Freed From Drugs, Crime and the KKK
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 on.

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 stealing money.

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 warm.

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 designer drugs.

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 12, respectively.

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 London, Ohio.

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 matters worse.

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 man."

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 from me.

"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 live.

"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 deceiver."

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." C

Coleman is available to speak to any groups and may be contacted through Victory Church at 330-644-6042.