Change of Heart – Mission Accomplished: Pastor Andrew Williams – Orlando Union Rescue Mission

Change of Heart – Mission Accomplished: Pastor Andrew Williams

 In Story

“I was 48 years old when I came off the street and stopped doing drugs,” Pastor Andrew Williams remembers. It was on a Sunday morning, September 21, 1997. He identifies the date without hesitation.

The journey to that decision included days filled with disappointments and poor choices. Despite a strong religious upbringing, Williams chose a life of crime. He sold “dope”, committed muggings, trained with a conman, and created ties with dangerous people. His life led him to live at the Lamar Hotel. Some might describe it as transient lodging, but “it was really a crack hotel,” Williams asserts. On one side of the street, men squandered their day’s wages on alcohol and drugs. On the other stood the Orlando Union Rescue Mission.

When Williams crossed the street and enrolled in the Mission’s Discipleship program, he only hoped to overcome his addictions. Instead, he encountered a turning point. Bible studies at the Mission and time of reflection convicted Williams. Once a wayward runner from all things religious, Williams was stopped in his tracks by God. While the Mission wasn’t the last place he sought refuge for his addictions, it was a hinged post, opening a new door of transformation in Christ.

Over 25 years later, Williams is a husband and father. He is also a pastor of Heart of Mercy Community Church and founder of Mercy Drive Ministries. Mercy Drive was once nicknamed “Murder Drive,” and 45% of families there live below the poverty line. Williams works every day to bring lasting change and the help this community needs. “Our ministry is based on three pillars: spiritual formation, education & economic development,” William shares. In his time there, Williams has watched desperate, unemployed men become successful businessmen. He’s helped provide free skills-training courses for women seeking a new start. He’s invited families into his church, encouraging godly mentorship to make a better future for the next generation.

Williams will admit that his job isn’t easy. He is “a firm believer that nothing will ever change in your life until your heart changes.” From his own life experience, Williams knows heart change takes time. And it requires the assistance of Someone important. “They call the Holy Spirit the hound of heaven,” Williams refers to a nineteenth-century poem written by Francis Thompson. In the poem, the speaker runs from God, believing he will lose all worldly pleasures if caught. Williams ran for 48 years, and he knows many on Mercy Drive are doing the same. So, he has joined God in pursuit of their hearts, knowing once God gets ahold of Mercy Drive or any other place, it is never the same.

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