Joe and Kim Proctor are a couple who came to St. John the Divine looking for a free backpack and found a holy place where anyone can belong.

JOE: I didn’t find God in the penitentiary. I grew up Pentecostal, Baptist and Seventh-Day Adventist. I always knew how to get a hold of him, I just wasn’t listening to him. But God started putting people in my life in there to make me start asking myself questions like, “If you die today, what will people remember about you? Is that something that you want to leave behind?” I started looking back and I was like, “That is not what I want you to remember me as.” That’s when I started trying to change my life.

I was ready to leave the penitentiary and I asked God, “Where do you want me to go? If I go back home I’m going to go back to the same things I was doing before. I have to change that. Where do you want me to go?” and I swear to you, he told me to pick up my cross and come to Houston. We argued back and forth – “I don’t know anybody in Houston. I wouldn’t know where to go.” – and finally he just broke down and said, “Don’t worry about it. You know me.” And I couldn’t argue with that.

KIM: We first came to this church because they were giving out backpacks and we needed one. We had gone to a couple of other churches before, but when we saw this church we were like, “Hmmm, no. Not this neighborhood.”

JOE: When we were coming across the parking lot, I had made up in my mind that’s all we were going to get is this backpack, and we probably won’t even get that because they’re probably going to kick us out before we ever get to the front door.

One of the greeters at the door really greeted us well and she welcomed us in. We came on in and Reverend Clay came and talked to us and sat down at the table with us. It was just like we were welcome here. It was really, totally unexpected, but I felt real comfortable here. I didn’t feel like anybody looked down on me.

KIM: They were so open and nice to us! They didn’t judge us by the clothes that we had on. They treated us as if we had come from their neighborhood. That’s why we kept coming back and coming back.

JOE: I got to go to the men’s retreat. I loved every minute of it. I got to talk to Reverend Clay and all of them, not on a pastor-based theme. It was more just friendship. That’s basically what I got there, is I got a bunch of friends that I never knew before. And I was loved. That retreat changed my life – really, it did.

KIM: Joe’s always believed in God and Jesus, but I never had really. We started coming to church here and for the first time in my adult life, I started reading the Bible because of Sunday school. We talked about it, then we talked with Clay and we got baptized.

JOE: St. John the Divine has helped me mentally, and that’s one of the things I was looking for when I was looking to join a church. Someone that’s going to be there for me when I’m going through my own problems. This church has.

When I first started coming here, I would tell my friends, "Oh, you're going to get free breakfast or lunch." And now, I tell them it's just a really good place to come and worship. The other people that come here, they won't judge you. Now the meal is kind of the last thing I tell them, -- if I tell them about it anymore. Because it's just not what I think of.

I have an outlook on life that I’ve never had before, and it’s due to believing in God and him putting this church and the people here in my life. This church really loves me, and I know that to be a fact. I have more love from this church than I’ve ever had in my whole life.

Joe and Kim were baptized by Clay Lein in the SJD Chapel on July 3, 2016. The Proctors were confirmed by Bishop Jeff Fisher on December 4, 2016.