Bishop Jalen Whittleton is no stranger to loss. In 2015, his home in Columbia, S.C., was destroyed by unprecedented flooding. Shortly afterward, he and his wife divorced.
“The things that we go through, and the traumas that we face in life, if you don’t allow those things to glue you closer together, it’ll pull you apart,” Whittleton tells TIME.
But the Pentecostal bishop didn’t lose hope. He pushed forward, building his life back up from scratch. Whittleton began to mentor young men from Benedict College, a historically black college in the area. He says that while he was recovering from a “literal storm,” he felt “challenged to try to help people facing the storms of life.”
Kevin McCray, a student at Benedict, describes Whittleton as a father figure, and says he’s “somebody that’s always there for you, throughout anything.” “You can find strength after your flood, after your storm,” Whittleton shares. “There’s still life on the other side.”