It began when a young couple was invited to Church Under the Bridge, a local street church in Midland, Texas. John-Mark Echols and his then girlfriend Briana had absolutely no understanding of homelessness and were very nervous about what they might encounter. They had no idea that God would radically alter the course of their lives starting from the moment they stepped onto the basketball court where the church was held.
In May of 2016, after several years of serving the homeless on a volunteer basis, getting married, building a house, and having a child, John-Mark attended a three-day symposium at Community First! Village in Austin, Texas. It was at the symposium that his eyes were opened to a new and radical approach to homelessness—lifting the chronically homeless off the streets, into a permanent, supportive tiny house community.
Upon returning home, John-Mark’s wheels began to turn, and he was enamored with the idea of a similar tiny house community for the homeless in Midland. He participated in a twenty-four hour poverty simulation, and subsequently a deep conviction grew to pursue the calling of lifting their homeless friends off the streets. After months of prayer and undeniable confirmation from God, they put their house on the market and were accepted into the Community Corps, a four-month missional internship at Community First! Village.
They sold their house, left their careers, and moved into an RV with their 20-month-old daughter to immerse themselves in a community of formerly homeless men and women. It was during this time that they were equipped with a great deal of wisdom to replicate the Community First! model in Midland.
The name of the organization is derived from Leviticus 23:22, “When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the Lord your God.” This verse is a charge to love and serve homeless neighbors selflessly.