Mark stepped out of a recovery facility broke, with no transportation, and run over by the world. He had been addicted to alcohol and substances in a most severe way.
But Mark would soon discover that the Kingdom of God would become quite literally, at hand—and he was going to experience it’s touch tangibly, it’s embrace whole-heartedly, through a faithful group of men in the Body of Christ, who were not all necessarily aware of each other’s role playing out in his life. God was weaving together a beautiful tapestry, a story of His great love and grace through Mark.
“I was born in El Centro,” recalls Mark. “My parents separated when I was young and divorced. Dad moved to San Diego and I stayed with mom. I started getting into trouble in 6th grade and was drawn towards troubled kids. I was really young when I started drinking alcohol and doing drugs. It was never recreational for me. I was a problem drinker—an addict, from the beginning.”
There were many times Mark should have died or suffered much greater consequences for his actions. In his teens he began running with a dangerous crowd; he was involved in crime and violence. But even then, God was demonstrating his grace and mercy in Mark's life. At one point, Mark was forced into rehab but admits it wasn’t something he wanted to do.
“It wasn’t until I became a dad, that I wanted to change my lifestyle. Looking at my daughter…at my son, I knew I needed to do something. I wanted to be a good father. I really set out to break the vicious cycle. But I was in over my head. I’d make a little progress and then regress. I felt such despair.”
Mark could remember sitting in the parking lot for a recovery meeting feeling devastated. “I believed this lie that I would never get sober, that I was destined to be a horrible father and die an addict. I figured that this was just the way it goes for some people. The grip that alcohol and drugs had on me was not something I could break on my own and I was discovering that rehab couldn’t break that grip either.”
But there was something that was holding Mark tighter than the grip of alcohol and drugs. It was the love of Jesus and the power of His cross. It had already tightly, firmly, and permanently laid hold of him, and was not about to let go.
Enter Tommy Hathorn, future founder of Genesis Recovery San Diego, a 12-Step Christian treatment center, created to help restore lives of individuals who had been broken by addiction.
“Mark and I started crossing each other’s paths in 2004,” remembers Hathorn. We grew up around the same people, doing the same things…we tried to get sober together. But it wasn’t pretty for either one of us. For Mark, it was far less pretty. I stayed sober, but Mark continued to struggle.”
Years later Mark and Tommy’s paths would cross again. “I remember Tommy telling me, ‘Dude, you got to try something different.’ That day, he took me to Rock Church.”
Though Mark still struggled, God was working. Tommy had started a bible study in his garage and Mark would attend regularly. It would prove to be a pivotal moment for him in his journey as he was weekly exposed to scriptures; he experienced some big break-throughs.
“While some people can get sober going to church on Sunday or a weekly bible study, there are some that need intense accountability,” shares Hathorn. “They need to be discipled and presented with opportunities to dive deep into the Word of God. They need intense love and consistency. Mark was one of those guys.”
That year on Mother’s Day, Mark reached out to his mom. She had been concerned for him. She shared about a friend’s son who had gone to a placed called New Creations in El Centro, a bible-based discipleship program for men trying to get sober. Soon Mark was accepted into this program.
The grip of addiction was being loosed and his awareness of God’s grip, growing.
“I can remember working through workbooks and memorizing scripture. At first I was a little skeptical, but four months in, I was becoming a new man. We would attend this small church in El Centro. The people there were so kind to me. It was there that I really gave my life to Jesus. When I said my everlasting prayer of salvation, there was no doubt in my mind, that it was real. I accepted Christ and this amazing power came through my body. I was crying and I felt cleansed at the same time. It was real. From that point on, I was on fire for God.”
After completing the New Creation program, Mark moved back to San Diego. He reunited with his friends at Tommy’s bible study and he started Iron Man I, a one-year discipleship program through Rock Church’s Men of the Rock.
“The Men of the Rock had such a great bunch of guys,” remembers Mark. “That was it for me. Tuesday nights became a regular thing and I never left.”
Eugene Fung was Mark’s co-leader for Iron Man I. “Mark was faithful to show up every week. Even though he was still walking through a lot of struggles with his family, you couldn’t tell. He did his homework every week and at the end of the year, he was the only one from our group who pushed through and completed all of the requirements to graduate.”
“Going through Iron Man I was no bed of roses, I’ll tell you that,” Mark remembers. “But I was processing my pain a lot differently and that brought me hope. I wasn’t going to a bottle or a substance any more to cope with my pain, I was learning how to take it to Jesus.”
Will Mitchell discipled Mark through Iron Man II, the second year discipleship program for graduates of Iron Man I. “Mark and I connected right away. We were both working in construction and related well with one another. After learning more about Mark’s life, I could honestly tell you, that most guys would not have kept going. But Mark had built relationships with several of the Iron Men guys. He stayed the course. And we weren’t about to give up on him. We’d call, we’d pray – we’d even show up at his house. It’s been my honor to have stood with Mark and to have held him to the commitment of living a righteous life in Jesus Christ.”
Now Mitchell’s Iron Man Ministry co-leader himself, Mark shared that worship is his favorite part of their Tuesday gatherings with Men of the Rock. “I love worship. I feel the closest to God being in that cafeteria with a room full of men singing to Jesus. You can feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. In those moments, nothing else matters. And I love doing life with these guys over the course of the year. We share our experiences, we lay hands on each other and pray for each other—chains get broken. We hold on to each other, even when some are tempted to quit or to let go. When I think about my life now, I can’t believe how far God’s brought me.”
Hathorn raves, “Mark went from a man with a disgusting addiction, to become a beautiful father. His kids are madly in love with him. The Men of the Rock grabbed a hold him and didn’t let go. He’s not even close to being the same individual he was. His family is being restored. He’s got a chipper attitude now. The enemy had a firm grip on Mark for a while, but God’s love and power demonstrated through His Body, broke the enemy’s shoulders.”
Mark shares, “A relationship with God is the most important relationship you will ever have. It has to be the number one thing. Once I realized the Father-ship role that God plays in our lives…once I really understood that, it was so huge for me. It was like getting saved all over again. I can go to God with anything. God’s got me. He’s holding me and I have nothing but gratitude towards him. Nothing is impossible for Him. I am humbled by His love…I’m grateful to be in service to Him now.”
POSTSCRIPT: During Mark’s second year of study with the Men of the Rock, he also successfully studied for and earned his state contractor’s license. He is now founder of MarkBuilt Construction and business is doing well.
To learn more about founder Tommy Hathorn’s Genesis Recovery San Diego, go to http://www.genesisrecoverysandiego.com.
For more information about the Men's Ministry, click here »