Living

Faith Alive: Mark Strunk, Member, Mt. Zion United Methodist Church Smiths Station, Ala.

What’s your job? I’m the director of the Business Resource Center at the Pastoral Institute. I also still do some counseling.

For how long? Since 2006. This is my 22nd year at the Pastoral Institute. When I started, we had EAP contracts (Employee Assistance Program) with 26 companies and now we have 166.

Who’s in your family? My wife, Jane, and our children, Kristin and Daniel. Jane is the senior counselor — the counselor for the seniors — at Columbus High. … Kristin is an attorney with Hatcher Stubbs Land Hollis and Rothschild; and Daniel works for Communicorp.

Where’d you grow up? I was born in Pennsylvania. My father died when I was 4, and we moved to Mobile when I was in second grade. My uncle and his wife lived there. At that time, the thinking was boys needed a father figure. My uncle played the organ for the Methodist Church.

As you counsel people, what’s one thing you try to communicate? That the role of God is filled by a more qualified person; and I can’t be arrogant and try to fill that role, as if I know what’s best. Usually people are looking for an external person to guide or direct them. I figure if any healing goes on, it’s in spite of me. ... Everybody’s got a story to tell and if you take time to listen you can help them figure it out. Usually people have made up their minds and they just want you to affirm it.

Who’s someone you look up to? I appreciate my mother because she had it pretty tough. She was a widow at 27 or 28 with two small children, at a time when women weren’t very well-respected. We used to play cowboys and Indians and I remember she had a .22 pistol on her hip. I just made sure I drew quicker.

She’s deceased? Yes. Her name was Martha Strunk Gillespie. I have an older brother, Jack, and a half-brother, William, who goes by Poe. Jack still lives around Mobile and my half-brother lives in South Carolina. Jack married for the first time at 40. He’s converted to Catholicism and he’s very active. You know how you can usually talk about religion more with strangers and not your family? We’ve been able to talk about it. It’s an integral part of his life. ... When I was little, we went to a Lutheran church in Pennsylvania. I had a Sunday school teacher who said I sang like Perry Como. I felt like I’d been affirmed.

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