February, 2019 – Old Mark

February, 2019 – Old Mark

It seems as if every year during the month of February, our minds think – ‘love’!  Pretty natural with it’s containing the most romantic holiday of the year – Valentine’s Day.  But there are several different types of love.  I want to just briefly share four of them with you, and then give you an example of one that I experienced at one time.

There is Eros love, the sensual or romantic kind of love.

Storge love describes family love, the affectionate bond that develops naturally between parents and children, brothers and sisters.

Phileo love is the Greek term that describes the powerful, emotional bond seen in deep friendships – the intimate love in the Bible that most Christians practice towards each other.

And, then there is Agape love – defining the highest of the four types of love in the Bible.  It describes God’s incomparable love for you and me – for all humankind.  It is perfect, unconditional and sacrificial.

The one I want to tell you about is my love for Old Mark – definitely Phileo love, but so pure and unconditional (not that I could ever love like God does), there was an element of Agape love in my relationship with this gentleman.  For nearly four years I worked (volunteered) at a Rescue Mission.  After teaching in the public-school system all day, I would go to the mission around 4:00p and teach piano lessons to some of the young disciples who were fresh out of prison, or perhaps there to get off drugs and other harmful substances – to find a new way of life, Jesus!  At 4:30p, I would sit at the piano and lead the homeless folks/‘guests’ in worship songs in such a precious time together.

At 5:00p, while the ‘guests’ were in Chapel, I would go to the kitchen to help prepare for the evening meal, and ‘serve up’.  At 5:45p, I would go to the female ‘guests’ quarters and help them get set up in preparation to stay the night.  Then I would drive forty-five minutes back to my home in Norton (MA).  That happened regularly three afternoons through the evenings each week.

Late one afternoon, an elderly gentleman came in and fairly collapsed in a chair in the entry way.  Others there knew him, but I had never seen him before.  I was busy here and there, trying to get some things accomplished, but I took pause with one look at him.  I was drawn to him to ask him if he were okay, and he pulled up his pants legs a bit and showed me his legs.  His ulcerated legs!  I was aghast – learned that he had liver cancer and wasn’t expected to last long.  But God had a different plan.  He ‘lasted’ for another year and a half.  And during that time, I fell in Phileo/Agape love with Old Mark!

In time, I found out that Old Mark wasn’t as old as I thought he was.  He wasn’t even as old as I was, but from his years of hard, hard living, drinking, drugs, and being incarcerated most of his life (even from childhood), he looked OLD – as in eighties years- old!  He had no teeth, was so sick he could hardly eat – yet God put this precious soul in my path to look after and care for.  I regularly supplied him with Ensure and other high-caloric drinks.  When he would come to the window to get his food each evening, I would make sure to lovingly heap a little more on his plate of the foods he could eat.  God’s love drove me to get him warmer winter clothing for when he would have to leave the mission during the day.

And then, God’s love also drove me to the ultimate step with him.  Even though I had kept sharing Jesus’ love with him, I knew that I needed to ask Old Mark where he ‘stood’ in his relationship with the Lord.  As I arrived at the mission one late afternoon, I didn’t see him – inquired about him – and was told that he was on his bed already, and not doing well.  Of course to enter the men’s quarters, I asked permission to do so, grabbed a Bible, asked a male volunteer to go in with me to Old Mark and knew I had to share God’s plan of salvation one-on-one with him.  As I went over some verses explaining God’s wonderful plan of redemption with him, I would stop after each verse and ask him if he agreed with what I had just read to him.  And each time, he would eagerly respond, “Yes”.  The presence of the Holy Spirit filled that small space.  My breath was taken away.

At about that point, I heard sniffling – looked to my left at the 6’7” volunteer crouching his tall frame under a bunk bed, saw him crying, and asked him if he were okay.  He wiped his eyes and responded, “I have never seen anything like this before – nothing ever this beautiful”.  He was overwhelmed at the power of God in an old man coming to a saving knowledge of Christ.  It truly was powerful.  Precious!

After that, I would find Old Mark wherever he was and visit him.  Sometimes in a hospital.  He had so many questions about the Bible and God’s plan for living a life in Christ.  He had questions concerning his sins from long ago.  From the Word, I explained to him that his sins – all his sins – were covered once and for all when he put his faith in Christ.  He wanted to be able to sleep better and not worry so much.  I told him that (barring physical illness keeping him awake), the Scripture even had a word for that.  I shared Proverbs 3.24 with him.  Every time I shared a Biblical principal with him, he was like a ‘kid in a candy store’.  He couldn’t believe that there was an answer for all his, admittedly very simple, questions.  He was fairly illiterate, so couldn’t even have read the Bible for himself had he had one.  He loved for me to read passages to him – at least as long as he could stay awake.  He was so sick that at times, he would drift off.  Old Mark Phileo/Agape deeply loved me, and at times, calling me ‘his angel’, he would want to just share stories of his past with me.  Or, he would tell me to be careful ‘out there’ (driving, or out and about the city).  There was nothing physically he could ever have done to protect me, but in his heart he became very protective of the one he had come to think of as ‘his angel’.

Old Mark had only been in the hospital a day or so on one of my visits and was desperately sick.  While I was there, a doctor came in to tell him that he was being dismissed.  I couldn’t believe it!  This precious old, worn-out man could hardly move.  I begged her to give him at least one more day – for fluids and some nutrition.  Her look at me told me that all of a sudden she had as much disdain for me as she did him, but very reluctantly agreed.  We would lose track of Old Mark every once in a while, and of course I was in and out of Romania with Love From Above, but from there, there was an occasional visit to a local nursing home to see him along with one of the young fellows in the Discipleship Program who was also dedicated to this sickly old man.

From there, I learned that a friend had taken Old Mark into their home in a hospice situation back in the city where he grew up.  I never saw him again.  But one day, I got an email from a chaplain at the Rescue Mission who also loved this precious old man, saying ‘that ‘our buddy’ was with Jesus’.  I shed tears of joy – and some were tears of reminiscing over this ‘assignment’ (as the Message refers to Paul and Peter’s calling) that God had given me.  I’ll see Old Mark again – and I’ll throw my arms around him – and most of all, I will thank my Jesus for allowing me to serve, and to fall in Phileo/Agape love with this precious soul – Old Mark.