Finding Hope

by Christy Hoagland

The Sing for the King team has had many opportunities to celebrate the holidays with the incarcerated. This is one of the most difficult times of year (along with anniversaries and birthdays) for those inside the prison walls. We offer hope all year long but it takes on a special meaning during these times when men and women feel hopeless about so many things – being away from their loved ones, maybe not having any contact with family, maybe it’s just a more intense loneliness than throughout the rest of the year. We know that our only hope is Jesus, knowing Him and trusting Him and our mission is to share Him so they can have this same HOPE.

Below is an article from The Kansas City Star regarding an exoffender that attended many services with us before leaving prison. His name is Mark and we had the honor of sharing Jesus with him and seeing his heart transform week after week. His countenance changed and his smiled widened each week we saw him. He stated once that he only missed one service and that was due to us being full and him having to be turned away. This is a man who wanted this hope so desperately and was making every effort to receive it. David Phillips with City Union Mission sent an email regarding Mark, this is what he said “When Mark spoke with the reporter, he gave you & your team a lot of credit for connecting him with the Lord while he was locked up.” What a blessing it is to see God use us in Mark’s life. To God be the Glory! Please pray for Mark and all those inside and outside the razor wire who need the hope of the Gospel.

If you would like to learn more about City Union Mission, please visit cityunionmission.org

Homeless for the holidays: Kansas City man finds faith, hope and a road to redemption

BY THE KANSAS CITY STAR EDITORIAL BOARD

DECEMBER 24, 2019 11:42 AM 

There are boundlessly more sympathetic stories of redemption than Mark Lamar’s. But few so embody the spirit of reclamation and kinship that is Christmas.

After all, it was largely the Kansas City man’s own failings, buffeted by an occasional malevolent wind, that led him to be homeless the past two years. Still, it is intervention, perhaps divine and otherwise, that now has him expectant at the birth of a potential new life.

A toxic cocktail of one part alcohol, other parts misdeeds and misfortunes led the 52-year-old Richmond, Missouri man to lose his well-paid auto assembly job, his home, his new cars — and, ultimately, three years of his freedom after multiple DUIs.

The worst part wasn’t the vanished possessions, he says, but the complete loss of family.

This, after having come upon his cousin’s husband following a gruesome crash on a motorcycle Lamar had lent him — and after losing his kids in a bitter divorce.

And after having put a shotgun to his head and pulling the trigger.

It’s not an altogether religious perspective that sees the attempted suicide survivor as a walking miracle. It’s also a medical view: Doctors simply couldn’t believe that he survived the shotgun blast he turned on himself in a fit of despair some six years ago at the bottom of a twisted spiral of woe.

Yet today, with but a dent in his forehead and a lapse in short-term memory, he does appear miraculously functional. He’s in substance abuse recovery, as well as a program for adults with brain injuries, and is about to graduate the Christian Life Program at City Union Mission downtown — a year-long, Bible-based life skills obstacle course he’s quietly proud of conquering.

It’s a lengthy road he’s traveled since arriving at the City Union Mission shelter in early 2018, a long way even from the nearby Greyhound bus depot where he landed after prison — though it’s a path partially mapped out by Bible study with friends behind bars. The journey has seen him literally in the ditch on multiple occasions, including times when he was sleeping in bushes for falling off the wagon and being temporarily barred from the mission.

Those were some of his most perilous times.

“You got to watch your back,” he says of being on the streets. “People will try to jump you, see what you’ve got on you. Take what you’ve got, if anything.” He was, in fact, once put upon by a mob who put him in the hospital.

But City Union Mission staff never gave up on Lamar, even if he and everyone else did. Their faith in him has rubbed off.

“I didn’t have any faith in myself that I could do it. I’ve got a lot more faith in myself now,” he says.

Asked how long he’s been homeless, Lamar looks innocently at City Union Mission director of Men’s Ministries David Phillips. “Does this count as being homeless?” Yes. It does, Phillips assures him.

This is therefore his second Christmas as a homeless person, but this one has a wholly different feel to Lamar. “Very depressing,” he says of last Christmas. “I got depressed. I’ve always spent Christmas with my family. The combination between me doing this to my head and prison — they don’t want to see me anymore. And that’s hard on Christmas.”

While still estranged from family, he is, figuratively and otherwise, in a much better place this Christmas. And although that’s mostly due to the kindness of others, it also requires the humility to ask for and accept help.

With the same humility, Lamar hopes the rest of us — and who among us is without want of redemption? — truly appreciate all we have, especially on Christmas.

“Spending time with family, eating a Christmas meal, and the pies — it’s just such a blessing to have that,” he says. “And I think people overlook that. They take it for granted. They could be on the streets, be homeless, like me. I never thought I would ever be in this position in my life. And here I am.

“But I’m making good progress and trying to clean up my act.”

Mark Lamar has a long road ahead of him, but it just might include not only redemption but restoration — with any luck, to a job he once flourished at. And if the road includes family reconciliation, then the redemption would be complete.

At least he has hope — the original Christmas present, and still the best.

“Homeless for the Holidays: KC homeless man finds faith, hope and a road to redemption.” The Kansas City Star, December 24, 2019, https://www.kansascity.com/

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