Good and Faithful Servant
By Tim Kral.
This website stands as a tribute to Mark and the God we serve. Please forgive the length of this text. I just have so much I want to express about this man. I don’t envy Mark’s physical condition, but I do admire the impact of this servant of Yahweh. Many times I’ve asked God why people like Mark ache. I believe now that Mark was selected to struggle for God’s glory. I don’t pretend by any means that Mark is perfect or that he has not, at some point, questioned his own infirmity, but so many lives have been impacted by the noble courage and influence of this man. May I be such an example to others.
So many people have been strengthened by Mark’s battle. Mark has leaned on God and his faith has not been eaten away. I remember clearly the many times he has told me that this illness have given him the opportunity to study and know God more. Amazing! In the words of author Max Lucado (from “It’s Not About Me,” a short and truly wonderful book), Mark’s “faith in the face of suffering cranks up the volume of God’s song.” For that I am so thankful. My prayers about Mark’s pain have been answered. God has not remained silent. God has certainly demonstrated His higher purpose.
I met Mark when I was 12. I’ve known him for over 20 years. I met him when he resolved a neighborhood dispute, the details of which are unimportant now. He stood on my front lawn in his Ventura Police uniform. His presence solved the issue. His warmth instilled in me the desire to serve as a police officer. I rode along with him a few times in Oxnard and Santa Maria. He took those few opportunities to discuss his faith and his humble views of the job he still loves. I vowed to model my actions on the streets after Mark’s example. I remember him parking his patrol car at the far end of the lot so that he could encourage me as I ran disciplinary laps at the Allan Hancock Police Academy. He truly enjoyed my voluntary academy baldness. His family embraced me with invitations to dinner as I engaged in the pursuit of this goal. And Mark stood by me as my law enforcement career crumbled only to be later reborn.
I’m now a reserve officer in a “ghetto” community in Los Angeles, but my true privilege is to serve as a defense lawyer who represents police officers sued for alleged violations of constitutional rights. I hold dear Mark’s lessons in integrity and service in this calling. What an honor to serve the lives of officers in need. To me, I get to back up my brothers in a different, but vital way. Officers trust me with their careers and their assets and I work hard protecting them. I count Mark as a friend who encouraged me to pursue this goal in the face of what then appeared to be defeat. God used Mark to touch my life. I now get to serve and impact others.
I got to attend Mark’s dinner given in his honor as he retired from the Santa Maria Police Department. With his permission, I’d like to share excerpts from a letter I wrote to him after that event. These words still convey my true feelings about Mark:
March 10, 1999
I’m just sitting here at my computer thinking about you and your family. I’ve been meaning to write this letter since your retirement dinner and seeing you last Sunday rekindled this need to write about my thoughts, feelings and prayers for you and yours.
I am truly blessed to know you. God has given me a grand example in your life. I believe you have been a missionary throughout your career and you remain a missionary today. I see Jesus moving in your life. I see Him moving in the lives of Sue and your children. God is good and He gave you the ability to both you and Sue to raise a family that is truly God breathed.
I think I saw pain in your eyes last Sunday when I mentioned how much I miss police work. I can understand only a small part of the pain you must feel. I can’t understand God’s intentions. I don’t understand why He allowed this disease to strike you or why He took from you an aspect of
your life that is so meaningful. What I do understand is His love and power. What I do see is the lives God has touched through you.
You are right, the mission field for the Christian police officer may exist on the streets, but I know it exists in the hallways of the police station. Police officers can have so much pain in their lives. They see horrible things, sometimes daily. They experience raw peer pressure. They live among a culture that doesn’t express emotion or feeling. Many mask their true selves to take on the “police image.” With His help, you have stood firm, fought many battles and I believe you won the war. You survived a career without changing your true self, a self motivated to truly serve Christ, your family, fellow officers and others. And you have helped many others lost in the “police image.” God has allowed your mission to bear fruit and He is pleased. “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.”
I saw the raw emotion at your retirement dinner. I have gone to a few of those functions, and usually people show up out of mere respect. That room showed up out of love and admiration for you and what you mean to them. I see the strength of your character as this disease progresses. I see a man who will never quit seeking God’s will. Christians often face challenges and say “God will only give me what I can handle.” It almost seems a trite phrase sometimes. Your experience has given this phrase a whole new meaning for me. I am proud of how you handle yourself. I don’t see you in your private moments, but I do see strength in you when I talk with you. I see the integrity God has developed in you over many years. I see the product of the choices you have made throughout life. I see how much you mean to your friends and colleagues.
I have tears in my eyes as I write these words. I struggle with the thought of losing you and losing your friendship…My Savior is calling you home according to His plan…you are truly His angel.
Max Lucado’s father had ALS. He describes his father this way (again, from “It’s Not About Me”): “He lost his voice and his muscles, but he never lost his faith. Visitors noticed. Not so much in what he said but more in what he didn’t say. Never outwardly angry or bitter, Jack Lucado suffered stately. His faith led one man to seek a like faith. After the funeral this man sought me out and told me. Because my dad’s example, he became a Jesus follower. Did God orchestrate my father’s illness for that very reason? Knowing the value He places on one soul, I wouldn’t be surprised. And imagining the splendor of Heaven, I know my father’s not complaining. A season of suffering is a small assignment when compared to the reward.” I could swear Max was writing about our friend Mark.
None of us can explain God adequately, but we can trust in Him and, like Mark, rest in His character, His goodness, even when we can’t explain Him. God has been seen in Mark’s struggle. I know it. I thank Him for this role model. In the words of Mark Buchanan, another author I admire who wrote “The Holy Wild,” here is the lesson I’ve learned: “The need to know God so well that, even though He slay me, yet will I worship Him. Because He is good.” I know that Mark will someday hear those words recorded in Matthew 25:21 that all followers of Jesus yearn for: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Again in the words of Mark Buchanan, may we all turn Mark’s battle into worship and shape his struggles into prayer. Thank you Mark.