Sometimes I get asked why we started the Compassion Center. I’m sure being homeless as a child had much to do with it. I personally experienced what makes people homeless and how they feel about it.
My mother abused me from very early on. That made me angry. If I did something wrong, she beat me. My dad couldn’t stand it. He was a “track star”, meaning when he saw my mom get angry, he made tracks.
I had my first drink at age 5. It made me feel like I was somebody. I looked after myself from about age 8, and finally left home at 12. I lived in rough places, usually with other kids who came from the same kind of home as me. We felt safer on the streets than at home. We stole to get by.
I moved around, from East St. Louis to Memphis and back again. I went to school when I felt like it. Then I joined the military. That gave me some responsibility, but also taught me how to lie to get out of trouble and blame someone else.
After the military, I went back to my hobo ways – jumping freight trains to move around the country. I’d work for a while until I got into trouble. Then I’d move on.
I began to settle down in my late twenties. I married, and had children and worked a steady job. When Friday nights came, I drank … a lot. My family made me join a 30-day recovery program with Alcoholics Anonymous. I never relapsed after that. I learned a lot and began to make Christ the head of my life. But it was a mixed-up time. I wasn’t a Christian yet. I had legal problems and a divorce going on. I raised my own kids and began going to church.
Those days brought Christ out of me and I grew more responsible. I knew I should take care of my mother. I went to see her and that was when I met Rosemary, my bride-to-be, living two doors away. Her husband had died. We talked a lot and on our first date, I preached to her for six hours. I had to make sure she was a Christian woman. She listened to me all that time because she had to make sure I was a Christian man! We married in 1995.
Three years later, we started the Little Rock Compassion Center. God gave me a vision and showed me what to do.
The Compassion Center started small. I thought we would help 3 or 4 people at a time while I worked my construction job to fund it. Today, we are helping close to 200 people at a time and it’s a full-time effort.
In those days, Rosemary and I went to the roughest neighborhoods and out into the woods – preaching. Those were not safe places for someone who didn’t understand the streets. I was safe because I knew those people. I knew they were hurting from being kicked around all the time. I knew they needed food and also spiritual food. They didn’t need money handed to them. That money would only go for drinks and something puffed up their nose. They needed Jesus. He had changed my life. I knew He could help them too.
Crowds would come and turn to God. We saw people saved and marriages healed. Some wanted to be preachers. We see the same thing today. In our Sunday church service at the Compassion Center, we can see 40 people standing by the altar, ready for Jesus.
What’s ahead? God knows. He started this and He brought supporters and volunteers to keep it going. I believe we are doing what God wants us to do and can’t see us doing anything else. People need Jesus… and we want them to find Him. Thank you for wanting the best for the people here too. We appreciate you.
William & Rosemary Holloway