Street minister’s life comes full circle
A once hopeless drug addict has gone full circle and is now a volunteer with the organisation that helped him turn his life around.
Max Assing, the team leader of the Salvation Army’s street ministry programme, said he also held down a job at supermarket Lindo’s, which seemed an impossible goal until he kicked his addiction problem a decade ago.
Mr Assing, 53, said his drug use started at a party when he was just 13 and spiralled out of control.
He added: “I went to a party and I didn’t make it back until I was 43.”
Mr Assing said he started with cannabis and alcohol and began to skip school to hang out in his Somerset neighbourhood.
He explained: “I just didn’t want to be obedient to my parents. My father wasn’t there. My mother was.”
But he said his mother, Gay Goins, never lost faith in him even as his life spiralled out of control.
Mr Assing added: “A few times, there was a marijuana shortage. Less coke was about. In the Eighties, a fellow learnt to cook it up and turn it into rocks.
“After that, we were coked up and smoked up and looking for another. It was a spirit that took over the island for a long time.”
He added heroin use made his life even worse.
Mr Assing said: “It was the jones that was hurting me. I’d get up in the morning and have to go get it. It was killing me.
“I had no problem getting it. And the problem was, getting it.” He said he was so disconnected from life as an addict and a dealer that an uncle called him “satellite” and his brother Stanley used to ask him “You’re not tired yet?”
But he said he hit a point when he told his brother: “I’m tired.”
The Turning Point substance abuse programme at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute was just the start of his fightback and he later signed up with the Salvation Army’s Harbour Light drug rehabilitation centre in King Street in Hamilton.
Mr Assing said: “I did the 14-day detox, but my mind wasn’t clean. I needed help. They said I could go to Harbour Light, but I wouldn’t go anywhere by myself. I had to have my brother pick me up and bring me here.”
Mr Assing was speaking at Harbour Light as he prepared to hit the streets in a Salvation Army van with other volunteers to dispense soup, food and encouragement to people who face the same problems he did.
He explained: “Just like a war veteran, you’ve got to come in, sit down and spill the beans. Let out what you kept in.”
Mr Assing said the “Bible basis from home” in his childhood helped him to beat his problems.
He added: “I knew about the Holy Spirit, and if I followed that, it would set me free. I came with the expectation to be free from all this foolishness up in my head.”
Mr Assing said: “I didn’t have to go through drug court. I just had to surrender.” He later attended the Salvation Army’s North Street Citadel and joined the organisation.
Mr Assing said he was “not an ordinary pastor” and, after decades as a pusher, he was a natural encourager.
He explained: “The Holy Spirit has given me a master’s degree to encourage. I don’t play with people out there. I’m honest with them. Ask for something, I can give it.”
Mr Assing added: “It’s not about soup, really. It’s about connecting ... the Holy Spirit gives me joy and I can give it to someone else. It just flows off me like a river.”
Mr Assing laughed when he said the uncle who had called him “satellite” called him “mister” for the first time instead.
He said he was now “like an elevator — I can take you up”.
The support given to the Salvation Army by his employer, Lindo’s, where he works in produce marketing, was earlier this month marked with the addition of the firm’s logo to the van used to deliver the Salvation Army street programme.
Mr Assing said: “Who would have thought a drug addict like Max would get that job? It’s crazy — the great turnaround.”
He added that drugs were “still prevalent” but “it’s like it’s a little more undercover”.
Mr Assing said that homelessness was on the increase. He added: “There’s a lot of people out there. I do my best to encourage them to come in off the street and change their life situation themselves. Find some happiness.”
Mr Assing said: “They can come here and be directed from here. You need to get an assessment. You might need treatment or Turning Point or the hospital.
“As long as you come willing. I can’t know what you want, unless you open your mouth.”
Harbour Light can be contacted at 292-2586 or 296-2511.
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