Tag Archives: God

Volunteer Spotlight: Mark “The Trashman” Wood

Mark Wood has been one of our faithful volunteers and supporters for the past few years. He has supported the ministry in more ways than one: with his time, his finances, and his prayers. Mark has also gained quite the reputation as a volunteer. Every week he comes to our Sunday meal, grabs a trash bag and off he goes! Many volunteers and friends that come to eat the meal have labeled him the “Trashman”. This has been a way for him to easily walk up to the men and women we feed and start conversations as he serves them by picking up their trash.

Mark has also supported the ministry by racing in the Urban Purpose 5K and has come in 3rd place each time! He’s an impressive guy with an incredible heart for the Lord. We are so thankful that God led him to be a part in what we do. Take a second and get to know Mark “The Trashman” Wood.

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How did you first hear about Urban Purpose? I heard about Urban Purpose from Elizabeth Johnson (another one of our volunteers) who I work next to at STV.

How long have you been serving with Urban Purpose? I would say about 3 ½ years.

How did you get the title of “Trashman”? Well I started picking up the trash pretty soon after I began coming on Sundays. Elizabeth always gives me direction… But I am very glad I got that title. Most of the folks may not always remember your name, but if you have the bag, they just call out, “Hey trashman.” I respond well to that.

Why did you begin to pick up the trash? I really believe that my part in Urban Purpose is a God thing. I would have never thought I would enjoy this as much as I do. Picking up the trash has allowed me to initiate more and more relationships with people. There are so many folks out there who are hurting, addicted, and may not feel comfortable to talk to just everyone. Admittedly I have also been into drugs, drinking, and the world in general. After years of that, God is working on me. He has brought me to Urban Purpose to talk with folks about getting over their drug use or issues and to share how God can get you out and over ANYTHING… which I can relate to well. I really love so many of these people and look forward to seeing them. I do run downtown every week for the past few years and I get to have interaction with quite a few of our Sunday folks one on one while out running. It always brings a smile to my face to see some of ‘our folks’ while out there running in the streets.

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Mark Wood completing The Urban Purpose Challenge, 5K in 2015

What is your fastest 5K time? 18:48

What are your predictions for the 2016 Urban Purpose Challenge, 5K addition? Will you finally take the title? I have been able to run the 5K each year at Urban Purpose since it started. This past year the course change did not make it any easier. I do not believe I can take the title if those young folks keep showing up. I am getting older and slower. I do not believe I can hold up to those folks in their 20’s,30’s and 40’s once you are in your 50’s you have to realize you may have already reached the plateau for running PRs.

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Waiting Expectantly

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About five months ago we met a young man named Mike and started to work with him. Since then he has been in two separate rehab programs. He was released from the last program on Thanksgiving day after spending time with a family member that is a poor influence on him.

That weekend we were faced with a big decision to make. Should we help? How should we help? What does he need? We knew that this time around it had to be different.

Since Thanksgiving weekend, we have put together a team of people that have been helping to care for and watch over this man. He has not been left alone at any point over the last three weeks. He is staying with people that want to get to know him, spend time with him and love him well. He has been working with a landscaping company every day and having dinner with different groups of people each night as well as having other measurements of accountability such as drug testing.

While this may seem extremely overwhelming and unnecessary to the average person, it is what someone trying to flee a drug addiction needs- and they need it for this specific reason:

One of the first nights he was staying with the guys, they went to Jimmy John’s to grab some dinner downtown. While they were eating, Mike noticed that an old drug dealer of his walked in the room. This man walked straight over to Mike and asked him if he wanted anything. Luckily, he was not alone. Mike said no, and the dealer walked off. Shortly after, Mike expressed how thankful he was that he was not alone during that encounter because it would have been much harder to say no.

This is why we believe it is good for people to be surrounded until they can get into a program that is a more structured environment. As far as Mike goes, we have been waiting for a couple weeks to hear back from another program that he could be in for six months. That is our plan during this “time of crisis” for these people- to wait expectantly for God to open doors to bigger and better things.

You may be asking, is it worth the wait? Well, this morning we received the phone call letting us know that Mike had been accepted and we can take him in on Tuesday. We’re thankful to have been able to walk with Mike through this time and that we could help him stay strong in the midst of a hectic time. Our hope is that we can do this for many people that are wanting to get clean but need help getting on that path to the long road of recovery.

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One for the Books

Sunday was a great day. It was a day full of surprises, excitement, hopefulness, encouragement, and rejoicing. Sunday was a day to remember.

You see, since the spring of 2014 we have been closely walking with a man in his 20s who struggled with a severe heroin addiction. Throughout our time together we were able to provide him with housing, medical assistance, financial budgeting and loans, steady counseling, transportation, employment… and pretty much anything else you can think of. Even after failing over and over again, we chose to show him grace (but trust me, this was not always our first choice).

Eventually, things got to a point where we did not have any other healthy options to offer him. He had been given many chances- from jobs, to housing, to failed drug tests- he had run through them all and we were at our ropes end. We realized that at that point he needed much more intensive 24-hour care than we could give him. So now he was left with a choice. He could either choose to admit himself into at least a 3 month recovery program, having us walk with him during that time, and continue to move forward with him upon completion of the program or he could choose to completely part ways with us. Of course, the latter  is what none of us wanted, but it was the only way to help him see that a drastic change had to be made in his life.

