Mark's Personal Testimony
I grew up in a family that regularly attended church. We were Episcopalians (PE). I was taught about prayer, God, various Bible stories, and I would have called myself a Christian, but I did not understand the gospel, nor did I have a relationship with God.
I do not remember a time when my parents had a good marriage. Their marriage ended in divorce when I was about 12 years old. I had behavioral problems before my parents divorced, and those problems worsened after the divorce.
For about four years after my parent’s divorce, I lived with my mother in Albuquerque, NM. During that time she remarried, and our new family moved to a different part of town. I felt lonelier than ever before. I did not like the new school or the new living situation. I began using marijuana and other drugs to deaden my pain, loneliness, confusion, and whatever else I was feeling.
At about age 15, I moved to Lakewood, CO, to live with my father. During this time, my involvement with drugs increased. I dropped out of school. I ran away several times, and finally was allowed to live on my own. I worked at whatever jobs I could get and sold drugs.
I began what I called my drug cycle. I would spend all my money on drugs, taking as much as I thought I could without overdosing. When I had spent all my money, I would not be able to stay stoned. When I finally sobered up, I was at the bottom of the cycle: broke, usually homeless, hitch-hiking, and looking for a way out. I would find a job in a new location and begin working. When I was straight and working, I was able to find housing, food, and begin life again. But, with the comforts of a job, housing, and food to eat, I began to make friends. I would have a little extra money to buy some marijuana, and before long I was on the cycle again.
This kind of lifestyle (better called a death style) continued, and I wound up selling large amounts of marijuana as a dealer. I became heavily indebted to my supplier and my life was in danger and for months I lived in fear of being hunted down and shot. Sleeping was no longer an escape, for nightmare after nightmare followed the fear of living during the day. To escape my expectation of being found and killed I joined the navy. I hoped the navy would be my savior from the drug dealer.
I also hoped the navy would give me some job training, help me hold down a job for an extended period of time, and allow me to make new, drug free friends. The navy failed to be the savior I hoped it would be. I became more involved in still harder drugs, lost my educational and training opportunities, and I took an "unauthorized absence" for about three months. When I returned to the navy, I was expecting to sign papers that would give me an "undesirable discharge" without having to go through a court martial. This is the time I hit bottom. I was still using drugs though I no longer enjoyed them. In fact, I became very paranoid from even smoking marijuana. I was stuttering, could not write legibly, and was so depressed that I was contemplating the most effective way to commit suicide.
It was when I was in this condition that God called me to Himself. I was going out for a typical Friday night’s partying with a friend when we needed to hide from a drug dealer who had been my friend’s supplier. The only safe place to hide was a Christian Servicemen’s Center. While we were there, God’s Spirit began to bring me to repentance. I realized I had ruined my life. I knew that I had no hope of fixing my life. Death was better than my current life unless God would somehow rescue me from my misery. It was at this time that I asked Jesus to forgive me and be my Lord.
Christ answered my request. He became my substitute before the Father. He was my substitute in suffering the punishment I deserved for all my wicked deeds, words, and thoughts. I came to understand that not only had Christ given his life on the cross to take my punishment, but His perfect life of obedience to the Father, God accepted as fulfilling all His righteous commands on my behalf.
God, having saved me from His just wrath and punishment, began to rescue me from myself. He took away my desire for drugs, and replaced it with a desire to know Him. I have been drug free from that time (July 28, 1979). Since the time of my conversion, God has given me a growing love for Him and for others along with a desire to be in His service. I stayed in the navy until I was honorably discharged. I had the opportunity to be discipled in personal spiritual disciplines, leading small group Bible studies, evangelism, etc.
After my time in the navy, I worked in an inner city ministry in Philadelphia. For five years I worked for a church in a poor neighborhood, ministering to people who, for generations, had lived in poverty. I also worked with refugees who were trying to learn a new language and a new culture. During this time I met and married my wife, Sarah.
During my fifth year in the inner city, I started seminary at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary. I transferred to Sangre de Cristo Seminary and graduated in December of 1989. I was ordained as a Teaching Elder in the PCA in May of 1990. Before my conversion I had received a GED. After seminary I completed a BA in biblical counseling with Trinity Collage and Seminary and completed the required work to upgrade my seminary degree to a Masters of Divinity.
By God’s grace, I am a child of God and am continuing to grow in my relationship with God.