"Across the Table"
Barbara Coughlin


Marcus, a fit, well-groomed, older man, greeted me with a friendly smile when I met him in the lobby of Open Door Ministries (ODM).  He began by telling me how eager he was to recount his gratitude to the ODM.  I asked about his life, and he shared the circumstances that led him to ODM.

Marcus was reared in Buffalo, New York, in what he called a “challenged family.” His mother, a pathologist, had an alcohol addiction problem. His father died when he was young. After attending community college in Buffalo, he started in the photography and printing businesses, working for Kodak. Marcus moved to North Carolina at 31 following his mother, who had arrived the year before.  

Marcus described the nightmare of having his identity stolen four years ago. His mail was stolen from his Greensboro home mailbox, and the thief took out $400,000 in loans in his name using a fake ID.  His identify was even sold abroad. He is thankful for the help Wells Fargo gave him in opening new accounts. When he applied for food stamps two years ago, he discovered someone was already using his Social Security number to get food stamps.

His most recent challenge was losing an apartment, his pre-paid rent, and roommate in Greensboro. The Weaver House in Greensboro was full at the time, but they referred Marcus to ODM.  At that time there were four people already waiting for only two beds.  Marcus heard a still small voice say --“just wait.” Miraculously, Will Bohaboy, the shelter manager, found a bed for each of the four men. Marcus added that Will is a good manager who listens and asks: “What do you think?” He takes crises and makes them into corrective actions.

Though Marcus was unemployed and homeless, his case worker and a GTCC teacher at ODM gave him invaluable training. He learned how to update his resume, how to look for jobs and how to how to turn rejection letters into a tool to find other job openings. Marcus learned that unemployment need not be permanent and his situation now is only temporary. He files weekly accountability reports with Will describing his job search efforts. 

Marcus believes that God lives in the ODM homeless shelter. He can feel it in the work of the manager and in his case workers.  He is thankful for how many people help those in need. He thinks many come to homeless shelters after health issues have depleted all their funds and they have lost their home.

He is most thankful for the Bible Study at the shelter that is done each morning at 7 AM. The Reverends William, Dave, and Sue have given Marcus a new relationship with God.  Rev. Sue said that repentance is washing the heart and soul clean, and Marcus feels God has washed him and cleaned out the stuff holding him back from a joy-filled life. Marcus now smiles and laughs a lot. Marcus is “Grateful that this place is here!”    

Marcus is now ministering to other clients at the shelter, especially clients who do not think God loves them. He listens to their stories and describes his own story. He explains that the old ways did not work, but through God’s Word, he has learned new ways. He has learned the psychological consequences of living in an alcoholic home and not understanding what is happening. He blamed himself for his mother’s drinking, but then discovered that his mother had experienced physical abuse as a child, and that he was not the cause of his mother’s drinking. 

Marcus’s final thoughts were: “Open Door Ministries is where God gets a chance to meet you again and tell you: ‘By the way, I am still here for you.’” The shelter is the church.  What a joy for me to have spent two hours getting to know this inspiring man!