Thursday, November 12, 2009
In subsequent visits, Jeff and Brenda Mallory have searched for Mark with no success. He captured our hearts that day. We couldn't shake the feeling that something special was in store for him.
In our World Missions Sunday on September 27, 2009, I closed the service with the story of Mark. His picture was up on the screens and he walked into everyone's heart that day. We asked everyone to pray that we would meet him again and as they left the building, we gave them a copy of his picture to keep on their refrigerator to remind them to pray for him and all the other Marks in the cities around the world.
Well, Jeff and Brenda left Tuesday morning to go back to the Philippines for a short visit and last night, they found Mark.
I am overwhelmed by what is transpiring even now as I type this.
Jeff has written the story out on their blog, thoughtsfromthemalloryhearth.blogspot.com. But I want to copy it here as well. This is a God-story of the highest order. I am absolutely overwhelmed at how huge He is but how He loves us everyone. Enough to send people thousands of miles to find one 12-year-old boy in a city of 14-16 million people.
You haven't heard the last from Mark. He is destined for something beyond our comprehension. There is no doubt in my mind about it.
Read Jeff's words:
Many of you may be wondering who Mark is? After all, there are people talking about him on blogs, the POA has handed out pictures of Mark to thousands, and they are all praying for him.
This is one of the most wonderful stories you will ever hear.
Back in March of this year, Melani, Brenda, Kendra, Kori and Jordan were taking a bus trip up north of Manila and were waiting in the bus terminal when a young boy boarded the bus holding a stack of daily newspapers. A conversation began.
“What is your name?” “I am Mark.” He replied.
Since it was about 1:00 in the afternoon and he appeared to be young they asked of him, “How old are you?” His replies were always sure, with a quiet confidence and organic charm. “I am twelve ma’am.”
“Mark, do you go to school?” “Yes ma’am. I go to school from 6:00 am until 12:00 and then I go to work, selling papers.”
“Everyday?” The twelve year old replied, “Every day ma’am.”
That was about all there was to it. Just one of the thousands of people we pass every day, like ships in the night, not really aware that you just intersected another living soul… an immeasurable treasure we too often take for granted.
They sent him on his way after buying a paper, giving him a tip, and loading him down with some candy. And that was it… or so they thought. For some reason, none of them could get Mark out of their minds. Driving down the road, the country side passing by… the group was silent, as though something special had happened, but they weren’t exactly sure what.
Melani said, “That is Bradyn. My boy is 12.” They all let that sink in, and little by little it began to flow out of them. “When we go back, we need to find Mark.”
They didn’t know what they would do once they found him, they just all agreed they needed to.
Later, when Melani was looking through her pictures, she found a good one of Mark.
That was all there was too it, to the meeting that is. It began months of focused prayer for Mark and his family.
Brenda, Jordan and Kori and I were in that bus terminal back in May, we looked for Mark and he wasn’t there. Everyone told us that it would be almost impossible to find him. After all, what is one kid among 14 million people? After the four typhoons, the devastating floods, and the diseases that followed… what is the chances Mark is still… we didn’t want to think about that.
On the plane coming in last night, I looked out the window, over that vast ocean of lights that stamped the earth where the great city of Manila lay, I asked God out loud, “Lord, please lead us to Mark. I know it may be impossible for me to find him, but nothing is impossible for you.”
We left the hotel with a prayer for Mark, and headed out into the traffic and sea of humanity.
We hired a car at the hotel and told him what we were doing. He didn’t get it at all… he did later though. The first thing we did was go by the Philippine UPC headquarters office to enlist some help. We had pictures of Mark printed and distributed and told them, “Whoever finds Mark will get a 1,000 peso reward.”
Since that was worth about 4 days wages, there were many who were suddenly interested, very interested in Mark. Brother Don Callo said, “How many Marks do you want to find?” And everyone laughed.
Someone was going to go to the newspaper company pictured in the photo of Mark, and ask for help finding him that way.
