Bodybuilder Mitch Hodge – Leaving the Bar Behind and Following Jesus 

Mitch Hodge

Mitch Hodge (Courtesy photo) 

By Gaye Bunderson 

Mitch Hodge claims he was born with an edge to him and by that he could mean he’s a lot like the sharp side of a blade. 

“When I was young, I was a normal kid. I played with GI Joes,” the now 60-year-old Hodge said.  “But when I turned 13 or 14, I was a partier. Then when I got out of high school, it increased.” 

Still, Party Boy Hodge pursued athletics and had a try at college football. 

“I had hopes and dreams,” he stated. 

However, his bar-hopping lifestyle got the better of him when his friend, Evan, got stabbed in a bar fight. The 21-year-old former Marine didn’t survive the altercation, and though Hodge survived that particular night, a part of him was nonetheless deeply wounded. His own wounds would also be physical eventually, as he continued to pursue a dangerous nighttime scene. 

“I’d go to bars every might; I’d stay there until 2 in the morning, go home, go to work, and end up back in the bar at 5 p.m.,” Hodge said. “When Evan got stabbed, I was full of guilt and shame. One year to the day after that, I went on a tangent. I had more violence, more anger.” 

It was almost like he went looking for a fight, and he found one. He suffered multiple stab wounds from more than one person. He calls the brawl “an assassination attempt” on him. 

His interest in athletics never left him and despite his nightly self-medicating habits, he still worked out regularly. He was taken to the hospital after the stabbing. He was banged up and stitched up, but he survived. He was 21 years old. 

“I crawled out of the hospital,” he said. 

When he returned to the gym, he could barely lift 10 pound dumbbells. “I had three big holes in my chest, and holes in my left arm. … I was so stitched together.” 

So how Mitch Hodge end up like this? My his own admission, there was nothing in his upbringing to turn him into an angry barfly looking for booze and a brawl. 

“I was raised in a little town in America – Burley, Idaho. My parents were good people; they were not doing anything wrong,” Hodge said. He then summed up his proclivity for the sordid side of life by saying, “I didn’t have any brains.” 

And not to be forgotten, he was born with that edge inside him. An edge that may have worsened over time. 

Said Hodge, “My dad was larger than life. I tried to live up to his legacy. He was non-stop, very smart, and I just thought I could never live up to that.” Also, the communication between father and son wasn’t up to par. “My dad was old-school – our communication wasn’t what I needed.” 

Old-school dads were often raised to be terse, not overly affectionate, and largely averse to displays of emotion. 

Hodge’s life underwent tectonic changes as he matured, even though he still believes he retains some of the less desirable traits of his youth. 

“For a long time, I couldn’t face life without alcohol. Then, bodybuilding became an addiction. I was all in – I was focused on being the best in the world. My obsession back then had been to be noticed by everyone.” 

He won a Mr. Idaho bodybuilding title. 

But the better part of his personal story is when his priorities completely changed. And even that story starts out in a bar. 

“I was a bouncer when I met a woman named Sarah in a bar. I was working in the bar and was a bodybuilder. I was trying to figure out God. I tried Buddhism, other spirituality.” 

He and Sarah were close, but Hodge’s relational hangups soon got the better of him and he kicked her out of his life. She went off with another guy. Around this time, Hodge was invited to be in a football group connected to Calvary Chapel. During a game, he tore his arm up; and because of that, he was mad at God. He was taking painkillers and drinking beer to cope. 

Out of the blue, Sarah called him. He admits now he was upset by the call and rudely asked his former girlfriend, “What do you want?” 

She told him a story about how she was at Gold’s Gym and this guy kept staring at her. He wasn’t  creepy, she said, but he was staring at her a lot. He eventually approached her and announced, “I feel like God is speaking to me about you.” 

The stranger explained that he felt God was telling him to say to her, “You’ve had a hard time with men, and you never had a relationship with your father. Men always leave you broken and hurt. God wants you to know that He wants to be the man in your life, that you are loved and cared for by Him.” 

Hodge said that, for Sarah, it was like a woman-at-the-well experience, the Bible story where Jesus told a woman at the well “everything she ever did.” 

Hodge and Sarah made a decision to go to Capital Christian Center together, but as they were driving to the church on a Sunday, Hodge got a strange feeling. “God tore my bicep, and the closer I got to that church, my stomach was hurting so bad. … We went in, but I was so sick.” 

Ken Wilde, senior pastor of Capital Christian, was speaking to a congregation of about 1,500 people during that service. Then, still standing at the front of the church, Pastor Wilde moved by the Holy Spirit said out loud, “There’s someone here today who’s been searching, seeking. You need to stop searching and give your life to God. Then you will find what you’ve been looking for.” 

Hodge remembers the date – November 10, 1996 – and he firmly recalled, “I stood and walked to the altar. I received Christ and my priorities changed. I realized I needed Jesus in my life to realize what I was missing out of.” 

He and Sarah got married; but unfortunately, that part of his life is not a happily-ever-after chapter. He said of the marriage: “It was a train wreck.” 

He takes responsibility, stating, “I’ve always had trust issues. I’ve always been a lone wolf. With Sarah, I caused the relationship to self-destruct. She’s now happily married to a great Christian guy.” 

It wasn’t to be the first time one of his relationships came apart, and he mentioned a woman named Shari. Without running away from his shortcomings as a man and husband, he stated, “My relationship areas are an embarrassment to me. I go into self-preservation mode. I go into self-defense mode, protection mode. The solution is Jesus, but the sanctification process takes time.” 

He doesn’t shy away from self-examination nor from the answer that has been his ultimate salvation: the Lord. 

“I try my very best. I tell people about Jesus, that He is the absolute solution. He’s got a plan for your life. He’s that protective covering. 

“I’m trying to be obedient – it’s joyful. When you slip out of His will, it’s miserable. The empowerment is the surrendering to Jesus.” 

But his caveat was this: “Jesus is not a genie in a bottle. This has been a 30-year journey for me. My ministry life is very successful, but my personal life is a failure. I can’t judge anybody. I’m the worst. The Holy Spirit has said to me, ‘Wake up and put your priorities in order.’ He has got to be your priority.” 

Hodge even bluntly stated that at one point, he was “a self-centered egomaniac,” but he said that now, “I’m obsessed with the Lord. I’m humbled when He uses me. The desire of my heart is to be like Him, but I’ve scratched and fought, and I’m still working on being a good man.” 

 “It’s funny,” he stated. “I was told that in America, you can always start over.” And with the help of of His Savior, he’s started over more than once. His ministry successes are commendable. He owned a gym and saw helping people get fit and healthy as a ministry. He worked at the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center and “brought 20 guys to that.” At Capital Christian, he got a job as a janitor and in that capacity got very involved in many aspects of the church. After he was named Mr. Idaho, and as a very fit and healthy, strong and muscled man, he was recruited to be in a group called Power Team after they entertained locally. He traveled with them all over the country for about 10 years from age 33 to his mid-40s. They performed at school assemblies and held crusades; he was preaching the gospel in many churches. He also got ordained and worked as a youth pastor, but a big emphasis for him has been evangelism. Later, he became a registered nurse and worked as a psychiatric nurse – “that’s my specialty,” he said – and he’s also served as a hospice chaplain. 

That’s quite a commendable list of services rendered to his Lord – the Lord who has never given up on him; and who Hodge, despite his life’s wins and losses, wants to follow straight into eternity, bringing others along with him, as many as he can. 


Mitch Hodge has written a book titled, “The Hard Way.” He may be reached at [email protected]. 





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