Our resurrected Lord surprised me by postponing my demise
By Leslie Mark
Leslie Earl Mark died Feb. 26, 2017, at the age of 92. He served faithfully and enthusiastically as a Mennonite Brethren pastor, missionary, mentor and university professor, the last most notably teaching classes at the University of Guadalajara (Mexico) and as a long-time faculty member at Fresno Pacific University, the MB school on the West Coast. Prolific in both English and Spanish, he loved and served communities in Mexico and both language communities in the United States, including a time as associate pastor at Bethany Church, Fresno, Calif.
He was married to Erlene, who predeceased him in 2002. He is survived by two sons, David and wife Wendy, and Steven and wife Barbara, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Several months before his death, Les submitted this essay, dated June 19, 2016, for publication.
A testimony is a declaration made by a witness under oath. I testify that on Friday, July 24, 2015, our sovereign Lord permitted me to be diagnosed with an esophageal cancer. Having experienced a rather long period of significant symptoms, the diagnosis was of no surprise.
“Doctor, in light of this, on the average, how long do people with this disease survive?” I asked. “Give me a straight, objective answer, please. I made my peace with God years ago and have no fear of the next level of existence.”
He replied, “On the average, from three months to three years.”
A series of new and interesting adventures began: eight radiation and six chemo treatments, PET scans, CAT scans, a loss of weight that nearly left me in suspenders, a pablum-like diet, 24/7 vigilant care by my two sons and their wives and a week-long hospital visit which provided a combination of efficient, gentle tortuous care and indescribable hospital food. I received seven units of infused blood, perhaps donated by an African, a Jew, a white Anglo Saxon pagan, a Chinese, a Mexican Catholic, a Clintonian Democrat, a Trumpety Republican or even a Mennonite. This now identifies me as an ecumenical, interracial, bipartisan immigrant who runs the risk of being deported over a wall into Canada or Mexico.
It was my privilege to comment to nearly every doctor, nurse and attendant at the hospital, lab and cancer center that, “Jesus Christ is alive and is living his life of healing through you. Thank you so much! When the Lord made you, he did a wonderful job!” So encouraging was the message of Christ that one doctor asked me to write-up my Christian worldview. Christ diffuses his loving, encouraging message to individuals, communities and institutions in surreptitious mysterious ways through you and me. Quite an honor, don’t you think?
The memorial service, the obituary and the grave side service were all prepared. Then to the joy of the doctors, the surprise of my family and myself and perhaps to the disappointment of some — I didn’t die.
Our resurrected Lord surprised me by postponing my demise for a while longer. But the question is: Why? For what purpose? This has been my query. Titus 1:11-14 paraphrased seems to provide as good answer as any: “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to me, training me to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live a life that is self-controlled, upright and godly, while I wait for the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify us to be members of a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” That should keep me busy.
What lessons are there in these recent experiences? There are many. Jesus of Nazareth was killed and buried. He came to life again with a new trans-physical body presently invisible to us but real. He is alive! In some trans-rational, mysterious unscientific way he forgives our sins, exonerates us and is governing the whole world.
Instead of living in a church building or a temple, Jesus lives in us individually and collectively. Thus, he begins the life-long process of our re-education and restoration to make us into the humans he intended us to be in the first place. He gives us adventuresome joy of encouraging people everywhere to start over with a new supernatural, life changing, empowering Spirit. He is also preparing for us a new renovated world which will be set free from its bondage to decay, rot and erosion. After our death, our resurrection and our judgment, this will be our new home.
I have testified to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth—so help me God!