Brenda and I went to the bus terminal, this was third time Brenda and I had been to this terminal, and the first two times had not been fruitful. But this time was different, we both felt it.
There were so many people praying for Mark. I would imagine there are literally hundreds of refrigerators with Mark’s picture on them.
When we were pulling up to the bus terminal Brenda said, “This has to be a God thing.” My heart was beating fast as I realized how close we were to a miracle, I could feel it.
The first person Brenda showed the picture to knew Mark. “That is my nephew. What do you want with him?” I didn’t blame him for being guarded as to our motives. Brenda drew a crowd and soon everyone wanted to know what was going on.
I felt my words were so inadequate in my attempt to explain why we wanted to see Mark, but I kept explaining anyway. “We are missionaries, and…” I did my best to explain how there was church back in America praying for a poor, squatter kid, living in a ghetto. I didn’t think I was doing a very good job but they had less guile than I must have because they accepted my story, and suddenly the whole nature of the crowd changed. They were all talking to each other, telling each other that the “Americanos are missionaries and God told them to find Mark.”
They all were so excited, the security guards began helping us, giving us advice, and talking a mile a minute.
Mark’s uncle, Randy, jumped into the front seat of our car and said, “Get in, I will take you to Mark’s house.”
Brenda and I were stunned. We just looked at each other shaking our heads. “I can’t believe we are going to Mark’s house!” Brenda whispered.
The story took an even more thrilling, and miraculous turn, when Randy took us in a direction toward the ACTS bible school. The place we have lived and worked out of for many years. We ended up just a few hundred yards away from the Bible school! We had passed this little shanty town literally thousands of times.
To get to Mark’s “house” you have to go down a small side street, past lean to’s and squatter’s houses. These were some of the poorest of the poor. We were so excited though because we would soon be seeing Mark.
People were so friendly and nice as we passed them. The little street cantinas with people sitting on buckets, or boxes as chairs, the kids taking baths in laundry pails, the old men flashing toothless smiles, the young men killing time because there was no job to be found.
Randy led us into a small opening in the endless shanties, and after a few turns in an even smaller alleyway, we came to an uneven ladder that led up into a dark, and confined loft.
My heart constricted and my eyes watered as Randy said, “Here is Mark’s house.”
He went up to knock on the “door” while we waited downstairs. The door opened and a woman came to the top of the landing and looked down on us with muted surprise. Her eyes did not have hope in them, rather, I felt she was looking down on us, “Good things don’t happen to us. This must be a trick.”
We were invited in and found that Mark had just gone to work not long ago. We visited with the puzzled mom and grandmother, and Mark’s two sisters and one brother, all younger than Mark.
Mark is the man of the house. This twelve year old boy’s father had abandoned them to start another family somewhere and so it was left to Mark to watch out for his family.
We tried to explain to Mark’s family what we were doing and the thing that got through to them the most was when I said, “God has heard your prayers. God knows your name.” A flicker of hope came into Mark’s mom, Tess, and a smile appeared briefly.
We gave Tess some money and told her to feed her family, or give them a treat of some kind… but we hadn’t seen Mark, so we headed back to the bus terminal.
When we got there it seemed like everyone was at the side of the street waiting for us. All of the porters, the vendors, the bus conductors and even some passengers were waving at us when we walked up. They were waving their hands excitedly and one of the security guards came over to us and said, “You missed Mark by seconds! He got here just after you left and went running home.”
They told us to wait for him that Mark would be back. It was quite a run to Mark’s house from the terminal.
Everyone wanted to put there two cents in on Mark while we waited. “He is a good boy.”
Someone else said, “Mark is a hard worker.” A guy standing by me said, “You are helping the right boy.” This little boy had the respect of a lot of people.
We went into a 7 Eleven and were going to buy a drink and some donuts for the people who had worked so hard to help us connect with Mark. I was standing by the refrigerator when I heard someone say excitedly, “Here he is!” Standing in the aisle of that store was a handsome, smiling Mark.
