It’s food distribution day at Urban Outreach, a Ward 7 faith-based organization.
Inside, volunteers line tables with canned and boxed goods, fresh fruit and vegetables, as they wait for the first recipients to arrive. As an upbeat gospel song plays in the background, the spirit of giving and service fills the room. People walk in with empty bags and trolleys, but they leave with more than just groceries. They leave knowing that this is a place where people care about them: people like the Rev. William Stroman.
To most, he is simply known as “Pastor Will”, and his positive influence is undeniable. Stroman established Urban Outreach to ensure that residents of Ward 7 and neighboring communities aren’t simply part of a hopeless statistic. Just last month, during the 35-day government shutdown, he welcomed furloughed workers into his ministry so that they could “maximize their food budget.”
Stroman’s journey to ministry is a unique one. Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he served in the U.S. Army for two years as an MOS 51B carpenter.
“I was part of an engineering company that went and did construction work in third-world countries and here in the states.” Eventually, he moved back to Philadelphia where he earned a degree in audio and video production from The Art Institute of Philadelphia.
So how exactly does a military man, with a background in audio and video, find his way into ministry? It was while doing corporate video work for companies like Lockheed Martin that Stroman felt moved to make the change. “In 2000, God called me from that industry to work full-time on the mission field here in Southeast D.C.”
Today, Stroman is a credentialed minister with the Assemblies of God US Missions. Through Urban Outreach’s food-distribution program, after-school program, homeless ministry, and collaborations with entities like Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, Stroman, and his team address the issues that have been plaguing Ward 7: poverty, food shortage, and unemployment, among others. His humility is evident even as he outlines his successes.
“I’m just amazed at how he [God] provides,” Stroman said. “I can’t credit it to me being this crafty, smart person that put it all together. I do my part because that’s what I’m called to do. But I truly believe it’s only because God has his hand on this ministry and my life, and it all flows through me.”
Global Ministries highlights that in missionary work, willingness to serve is a must. For Stroman, a love for people is also crucial. “If you don’t have love for people, or love to see people grow, anything like that- it won’t work.”
According to Angela Poarch, it’s this love for people that makes Stroman so influential. Poarch has known Stroman for close to 15 years.
“He is always there helping out. I remember seeing him try to be a positive influence on the young men in the area.” Poarch’s son spent some time under Stroman’s mentorship, and even through difficulties, she saw growth in his character.
“I’ve seen where my son has veered a little, but I would say Pastor Will taught him and others that there’s more to this world than just the material stuff. Go ahead and develop a relationship with God because that’s the most important thing.” Among the many traits that Poarch admires about Stroman, his willingness to listen stands out. “It’s hard these days to get people to listen and do it sincerely.”
For volunteer Marian Ford, it’s the fact that he makes himself available when you need him. “You can talk to him anytime,” said Ford. “I like that. If you can talk to people, you’re alright with me. He’ll go anywhere and I like that. We used to go with him when he helped the homeless and that’s the first time I ever cried there. I didn’t know people lived like that. He’s a good guy.”
And, out of the many things he does, what he wants to be remembered for is this transformation that has touched the lives of many.
“If people can say ‘He loved God and shared that with me,” Stroman said. “That’s eternal.”