by James Coulter
When Pastor Calvin Marion started Bread of Life Church in Wesley Chapel one year ago, he wanted to do more than open his doors and preach the Good Word. He wanted to do more than simply talk about God. He wanted to show the works of God by serving others in his community.
Pastor Marion takes Christ’s commandment to feed and clothe the poor seriously. His church has offered everything from charity drives to workshops to assist his congregation and everyone else in the surrounding community. After all, as the Good Word says, “ye shall know them by their fruits.”
His church has hosted financial workshops, couple workshops, cooking classes, and tutoring sessions. Living in a diverse community, he attends to people of all ethnicities and nationalities. As his church motto declares: “We are about tearing down walls and building up people.” Especially during these uncertain and often divisive times, places like his church are needed now more than ever.
“We are called the Bread of Life because we want to feed people spiritually, we want to feed them naturally, we want to give them everything individuals need,” he said. “That is what I say to my congregation all the time. If this community does not know we are here, we exist in vain. So many churches are in communities, but they do not bless the communities they are in. People should be touched in many different ways.”
Marion was born and raised in Lake Wales. As a child, he and his family did not have much. It was not until college that he realized his family had been poor. But despite never being rich, he and his family never felt poor. They had enough to get by. They were content with what they had. And through their faith in God, they were able to live a fulfilled life despite financial shortcomings, he said.
As a student, he was strong both in mind and body. He played plenty of sports including track and football. He proved smart both on and off the field. His prowess, both athletic and intellectual, on the field earned him the nickname “professor.”
His mother started attending church when he was younger, and she eventually accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. Her spiritual awakening inspired him to awaken his own spirit. He would routinely read the Bible, and though he could not understand it, through prayer, he was able to have its truths revealed unto him.
“I guess I wanted to be saved myself,” he said. “I embraced the gospel and started reading the Bible every day. For the most part, it did not make sense to me. I felt it long time. I asked those hard questions from the text that does not make sense. I keep reading and praying until God gives me revelation.”
His spirit would continue to grow under the tutelage of Bobby Banks of Bible Church of God. Rev. Banks inspired him to comb the scriptures and delve deep into the Word. By the time he went to college, his relationship with God had grown strong enough that he finally felt the calling upon his heart to enter the ministry. That calling led him to attend seminary and later Avery University for his Masters of Divinity.
While his official education and training allowed him to grow intellectually in the faith, he owes his calling to be a pastor to have been the result of his life experience. It was his walk with the Lord, especially through the obstacles and tribulations through life, that made him the person he is today as a man of the cloth.
“None of that made me a preacher,” he said. “It was just learning life, and I think being able to apply life in Scriptures, so now you help people navigate this thing through life. I did not have an easy life, but through the Bible, it made it better.”
He moved to Lake Wales, where he opened up a tutoring service to help children with their tests. He met his wife at an SAT workshop, and the two of them eventually married and moved to California. They have since raised their three-year-old son.
During their stay in California, they searched for houses to move into, but they always found that the home they wanted to bid on was already bought. Marion then felt it upon his heart to move back to Florida, and so he obeyed. They moved to Wesley Chapel and opened up a church.
“We ended up coming down here and God put on my heart that this is the place that I will start this church,” he said. “The crazy thing is that I was amazed we had more than two people because we started in the pandemic. The fact we grew during the pandemic is amazing. The future, the sky is the limit, and I want to bless the community and to be a part of it.”
Living within a very diverse community, Pastor Clarion opens his door to everyone. Whether they are Caucasian, Indian, Pakistani, Iranian, or any other nationality or ethnicity, Pastor Clarion happily welcomes them into his congregation and the larger Body of Christ.
“We want to be like Christ,” he insisted. “He was welcoming to everybody, and he did not judge, he did not look at folks and [demand that they] be a part of church…I think success is loving people enough to help them with everything and be open to them and not just be open…I owe our success to trying to do my best to help people and everything.”
Pastor Marion helps anyone who comes through his doors, and he assists anyone in need within his congregation. He has helped many of his church members with everything from dealing with their bad credit to helping them through the process of buying a new car.
He plans on constructing a new facility for his church, where he and his staff can offer a diverse myriad of services and classes to the local community. They plan on purchasing new land and opening their new building next year.
He also wants to offer a mission to Lake Wales. He has done so much in his new community, and he hopes to offer more in his old hometown. Pastor Marion simply wants to help anyone and everyone he can, and he hopes his church will continue to allow him to do so.
“I want to build a campus that is fully utilized,” he said. “Church is one of the most underutilized buildings in America. They have church on Sunday, and bible study throughout the week, but that building goes unused most of the time. I want to utilize these buildings in different types of ways…So we want to establish something to help the youth to develop, and that is what we want to do in Lake Wales, and I want to be the best we can be to help as many people though my wife and me.”