I was disappointed with the Lansing State Journal’s story about my friend Mark Bozzo’s death. If the job was to report the news, the news was not reported. Mark was so much more than a good person who had a big heart. He was definitely those things, but so much more. Mark was also a bulldog, who would be upset by being portrayed incompletely. He’d especially be upset that the most important person in his life, Jesus Christ, was completely left out of his story. I sent the following article in to the LSJ earlier this week, which did not get printed. This is for you, Mark:
Lansing lost one of its finest citizens this past Wednesday when Mark Bozzo passed away peacefully in his sleep. I had the privilege of befriending Mark over the past few months after preaching at the Lansing City Outreach’s Easter breakfast. I just had lunch with him a few weeks ago and am still shocked he is no longer with us.
Mark was the director of the Lansing City Outreach, located at 601 N. Larch St., a ministry to the needy like no other in Lansing. Mark also led a church service at the Outreach every Sunday, where he and his wife also cooked breakfast. Lansing City Outreach has always been a “no barrier” homeless ministry that has had its doors open for anyone, providing overnight shelter, showers, laundry, clothing, meals, Bible studies, and most importantly, belonging and community. Where other shelters will turn people away if they are drunk or high, the City Outreach took in everyone. I always wondered how Mark was able to pull this off. What I found was that Mark wasn’t like any other person I’d ever met.
Mark’s heart for the homeless and for those who didn’t know Jesus had no bounds or barriers. The City Outreach had been closed down by the city in the past for housing people overnight without having the proper zoning license, as well as for other code violations. Mark ran his operation on a shoestring budget, with his greatest resource being a seemingly unlimited amount of love for a demographic of people society isn’t lining up to show love to. No zoning laws could hold back the type of love that Mark possessed.
Mark followed up my Easter sermon with a bit of his story of how he came to put his faith in Jesus. I had no idea Mark ran Omar’s strip club in Lansing for 25 years, prior to going to prison. Mark put his faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior while in prison. His changed life is all I will ever need to see that Jesus is as real as this keyboard I am typing on.
I got in my car to head home after my speaking engagement when I had a pause in my spirit. I have written a book for men who desire to see women the way God intended, but who are struggling to do so (for the record, pretty much every man, including myself, would qualify here). I had a box of books in my trunk and decided I’d give this former strip club boss a copy before I left. Little did I know that small gesture would create a deep friendship that has changed me forever.
He read the entire book in two days and we were meeting for lunch the next week. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone so humble. Mark had spent so many years lost on a path of darkness, years he was ashamed of and wished more than anything he could undo. These years made him live every day like it was his last. Every day pouring himself out in love, making up for lost time when he had hurt so many. He shared with me over lunches and texts how heavy the burden of his past sins were. It was so moving to see him realizing, through the Bible, that God really didn’t hold his sins against him. That God just saw his son, and nothing else.
Mark, I can’t imagine the embrace you are getting to have with Jesus right now. I’m mad He took you so soon, mad because so many people here depended on your life and mad we couldn’t have been friends longer. But I know how hard you worked. How much blood, sweat, and tears went into your ministry. Being in the trenches day in and day out. Now you get to rest in that sweet love of Jesus you and I talked about so deeply.
It feels like so many won’t be able to go on without you here. But I know the multitude of seeds you planted were not in vain. I know you have left a legacy where many, including myself, will pick up the torch and carry it on in your honor.
I love you brother, and I’m really looking forward to our next lunch meeting.
Donations can be made to the Mark Bozzo Memorial Fund payable to Angelique Bozzo, 605 South Capital Ave., Lansing MI 48933.