McMillans overcome early struggles to a life of helping others
[subtitle] FAMILY OF THE YEAR [/subtitle]
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
The first few months of Mark and Bernice McMillan’s relationship wasn’t the common honeymoon phase enjoyed by couples who fall for each other.
She questioned most things he suggested because of the pain she was feeling from a previous relationship. He refused to give up, though, pleading with her to practice forgiveness.
They first met, when Mark, an ordained minister, was in Utica, N.Y., to help develop a church. He had taken a side job at the same company where Bernice worked. He approached her on a lunch break, telling her about the times he’d dreamed of her.
She wasn’t having it.
“Look here, you’re a preacher man, you have enough problems up here,” Mark recalled her telling him. “Try to enjoy your church and the women that are going to join your church.”
They eventually fought through several stop-and-go periods before getting married in 2007. Today, the couple leads a religious life telling their story to inspire other couples, helping the elderly and underprivileged.
“I needed them. I’m thankful,” said Patricia Cozart, a 75-year-old Tallahassee grandmother who the McMillans assisted in keeping her lights on.
Cozart said when she met the couple and told them she had been notified that her utilities would be turned off within days, they hurriedly moved to pay a portion of her bill and get an extension of her payment date.
“I guess it was a miracle,” she said, adding that they still make frequent visits and bring her food goods. “They have been very helpful.”
Some of what the McMillans provide for Cozart comes from a food bank. They’ve also established a partnership with Panera Bread restaurant, which allows them to provide bread for residents of the Shelter.
Their fortitude as a married couple and their commitment to better the lives of others has earned them the Capital Outlook’s Family of the Year honor.
Through their 10 years of marriage, the McMillans said they’ve endured a few hard spots. They struggled through them, they said, because they always felt there was a spiritual lesson in the difficulty they faced.
They experienced one of the most difficult times a few years after Bernice’s job moved them to Corpus Christie, Texas. Once a couple who lived in a country club area, they said God challenged them by asking that they give up everything.
And, despite facing financial trouble, one of the most common reasons for couples breaking up, they held on. Even during a six-month stretch when they couldn’t afford to keep the lights on in their house.
“The thought to break up never approached our minds,” Mark said. “I can’t recall ever talking about breaking up.”
However, Bernice admittedly had some doubts.
“He telling me to give up everything, I was like, ‘what do you mean?’ I said, ‘I think you better go back to God because God hasn’t given me confirmation about anything.’
“It was not easy. It was extremely challenging because it was literally like going from Egypt to the wilderness for us, especially when you were used to getting pretty much anything you want.”
In the midst of what they faced, the couple had to raise seven children – four from Bernice and three from Mark, who also had a previous marriage. Most of their children are grown and have moved on.
These days, the McMillans have shifted their attention to assisting with raising 13 grandchildren, including two that live with them.
They moved to Tallahassee in 2011 and have been slowly putting their lives back together, recently purchasing a house. Meanwhile, they continue to preach whenever and wherever they can as founders of Divine Revelation Ministries.
One of their biggest ministries is working with prison inmates. The inspiration comes from his past when he was in and out of jail for using and peddling drugs as a younger man, said Mark, a Quincy native.
He has since written a book titled “Control the Fire; Anger Management,” which he gives to the prison system in three counties to help inmates find their way to a better life. The McMillans also are on a mission to help former female sexual offenders and have plans to open a home they call The Sanctuary.
They point up the need for the program, explaining the case of a woman, who only identifies herself as Sandra on the ministry’s website. At one point after she’d served her time, the McMillans paid for her to reside at a hotel for six months after she was told by a law enforcement officer that the best place for her to live would be in the woods.
“It got to a point that I went to Pastor Mark for help,” Sandra wrote. “Even with Pastor Mark’s help it feels like I am a burden to people. It often feels like the more I try to show that I have changed and am not the same person, the more I am rejected.
“I am tired of hiding how I really feel and want a chance to work and live a normal life. Pastor Mark and Mrs. Bernice were willing to help me and showed concern for me, when no one else cared. Family members and friends turned their backs on me, but God used Pastor Mark and Mrs. Bernice to get me a place to stay, food, and clothing.”
Their work is no where near done, the McMillans said. They currently host a Wednesday radio talk show between from 4 to 5 p.m. on WTAL, along with the work that they do through their website (www.divinerevelationsministriesinc.weebly.com.) Eventually they hope to open a church.
“We are trying to see which way God is going to take us,” Mark said.