He once was an abuser of drugs and alcohol, got in trouble with the law and slept on city streets when he was 21.
But Andrew Chalmers gives credit to God for saving his life.
Now, the 28-year-old Columbus husband and father leads a ministry aimed at helping others.
In 2013, he founded Take the City, a Christ-centered movement that continues to grow.
Its mission is to unify and mobilize the church.
Each month, groups of volunteers journey into different local locations where the gospel is shared, the hungry are fed and relationships are made. Chalmers expects the group’s work will bring long-lasting change and revitalization to Columbus and Phenix City.
Those associated with Take the City help the homeless, bring comfort to those in nursing homes and work with adults and children in low-income neighborhoods.
There are also special programs. A couple of thousand people attended Revival On the River at the Phenix City Amphitheater in April. The group will co-sponsor a Power and Love Conference at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts in October.
Chalmers wants to inspire people to get outside of the four walls of the church and reach thousands locally who do not have much hope.
“We want to reach those who many never enter a church and share God’s grace and love with them,” he said. “We want people to be excited about sharing the gospel. The gospel not preached is no gospel at all.”
He loves seeing people of different races and denominations come together to share God’s love.
On Sunday nights, the door is open to followers at a weekly gathering called The Door, where Bible studies are conducted.
According to Take the City’s website, people representing 75 churches have gotten involved with the movement, and thousands have been impacted.
Chalmers said it has been “amazing” to observe the transformation in the neighborhoods.
Tonya Clements of Columbus was affected positively. The Take the City team delivered food and prayer at Thanksgiving in the mobile home park where she lives. At the time, she was going through some hard times. After the team left, Take the City stayed in contact with her.
“It really changed me,” said Clements, who now goes out on visits to help others.
“It is a joy,” she said.
Asked about Chalmers, she described him and his work as awesome.
Pastor Javier Vega of Iglesia Familia en Cristo in Columbus is involved with Take the City.
“It is a way for people to put their faith to practice, to go to places they normally don’t go, get out of their comfort zone and teach the principles of Christ,” said Vega, who encourages his church members to participate. “It is a chance to connect with those of different cultures.”
He called Take the City a blessing and appreciates the commitment of Chalmers, calling him “the glue” keeping it all together.
Chalmers got the idea for the ministry from the story of David Wilkerson, the evangelist who began Teen Challenge, a Christ-centered rehabilitation program for those struggling with life-controlling addictions.
The Take the City director was employed by Teen Challenge in Columbus when he got the inspiration. Chalmers said he was crossing the Second Avenue Bridge in Columbus when he felt God speaking to him. He said he knew God wanted him to redeem broken parts of the city through love.
“At the time, I was planning a conference here and still needed a GPS to find the grocery store,” he said, smiling.
Chalmers, a North Carolina native raised in Atlanta, was helped by Teen Challenge before he was a worker.
“There was a time when I was an addict, a menace,” said Chalmers, who said his story is one of redemption and of great hope restored, one that demonstrates the overwhelming grace and love God has for each and every person.
“The only reason I am alive today is because of His grace and His ability to perform miracles greater than we could ever think to ask for,” Chalmers said.
Chalmers, baptized at age 8, said as a teen he was filled with “rage, confusion and depression.”
“I started using alcohol and drugs at 12,” he said.
He was eventually arrested for drug possession and found himself on the streets with no place to call home. He tried to quit his drug abuse when he fathered a son but could not. His life was spiraling out of control and he had thoughts of suicide.
He said his father led him to Teen Challenge.
“God took away even the desires I had for these destructive behaviors. God has taken the most broken of situations and has mended it into something better than I could have ever imagined,” said Chalmers, who has done missionary work in several countries.
And he is proud of what Take the City has become.
He said the ministry has a growing donor base that supports the work.
“People see we are making change,” he said. “They know what Jesus can do.”