From drug addiction to pastor, we sat down with an Ocala man to hear about his journey
OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - Michael Beck’s arms are covered in tattoos. Inked in art which symbolizes a journey from drug addiction with countless visits to prison, to a transition of becoming a child of God. He’s now the co-pastor with his wife Jill of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Ocala and Wildwood United Methodist Church.
Returning to St. Mark’s in some ways means the end of one chapter and the opening of another. We sat with him in the pews of the sanctuary at St. Mark’s, a place he would frequently visit as a child.
“I was baptized as a baby right over there on that spot,” Beck said pointing to the steps of the altar. “And now I’m the pastor.”
But becoming a faith leader wasn’t always his mission. Beck said his mother struggled with addiction for the majority of her life, before and after his birth.
“I was born addicted [and] my biological father was unknown,” he said.
His grandparents adopted him and for a short time, Sunday service was a part of the regular routine, but Beck said at age 10 when his grandfather died, that’s when “things started to take a dark turn for” him.
He dropped out of school in the 9th grade with the intent of making ends meet by selling drugs. He spent most of his young life in a jail cell. Beck said it was the birth of his first daughter as a teenager that started the voyage back to faith.
“Finally got incarcerated and prayed a prayer,” said Beck. “I said, God whatever you have to do to stop me, please do that and God answered that prayer with angels in green suits and handcuffs.”
He details this life journey in his new book “Painting with Ashes,” which was published last year by Invite Resources based in Plano, Texas. The book combines powerful stories, from Biblical to modern-day times, of people like Fred Rogers, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, and Elon Musk. This is now the ninth book Beck has written.
“I’ve gotten letters, emails, social media messages,” he explained sharing one particular message he received: “‘I wanted to kill myself, and this book helped me not.’”
Beck and his wife lead different “addiction recovery programs, a jail ministry, a food pantry, an interracial unity movement, and house a faith-based inpatient treatment center,” according to a press release from Invite Resources Marketing Manager, Josiah Simons.
Beck showed our cameras where they hold Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at St. Mark’s. That’s where we met Ryan Dixon.
“I was really drunk one night and I figured, I’m going to commit suicide, so I came down here by the church and I sat there on the curb for a while and I thought, what’s the best way to commit suicide…” Dixon shared. “I’m going to get the fastest car coming down this road. I let the car get up to about here to this wall and I stepped right out in front of it and I put my hands up and I gave up and the guy takes the ditch, gets out, says are you okay, and it was Mike.”
A pastor helping to take the gray soot of our deepest wounds and showing us how to paint a beautiful life with those ashes.
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