Mario Zamorano started smoking marijuana at age 12. By 17, he fell prey to the clutches of heroin, an addiction he overcame in 1990 — but not before enduring more than a decade of trouble with the law. He didn’t realize it then, but God was already preparing him for ministry.
Mario and his wife, Camille, operate Hope, Room & Board, a ministry which serves people who are grappling with drug addiction and mental illness. Their mission field is the Inland Empire of California, specifically the city of San Bernardino and surrounding communities. Statistically this area has some of the highest percentages for crime, gang violence and drug addiction in the nation.
“My wife and I were born for this,” said Mario, who was appointed by Missions Door in 2014. “God allowed experiences in our lives that have trained us for this. Finally, it seems, we have surrendered enough to move forward with what God has called us to do. It is a very unique ministry.”
Many residents in the Hope, Room & Board program are ex-convicts, almost all are drug addicts who also suffer from mental illness. Many were molested and raped at an early age.
Hope, Room & Board provides them with a safe haven — a place to stay, three hot meals and snacks per day, and a Bible study program that offers hope through coming to know the one true God.
“I like to tell people we are not a Christian home, but we believe in Jesus Christ. You don’t have to (believe) when you come through our doors, but we have zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol in our house. That’s what makes this a true mission field. Come as you are, but don’t stay that way,” Mario said.
‘Their Life is on the Line’
As a recovering addict, Mario understands all too well that drugs and alcoholism are just symptoms of deeper-rooted problems. Mental illness is often prevalent. But even greater, he said, is the spiritual void in the lives of people who arrive at his door.
“They are at the very end of their rope,” Mario said. “Their life is on the line. Not just eternal life, but life as they now it here and now. They would not be here if it wasn’t. Really and truly, nobody in the world wants them. They’re completely unpredictable. Their thinking processes are not like ours. You have to love them and show them respect, even at times when they don’t deserve it. If you can do that, you will win them over.”
Mario says that approach, coupled with insights gained from his personal experiences, enable him “to be one-on-one with our people, go into their minds, meet them where they’re at, and walk them out” of the darkness and into the light of a personal relationship with God.
“People who really want to know Jesus Christ are only going to know Him when they spend time in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.We don’t just teach from the Bible, we teach the Bible. The God of the Bible is the one and only true God… and He proves it in His word,” Mario said.
He leans on Isaiah Chapter 40 verse 22: God sits in throne above the circumference of the earth.
“Isaiah wrote that 2,800 years ago, at a time when everyone knew the earth was flat, not round,” Mario said. “Only God could have informed Isaiah that the world was round. Buddha is not going to tell you that. Allah is not going to tell you that. All your post-modern, believe-as-you-want books, they don’t tell you that. Only Jesus loves you enough to tell you the truth.”
A Growing Ministry
Mario and Camille began Hope, Room & Boardwith a single home and 10 beds. Today they have five properties — a total of seven homes — where they house 50 people. They are in the process of moving into a 6-acre ranch with three more houses that will accommodate another 21 people. With that growth comes needs, and this is where Mario and Camille need your help with:
- Scholarship beds: Some residents have financial support, such as social security disability income. Others have nothing. Scholarship beds are very important.
- Transportation: They are making do with two minivans that can accommodate only seven riders each. They need commercial vans to help get residents to doctor’s appointments, therapists, behavioral health clinics, and group events.
- Clean clothing: Probably 85% who come to their program have no clothes other than what they are wearing.
Mario said someone once told him: “Find out the direction the Holy Spirit is moving and jump in — but don’t try to change the direction.” That is what led him to start Hope, Room & Board, which could eventually evolve into a church plant. All the credit, he said, goes to transformation in his life made possible only through coming to know the one true God. “I used to serve a God that my mind created. Today, I serve the God that created my mind,” he said. “I want to do the same for the people we serve.”