Thursday, July 30, 2015

Meeting Mr. Mark

In August of 2013 we were newly accepted candidates with MMS. We had interviewed a few months earlier and begun the intimidating support raising process…which means we hadn’t really done anything yet. We were stepping cautiously into the realm of a new level of dependency on God and His people. We lacked many things but excitement about aviation was not one of them! We were at the Smoketown Mission Aviation Festival (near Lancaster, PA) where Andy was volunteering with JAARS at their helicopter rides. He loaded people into the helicopter and made sure they were buckled tight. He got to meet every person that came for a ride that day.

One of those people was Imie Mark.

Now, the reason Smoketown is so special to us is that it is where we first learned about missionary aviation and where God revealed his calling on our lives to enter the mission field. It is the official beginning of our missionary journey. Although we know God had been preparing us for years, that was our A-HA moment.

Being back at Smoketown always make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Seriously. And hot…because it’s in August.

So, it was at the JAARS helicopter ride that Andy met Imie, along with his two kiddos. Imie was wearing an Air Force t-shirt and Andy struck up a conversation with him. They shared a mutual love of aviation and talked about their own aviation experiences. Imie was serving in the Air Force, working primarily on airline transport type aircraft but had always felt a pull toward missions. Their conversation turned towards missionary aviation and Imie said that he wondered if the Lord was calling his family to missionary aviation. He talked about some of his experiences, doubts, and uncertainty about timing with his military career and retirement. Andy and Imie tossed around ideas for transitioning from the military to missions. Imie asked Andy what he was doing volunteering JAARS…what brought Andy to Smoketown? Andy explained how we just joined MMS and that he hoped to be pilot/mechanic with JAARS.

While they waited for the remaining few minutes for the helicopter, it was quiet as they watched the aircraft activity and people chatted around them.

Andy, not quite sure he was within his rights, looked down at Imie from the helicopter loading area and said, “I really think the Lord is calling your family to missionary aviation.”

After the helicopter ride, Andy introduced Imie to Dwight Jarboe, CEO of MMS. We thought of Imie, prayed for him and his family, and prayed that God would be at work in their lives as He has worked in ours. Andy walked away and never saw Imie again.

Until Monday, June 22, 2015 when Imie was part of the MMS crew that helped us unload our moving truck.

It had been two years so it took a few minutes for Andy and Imie to recognize each other and put the pieces together but as we shared a meal a few weeks later it was a joy to remember that first conversation between them and see how far God had brought each of our families. Shortly before moving to Ohio, Andy came across Imie’s business card and thought about shooting him a quick email of encouragement. Time got away from us and Andy figured he could do it when we got settled into our new house. No need, however, as God brought Imie right to us!

Imie and Andy reunited (along with a photo bomb by Micah!)

Several months after Smoketown 2013, Imie left the Air Force and shortly thereafter he and his family were in Arizona at New Tribes Missions Aviation headquarters to begin their training for the mission field. A M A Z I N G. Truly amazing.

While we ate taco salads the other night, Imie shared how much of an impact Andy had on that hot August day in Smoketown. “I’m not calling you a prophet or anything, but when you said that to me…that was the moment. Everything changed that day.”

This isn’t to praise Andy. Imie wasn’t giving Andy credit. It is proof that God graciously opens our eyes to his plan and allows us to be part of his work.

What truly amazes us is how God used other people to draw us closer to his plans and now God is using us to do that for others. Our relationship with Imie reminds us of the people along our journey who have helped, shared, encouraged, and challenged us. It wasn’t always comfortable…just like it probably was uncomfortable for Imie when Andy spoke directly to him about God’s calling. We were uncomfortable when people told us to WAIT. Ugh, we hate waiting. We were uncomfortable when people told us to walk away from our stable, insurance providing jobs. We like stability. But God likes…or demands, rather…our obedience.  

These are Imie’s words about how God used his encounter with Andy:
”I’m so thankful for your faithfulness as a family to not just walk that path the Lord has placed before you but to encourage others to join you along the way. I’m here today thanks to Andy, his passion for mission aviation, his heart for the Lord’s work, and his sensitivity to the Spirit’s moving in others lives. ‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem like enough.”

Oh, “thank you” is more than enough. We deserve no thanks; all the glory goes to God for the work he has done in our lives and in Imie’s life! What a joy that we can serve God together!

Over the years there were several people who spoke clearly and directly to us about God’s call on our lives. We are grateful to Scott Musselman and Scott and Tippy Littlefield who spoke frankly with us about not only the hard decisions that we would have to make but also the unspeakable joy we experience when we are at the center of God’s will. To this day, we have an email (printed and taped to the fridge) from Scott Musselman that says, “Thinking about you…rest in Jesus for he knows our steps.” We’ve looked at it every day for nearly 4 years. I also looked at a card from Charity Judson that reminded me daily that just as God was with Joseph in captivity, so he is with us through our trials. And just as he worked good in Joseph’s life, so he will work good in our lives. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

We are anxious for another year at Smoketown! This year we will be there as official representatives of MMS. Who knows who we’ll get to meet! 

Please join us if you are near Smoketown, PA (about 45 south of Harrisburg, in Lancaster County) on August 15-16. There is a kid’s area (complete with bounce houses, arts and crafts ((my fave! NOT)), scavenger hunt, animals, and snacks), plane and helicopter rides, food, and tents filled with info and activities from mission aviation organizations. The event is free but certain acitivities have a cost (such as aircraft rides and some kids rides).


  1. Great blog. Great story. God is the best story writer in the universe. Thanks for being surrendered to The Author.