By Bobby Pepper
When he worked as a tool and die maker, the Rev. Mike Marecle used his gifts to build machine tools, dies and molds. It was during this time Marecle discovered he had another gift: counseling.
“I was in God’s waiting room in that season,” Marecle said. “People would call or a friend would want to bring by somebody and want me to talk with them. All I knew to do was listen to their story and try to see if I had something from my own journey that related so I could connect with them.”
Marecle said he would share something from Scripture that God used in his life for a similar circumstance.
“I would encourage them, pray for them, give them something to do and challenge them to give God some more time, to trust Him with their situation,” he said.
The gift of counsel evolved into a full-time ministry for Marecle, who 20 years ago founded Hope Family Ministries – a Christian-based counseling center in south Tupelo. Since May 1995, Hope Family Ministries has conducted nearly 39,000 Biblical counseling hours.
Hope Family Ministries celebrated its 20th anniversary with an open house Sunday and will have a CDF ribbon cutting Wednesday.
“I asked God if He could use the mess I made out of my life to help one person, that would be really cool,” Marecle said. “He decided to help more than one through that.”
Marecle’s calling to counsel others has been influenced by the issues he faced in his youth and early adult years. His parents divorced when he was 3 and he struggled for years with anger and alcohol.
“I was an anxious, angry, impulsive child and teenager,” he said. “I felt like I was always a problem to somebody growing up, that I never could do anything right. I really hated myself and my life. I was a very angry person. I always felt like I was fighting the world.”
The issues began to affect his marriage to his second wife, Rosemary. However, a sermon during a church service in 1987 in Tennessee changed his life.
“I heard the preacher talk about having peace in your life,” he said. “In the process of that service and the next service, God caused me to realize my problem wasn’t with Rosemary or my family or her family or my job or money or alcohol. The problem was I didn’t have peace in my life.”
Four weeks later, Marecle was saved. It was the beginning of an eight-year journey that led Mike and Rosemary to move their family to Texas while Mike attended seminary. The Marecles moved to Tupelo in 1991 and joined Calvary Baptist Church.
“I came into the Kingdom at the age of 32 very ill equipped to be a man, a husband, a father,” Marecle said. “But, I was teachable, and I began to get involved in the church and seek out mentors and Bible studies.”
Marecle still worked as a tool and die maker after moving to Tupelo. The vision for counseling came up while the Marecles – who will celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary this year - were attending a marriage enrichment conference in October 1994. “It was at this event that I asked Rosemary, ‘is God ever going to use me?’ She responded, ‘Mike, everybody in the world is coming to you for counseling. God is using you now’.”
In March 1995, Marecle took part in the Walk to Emmaus, a 72-hour weekend in which a short course in Christianity is presented. “It was during the Walk that God made it clear I wasn’t going to be a tool and die maker much longer,” he said.
The next month, a friend wanted to give Marecle a $500 donation to his ministry. Marecle said he first refused to take it, saying he made his living with his machine tools and he didn’t have a ministry.
Marecle said, “He told me, ‘Mike, God’s got plenty of tool and die makers. He needs you to be available to counsel people. I don’t know what all needs to happen, but we need to make this happen’. I knew it wasn’t just him talking to me. That was God’s spirit speaking through him.”
Marecle began seeking out leaders at Calvary for guidance on how to start a counseling ministry. With the aid of attorney Greg Pirkle, Marecle created a non-profit, Biblically- based ministry with a mission statement, volunteer board members and a name. Hope Family Ministries was founded on May 12, 1995.
“It seemed like everybody I talked to, they would say, ‘When I came here, I didn’t have any hope. Nothing has changed in my situation, but some reason I have hope’,” he said.
“Because of a lot of challenges in my own life with family, I wanted God to use me to help keep families together, marriages together and kids not to go through what I went through. Family was very important, and ministry had to be in there.”
Hope Family Ministries has been at its present Maddox Street location since 2001. In addition to Marecle, the ministry’s full-time staff includes the Rev. Kevin Wallace as counselor and Tammy Johnson, who works in the office. Another full-time counselor will join the staff in June. The ministry is supported mostly by donors who become a part of “Hope’s Heroes” with their donations.
“God’s been very good to us,” Marecle said. “He has provide some folks who love this ministry.”
Like the tools Marecle used as a tool and die maker, he uses a new set of tools when he counsels people.
“There are two things we want to accomplish in helping folks,” he said. “One, we want to help them see where they’re stuck, and everybody but Jesus has been stuck. And two, we want to equip them as they go through whatever situation they’re in so that when they’re on the other side of the situation, they’re better equipped to have the tools they need to deal with life on God’s terms.
“A lot of the tools that I’ve used over these 20 years are some of the same things God showed me through Bible study and different things, helping people deal with their anger,” Marecle added. “Forgiveness is a big issue. That’s something I talk to everybody about.”
Forgiveness is the subject of a book written by Marecle, and it’s available at Hope Family Ministries. Marecle is planning to do more writing, including books on marriage and helping children cope with divorce.
As he enters his 60s, Marecle admits he doesn’t have the physical stamina to conduct seven to eight hours of counseling sessions a day and still oversee fundraising and administration for the ministry. While he plans to scale back on his work load, Marecle is still passionate about helping people find hope.
“Seeing God instill hope in people is one of the greatest privileges I’ve had in the 28 years I’ve been a born-again believer,” he said. “I’ve gone through dark times when I didn’t have hope.
“I heard a professor say one day, ‘If you walk with the Lord long enough, he won’t waste anything that happens in your life.’ I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Old man, you don’t know where I’ve been or what I’ve done.’ But he was right and I was wrong, God hasn’t wasted any of it.”