, so we want them to see Jesus in everything.”
When he’s not working at the warehouse, Marvin is attending Bible studies and taking career readiness and life skills classes. Through his involvement with Back on My Feet, a nonprofit that
partners with the Mission, Marvin started running to improve his physical condition after facing many weeks of malnutrition.
“I find myself not crying but weeping all the time thinking back to where I was,” he said. “My relationship with the Lord God was nonexistent. I was just a walking soul. I don’t even know if you could call me a soul. So much is coming back to me that was lost. It’s just been an amazing 90 days, and it is all glory to God.”