Love Beyond - Mike's Story
Meet Mike and see how his Salvation Army story came full circle.
“I thought I was useless, didn’t have a purpose, but now I realize that God allowed me to go through everything that I went through to prepare me for this calling that I’m in now.” Meet Mike, a Salvation Army Resident Supervisor at The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Providence, RI.
Mike Clemons grew up in a pastor’s family. But at age 14, he started experimenting with drinking, then marijuana, then harder drugs. Living in North Carolina, he went through a long–term rehabilitation program and spent 16 months clean. Eventually, he moved to Providence, R.I., where he relapsed.
“From 2008 to 2011, I was in a downward spiral,” Mike says. He was living at a homeless shelter but was kicked out because of his behavior.
“I was sleeping on concrete, using my boots as a pillow,” Mike says. One place he often slept was an abandoned playground behind The Salvation Army Providence Citadel.
“There were folks in there who were drinking and using,” says Kipp Allen, then a Salvation Army captain and Associate Corps officer. “We needed to secure the playground, so we had to put a lock on the gate.”
When Kipp went out there, he found Mike sleeping in the playground. “The guy was very pleasant with me, but at the same time, he wasn’t going to go anywhere,” Kipp told the man he needed to put a lock on the gate because it was becoming a safety concern.
“That’s all right, put a lock on there; I can get over the fence, no problem,” Mike said.
The next day, Mike was gone. Back on the streets, he continued his destructive lifestyle until one day his caseworker suggested that he seek help.
His caseworker suggested he go to Amos House, a Providence nonprofit that has a 90–day recovery–based shelter program. Afterward, Mike moved into Phase 2 housing and got a job as a painter.
Sometime later, one of the workers at Amos House stopped Mike and asked if he had ever thought about working for The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center. The worker said that his wife was a counselor there but really couldn’t do her job until a resident supervisor was hired. The man thought Mike would be a good fit.
At the ARC, Major Gretchen Schuse interviewed Mike. He told her he had been delivered from drugs and alcohol about five years earlier. She said, “Thank you for your honesty, but we are The Salvation Army. We believe that redemption continues.”
Mike remembers, “The next thing I know, she was crying. She said that the position had been open for more than a year and that they had been praying that someone would come who would be the right fit.” The major said, “I think you’re the answer to our prayers.”
Mike was hired. Meanwhile, Kipp Allen, who had left officership in 2014 to pursue other opportunities, was drawn back to The Salvation Army and became a counselor at the Providence ARC.
They say that things often come full circle.
Kipp says he didn’t recognize his colleague Mike from the encounter in 2011. “He didn’t even look like the same person.” One day the two were talking, and he told Mike that he had once been an officer at the Providence Corps. Mike said, “I used to sleep behind The Salvation Army in the playground. As a matter of fact, I was in there when they locked the gate.’”
“That was YOU?” said Kipp. “I was the one that locked the gate!”
“You can’t make this up,” says Kipp, now an envoy working once more as pastor of Providence Citadel. “I knew this man before I knew him. It’s amazing how God works; He’s always bringing things full circle.”
Mike has been a Resident Supervisor at the ARC for five years. It's the longest he has ever held a job and he couldn't be more proud. “I love what I do,” Mike says. “I love my beneficiaries [residents in the program]. They are mine! I just want them to know that they’re loved; that they are worthy.”
“I’m just so grateful that God has allowed me the opportunity to serve His people,” Mike says. “He could have chosen anybody, but he chose an old crackhead like me. I’m just so grateful! Thank you, Lord!"