Far from what I once was, but not yet what I'm going to be

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mzungu || Happy Birthday Mark

**Note: this post was written on June 22, 2014 but never published. Today seemed better. Happy birthday, Mark.

Who would have thought that the person who changed my life the most on this journey -- the one who left the most significant impression -- would be a white guy from South Carolina?

Let me tell you about Mark. (Mark if you're reading this, please don't kill me).

Mark changed my life without even knowing it. He softened my heart and changed me. And I never even told him that. What a shame.

Mark met The Lord 3 years ago and was transformed by His love, mercy and grace. I see Christ in Mark every day.

I see Christ in Mark's interactions with the mothers at the hospital - the way he is so gentle and kind to them, knowing they are afraid. I see Christ in Mark when he loves on the kids and makes them smile through their pain and adversity. I see Christ in Mark when he buys the street children chapati because they are too poor to eat tonight.

Mark changed my life and changed my heart with just a couple conversations and he never even knew it.

He used to work in the music industry. He worked with some pretty big names and he helped create a huge company that we've probably all heard of. He knew success. But he met The Lord and he knows that stuff isn't what matters -- and that's what I love about Mark. He said to me, "I make significantly less money each year working for CURE than I did before. But I would make the decision to leave that life and come here all over again because it's worth it. It's worth it every single day."

Now, Mark is the CUREkids Coordinator. He is a photographer and he writes stories for the CURE blog. He interviews the moms of the patients and asks them how they got to CURE, and all about the child and their journey. It's a pretty awesome job.

Mark gets it. He understands it's not about money. It's not about fame and fortune. It's about loving God's people -- and loving them well; which he does.

And if you could see Mark interact with the kids and the moms, you would understand. This man loves. He loves well. This man spreads joy like I've never seen. The children love him. The moms open up to him. Mark is so special. His life is a gift to all who know him.

In another conversation, Mark said to me, "I don't miss places and I don't miss things; I miss people." Again, Mark gets it. Things don't matter. In this life, material  things will rust and get destroyed, but people matter. Every life matters. We are called to love. Relationships matter. And Mark understands that.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
(Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

During my time in Uganda, I laughed a lot with Mark. He's such a joy to be around and I know he has found favor in the eyes of The Lord.

But another thing about Mark is that he has seen pain. He has experienced loss and heartbreak -- and he has remained faithful to The Lord in those times and been an incredible encouragement to me.

There are times when I have so many thoughts and emotions running through my heart and my head -- I want to write them all down but sometimes I just can't find the words. Mark was such an encouragement to me on this journey because I came across his blog. Through his blog, I was able to see into his heart; I saw deeper into his heart than I ever did speaking with him. In his blog, Mark wrote the words I struggled to write myself. He felt the same way I felt; and he so eloquently wrote it down. I found such comfort in his words and in his writing. I hope you will to.

Here is an excerpt from just one of my favorite posts on his blog: (click link below to read the whole post)

 "When everything else falls apart, the gospel remains.  When you can't make sense of your life, the gospel still holds true.  When you feel abandoned, confused, worthless, stagnant, trapped, hopeless.  The gospel doesn't lose strength or power.  It isn't affected.  In fact, it's amplified.  Its light is brighter.

If there's one lesson that I'm constantly learning and being reminded -- it's that every life is worth it. Every life is a contribution. In a country with tremendous distance between social classes, feelings of inferiority radiate from guardians, villagers and beggars. We are not to disregard the lame or meek, yet we do. I see it everyday. I feel guilty. I feel sadness. I know that I want to love people, all people. Everyone is worth it. Not having money or a job or an education doesn't discount the worth of a person in Gods eyes. I want to see them through gospel lens. I want to see them as a child of God, worthy of time, encouragement, and sacrifice. It's where I feel most vulnerable and uncomfortable. When I don't know how to help or what to say. But it's also there that I feel God. I feel His presence. When I get someone to smile that has been cursed at, overlooked and ignored all day. When I treat people like people. With respect and dignity. We're all fallen. We all need grace. We are in the same boat. We could at least try to connect."

- Mark Barrett

These are the things I love about Mark. He's broken, he's flawed, he's imperfect; but he's learning and he's loving through it. He's selfless and he's generous. He's caring and he's giving and he has a heart of gold. He's adventurous and honest.

I am so thankful for you. I am thankful for your humor. I am thankful for your joy. I am thankful for your adventurous spirit. I am thankful for your generosity. I am thankful for the lessons you taught me. And I am thankful for your wisdom.

I pray The Lord gives you clarity for your future. Know His plans for you are great. Know His plans for you are perfect and filled with life, love and adventure. I pray for your heart -- that you will be guided by our Father and hear His voice clearly. I pray you continue to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)


PS.  If I saw you in heaven, I WOULD know your name