Pastor of Mt. Zion Church
Founder of Gentlemen And Not Gangsters (Meal Distribution Partner Organization)
Marcus Campbell grew up at Mt. Zion Church. His grandmother lived next door. He remembers a photo of himself as a kid standing on the front steps wearing a white suit and an afro wig that the church ladies had placed on his head. But by his teen years, Marcus’s life had taken a dark turn.
An abusive and often absent father left a hole in his heart that he tried to fill with a life of crime and drugs. He said he kicked in doors and robbed families and joined a gang. It wasn’t until after two felony convictions that he took a job driving a tractor-trailer. The experience gave him the opportunity to see the world around him. His eyes were opened to a new life, and he felt a call to return to his home church to help others see possibilities outside the neighborhood’s crime.
“When I saw how beautiful Maine was and riding on the Interstate through Wyoming and Idaho, I cried. All of this looks so different than 10th Avenue. Going from Arizona to California and the sun would be beaming down through the mountains. And to see that, I was like ‘thank you God.’”
It’s those experiences he replicates as best he can locally by taking neighborhood youth on trips to Cheekwood and the Frist during summer and after-school programs. Marcus also teamed up with Metro Juvenile Courts to create an eight-week mentoring program for youth on probation called G.A.N.G.
The Nashville Food Project provides meals for the meetings filling up bellies so that Pastor Campbell can help youth feel up their hearts and learn about better options for the future.
“They have been a blessing to the church,” he said of The Nashville Food Project. “We don’t have any money. Food seems small, but it plays a big part. If somebody’s hungry, it’s hard to get their attention. But if you’re filling them up, they can think and really be attentive and sharp.”