"Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?
Then said I, Here am I; send me." Isaiah 6:8
Pastor Michael D. McClary
From the streets...
To the Pulpit!
People who knew Mike McClary when he was a “street person” often ask that question when they see his new life as the founder and executive director of Good Samaritan Ministries (GSM) in Richmond, Virginia. This is the compelling story of one man’s escape from a life of alcohol and drug addiction through faith in Jesus Christ.
People I have known all my life are now asking me, “What happened to you?”
My first birth was in Alexandria, Virginia in 1949. Both of my parents had passed away by the time I was seven, so I was adopted by my grandmother. There was a sense of not belonging — a really hollow feeling that I tried to satisfy, first with alcohol, then with drugs. At thirteen I began the drifting that would eventually take me to every state in the United States except Hawaii. I believed the world owed me something, and I was out to get it.
There was seemingly endless string of jobs. I was never able to continue working at any one job for long due to my drinking. In 1967, I joined the Army and added drugs to my life. I went in a rebellious private and came out a rebellious private. My life was empty.
The drifting began again. I found myself sleeping in dumpsters and beneath over-passes — the hard concrete under me and a cardboard box over me. On a cold Thanksgiving Day in 1979, as I hungrily gnawed on a turkey carcass I had pulled out of a garbage dumpster, I wistfully thought of my family gathered at Granny’s house enjoying a hot, home-cooked dinner. Knowing I could not go home, I thought of taking my life. I walked to a bridge and, peering into the dark below, I thought, “Why not jump and end it all?”
Along the way, the inevitable happened: hard drugs took the place of pot and pills. I was incarcerated five times from the east coast to the west coast. I would steal so I could put a needle in my arm. I cannot remember the number of times I used my belt to tie my arm, cutting the circulating so my vein would pop up, and I could stick the needle in the vein. This was the person my friends had known.
One evening in May, 1982, when I was hitchhiking from North Carolina to New York, a fellow gave me a ride to the Union Gospel Mission in Norfolk, Virginia. My stomach was empty and I was tired. I was given a bowl of bean soup and some bread, and I was told I had to attend their nightly chapel services. Again I had that feeling of being out of place. I reluctantly shuffled into the chapel, sat down and listened to a man behind the pulpit tell me what a sinner I was, how bad drugs and alcohol are, and how I was going to hell. I already knew all of that.
The next several nights were the same. Then, on the third Monday night in May, a minister turned to John 3:16. He told me that God loved me, that He died for me, and that if I asked Christ into my life He would save me from my sins and make a new creature out of me. For the first time I was not hearing just about my problem, but I was hearing the solution to my problem.
That night I got on my knees and asked the Lord to save me. When I stood, there were no lightning bolts or ringing bells, but I had a peace and assurance that I had never known before. For the first time I could remember, I felt I belonged. That was my second birth.
After accepting Christ, I never took a drink or used drugs again. The Lord delivered me from them at the moment of my conversion, but I had to struggle with temptation. There were times when I would go out on the mall and the smell of beer was so strong I could almost taste it. Because I couldn’t read well, whenever I was tempted all I could think of to do was to hum “Jesus Loves Me.”
I had a real thirst for God’s Word. I stayed in my mission room two hours each day to study the Bible. I had never picked up a Bible before, but then I read in God’s Word that He would send a Comforter who would teach me all things. I believed Him, and I asked Him to teach me His Word. I began taking Bible courses by correspondence.
In October, 1982, God called me into His ministry at the Union Gospel Mission where I served for three-and-a-half years. At the time I was earning good-money as a truck driver, but I followed the Lord’s leading and began serving as night supervisor of the mission for twenty five dollars a week. In February, 1983, God called me to preach His Word. I began preaching at the mission, and shortly thereafter, I was licensed. One day Granny came to Norfolk to hear me speak. We both cried.
God began to really deal with me about a Sunday evening service in the inner-city. I remember going to Dr. Lumpkin, the pastor of Freemason Street Baptist Church, and telling him the burden God had given me. My hands were sweaty and my stomach uneasy. Here I was, a “mission man’, talking to a pastor with two doctorates! In March, 1984, we had our first service in the basement of the church. It may have been the basement to some, but to me it was the best sanctuary in the world.
In June, 1985, I was ordained a Baptist minister. As I knelt down and the other ministers laid hands on me, the words my sister-in-law had recently said to me echoed in my mind: “It’s as if you died and a different man took your place.” I got up to speak and the tears were running down my face. For twenty years I had been an alcoholic, a drug addict and a liability; now, there I stood — a minister of the Gospel!
Two months after my ordination, I married Jan, a born-again woman who was also in full-time Christian service. In March, 1987, Jan and I founded GOOD SAMARITAN MINISTRIES, in Richmond, Virginia. Jan went to be with Jesus in March, 2010. I married Nita, and we both serve at Community Baptist Church, and Good Samaritan Ministries, where I serve as executive director. It is a year-long, residential rehabilitation and discipleship program for addicted, or homeless, or otherwise impaired individuals who need to be transformed. Job training and employment (secular and ministry) are offered, as well as apartments for the participants, and their spouses and/or children. Many of the current staff are program graduates.
The Lord has blessed me further by allowing me the privilege of pastoring Community-Bainbridge Baptist Church in the inner-city of Richmond from 1991 to 2003, and Rural Point Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, VA from 2003 to 2007, and then God called me to pastor Community-Bainbridge Baptist Church again.
I was always searching for what the world owed me, but now I know that I owe the world something; I owe the good news of our Savior Jesus Christ and what He did for me so that others will find meaning and life in Him.
- Pastor Mike D. McClary