Helping Hands: Man finds improvement by way of Salvation Army

Sonny Long

July 13, 2012 at 2:13 a.m.

Mark and Laura Martin are the new Salvation Army captains recently assigned to Victoria.

Mark and Laura Martin are the new Salvation Army captains recently assigned to Victoria.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words."

Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Many of the men who stay in the local men's homeless shelter have battled demons in their lives.

Capt. Mark Martin, the new commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Victoria, has walked a mile in their shoes.

In and out of jail, court and rehab programs almost always due to alcohol-related incidents, Martin was headed nowhere good until the late Bennie Lewis, a Salvation Army major in Baton Rouge, La., took him under his wing.

"I ran out of money and lost my work," Martin said. "Rehab programs were a joke. They were just to stay out of jail.

"I got busted one more time and went to the Salvation Army in Baton Rouge. I got in their adult rehabilitation program," said Martin, a native of Romulus, Mich.

Lewis told Martin that he had to report to him every day at 10 a.m. just to talk.

"Every day, for six months, I talked to Major Lewis. We got into the spiritual aspect of life, my life," Martin said. "I started going to the Salvation Army church. I met my wife there."

Martin's wife, Capt. Laura Martin a lifelong member of the Salvation Army, is also onboard in Victoria with their three sons, ages 13, 11 and 8. Their oldest son, Joseph Benjamin Martin, is named after Lewis.

It was Laura's father, also a Salvation Army officer at Oak Cliff in Dallas, who tried to influence Martin to seek employment with the Salvation Army.

Martin, who built swimming pools for a living in the summer and worked as an offshore night cook in the winter, balked.

"How can a person with a background like mine be a man of God?" he asked himself. "How can that be?"

After about four years, Martin finally consented.

"I came to the conclusion that if I was going to be in the ministry, I had to do it 100 percent or just go back to my old ways," he said.

The couple began as sergeants in 1999 and were commissioned as auxiliary captains in 2003. They received their full-time commissions in 2010.

Prior to Victoria, they were stationed in Beaumont, Arlington, Houston and most recently spent six years at the Salvation Army in Pampa.

Martin has been to Victoria before, assisting following the 1998 flood.

"That's the first time I've seen a cow in a tree or a shrimp boat in three trees, 30 feet in the air," he said.

Martin said his life experiences are an asset as an officer in the Salvation Army.

"Not only do I relate to the people who come to us. They can tell me any story they want and are not going to shock me," Martin said. "I literally went from having a great deal of money to sleeping under a bridge. I've been through the whole spectrum."

"At first I couldn't understand any of it. It didn't make any sense. I really believe the Lord allowed me to go through these things for this purpose and brought me to the Salvation Army because it's where I am most suited."

In less than a month in Victoria, the Martins have already seen an increase in attendance at the Salvation Army's Sunday church service.

"It's not me," Martin said. "It's the Lord working through me."



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