From Coke, Meth and Alcohol Addiction to Joy Junction Chaplain

By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

Joy Junction Inc.

marcos-articleJoy Junction Chaplain Marcos Atwood is a firm believer in the power and importance of prayer.

On a recent Monday morning he started the day by praying with guests and staff – a tradition his predecessor and mentor former Chaplain Gene Shiplet initiated.

Then he helped a married couple whose ugly verbal arguments were not only hurting them but their kids also, “as they were hanging on to every word that came out of their mouth.”

Following that, Marcos met with some new overnight guests interested in the programs offered by Joy Junction.

After that it was onto our regular Monday resident services staff meeting- a time when we share some of issues of the week and discuss as staff how we might better serve the needs of our guests.

After lunch, one of our new Christ in Power life recovery program participants asked Marcos to join him for a short Bible study. It turned out there were seven others who also wanted to participate.

Marcos said, “(A number of our residents) are hungry, and wanting to hear the Word and get closer to God.”

Before ending the day, Marcos made his rounds and prayed with some of the Christ in Power volunteers on duty at their various assignments – ranging from the guard shack to the laundry room.

“This brings comfort and allows them to vent, as well as letting me know about any issues going on with their life or program.”

Then it was time to call it a day.

Tuesday morning like every other day, began with prayer for guests and staff.

This was a specially busy start to the day. Marcos said he was “bombarded” with staff and guests wanting to pray or talk about a variety of issues they were experiencing.

After that, Marcos volunteered to help serve breakfast to our guests.

He said, “This shows our residents the meaning of serving in different ways, and it gives me the opportunity to (interact with) them on a different level.”

Then it was time to complete preparations for the morning Christ in Power life recovery class, which Marcos teaches three mornings a week from 9 a.m. till 11 a.m.

After class, Marcos did some preparation for Wednesday’s life recovery class. Following that, he met with a number of guests who needed to tell him how their day (and road to recovery) was going. Some also had questions about a variety of issues.

Lunch was next on the agenda, and then he made his usual rounds of the property to check on life recovery program participants volunteering at their various assignments.

Like many other days, before ending his shift there was a guest who wanted to talk and receive prayer. Marcos let this individual know that there is always time for prayer.

At my request, Marcos asked some of our life recovery program participants to write down what they thought about their chaplain.

Sherry said that Marcos’ classes are very informative. “If I feel like I don’t understand, Marcos helps me with issues that people go through on their life experiences.”

She added that Marcos “is very supportive and understanding with everyone in the class.”

Richard said he really appreciates Marcos.

He added, “He loves the Lord; he gets excited about the Word of God as he should. Marcos as a chaplain has a deep concern for all of the residents here at Joy Junction.”

He added, “ But even more importantly I can see God’s love filling Marcos more and more all the time.”

Stephanie said that Marcos shows compassion for everyone in the program and listens to all their concerns.

“Chaplain Marcos has brought a true passion for the Word by showing compassion for the needs of everyone. He is very honest and open with the class, and desires to see everyone grow in the Word and develop a personal relationship with God.”

She added, “He guides you to the Bible, and prays with you. I have grown closer to God through … Marcos’ teaching, because every day he challenges me to stay in the Word. His passion for the Bible is contagious, and I look forward to being in class so I may learn more about God.”

Marcos and Gene

Marcos has worked at Joy Junction since May 2012, starting as a driver and then a resident service supervisor.

One day, Gene (also referred to as “Happy Chappy”) approached Marcos, introduced himself and asked if he could pray with him.

Marcos’ initial reaction was like many when they first met Gene. “ Why is he always so happy and full of joy?”

Gene told Marcos that his happiness was because he loved the Lord. He then told Marcos his story.

Marcos said what he got from Gene is you only live one life, and seasons come and go. You can go through life happy or sad, but either way you will go through it.

Marcos began meeting regularly with Gene to pray and talk. One day, Marcos said, it was a morning when everything that could possibly go wrong did. Gene asked him how he was doing. Marcos told Gene that everything was “okay.”

Gene saw right through that answer, asking Marcos politely, “‘Are you hiding behind a mask?’” I smiled … Of course, Gene saw right through me. I started laughing and asked him, ‘Is it that obvious?’ He asked if we could pray, and we did.”

Gene asked Marcos’ story, and how he arrived at Joy Junction. Marcos told Gene about his coke, meth and alcohol addiction, and how it resulted in his family’s homelessness.

Marcos told Gene how God delivered him from his addiction, and his subsequent baptism.

Out of the blue, Gene told Marcos he would become a minister.

“I started laughing, explaining that I would never become a preacher and how I get nervous just talking to a few people- much less an audience.”

One morning Gene asked Marcos if he would give his testimony to life recovery class participants. Marcos nervously agreed. During Gene’s introduction of Marcos, he also told class attendees that Marcos would become a minister.

God was already beginning to work on Marcos. His wife had been telling him the same thing. It was looking like confirmation of what God had already planned for Marcos’ life.

Gene became Marcos’ mentor, slowly encouraging him to speak more in class. Starting off with a 30 minute segment, it increased to an hour.

Marcos said, “I realized I liked what I was doing, and at the same time I was shocked.”

Gene encouraged Marcos to read the Bible regularly, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide his life.

“He also showed me how to put a teaching together, and how God was going to use me to speak to the residents and other people who He would put in my path.”

Marcos said he realized that Gene was “speaking life into my unbelief.” Those words of encouragement are still with him today.

One morning Marcos got the totally unexpected call that Gene had passed on to be with Jesus.

“It devastated me, because I became real close to Gene. I loved and truly respected Gene for his words of encouragement, his spirit and contagious smile. I miss him.”

Like Marcos, we were also shocked at Gene’s sudden passing. While never able to replace him, we still needed to fill the chaplain position.

Without at the time knowing some of what Marcos shares in this story, I was strongly prompted to ask him if he would like to become our chaplain. He gladly accepted, and as time goes on we know more than ever that we made the right choice.

Please pray for Marcos as he continues in his daily duties. He’d appreciate that, as would we.