Story of Hope: Clint

I first met Clint Sams during my first week interning here, at Union Gospel Mission. I was eating my lunch alone when Clint had set his food across from me and greeted me with his signature grin: “Hi! I’m Clint!”

I was very drawn to Clint – his charismatic and affirmative personality was very contagious. Not only did he radiate a child-like joy, he also showed genuine concern for me and made me feel as if I were at home at UGM. And by how he talked about his work as the Ministry Director of UGM, you could tell that he was made for this job.

I soon found out that Clint’s personality actually reflected the very essence of LifeChange, UGM’s addiction recovery program.

Clint began his work at UGM 25 years ago. He first worked with a Seamen’s Center, a ministry dedicated to share the Gospel with sailors who were landing in the nearby ports or in Portland. The Seaman’s Center ministry ended as port traffic decreased.  In 1998, Clint became the Minstry Director, helped start LifeChange, and helped develop the program over the years.

LifeChange is inspired by the Delancey Street, a program founded in San Francisco in 1971. Delancey Street is a residential self-help organization for former substance abusers, ex-convicts, and homeless. In the early 1990s, the former Executive Director of UGM Don Michel, and UGM’s current Executive Director, Bill Russell, along with many board members, took a trip to San Francisco to study Delancey Street. They returned inspired with a vision to start something similar at UGM. And thus LifeChange began.

“It’s a goal-oriented program,” says Clint. “I don’t like to use the word program. We call it LifeChange because we’re literally looking for lives to change through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The men’s LifeChange program is broken down into three phases: Stability, Healing, and Discovery. Each phase is not time-based, but goal based; residents are required to meet each goal before advancing onto the next phase, regardless of how long they spend in each phase. Residents undergo counseling sessions, classes, bible teachings, peer mentoring, self-evaluations and work therapy (a 9-5 assigned job).

What makes LifeChange unique is that everything is Christ-centered, and it is committed not only to help residents break their addiction, but also to restore and equip them as able and service-minded citizens.

Clint has dedicated his life to empowering the men that come in the program. He does not consider working at UGM, a tiring chore, but a life-giving service that is also helping him grow as a person.

“When I’m working with people who want to really change, like the LifeChange residents, I get so pumped up! Whoo!” says Clint, waving his hands up in excitement. “I’ve been doing this 25 years, and it is exciting every day!”

“I’ve grown a lot here, and my growth in past couple years have been substantial and very significant. My heart has become more vulnerable to people.”

Clint’s charismatic, yet firm leadership style has shaped LifeChange to what it is today – a successful program that is instilling hope and life into the residents who come in through our doors.

“He’s one of the most unique people I’ve ever met,” says Kris Kingsbury, a resident of LifeChange. “I’ve never met a guy with so much joy and so much happiness, and yet can be firm. I first met him when I was about 15. He spoke into my life, even at that young age. He showed me a lot how it’s like to follow Christ in a healthy way. When I told him that I wanted to join the program, I haven’t seen a smile so big. He has so much love. And yet, as far as being a bold leader… he’s a good balance between determination, and love and kindness, all in a jolly happy package.”

Over the years, Clint’s heart has grown to love and care for these residents so deeply. However, in his line of work, Clint has also witnessed stories that have ended disparagingly.

“The hardest part of the job is when you see the potential of an individual but they give up or quit,” says Clint, sighing heavily. “They either self-exit or walkout or they start sabotaging themselves with behavior that is threatening or hurting to other human beings. I know they have a lot of good stuff in them. But they quit. Then, I see them out there, back in the drug-scene. Over the years that I’ve been here, there’s a lot who are dead now. That’s the hardest part.”

“The most rewarding thing is seeing at the end of the day, [a resident] making wise choices on almost everything they do,” says Clint. “And instead of making bad choices over and over again, they’re making good choices based on the principles they’ve been taught in [the Bible].”

Clint has high hopes for LifeChange and its future. Currently, he is working on developing an Aftercare program for the residents. This program will help residents transition into jobs and church communities once they are ready to successfully leave LifeChange and integrate back into their community. The Aftercare program is set to officially launch in September.

“I’ve been here for 25 years, and I love it!” chimes Clint. “And it’s hard. But it’s rewarding. And stretching. And wonderful. And it’s tough. And it’s changing me, as well as everyone in LifeChange.”

The Story of Hope series is authored by Leah Abraham, George Fox University student and Union Gospel Mission intern



CLICK HERE to read the Story of Hope series introduction

CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope: Johnni

CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope: Joy

CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope: Anna