Difference Maker: Marc Harris leads by building relationships, pointing others to God

Marc Harris (Photo by Aaron Eisenhauer)

When a person’s eyes are opened to the real needs of another it’s hard to close them again. That’s what Marc Harris said happened to him when he started working with men, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, through Adult and Teen Challenge Mid-America.

“I think that’s what happens to a lot of people,” Harris said. “I think once they see it, whatever beachhead they’re called to fight on, they can’t ever get it out of their mind, get it off their hands. I think that’s exactly why we were created. To help others and to provide that hope.”

Harris is on the board of Adult and Teen Challenge Mid-America in Cape Girardeau and helps lead men through the program. He said he has faced similar experiences himself, growing up in a family that struggled with abuse and addiction. Harris said his life was at its lowest point when he was 21, but then he was given that help and hope he works to give others today.

“For me it started when I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, and then it started with my wife. I mean she was somebody that saw hope in me at a young age,” Harris said. “She was willing to reach out and grab me up and she saw something in me that I didn’t see.”

Harris uses a quote: “You don’t ever look into the eyes of someone that God does not care about.” He said when he started looking at people in that way it helped him be less critical and judgmental, and to be curious and hopeful about them. He said that’s what he experienced when he met his wife and her family.

“I didn’t grow up with a father,” Harris said. “My wife’s family really took me and started to show me that there was a better way.”

Harris said his father-in-law, Chap Arnold, became an important mentor in his life. He began working at Arnold’s Insurance and today leads the organization as its president and CEO. It was Chap Arnold who first introduced Harris to Adult and Teen Challenge.

Over the years, working with men fighting against addiction, Harris said he saw they needed the same thing he did: someone to believe in them again, someone to tell them they can make it through the day.

“Once you start to uncover that and provide a man some hope that getting back on track is possible, and they understand what possibilities are really out there for them, it’s a feeling unlike any other,” Harris said.

However, Harris said he has also learned that hope is not enough.

“Hope is nothing without someone walking and extending a hand or willing to sit down over a cup of coffee,” Harris said. “Hope is nothing without people living it out. Hope is us reaching back and helping somebody and pulling them forward.”

Harris said that help requires building relationships with people, but, unfortunately, many have lost that skill.

“We look at a Polaroid picture of someone’s life and we claim to have seen the entire movie, and that’s just not true,” Harris said. “What we forget is we were created to be in relationships, so we have to work harder and look deeper.”

Harris fosters relationships by involvement with causes such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Campus Outreach in Southeast Missouri as well as in Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee. More recently, Harris has joined the board of the non-denominational Project 200, which he says is calling forward “true disciple makers for the Gospel.”

“So many Christian men have abandoned their posts in the home, the church and their communities, and Project 200 is calling men to disciple one man at a time to fill the gaps,” Harris said.

One reason Harris said he loves working in insurance is the opportunities to meet people and build those relationships with people, to hear and understand their stories.

“Because when you understand somebody’s story, you gain empathy, and you really start to understand where they’re coming from,” Harris said. “Then it’s a lot tougher to be judgmental and critical and cynical.”