Manwell Faison

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | November 18th, 2016
Manwell Faison (Photos by Jay Lackerson)

Manwell Faison (Photos by Jay Lackerson)

At two years old, a neighborhood matriarch told Pastor Manwell Faison’s mother that he was going to be a preacher, after witnessing him ‘preach’ to a congregation of dogs while waving an infant book in the air. He doesn’t remember the incident, of course, but he’s heard the story a thousand times or more.
This odd happening would certainly explain the undoubted feeling he’d had of being the next Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. throughout his childhood. “Whether they were my friends or classmates, I always had a compelling desire to start speaking to crowds of people that didn’t solicit me to do so. But I thought that I would do something politically and civically.”

Fast forward a few years and Pastor Faison proved the matriarch’s prophecy correct. At 14, he had an encounter with Christ and surrendered his life after hearing the gospel. He felt a calling to serve and decided to answer, despite his young age. He quickly began traveling and ministering at different churches. For several years he ascended the ranks within his hometown church in Mt. Olive, NC and obtained the distinction of Elder by the age of 21. He immersed himself into church-life and, for a while, enjoyed all that it did for him and in turn what he was able to do for the church and the community.

By the time Pastor Faison was 24, he had other ideas on his mind. “I entered ‘Prodigal-ville’, as I like to call it. I felt as if I had not lived, had not been a teenager. I was not in a place to serve because I felt like I missed out on my younger years. The things many kids do, I didn’t.” The devout Christian decided to step down from the ministry and relinquish his credentials back to the leadership that ordained him. He was unsure of his upcoming journey, but he knew he didn’t want it to reflect badly on the church.

Soon after, he moved to a different city, where no one knew him and commenced a dangerous secular lifestyle. The same type of lifestyle that he preached against in the pulpit. He smoked, he drank, and partied for seven long years until his mind, body, and spirit, could not take any more. Feeling as if he was on his death bed, Pastor Faison, again, gave his life to God, went on a two-year sabbatical from everything and everyone he once knew, and started over.
In 2007, in the same city where his life was taken down a dark path years prior, he decided it was time to start a church. Initially he created a website and led online bible study sessions to people all over the world. That prompted him to seek out and rent a small storefront church with approximately 6 people in attendance for the first several services. “Because I was renting a home and renting this space with minimal members, I couldn’t afford both. So I actually moved into a small classroom in the back of the church and lived there for four years with a bed, a computer desk, and a hot plate.” The pastor would boil water for baths and occasionally stay at hotels to take showers.

Since starting New Destiny Worship Center, the organization has relocated four times and the congregation has slowly and steadily grown to over 100 people (including members and regular visitors).

When asked about his vision for his church, “My greatest motivation as a pastor is when we go outside the walls of the church, to become the very institution that it once was. Where we become educated, made aware of social issues and concerns, the staging ground during community disaster. And I want people to know that we are not just a building.”

New Destiny has a myriad of outreach programs to make sure they are visible in their community. Since simply inviting people to church was not connecting, Pastor Faison decided to implement a free movie night once a month. As mild as it is, it shows the community that they are present and interested in them. One of his favorite programs is what he calls ‘Jesus Fest’. The church adopts a troubled housing project or apartment complex and spends the day with the residents feeding them, talking to them, and teaching them how to live better. They offer live Christian music and games for the children. Their goal is to address the residents’ immediate needs like jobs, education, finances, HIV testing, home buying, and more.

Having experienced growing up with a single mother whose father made a conscious decision to not be involved in his life, Pastor Manwell hopes to someday be married and have children of his own that he can raise under God’s instruction. He laughs, “Some women are intimidated with the title of First Lady and living up to a certain standard.”

Pastor Faison clearly loves his church, his congregation, and his God. He’s not looking for recognition and doesn’t even receive a paycheck from the establishment. Everything he does, it’s straight from the heart – and it shows.

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