Reaching the Unreachable — Street Outreach with Chaplain Mark


Mark Engler is a busy man with a big heart. So I have to tell you I was excited to be heading out to do Street Outreach with him. Chaplain Mark's eleven years experience would provide a rare glimpse into what it takes to do this special work. We first connected at the corner of Atlantic and Ohio Ave.  Here I could already see him in action. I watched as he encourages a man to come in for treatment! It was a combination of coaxing, encouragement and a strong reminder of what could happen if he continued to stay out on the street.

From what I have learned to do this kind of work successfully, you need to have a special gift like a warm heart, friendly smile and a patient ear. God blessed him with all three. Mark also has the ability to reach the unreachable... here you can see him building a rapport with an elderly homeless woman suffering from mental illness. I learned he takes water and clothing to her every day and listens to her stories. I got the sense our time would be cut short because I was a new face and she didn’t know if she could trust me.

Mark told me before we went out that earning trust is an important step to helping people with severe conditions off the street. At this point Mark is just receiving a call from the local Police....

The call—a local officer was calling Mark in to help a woman with two sons who had just left an abusive relationship. I learned she was out of state and had moved three or four times in the last four months to get away from a troubled relationship.  The younger son seemed distracted but hungry. We got them a meal at the local coffee shop. I watched Mark and the Officer put their heads together to come up with a solution for this woman on what would keep her safe. He made the connections for her with the Director of Women’s Ministries at the Mission while the officer made calls for Protective Housing options that may be available through the state.

All three of these incidents happened within the first hour and a half of our travels together. My head was already spinning.  I had to ask him what gets him up every morning? He said, spending time with God. I always ask Him to prepare me for the day, help me to see Christ in others and put people in my path that I can reach.

Later as we were passing by a local bank, we hear Mark wait, Mark wait a minute. A woman ran out with a box of clothes to keep in his car. He said to me, "This!"  "This is what encourages me... every day I meet people who care and I know that God is sending me a little message. He does this kind of stuff all the time! The crazy thing is this will probably be an exact fit for someone I meet in the next day or so."

"The Mission has a safe shelter, meals and recovery programs for men, women and children who face homelessness. There is absolutely no reason for them to face it alone," said Mark. Especially when there are people who can help. But the Mission couldn’t do it without caring individuals that make it all possible by volunteering or who support us in other ways. Thankfully God sees the big picture and makes it all possible.  We just have to trust.

Chaplain Mark is especially gifted in dealing with the mentally ill. Mark is a trained Pastor, grandfather and a New Jersey transplant from out west. He has served the Mission for over 11-years, mostly in Street Outreach with the chronically homeless. 


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