His back was straight, his head up, his eyes bright and what a smile! He was looking at Brenda with recognition and was not one bit shy. Brenda asked for a hug and he gave her the minimum, and stood back and smiled up at me.
I want to find out what this kid has been praying for the last few months because I got the feeling that he was not shocked by this at all. It was as though he was stepping into an expected destiny.
Strangely, it was not awkward at all. I had been wondering what I would say to Mark, but it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t just words, prayers go before you, I believe prayer creates and builds relationships between spiritual entities, and it felt like he was an extended family member, and it seemed he felt that way too.
Brenda and I were fighting back tears, Good Lord! The LAST thing we needed to do was go blubbering all over this kid! So, Brenda went down the chip aisle and squirted out a few tears and then regained her composure, and I was left to be the strong one, so I just said to Mark, “Let’s go shopping!”
“Get whatever you want, we are going to bring some stuff home to your family.”
After seeing where Mark lived and the obvious poverty of their family, I wasn’t surprised to see him carefully choose a single bag of potato chips and walk back to me with grateful eyes. I said, “Oh no, that is just the beginning! We are going to get lots of stuff!”
It took him a while to catch on. He always reached for the smallest thing, and would get one. One small pack of coffee mix, I went behind him and grabbed a handful. He just looked up at me with big eyes. This was not his reality at all.
A crowd had formed at the glass front of this 7 Eleven. The guard only allowed prospective shoppers in and Mark’s friends, and those who knew Mark were gathering around the windows as though the NBA Finals were being shown. From time to time he would wave at one of them and they would wave back.
A woman must have heard what was going on because she came into the store and walked over to Mark and put her hand on his head and looked at me and said, “You could not have chosen a better boy to help. Mark is a special boy. Thank you, thank you so much for blessing him like this. He deserves it.”
That little 7 Eleven was not used to be people filling up shopping baskets like that, and it took every employee in the place to check Mark out. We went down every aisle, except the booze aisle and the refrigerated section (because he didn’t have one at home) and had a living blast doing it.
As we walked through the crowd that had gathered outside they were patting him on the back, they were tussling his hair, they were saying things to him, “Mark, you are famous now!” “Mark, you are big time!”
We put the bags of groceries in the trunk of the car, and took Mark and Randy back to Mark’s little village.
As we walked in, the people were calling out to Mark, but they weren’t calling him Mark. They were calling him by his middle name, “Christian! Who are your friends Christian? What are they doing with you?”
He is known as Christian at home. Mark Christian DeLaCruz.
The family sat on the piece of thin plywood that served as the bed the six of them slept on and the bags were gathered around their feet on the floor. They just sat there looking at them.
We asked them to look through the stuff and it took them a while to get into it.
The first thing Mark did was take out a Coke bottle and walk over to Brenda, “Ma’am, are you thirsty?” Brenda declined and I looked at Brenda’s eyes and could see she was not far from losing it.
Mark, or Christian, began to go through the bags showing his family what he had brought home. There were more oohs and aaahs than I have heard in the last 5 Christmas’.
The first thing Christian’s grandmother got out was a toothbrush and she opened it up and began telling the little girl on her lap what it was. Demonstrating by pantomiming the brush stroke.
Christian began organizing everything in the bags. Candy in one, toiletries in another, chips in another, drinks and so on, until everything was organized.
We were driving away when our driver said, "I asked about this boy while you were shopping. Everyone says good things about him. I can tell by observing, this is a special young man." He drove for a little while and then he looked into the rear veiw mirror at me and said, "Thank you for doing this for my people."
Saturday Mark, and his family are going with us to a children’s service. He doesn’t know it yet, but I am giving him an iPod with some Christian music on it. I know that will blow his mind.
I believe that we will see Mark and his whole family respond to God’s touch this Saturday. Then we are connecting them with a great church that is very near to their home.
For all of you who prayed, for all of you who sent… you were there with us today. This is your deal too, and I hope you all pat yourselves on the back for a job well done.