Broken Chains: Mark Noel, Manager of Guest Education

After Mark made the decision to go into counseling, he knew it would be hard to leave his love of teaching behind. He had taught in Lancaster schools for over 17 years.

What he didn’t expect was how clearly God would use his love of both here at Water Street. When he started as a counselor over 10 years ago, not only did he get to work one-on-one with guests, but he had the chance to keep teaching as well.

Now both of these skills play a big role in his position as Manager of Guest Education where Mark oversees Water Street’s on campus classes. Through these classes many of our guests will have a chance to pause and really explore what has been going on inside them—what has lead them into these difficult situations.

It’s different for every person.

Our Core Longings

Years ago, Water Street created the image of a Tree, to help explain our whole-person approach. A traditional approach to overcoming homelessness looks at behavior…trying to change habits and actions first. But just like a damaged root system effects the whole tree, we can’t change our life-trajectory without addressing our broken hearts.

Through teaching and preparing classes, Mark wants to help guests understand where their core longings have been damaged. Desires for purpose, security, significance, understanding, love and belonging. Because Mark and his team base their counseling on scripture, he teaches these core longings are central to all of us—not just those of us experiencing outward problems like homelessness or food insecurity.

Without understanding how we all long for each of these things in our own way, we can’t really understand why so many return to the same life controlling issues. It’s like trying to put out a fire with your bare hands, “when you’re standing right next to a fire extinguisher,” Mark explains.

Not to say any of this is easy. For many who are dealing with years and years of a crushing self-image, the process can feel more like an uphill battle, taking them through some extremely vulnerable places. Mark remembers a man who struggled with an addiction that began in childhood. One day he confessed he often imagined himself in a cage where no matter what he did, he seemed to keep craving the love and acceptance he never received as a child.

It took time for this man to change this idea of himself, and finally see himself as a child of God instead of a prisoner. “It’s a process,” Mark explains, “it’s a continual challenging of that thought.” Mark’s classes—classes like False Belief’s, Biblical Life Management and Relentless Grace—help guests get to the bottom of their hurt and pain.

What Mark ultimately wants people to know is no matter where you are, you can’t solve your problems apart from Christ because only He can fulfill each one of our core longings. Mark’s goal is to help each person experience what that freedom feels like for themselves. “I love freedom. I love to see chains that have been broken at the cross,” he says.


“I love freedom. I love to see chains that have been broken at the cross.”