by LeAnn Corn
Mark Coleman of Massillon, Ohio began smoking marijuana at age 12 and
was into the "hard stuff" by 15. He was in and out of jail by
age 16 and was a convicted felon by the time he reached his mid-20s.
Bad experiences in several different prisons led Coleman to hate the
entire black race. And after he got out of prison he joined the Ku Klux
Klan and continued using every kind of illegal drug he could get his hands
He drank alcohol nearly every day and was, by his own admission, a
horrible husband and father.
Now at 34, Coleman is a new creation and is giving prisoners, drug
users, prostitutes and former Klan members hope.
Coleman's grandparents, the late Rev. Kenneth and Myrtle Coleman,
raised him from birth in Youngstown. His mother was 19, single and claimed
to have been date raped. She did not want anything to do with her baby, so
her parents stepped in.
Coleman now believes his grandmother's prayers and Christian upbringing
made all the difference for him and that God always had a hand of
protection on his life, even when he was high, drunk, using women and
Coleman's grandfather, a Baptist minister, died suddenly when Coleman
was only 4, leaving him to be reared by his grandmother alone. She
suffered her own medical problems, and died when Coleman was 14.
No relatives wanted to take him in, so he was shipped to a home for
wayward boys in Massillon. He couldn't understand how he ended up there;
all the other boys sent to the home had been convicted of some kind of
hard crime. It was from them he started to learn about real evil.
Coleman was in and out of juvenile detention centers eight times in
four years as a teen-ager, and in between he was homeless. He slept in
abandoned buildings and train cars and used a cigarette lighter to keep
That's when he met up with a bunch of guys who promised him a plush
life and got him involved in a check-writing scheme.
"We robbed banks with our ink pens," Coleman said. "We
made several hundred thousand dollars, and that is when drugs came heavy
into my life even more than before." Now he could afford expensive
He shot heroine into his veins and used cocaine and a designer type of
speed regularly. Among other problems, his high school sweetheart Cathy
broke up with him to marry another man.
"I was a pot head," he admits. "I had drugs, money and
women and a stack of felony charges. I was wanted by the law in two states
... I had extremely long hair, and KISS was my favorite band. I was about
as far away from God as you can get, but He had His hand on me."
In between four different prison sentences, all for crimes of forgery,
Coleman went from job to job, drug dealer to drug dealer.
While he was getting deeper and deeper into crime and drug abuse, Cathy
was having marital problems and eventually divorced, which left her a
single mom raising two young daughters, Nicole and Maria, now age 15 and
One night during Coleman's last prison sentence, Cathy had a dream that
he was in prison and needed her help. She hadn't kept in contact with him,
so she had to track him down through the Ohio prison system. She believed
God was telling her to find him, so she persisted.
Cathy was not a Christian at that point, but she believed in the power
of God, and finally found Coleman in Madison Correctional Institution in
Their friendship blossomed into love as they wrote back and forth and
Cathy visited him regularly. He was released from prison on Oct. 1, 1990,
and on Oct. 4th he and Cathy married. He has since adopted Nicole and
Maria as his own.
"But God was still not a part of our life back then," Coleman
said. "I was drunk and high most of the time and even slapped Cathy
around. I don't know why she ever stayed with me, except that God had a
plan for our lives."
They fought often, many times about the constant drug and alcohol abuse
and numerous DUI?s Coleman received. His involvement with the Klan made
Coleman's Klan membership lasted from 1993 to 1995. He attended regular
meetings in members' homes where, he recalled, they read the Bible while
smoking marijuana and buying Klan clothing and paraphernalia.
"It was kind of like being a movie star or something. I mean,
they're all just in it to get media attention and hype. I fell for that
too," Coleman said. "It was cool to come home and watch myself
on the news after a big rally.
"Even though I was not a Christian at that point, it was scary. I
pretty quickly discovered they were just a bunch of guys who got together
to complain about anyone who was different and that I wasn't as prejudiced
as I thought I was."
Coleman said the Klan preached God had made a mistake in creating Jews,
blacks and other non-white peoples.
"But I've learned God doesn't make any mistakes!" Coleman
said. "The Klan is wrong!"
Coleman said once again God was working behind the scenes in his life,
because he felt a strong need to leave the KKK to concentrate on his new
landscaping business. Shortly after he left the Klan in 1995 after a big
rally at Painesville, many of those in his group were arrested for
threatening to blow up area black churches with pipe bombs. Some of those
people are still in prison.
"I didn't want to hurt nobody, even back then," Coleman said.
"And now I thank the Lord that I can praise Him with any color of a
Early last September, Coleman was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, an
incurable liver disease he attributes to his 20 years of drug and alcohol
abuse. That made him start thinking about death and what would happen to
his soul if he died.
Late on Sept. 18, 1998, Coleman and his wife were watching a television
evangelist who spoke about forgiveness, healing and new life through Jesus
Christ? no matter what you had done. He spoke about Heaven and Hell, and
Coleman realized he was on the fast track straight to Hell.
"We just knelt down on our living room floor and together said the
sinner's prayer and asked Jesus to come into our hearts and lives and save
us," Coleman said with tears in his eyes. "And I haven't shut up
about Jesus since!"
Shortly after that, Nicole and Maria also came to know the Lord, and
having seen the miraculous change in their father's life, they strive each
day to live for God.
"At the very moment that I accepted His grace, He cleaned up my
heart," Coleman said. "He took away every desire I had to smoke,
drink, do drugs, cuss, every evil thing I used to crave, He removed it
"That was a miracle, I mean, I did drugs for 20 years, smoked,
drank booze, was into pornography, listened to demonic music ... the Lord
has delivered me and my whole family. Now we have a Bible study and prayer
every night in this home."
Coleman said the day he accepted Jesus was the day he started to really
"It's not a bed of roses," he added, "I still have the
disease, and there are other consequences I face because of the way I've
lived all these years. But God has given me hope."
Coleman said he has been called by God into full-time ministry. He and
his family are members of Victory Church in Portage Lakes, through which
he is licensed as a minister of the Gospel.
His prayer now is: "Lord, I want to reach the criminals, the
prostitutes, the drug users, the wayward teens -- those who nobody else
loves or wants to talk to, send me, Lord, because I have walked in their
shoes. I know their pain, and I can love them with Your love and show them
proof of your forgiveness by what you've done in my life."
Coleman also has a great desire to reach those still caught in the cult
of the KKK.
"If you're in the KKK for Christianity, because they'll drill it
into you that they're the only real Christians, well, get out, because the
KKK is directly from satan," Coleman said. "Don't think you're
of the Lord if you're all about hate. We're commanded to love our brother,
and if you believe in hate then you are being lied to by the
In the past year, Coleman has personally led 43 people to the Lord, and
countless others have received the message of hope and salvation through
his speaking in churches, prisons, youth rallies and other places.
"I strongly believe we are in the last days," Coleman said.
"And I believe the Lord is using me to get the message out to sinners
just like me that there is hope. I also believe everybody who's a
Christian needs to tell people about the Lord right now. When good men do
nothing, evil prevails."