Willard

Tell me, what was your circumstance before you came to the SGM? What was your life like?
It was chaotic, I was struggling, trying to figure out what I was going to do or who I was going to get over on, just to get by, whether it was for drugs or even just to get something to eat.

What do you mean by “get over on?”
To take advantage, in any way I could because I was walking around with the attitude that the world owed me a favor, because they have it, I should have it. It was a very sad attitude.

So, what brought you to Charleston?
What brought me to Charles-ton was the luck of the thumb I guess. I hitchhiked down from Pennsylvania with no idea of what I’d do and no sense of direction in my life. I decided I wanted to just go out and see what I could find. Charleston was my first thought and it’s where I land-ed.

What brought you to the SGM?
Aside from the fact that I was living on the streets, I walked by here one day with some-body I met on the street and he pointed to the Mission and said “you don’t want to stay there, they charge you money.” Needless to say, a week went by, I woke up one morning in a puddle of water, the next day I got my first paycheck and I came to the Mission.

Do you recall how you were received?
I was received with open arms from everybody. The thing I remember most is that after staying on the streets for the past two or three months, I was able to come in, sit in a chair, sleep under a blanket, and just relax.

So you felt that this was a place of sanctuary?
It felt like home. I had some belongings in here and I was
very comfortable.

Tell me about your work.
At first, when I first came down I had no job, I had nothing. Shortly after I came to town I got a job working on the new hospital.

What changed in your life from when you were living on the streets? What changes occurred when you came to the Mission?
At first there was no change, I still had the same mindset as when I first left Pennsylvania. It was a gradual change, in a way it blind-sided me; I didn’t see it coming. Over the first year it was unnoticeable, but as it progressed, instead of thinking of ways to get over on people, it was more of a thought about what could I do to better myself? I got here and my thought was, get to work and become some-body. Little did I know when I first got here how big of a role God would play in my life.

Tell me more about that, how big of a role did God play in your life?
Honestly, I felt like for me to come here was a God moment. Over the past four years, the relationship that I’ve built upon Christ is indescribable. Ten years ago I didn’t want to believe in Christ. To come from scratch, from zero, to have gone from the bottom up to where I am, there’s just no other way to do it but with God. I couldn’t have done this by myself.

You left the Mission at one point and then came back. Why was that?
Let’s just say it was bad judgment. I went from working at the hospital, I met a guy in here who gave me some work painting, his name was Rocky. He was the first bad run in I had, but as time progressed, I think it was divine intervention. I wasn’t adhering to the values that the Mission teaches. I got a pay check and thought, oh well, I can go buy this, buy that, buy a lap top, a cell phone, whatever came to mind, and before you know it, we had a bad run in, he did a bad thing and went to jail, and I was left with no work and no money.

Then what happened?
I went back to Pennsylvania. I went up there for four months. I went up there because that was all I knew. I didn’t want to be homeless down here again. I felt that would be backtracking. So I went there, got some work, but didn’t like it. So I decided to come back down here and give it another try. I caught a bus and when I got here I came back to the Mission.

What did you do when you returned?
I started practicing what the Bible teaches. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not practicing all that it teaches but I’m applying all that applies to me I guess. I met Tony Robinson in here, and we ended up working together. Once again, we had a bad run in with our boss, so we decided that we were going to branch out on our own. We had very similar core values to business, that is, treat it as your own home, and don’t be out to take advantage of any-body. We had to approach it with a job attitude because the money we’re dealing with causes greed and all the other bad stuff that’s associated with money. We had values that enabled us to work past that. These are values based on my spiritual findings. Like I said, my mind set four years ago was “take the money and run.” It’s all about core values… we’re approaching this as a career. I’d like to be able to grow old and have something to show for it in my life.

Is this business taking you there?
We recently got our painting license and our company is also bonded and insured. We have a truck, and all the equipment; anything we really need to take care of a job.

What is the name of your company?
It’s called: Beyond The Brush, LLC.

You’ve really made some major advances in your life. Tell me, who or what do you give credit to for making these advances over the past four years?
If I could put my finger on it, the two things that come to mind would be my grandmother and God.

Why your grandmother?
She died when I was eight years old, but for my whole life I felt like she has been watching over me. That’s why I think that my trip down here was to find God; be-cause the route I was taking wasn’t getting me there. I think she watched over me to make it down here. And whenever I do something now I’m thinking of Godly views. She was like a mother to me. I’m sad, because I never made it to her funeral; I never got to say good-bye. I was working a job just a couple months ago and, while thinking about her, I just balled my eyes out. I still miss her. She was a church lady; we went to church together every Sunday.

How do you experience the influence of God in your life?
When you change your whole idea and thought process 180 degrees, you know that there are things beyond your control at work. I tried for 25 years to do things my own way and it led me nowhere. To rely on God is very difficult for me, because I’ve never relied on anybody my whole life. The Good News that the Bible teaches about God’s love for us is what I needed. I strived for it, I hungered for it, and now I really feel it.

How do you feel that love of God and where do you see it in your life?
It’s just faith, it really is. I see it and feel it through other people in my life, like Tom and Tony. These guys gave me a chance when no one else would. And of course, Star Gospel; that’s where it all started. I’ve learned that you’ve got to have foundations, and my life did not have foundations. When I got to Star, I was just living day to day with no plan in sight. Star Gospel gave me a strong foundation with core beliefs and values: never deny God, don’t miss an opportunity, don’t be greedy, and if you know better, do better. All these things made for a better life for me.

The mission statement of the SGM is: Transforming hearts and lives through Jesus Christ. Would you say that mission has been fulfilled in you?
Yes, I would say that with 100% assurance. Transformation begins on the inside and works its way out. That’s how it began, with a changing of my thought process, which you teach us every Sunday; to have the assurance that I can go out there and do what I do to the best of my ability, and come back here and still feel like it’s home. It may be a Mission, but to the 25 guys who live here, it’s home!

Do you have any final thoughts your might like to share?
If I had a final statement it would be that people can change. If you’re a person that wants to change, it can be done with God’s help. If you know somebody that wants to change, have patience with them and pray for them.

 

Based on an interview conducted by Pastor Christian with former resident, Willard White.