The coffin began to shake. The men carrying the coffin immediately dropped it and ran away from what was once a corpse.
Mark* was dead. The air had left his lungs.
Two days before, after a long day of preaching the Gospel in neighboring villages, Mark had returned home utterly exhausted. He told his wife, Miriam*, that he would lie down until dinner was ready, but when she went to wake him, he was as cold as ice.
DEATH OF MARK Illustration © 2014 / Walter Bowen (used by permission)
Panicked, Miriam called her husband’s close friends, Nick and Marie Steele*, IMB missionaries to eastern Africa, saying, “He won’t wake up. His skin is cold. I don’t think he’s breathing. What should I do?” They advised her to call the doctor from a nearby village to come and check on Mark.
The doctor who came found him barely breathing and said he would return in the morning, but the morning never came for Mark. In the night Miriam found him ice cold and no longer breathing.
As the sun rose on Sunday, the family began the funeral preparations. Family members started to travel upon hearing the news, because Monday would be the day of his burial.
On Monday, as they carried Mark out to be buried, God woke him up, Mark later recounted. “He told me to wake since there were many people to be preached to.” So Mark woke up and followed God’s command.
Mark’s life story has been nothing short of miraculous. Christ was moving in his life through miracles since his first encounter with Jesus, when he was yet a follower of Islam.
“Before meeting George Brax* (an IMB missionary to eastern Africa), I had a dream. In the dream, I saw a triangle coming from heaven. The triangle was very bright,” Mark said. “The triangle had the name of Jesus written on it in bold letters. I saw a head of a man who was laughing and showing his hands.”
“We were many people on the earth shouting in joy as we watched the triangle come down. The dream frightened me a lot.”
He awoke from his dream and told his grandfather what he had seen. His grandfather replied that the dream must have been demonic and told him to no longer speak about it.
When Mark met George, he told him about the dream and George explained who Jesus is through the Bible in Mark’s native language.
STUDYING THE BIBLE
Mark* studies the Bible as he prepares to go and preach to nearby villages in East Africa. Mark has suffered much persecution, but insists that he “won’t leave Jesus.” Photo © 2014 IMB / JoAnn Bradberry
George began teaching Mark the Bible, and Mark began to follow Christ. “I love the Lord because before I knew the Lord, I was just a regular person. I had no purpose. I didn’t know what my future would be like.”
“My way is the Lord’s. I have to profess Him. I will not go back at all to other ways.”
After accepting Christ, Mark immediately began to preach from the Word as he traveled from village to village. Working alongside the missionary, they traveled to villages to share about Jesus and to dig water wells.
“One day we were digging a well with George,” Mark said. “George was above ground and I was in the well as we dug in search of water. Unfortunately, the ground wasn’t very stable and the soil on top collapsed in and buried me together with my instruments.”
Mark eventually was unearthed and came out of the well unharmed. George told Mark it was a miracle and it was God’s will that he remain alive — and that he should preach about what had happened that day.
So Mark began to preach about the day at the well, and “the Muslims we were working with began giving their lives to Jesus,” Mark said. “They started knowing the Bible, the love, peace and gentleness of Jesus Christ. They all testified to all that had happened and since that day, the whole area became Christians.”
Mark spends his days sharing the Gospel with neighbors and believes he must tell everyone about Jesus and what He has done in his life.
SHARING THE GOOD NEWS
Mark* shares a story from the Bible with Muslims in a nearby village in East Africa.
Photo © 2014 IMB / JoAnn Bradberry
The day Mark died, he was returning home from preaching. After he was revived, he immediately followed God’s voice, which awoke him to preach, and he began telling people about God’s power in his resurrection.
“Since that day, Mark is even more on fire for the Lord. He spends his days traveling to villages that have not heard,” said Marie, whose family has been discipling Mark.
A movement of Muslims turning to Christ in this region has assuredly brought persecution to Mark. He has been stoned to leave villages, poisoned, beaten and even arrested.
Despite the many trials he has faced, Mark continues to preach the Gospel boldly in a dry land, to a people group that has been closed to the Gospel for years.
Marie said, “When we hear Mark has led someone to faith today, that’s a really big deal. When we hear he went to a village and 50 people accepted a copy of God’s Word in their language, that’s a really big deal. When we hear 20 people wanted to be baptized last weekend while he was in the village, it’s unheard of.”
“God is doing something new and exciting among these people,” she said.
Marie and Nick are amazed and inspired by the miracles that have happened in Mark’s life and the way the Gospel has spread as a result.
ALIVE TO GO TELL Illustration © 2014 IMB / Walter Bowen (used by permission)
“You can’t look at his life and not be inspired, to see the kind of living circumstances that he has and how little he lives with and how little he has to give him security, except for God,” Nick said. “It’s pretty awe-inspiring to see God touch a life the way Mark’s life has been touched and to see the joy on his face — there’s a constant smile.”
Marie said if she had heard Mark’s story 10 years ago, she would’ve been skeptical.
“That’s not something that you see happening in the West; it sounds too good to be true,” she said. “After speaking to eyewitnesses of this account, knowing Mark’s character and how trustworthy he is, it has caused me to know that God is so much bigger than we give Him credit for, to recognize we put God in a box and we don’t realize what he’s capable of.”
With his inspiring story and a smile that displays Christ’s love, Mark walks every day to neighboring villages to share about Jesus. He believes this is his purpose and says he will not stop until God chooses to take him home.
“So even now, I will not leave Jesus. I will die and be buried with Him,” Mark said. “I pray that everyone will be saved and get into the light and leave the darkness. The word of God does not go backward but forward. There isn’t any other prayer but Jesus.”
*Names changed for security purposes
Eden Nelson is a writer for the International Mission Board based in the Middle East.
Pray for Mark and his ministry. Pray he will continue to share the Gospel boldly and that the message will spread throughout the region. Pray a movement will begin within this extremely difficult people group to reach.
Pray about giving to the International Mission Board to further work happening throughout Eastern Africa and beyond – imb.org/main/give
Pray about coming to serve for a short term trip or long term assigning in Eastern Africa – going.imb.org