An Abilenian since he was 13 years old, Mark Hewitt attended Lincoln Junior High and Cooper High School. After a brief time playing baseball at Ranger Junior College, he moved back to Abilene and met his wife on a tennis court. Through her influence and encouragement, his life began to change and he began serving in several ministries at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church. After a mission trip to Russia, he felt God stirring his heart to ministry, and upon his return, joined a friend in serving meals to the homeless out of a truck bed. In April of 1997, he left his job at WTU Energy to become a full-time pastor for the homeless population. Eventually, the ministry grew into Love & Care Ministries, which today provides food, clothing, showers, and more in Abilene, Clyde, and Merkel.
IN NOVEMBER, 2020, ABILENE REACHED A “FUNCTIONAL ZERO” FOR CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS. WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES ABILENE UNIQUE IN HOW IT HELPS THE HOMELESS POPULATION?
By “functional zero” that’s using the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) definition. But there’s still homeless people here. When I started years ago, I’m not sure a lot of people wanted homeless people in the church. Today, I think there’s a lot of churches in our community that say ‘Hey, come on in. We’re gonna love you as you are and try to help you.’ And that says a lot about our community because it is unique. There’s all kinds of denominations, but no matter what denomination, they’re helping homeless people. It’s unique, no doubt.
HOW DO YOU ORGANIZE YOUR DAY TO GET ALL THESE ACTIVITIES DONE?
I’m an early riser. The suns comin’ up, why not go? I’m usually in the office close to 7 in the morning. I spend time with my Father, whether it’s through prayer or reading the word or worship. I tell people, I got the greatest job in the world. People say, ‘How do you do that, man, you work with stinky people and drunks and addicts.’ And I say, ‘It’s not a job to me. It’s a joy. I’m called to love people.’ Every day I’m trying to do that. I work on sermons throughout the week for different churches, and I get over to different areas of Love and Care. I get out to see our friends. (We don’t call them clients, we call them friends).
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS WHEN WORKING WITH THE HOMELESS POPULATION?
Success to me is a drink of water. Success to me is a sandwich. When someone’s hungry and thirsty, I can’t change them, God changes them. For example, a few days ago we were in the back alley of our food ministry and a man drove up. I said ‘Can I help you?’ And he said, ‘I’m thirsty.’ I reached over and I gave him a case of water. Success can be a lot of things, but if somebody’s hungry, I’m gonna give them a sandwich and I believe God does the rest. A long time ago, when I would go under the bridge and see people. I would hear people say, ‘Why do you go over and over? Those people aren’t going to change.’ If I went under the bridge 99 times and gave them a sack lunch, and one time they heard the name Jesus, all 99 times are worth it to me.
WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE IN ABILENE IN THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS?
I think we’ve got a great city. Between churches, pastors and businessmen and women, they want to see our community grow spiritually. The homeless and poor are not going to go anywhere, they’re always going to be here. I think our community as we continue to do what we do, things are going to get better. What a lot of people don’t know, is 85 percent of people we see are working poor families. There’s a lot of poverty in our community. Our goal is to see people come to know Jesus but our other goal is building a relationship. It can take 6 months or 3 years to get to know someone. It takes time to really see someone changed. I’m almost 60 and I’m still trying to change.
BOOK: Anything by Perry Stone or Andrew Wommack
DRINK: Morning smoothie made with apples, bananas, water, Spark, blueberries, flax seed
FOOD: Any Chinese food
Mark authored a book of his own. Titled “Will You Go?: Reaching the Lost, Homeless, Poor, and Hungry Right Where You Are” the book is available on amazon.com.
By Haley Laurence