Salvation Story

Masterpiece in the Making

“All God ever wanted was for me in obedience to make Him the number one priority above everything—and to trust Him, not my own devices, when the bottom is falling out!” by Major Frank Duracher
Michael Haynes

Until 2013, Michael Haynes was in a dark and terrible place. In his own words, he admits he “was, perhaps, at the lowest point in my life, living in what I call a ‘roach motel,’” where vermin, rodents and bedbugs were everywhere. But God saw a masterpiece in Michael. He is still in the making, but far from the person he used to be.

“The smoke-filled common area was always littered with beer cans and liquor bottles that were always empty; and ashtrays that were always full,” he recalls.

Just a few months before he started staying there, Michael was renting a nice apartment, held a job that paid $30 an hour and was driving a decent car. 

Then it all came crashing down.

“The absence of true happiness and a significant severed relationship became the catalyst for my deep dive into depression and a departure from sober and responsible living.”

Every night, he says, he was inebriated and bound by self-pity. But he now realizes that every day, the Spirit of God kept him longing for the peace, purpose and fulfillment only found in Him.

“One day, as I was looking at the Bible covered in dust in my small room, the thought came to me very clearly that if I was ever going to obtain peace and purpose, I would have to leave that building. That is when I sought help at The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in my hometown of Akron, Ohio.”

Michael didn’t have to wait long for God to begin molding his life into the masterpiece he is becoming today.

“During my first week at the ARC in June 2013, I repented and surrendered my heart to Jesus,” Michael witnesses. “I received salvation, forgiveness and sanctification when I gave Him my hopes, dreams, failures and my future. God removed my cigarette and substance addictions and went to work on my life.”

His Christian journey began and continues to be based on Matthew 6:33, in which Jesus offers peace when we have faith that God will take care of every concern if we seek first His Kingdom and righteousness.

“That promise became my grounding prayer while I was at the ARC,” he says. “I had to detach the reins of my perceived control over circumstances. I had to trust God with my dreams and desires; broken and future relationships; the cleanup of my failures; and, the literal rebuilding of my life while I sought first the Kingdom of Heaven and the renewing of my mind.”

Once Michael graduated from the ARC program in 2014, he became a senior soldier. He volunteered to start a men’s basketball outreach program at the corps, and God began to use him in corps activities such as worship services, Bible studies and other areas of ministry in the community.

Michael answered God’s call to Salvation Army officership when he entered the Eastern Territory’s College For Officer Training (CFOT) in 2016 as a member of the Messengers of the Gospel session of cadets. In June 2018, he was commissioned and ordained, and sent to his first appointment to pastor the Homestead (Steel Valley) corps in western Pennsylvania.

But that’s not all! While Michael was at the training college God bloomed within His masterpiece yet another masterpiece. It turns out Michael is also a talented artist. There were several good artists in his class of cadets. One of Michael’s paintings hangs in the main hallway at the CFOT as an encouragement for future sessions. The portrait’s concept is of a “biblically-formed servant,” and evokes the power, truth and responsible use of God’s Word.

Unlike Michael’s fellow artists and sessionmates, he had no formal art training, which he says, “again shows how God can redeem and use us against the odds.”

Captain Michael is still using his newfound talent in his corps to teach kids how to paint.

Looking back on his first decade of sobriety, the captain asserts, “Not only did the Lord already know what I needed—but He built my life back better!”

Proving the promise of Matthew 6:33, Captain Michael offers several of his life concerns answered as evidence of God’s faithfulness: “Ten years of freedom from addictive substances; rekindled relationships with my children; a fulfilling career of ministry as a Salvation Army officer; an amazing and gifted God-fearing wife; and, an incredible new family that is ever growing closer in faith by God’s grace.”

When he thinks about his formative years—for over half his life—he realizes that he was attaching his mind and desires to all of the destructive ways of living he saw around him. In his own power, it was impossible to shake loose from a downward spiral and to emerge from the dark places in which he was mired.

“All God ever wanted was for me in obedience to make Him the number one priority above everything—and to trust Him, not my own devices, when the bottom is falling out!”

The captain sees The Salvation Army as uniquely positioned in today’s world to meet people where they are with all kinds of sin and life issues. The Army, he insists, can show them the power of the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ through the gracious love of God evidenced in transformed masterpieces. 

Like him. The best before-and-after masterpiece you’ve ever seen!