OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) — Michael Beck’s arms are covered in tattoos. Inked in art that symbolizes a journey from drug addiction with countless prison visits, to a transition to becoming a child of God. He now co-pastors with his wife Jill of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Ocala and Wildwood United Methodist Church.
Returning to Saint-Marc means in a way the end of one chapter and the opening of another. We sat with him on the pews of the Sanctuary of St. Mark, a place he visited frequently as a child.
“I was baptized as a baby right there in that place,” Beck said, pointing to the altar steps. “And now I’m the pastor.”
But becoming a religious leader has not always been his mission. Beck said his mother struggled with addiction for most of her life, before and after she was born.
“I was born addicted [and] my biological father was unknown,” he said.
His grandparents adopted him and for a short time Sunday service was part of the regular routine, but Beck said that at the age of 10, when his grandfather died, it was at which point “things started to take a dark turn for” him.
He dropped out of school in the 9th grade with the intention of making ends meet selling drugs. He spent most of his young life in a prison cell. Beck said it was the birth of her first daughter as a teenager that started the journey back to faith.
“Finally, I was incarcerated and said a prayer,” Beck said. “I said, God, whatever you have to do to stop me, please do it 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 Plano, Texas-based Invite Resources. The book combines powerful stories, from the Bible to modern times, from people like Fred Rogers, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou and Elon Musk. This is now the ninth book Beck has written.
“I got letters, emails, social media messages,” he explained, sharing one particular message he received: “‘I wanted to kill myself, and this book doesn’t tell me. ‘didn’t help.'”
Beck and his wife run various “addiction treatment programs, a prison ministry, a pantry, an interracial unity movement, and house a faith-based inpatient treatment center,” according to a press release from the director of marketing. ‘Invite Resources, Josiah Simons.
Beck showed our cameras where they hold Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in St. Mark’s. This is where we met Ryan Dixon.
“I was really drunk one night and thought I was going to kill myself, so I came down here by the church and sat there on the sidewalk for a while and thought, what is the best way to kill yourself…” Dixon shared. “I will have the fastest car on this road. I let the car get to that wall and I got out right in front and I put my hands up and I gave up and the guy takes the ditch, gets out, says it’s okay, and it was Mike.”
A pastor helping to remove the gray soot from our deepest wounds and showing us how to paint a beautiful life with those ashes.
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