[SLIDESHOW=44365,44366,44367,44368]LAUREL, Miss. (BP) — Next door to Mission at the Cross in Laurel, Miss., is a bike shop. There, residents of the mission — from former drug addicts and alcoholics to the homeless and ex-convicts — take damaged, broken-down motorcycles and completely rebuild them.
Lest anyone miss the parallel between the motorcycles and the residents of the mission who work on them, the repaired bikes are referred to as “born-again motorcycles.”
Richard Headrick, founder of Mission at the Cross with his wife Gina, explains the connection: “The devil tears these guys down till there’s nothing left” but then “Jesus builds them back again.”
One need only browse through the testimonials posted on its website to affirm that the men who come to Mission at the Cross are, indeed, “torn down.” Stories of addiction, brokenness and emptiness abound. Their undeniable need, in the words of one MATC employee, is “a touch from the Master’s hand.”
“These boys come in there lost, distraught,” Headrick says. “They have no hope; they’re just floundering out there in society. And the whole purpose [of MATC] is to see them be restored.”
This restoration comes about through saturating the mission residents with the message of Jesus, discipling them to grow in their faith and equipping them with skills to make it in the world. MATC’s website (www.missionatthecross.com) declares, “If a person going through a hard time has the ‘want to’ to get back on their feet, get a job, kick their bad habits, restore their marriage, rebuild their home, get their kids back, or whatever their godly desire is, we have the ‘want to’ to help them do it.”
And the hope is that others will see Jesus in them.
Headrick and his wife Gina opened the first Mission at the Cross in Sturgis, S.D., in 2007. The location in Laurel followed in 2008 and there are now locations in Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida and even Germany, with 700-plus men having participated in the program.
The Laurel location, specifically, was born out of the Headricks’ burden for their hometown and the men who found themselves in need of a hand up from the pit of brokenness. Though initially conceived as a short-term facility for those in need of temporary shelter — and the Gospel of Jesus Christ — mission employees quickly saw that an extended, more intensive plan was needed.
“It’s one thing to offer salvation, pray a prayer and send someone on their way, but discipleship takes time,” explains Michael Smith, who worked at MATC-Laurel before enrolling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. “MATC inevitably became a six-month in-house facility. Now, men not only hear and see Jesus working day to day from the moment they enter the door, but they have the opportunity to learn how to walk through those trials and tests that come our way after we accept Christ.”
The mission provides residents — up to 25 at a time –a structured daily schedule featuring a variety of activities that build character, labor skills and leadership qualities. Each day begins and ends with Bible study and prayer. Many of the activities in between are community service projects, including mowing lawns, cleaning out sheds and building handicap ramps for the elderly.
Smith, who graduated Southwestern with master’s degrees in theology and in biblical counseling in 2016, says that through the course of these activities and the numerous opportunities for mentoring that they present, the men learn what brotherhood is and what it means to be a man of God.
“They learn what it is to be sons, husbands, fathers, brothers and employees,” Smith says, “and what it is like to walk out our faith day to day and how to be light in this world, which seems to be growing increasingly darker. … At MATC, it’s so much more than just learning to live a clean and sober life; it’s about learning how to live a full and abundant life centered around God and the truth of His Word.”
A key MATC activity that allows for an abundant life is vocational training. Gina Headrick, who, along with her husband, is a member of Southwestern Seminary’s Board of Visitors, says the mission’s detox program is “a Bible in one hand and a hammer in the other.” The program is free of charge, she says, “but they learn to work,” receiving training in, among other things, engine mechanics, carpentry, masonry, manufacturing and landscaping.
Roger Tucker, whose written testimony is available on MATC’s website, is one example of the impact of this comprehensive program. “When I came to the mission in 2009, my family had given up on me because of my history with drugs and alcohol,” he writes. “And I, too, had given up on myself. I thought the mission would be just another rehab program — I didn’t think it would work for me.
“However, by the grace of God, I have not only overcome the debilitating hold that alcohol had on my life, [but] my relationship with my family has been restored, and I am now the house leader at Mission at the Cross-Laurel! It is my joy to now help other men who are struggling as I did and share with them what Jesus can do for them and how He can give them a new life.”
Numerous other testimonies accompany Tucker’s, detailing how God used MATC to rescue them from Satan’s grasp and guide them into the freedom found in Christ Jesus. Evan Sparks writes, “I was alone in a dark world, fighting tooth and nail, trying to obtain just a speck of hope…. During my nine-month stay at Mission at the Cross, I learned many useful tools that are helping me to succeed in my daily walk as a Christian and as a college student. The Lord has put me on a path that I never thought could be possible. It definitely is not easy, but I know for a fact that had I not been prepared by God at Mission at the Cross, I would not be sitting here today.”
Mike Shirley, director of MATC-Laurel, says these testimonies serve as great tools for evangelism. “Some of [these men] don’t know Job from job or Psalms from palms, [but] they can get up and say, ‘Oh, He touched me.’ And that’s the mission speaking. I tell them, ‘If we speak about Him, we lift His name up on high, if all you do is get up and say the Lord Jesus Christ has changed my heart, then it just went out of the park.'”
During a chapel presentation at Southwestern Seminary in April 2015, Richard Headrick said his aim in life is “to keep Satan ticked off.” Though not everyone who comes through MATC goes on to become the man God called him to be, the mission’s numerous success stories from the past eight years — each comprising how Jesus became cemented in the heart and mind of yet another man in whom Satan previously “had his hooks” — serve to glorify God and keep Satan “ticked off.”
Smith affirms, “There’s nothing like being part of someone coming to know Christ and watching them learn to walk in obedience while the Lord restores their lives, their families, their jobs and all the other things that Satan has stolen and destroyed. This is what’s at the heart of MATC: restoration of the broken, hope to the hopeless.”