Mark came to our ministry through a friend who already attended; he had recently moved to Canada and didn’t have a background in Christianity.
On arriving, he faced the recruitment of working for crime bosses who routinely convert people in his families’ position ~ new to the country, unsettled and insecure, vulnerable … high risk for unlawful employment.
We got to know each other through our weekly meetings at the youth center and over lunches and coffees during school breaks. I had a hunch that both he and friends had at times been involved in dealing drugs, in fact it was over a coffee that I one day straight up asked if they were … As soon as I asked I thought to myself , what a dump question, if they were they’d never tell me. Well, was I wrong! They talked openly about their past and current involvement, I was stunned!
After graduation Mark floundered in and out of a few jobs and then he disappeared for a while. My phone rang one day and sure enough it was him, asking to meet up as soon as possible.
Turns out he had been attacked by a fellow drug dealer, and in the event of the night he had been held at gunpoint, obviously threatened with his life and beaten. To make matters worse, after he had done the right thing and turned himself into the police the story was leaked to the media and sure enough it was on the cover of a mainstream paper.
The days that transpired thereafter were nerve-racking to say the least. Between the surveillance of the authorities and the phone calls from a frantic mother who pleaded with me to do something in a situation I had no control of… it was a baptism into a world I wish we’d never seen.
The outcome was the authorities wanted to use his testimony to put some pretty high level gang members away, this made Mark a target of this particular criminal organization. There was no advocate for him in the scenario, he was not safe on the street, his home was being inundated with drive bys and jail wasn’t any safer.
There was a short time of peace, where everything settled down and life returned to some normality. One day Mark walked into my office, I didn’t even know he was there, when he blurted out … “I’m a Christian!” It was like I got hit by Mack Truck!!!! That Mack Truck was loaded with joy! We celebrated together and soon we were designing the next level of “The Garage Student Ministries” … it was short lived bliss.
Days later he again slipped into my office, there was a certain nervousness I had not seen in a while, I knew it was back. The past had returned and it was looking for blood… the outcome… he had to skip the country. That night he quickly crossed a border and caught a flight as far away as he good get. In the turn of events the authorities were forcing him to stand in court as a witness against the organized crime ring and obviously the gang wasn’t too excited about that. Threats were reaching his relatives oversees and life was quickly coming apart.
I on the other hand was convinced he could stand trial and win but it was easy for me to say, it wasn’t my family with a knife to its throat. The only thing I knew to do was find some alone time with God… those prayers were disorderly, I was mad!!! Not at God, but at the enemy, it was on! For six months I prayed and declared victory. In the end we won the battle but the war ragged on.
Mark had come to the conclusion that he didn’t want to follow God and he wouldn’t be a Christian. The court case had gone on without him and the storm blew over, but we had taken a hit. He came back to Canada and carried on with life, a successful small business has grown steadily, married, and we continue to see each other often.
I sometimes wonder what it means that people accept the Christ in me but don’t follow Him like I do. There are no easy answers, but I love the fact that I am an agent of change right in the midst of this chaos… This story is not finished!