MIDLAND, Texas — Captain Robert Coriston has a passion for serving the clients at the Midland Salvation Army shelter. It's a place where those who are struggling need somewhere to stay until they get back on their feet.
From addiction to homelessness, sometimes the people there need someone to understand what it's like to be in their shoes.
Captain Coriston has been there before. It all started back in Youngstown, Ohio in the early 2010's.
"When I’m in the stage of partying and experimenting, is when opiates kind of started making their way to society you know and we didn’t know anything about it or how addictive they could be," said Captain Coriston. "A lot of us just kept getting into trouble and get into more trouble. Then I got arrested and it was kind of eye-opening because I saw the disappointment in my mom eyes, so I was like, 'I’m not putting her through this anymore' and from that day, I was done."
Life was good for a while, until he lost the two most important people in his life: His mom, and later, his dad.
"It was so painful, just gravitated back anything to make the pain stop so well I’m there, it’s just a dark pit and it was like I found a way to shut my heart off," said Captain Coriston.
He would turn to the drug court where he'd get help, but he'd fail out instead. When his dad died, the court allowed him to be with his father one last time.
"Looking back, I see that the judge knew Jesus. He never said it, but he knew Jesus," said Captain Coriston.
After failing to meet with a probation officer, Captain Coriston would be sentenced for a year. He only had to serve a couple of months due to his time with the drug court and jail. At only 23 years old, he was released and homeless. For two to three months, all he would do is find a place to sleep.
"Finally, when I got arrested again, that’s what he sent me," said Captain Coriston. "He’s like 'I’m sending you to prison because I think it will save your life.' I was somehow both an atheist and mad at God. How you could be mad at someone you don’t believe in? My parents, they were everything to me and I lost them."
That's when he and a friend would leave Ohio and move to Florida. What he didn't know is that's where he would find hope through the Salvation Army, an organization he's all too familiar with now.
"While I’m at Florida running to my aunt," said Captain Coriston. "She drives me to church, and I meet somebody that went to a Salvation Army adult rehabilitation center, I’m like, 'There’s no way they’re going to take me,' but they take me. I just felt God talking to me when I started going to recovery meetings, where it really started open my eyes little more and then I just I got down and I went to the altar to pray, I asked God... I said I feel like I’m on borrowed time. Friends of mine that did way less are now dead. I said just put me in a position where maybe I can help some people."
That eventually led to his next appointment which was Midland, Texas where he currently serves as Captain of the Midland Salvation Army, giving testimony about how the man up above gave him another chance at life.
"It was the sobriety I was feeling, and you get over that hurdle," said Captain Coriston. "It can change everything. Now I got a family, I got a wife and a kid on my own. It’s crazy how God will work with full surrender and then the heart for this ministry and then to get sent to Midland where I’m dealing with addicts, alcoholics, homeless all day long. I’m able to really understand what they're going through because I’ve gone through it so all I want do is figure out how to help them and not just give them a handout, but give them a leg up, figure out it’s possible to break through this and I'm proof of that."
Captain Coriston is living proof that the Salvation Army is more than just a shelter. It's a family that gives others what they once gave to Robert: Another chance to have faith.
"If you’re still breathing, it means God is not done with you yet," said Captain Coriston. "There' s still hope. There are still ways to smile. It’s why I do what I do."
The Midland Salvation Army has seen successful stories come out of their rehabilitation program. Thanks to the non-profit's ID and birth certification program, many of their clients are off the street, housed, and working.
There are hundreds of testimonies from people who have received help through the Salvation Army. Click here to read them.