Born and raised in the drug infested-crime riddled Alexander Hamilton Housing Projects in Paterson, NJ, Michael attended the now infamous Eastside High School [from the movie Lean on Me / story of principal – disciplinarian Joe Clark.] Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds due to poverty and the seductive lure of the streets, Michael left school and opted for the military as an alternative route to a better life. During his second year of service Michael’s army engineer unit was deployed to Honduras, Central America to serve six months in a “hazardous duty” zone. They were assigned to support the Honduran Military by building housing, aircraft runways and providing tactical perimeter security as the Honduran Army resisted the continual surge of Nicaraguan rebels known as “the Sandinista.”
Although he had [for the most part] successfully escaped the daily temptation to use and sell drugs on the streets of Paterson, Michael began experimenting with various substances in attempt to anesthetize the reality of the life-threatening situation that he now found himself in. As a result, by the time that he eventually exited the military he was a confused young man who continued turning to substances as a means of attempting to cope with the life with which he was now faced. He found it extremely difficult to adjust to life outside of the military and eventually ended up back on the very streets that he had so wisely escaped several years earlier. Homeless now as a result of a life now dictated by the mandates that accompany the abuse of drugs and alcohol, he lived on the streets for a period of five years by using many of the survival skills that he learned while in the military. He protected himself from the elements by hiding out in abandon buildings, vacant apartments and vehicles, and even residing in homeless shelters, all the while still unable to break free from the bondage that had begun back in Honduras. In 1993, ready to give up on life after emerging from a 48-hour drug induced stupor alongside the railroadtracks in his beloved hometown of Paterson, Michael admitted to himself that his life had now deteriorated to the point where it was “void of hope.” He needed help desperately!
Not long after this incident Michael ended up meeting a few individuals who would soon prove to be the catalyst to his life changing transformation, something that he will forever be grateful for – yet attributes fully to the grace and mercy of God. Since that day Michael’s life has literally been a series of one success after another. For starters, he’s been married for over thirteen years and has a couple of wonderful children; he has gone on to earn three academic degrees [primarily] in the area of counseling, the most recent of which is a Masters in Divinity from Drew University Theological School in NJ where he graduated with honors. He’ll begin his PhD work in the Jan – 2011. He has also studied at the school for professional counseling at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.
Amazingly, and in a relatively short span of time, Michael Bethune has amassed a significantly impressive trackrecord of accomplishments and success, and has also emerged as a proven leader who is committed to the cause of individual and community transformation. He has literally helped hundreds of individuals overcome the obstacles that once kept them from reaching their true potential by helping to get them into rehabs, college, employment and careers, etc. Michael is deeply loved and admired by many, especially those in New Jersey’s inner cities who claim him as their own, and as someone who has proven with his own life that [with God's help] nothing is impossible and no obstacle in life is insurmountable!
Since overcoming his own adversity Michael has served as Chaplain of The Market Street Mission in Morristown NJ, a Christian-based rehabilitation center for men struggling with substance and addiction; as Program Director of Teen-Pride, Inc of Morristown, a prevention-based program for “at-risk” youth; as Youth Pastor / Director for the Salvation Army’s Newark Westside Corp; and as a Director for Star of Hope Ministries, Inc., of Paterson, New Jersey. Presently he serves in the capacity of Pastoral Minister for Covenant House of New Jersey, a national youth advocacy and social services agency that serves 18 – 21 year old homeless, drug addicted, mentally ill, and gang affiliated residents, most of whom have now aged out of the fostercare system-and represent the newest wave of homelessness in America, rivaled only by veterans.
In 1995 he began preaching and speaking professionally and has addressed a plethora of church and other religious entities, groups and organizations over the years. In 2004 he was chosen to be a chapel speaker for the NFL. Since that time he has preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ and shared his story with several NFL teams to include the 2008 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, San Diego Chargers and the Tennessee Titans to name a few. Michael has also presented before Coach Greg Schiano and the International Bowl Champion Rutgers University Football Team.
Michael is highly sought after and is often called upon to preach, deliver keynote addresses and lead training seminars for various churches, organizations, colleges / universities and corporations.