We first met Mark over 6 years ago when Lowell and I got off the plane and he grabbed us and took us in his car – his Toyota jeep like thing – through the city and up to Villa Gracia. He visited with us the whole way and shared stories of this and that. It was an amazing ride and it was the beginning of seeing how amazing Mark and Lori really are.
Shoot forward to the present day … because we are here when the groups are gone it’s kind of like we get to see behind the scenes in lots of ways. One neat thing that happens in those other months is the way all the ‘ex-pats’ work together on projects when just a few random people come in. Because of that we have been exposed to Mark Connell in various circumstances and have been blessed in the process. Everyone needs a ‘Mark’ when they’re settling in to a new life. “How are you? or How’s it going? or Let me know if I can help. or You’re doing great. or Oh, you’ll catch on. or Man, I know! or Call me anytime. or Come over and we’ll look at a map.” And on and on and on. His unflagging interest in our lives has been just what our hearts needed.
It seems I am always regressing to another time to make a point but I have to share someone else in our life to make this story ring true. Way, way back when our family was preparing to join a team in Argentina, we went to Freed-Hardeman with our 3 little ones in tow, for Lowell to finish a Bible degree. Our oldest was going to be enrolled in kindergarten that year in Henderson. One of my previous teachers and friends was Hank McDaniel and when Uncle Hank learned of this he let us be privy to some important information concerning the 3 kindergarten teachers at the little elementary school. This teacher was alright. That teacher was an absolute “no way!” And the other 3rd teacher, Mrs. Taylor, was a must if you wanted your child’s year to be an unequivocal success. This teacher was okay – no harm done. That ‘no-way’ teacher left her children feeling like school was a chore, and boy, you had better get your work right or else… in comparison to … Mrs. Taylor whose students adored her, loved learning, and felt 10 feet tall every day when they walked into her classroom and left with a smile for having been there. After her Dad’s intervention, Janna’s kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Taylor.
All that to say, since Janna’s year with Mrs. Taylor, I have noticed most all people kind of fall into those 3 categories – some people are kind of benign – you’re around them and you leave them with not really just apathy but not better or worse for having been in their presence. Others kind of suck your enthusiasm from you. In spite of what could be excellent adventures, you leave their presence kind of feeling like you’re lacking in some area, like life is a chore and when you are around you may or may not ‘hit the mark’ in their eyes. And the 3rd type of people are those who are pretty much like I expect Jesus intended us to be. They are the ones who include you, find your strengths, use your talents, make sure you’re okay … you leave their presence feeling 10 feet tall and you can conquer the world.
Mark Connell is definitely in this 3rd group and thank the Lord he is a part of our lives. A ray of sunshine when the skies are dark. If you ever have the privilege of being on a building site, unload a shipment with or just hang out on the street with Mark, you will leave his presence a better person.
We thank God for the Marks in our lives – those people who emulate Jesus in making those around them a little taller and stronger, a little better equipped for whatever task or adventure is next.