Where God Saved Me

Mark McDonald has worked a lifetime in construction. He worked on tall buildings and power plants all throughout the Southeast. But his life was changed in a little cottage in Warrior, Alabama.

Mark McDonald uses a phrase common to folks in this part of the country. He often begins stories by saying, “I never will forget.”

Mark never will forget the time when, as a young foreman, he fell off a scaffold and nearly died. He was working as a pusher for a crew that was installing sheet metal at a power plant in Forsyth, Georgia, when he fell 18 feet and shattered his elbow. Luckily, Mark fell forward and not backward, for “if I would have fell to the outside, I would have got killed,” he says.

But God did not save him then.

Mark never will forget the time in the mid-80s when his crew was working on the tallest building in South Carolina and an employee fell 20 stories to his death. Mark had to stay and run that job and alert the man’s next of kin. Early on, he saw how life in this industry could be fleeting.

But God did not save him then.

Mark never will forget the days of his youth, wheeling his alcoholic father, whom he loved dearly, in and out of hospitals. Mark’s father was a war veteran, but for a large portion of his life, was plagued by the recurring demon of whiskey. He’ll never forget his mother, a good Christian woman and the hardest worker he’s ever known. His days are forever scented with the aroma of his mother’s flower shop in Winfield, Alabama. As a boy, he learned how to spend his leisure and how to work from these two influences.

But God did not save him then.

Mark never will forget having back surgery in 1993 after a ruptured disc hampered his work. He never will forget the many times he got drunk and got in fights at honky tonks throughout the South. He never will forget popping pills just to stifle the pain.

But God did not save him then.

Mark McDonald has lived a hard, dangerous life. From his early days in ironworking with H.H. Robertson Company and other steelworking companies, to the founding of his metal building construction company, Northwest Bama Builders, Mark was impacted more by destruction than he was construction.

For many years, Mark did not avoid his father’s addiction, but rather, mimicked it. And after multiple surgeries, Mark added prescription medication to his daily cocktail.

Eventually Mark, messed up on whiskey and pills, called his wife from a motel room in Greer, South Carolina. Like a nail into metal, it took this to drive the point home.

“I want some help,” he told her.

It was a call that Mark’s whole family—his wife and three children; his father, who had been sober for 12 years; and his praying mother—had been waiting on for years.

When Mark came home, his wife had arranged for their pastor to visit him. Mark entered Bradford treatment facility in February of ’94. As Mark was eavesdropping on a conversation, he heard an intake worker say, “he’s gon’ die if he doesn’t get help.”

The people at Bradford housed Mark in a small cottage in Warrior, Alabama. One night, near a window of the house, Mark fell to his knees.

Now Mark has been sober for 24 years. He’s built metal buildings all over the northwest corridor of Alabama. He supervises the construction of field houses, spec buildings, and multipurpose buildings. He’s changed from a man who once ignored danger to one who erects a safety line for his family. Through all the falls and trials, Mark sobered up into a man of strong faith.

“I was stubborn-headed,” Mark says. “But there’s always hope, OK? I had to be broken. Once that happened, God was able to intervene. My conversion was 36 years old in Warrior, Alabama, in a treatment facility. That’s where God saved me.”

And that’s something he never will forget. 78

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