Michael Silva methodically empties his GODTEL office of eight years. It's next to a soup kitchen for the homeless and downstairs from his family's home where, in all, five children and a wife with a baby due any day live. Silva was fired on Monday. Silva is limited to what he can say, based on a previous agreement with the board, but said, "There have been some differences - personal differences - [that] ultimately has resulted in my termination."
The differences are between Silva and his father, June Gentry, a former homeless man who founded Nacogdoches GODTEL in 1975 with his wife Nancy. Silva grew up playing with homeless children in the three-story shelter on Main Street in Nacogdoches. Following college and the military, Silva returned to his ministerial roots. However, he didn't duplicate his father's approach to the ministry.
Nancy Gentry said in a phone conversation from Livingston that, "Michael is a well-educated pastor-teacher. He really has a heart to roll up his sleeves and get down and counsel with people, and he's been very good at that. June, on the other hand, is what someone described to him as a prophet-evangelist, and he just comes in and says, 'that's wrong; fix it.'"
Gentry leads GODTEL's Livingston mission. Another director runs a GODTEL facility in Lufkin. Silva ran the Nacogdoches shelter.
Silva is proud of the reputation he established. " I would say this community has known me for the last eight years, and this community knows my character. They know what we have done over the last eight years. They've seen a change, and I would say, just let the community judge based on that without getting into details that would detract from this ministry."
Beginning in 2005, Silva led a relocation fundraiser for GODTEL. Land was purchased and funds are being raised for a new building. Nancy Gentry says that project may be hurt without Silva's leadership, but she assures the public the project will continue.
Nancy shared, "In January, Michael sent a letter to the board and asked [that] either Nacogdoches GODTEL become autonomous under his leadership, or we fire him." On Monday, June Gentry as President, two board members from Lufkin, and one from Livingston, voted to fire Silva. Two board members from Nacogdoches voted against the dismissal. One board member even resigned.
Now, Silva is packing boxes in preparation for a new vision without the shadow of his father. Silva asks for continued support of GODTEL, but shares that he is wanting to establish a youth and, possibly, adult home for the homeless. Silva said, "I've been here since I was 10 years old. My heart is to help people, and this is not about a job. I've talked to people. I could have a job. This is about ministering and helping a community of people. That's what I was called to do and that's what I'll do."
Silva has always provided shelter for people behind GODTEL's doors. Now, suddenly, he and his family are looking for a place to live. They have 30 days to vacate GODTEL. Nancy Gentry says that's negotiable. Silva will receive a six month severance package according to Gentry. Friends have established an account at Commercial Bank in the family's behalf, but Silva says, " The Lord is going to take care of us in our future."