I grew up in Glendale, Arizona, mostly in a single parent home. We sporadically attended the Methodist church. Mom came from a deeply-Christian family. I loved the family but not the "churchy part." Not having my dad around, I was a rather rebellious young man, hurt that all my friends went to father/son outings. As mom worked the graveyard shift, it was pretty easy for me to do and go where I wanted. I was headed down a destructive path when I met my dad for the first time at age 13, and moved to Brazil with his family at 16. The 2-1/2 years there changed my world view completely! My dad was a church goer but often said, "You don't have to wear your religion on your sleeve," which was a good motto for me to take up. My heart was still rebellious as were my actions.
I returned to the states, attended Arizona State University, and got married in what could have been my sophomore year. Disillusioned by school, I dropped out to work for my father-in-law’s construction/manufacturing business. I was obsessed with work whether in the field or in the shop/office. Church was a weekly religious occurrence. My rebellion switched from outward actions (mostly) to inward thoughts. To put it mildly, I was not a nice person. We divorced after ten years and three sons.
I met Ann, courted and won her with smooth talk and trickery. But, she would not put up with my attending (sleeping through) services. At a different church, I once again came face to face with the fact that Jesus loved me, died for my sins, and did not want to leave me the wretch He had pursued for 30 years. Jesus saved me on Feb 26, 1980. The call to ministry was strong. We sat with our Sunday School teacher and his wife as I opened my heart telling them of what I felt was a call to ministry. They were both equally adamant that because of my divorce I was disqualified from the pastorate. They did confirm that I had the gift of teaching and should be content with that. So I set my ministry-mind to this for the next twelve years.
We moved to Texas and settled into a Southern Baptist church not far from our home. Again, I took up the mantel of teacher. One Sunday morning I walked forward to commit to finishing my education. Surprisingly, my pastor turning to the congregation and said, "Mark is committing himself to full time ministry and will go to seminary." In spite of my divorce (and because of God), a month before graduation from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Riverside Baptist Church called me as their pastor. I remained there just over five years.
During seminary and as a pastor, I leaned heavily toward everything "chaplain." A Clinical Pastoral Education, CPE, at Good Samaritan Hospital opened a new part time program into which I was accepted. After completing four units of CPE, I was hired by Hospice of the Valley in May 2000. I continue to serve there.