Over the next couple of weeks, we saw everything take a dramatic shift in this man’s life. He went from having a fairly stable life to having the walls of that life come crashing down around him. Overtime he saw the necessity that was for a guy like himself, and became willing and wanting to get into a program. With the help of our ministry partners, we were able to get in touch with a great rehab program in town and after just one week, he was in. For the first month he was in, he was visited by a number of people and we were encouraged by the progress he had already made and the direction he seemed to be heading.

But then this past Sunday happened. As we drove into the Terracon parking like we do every single week, we saw him standing to the side with a few of our volunteers. Needless to say, we were all holding our breath waiting to figure out why exactly he was here. The first thought that came to my mind was- he’s been kicked out. But man was I wrong!

For the rest of the afternoon we were able to hear stories of confession, repentance, asking for forgiveness, and thankfulness for what all had been done for him this past year. He talked about having a relationship with Jesus and spending time with other believers. All of this coming from a man who just a few months ago made the comment: “I’m just an addict and that is never going to change.”

Sometimes it’s easy to get going in our normal routine and forget that we serve a God who is anything but normal.

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Day 8: Needs Met

Each week, we see anywhere from 50 to 100 homeless people. For most people that come downtown with us, this can be a heartbreaking experience not only the first time, but every time. It’s one thing to imagine someone sleeping on the streets, but it’s a whole other experience to have a conversation with someone who shows your their tent under I-65. Typically the most emotional responses come from seeing the unexpected children that come to our meal. For example, last Sunday we had a couple come to our parking lot with their two-week-old baby boy. This couple has been living in a hotel for a month now and has very little means to take care of their child.

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We asked that God would provide what was most needed and of course, he came through more than we could have imagined. Not only were strollers, clothes and a play-pen provided in the few days after being aware of the need, but a connection was made that can help us provide needs for other children we come in contact with in the future. ‘Kid’s Connection’ is a volunteer run organization that has a multitude of school clothes, shoes, books, and other necessities for families that do not have the means to provide these things for their kids.

We’re so thankful that the Lord gives people different hearts for people of the world that we can serve in His name. IMG_6221

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Day 4: What A Sunday

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Yesterday at our weekly downtown meal, we were blown away by God’s goodness in bringing many people from all over the city to help serve. There were people of all different ages helping in whatever ways they could. We had families with young children to high schoolers and college students. This is such a great reminder for us that we are not in this alone and that there are so many people that God has given a heart for the broken, poor and needy in Birmingham. Jesus makes known that his church, the body of Christ, is made up of people with all  different kinds of spiritual gifts. Yesterday was a beautiful picture of Christ loving on and caring for a group of folks who get very little love

Urban Purpose has been extremely blessed with partnerships and support by many different people. We are always looking for new ways to bring more people into what God is doing in the lives of the homeless people we see on a weekly basis.  If you know of any churches, clubs, businesses, organizations, sports teams or anyone other groups who might be interested in volunteering, please send them our direction!

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Daily Photo Challenge

Have you ever 30 dayswondered what Urban Purpose does on a daily basis? Are our days filled with meeting peoples needs, having meetings that revolve around coffee at Seeds, making incredibly tough and life altering decisions for people,  attempting to improve and better our strategy of working with the broken? The best answer is- Yes. All of these items are critical components of our work on a weekly basis.

For the next 30 days, our challenge is to give an in-depth look at just what exactly we do and how we do it. Follow us on this journey as we show the many ways God is moving among the people we’re working with.


IMG_6104This morning looks like cleaning up the office after busily making 100 snack packs for our friends downtown this past Sunday. Having these food items that can be saved for weeks to come are always beneficial for some people who will not know where there next meal is coming from. Keep following us on social media to check out where the rest of our day will be heading!

  • Instagram: urbanpurpose
  • Twitter: urbanpurpose
  • Facebook: Urban Purpose

A big, big thank you to Grandbridge Real Estate for providing all of these wonderful snacks that our friends were sure to enjoy.

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A Place for Everyone

Everyone has a great role to play as a part of the body of Christ. And the best thing about these roles is that one is not more important than the other. We have a great opportunity to experience this every week.

One of the coolest parts about serving with us on a Sunday is that there is a place for everyone to be exactly who Jesus created them to be. For example, some people are naturally great at starting conversations with others and engaging all types of people. Others were made to serve behind the scenes and are the reasons the meal gets out quickly every Sunday. Next we have our people that stand on the sidelines and are in prayer consistently over the conversations that are being had and over the people in the line. We also have our “trash man” who serves the ministry and the building owners every single week by making sure their property is clean after a hundred people eat in their parking lot. There are even more roles to be played at our downtown meal than listed and we are grateful to have people ready and willing to serve in each of them.

Meet us any Sunday at 2:30pm at the Shades Mountain Baptist Student Building and we’ll head downtown together and serve those in need here in our city.

Where could God use your strengths?

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