Rob and I received unfortunate news this week. Dr.R. Mark Beeson of Granger Community Church passed away. I first met Mark when I was eighteen years old when Rob started working at Granger Community Church in 1992. Rob and I spent the next 22 years of our lives leading with Mark and Sheila, serving Jesus together, walking through hills and valleys, and often awestruck at the miracles happening in our very presence.
Mark was a man who loved Jesus with all of his heart. He gave every breath for Jesus, his family, and the Church we built together. There are no words for this loss. Rob and I will be processing this significant loss in our lives for many years to come.
Mark spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours pouring into us everything he knew about Leadership. Directly off the plane from our Honeymoon at Disneyworld, we drove to some small church in the middle of nowhere, Indiana, to hear a guy named John Maxwell talk about courageous Leadership. Over the years, we spent time together at scores of leadership conferences at Willow Creek and Saddleback Church in California.
For Mark, leadership meant service. He served by doing things like parking in the furthest away parking space so others could have a better parking spot. He mowed our 2 acre lawn once while Rob was in Sudan and my girls were very young. When we obtained the land to finally build a building where the Church could meet after meeting in movie theaters for so many years, I remember Mark coming out of the six-foot-tall weeds, grinning ear to ear. He said he’d been walking the property and praying for those who would stand to meet Jesus there in the years to come. There are countless memories like these.
Mark was the first person to teach me about wildlife photography. Once I was showing him some photos of mine that I thought remarkable. He kindly talked to me about what makes a photo come alive. He said, “When you look at a person or an animal, what is the first thing that signals life to you? What reflects joy and radiance? It’s the eyes! Through eyes, we see the essence of a person or creature.” He smiled and told me, If you can capture the essence of a living being through their eyes, you will always have a fantastic photo.” He was so right. His photography skills were stellar. I am a better photographer because of Mark and his passion for capturing the essence of what is alive in a picture.
Mark gave Rob and me our first real hiking boots when we were young and would hike miles together in the mountains. Another time, he gave our kids a huge tent so we could go camping as a family. Once, Mark brought the girls all mini-Cabela’s flashlights so they could go on adventures together. He loved adventure and gave us more opportunities than we could ever count to do just that.
Those adventures brought so much richness to our lives. We circled the globe a few times, landing in places like the Taj Mahal, hiking desolate trails on the Sea of Cortez, and Jimmy Carter’s boyhood home where Rob and I had the privilege of a lifetime eating a barbecue lunch with Jimmy and Rosyln Carter. We were able to travel back and forth to Southern India countless times. In India, I learned about church planting from men and women practicing microchurch before microchurch was a thing.
Those were all thrilling and extraordinary opportunities, but the one memory of Mark that I will hold close to the rest of my life is of him at Camp Adventure in Syracuse, Indiana. Mark met Jesus at this United Methodist camp when he was in seventh grade. When Rob and I stepped into his life in 1992, I never imagined I would learn most about Jesus’s gentle heart and what Heaven on Earth looks like from leading middle school camp with Mark and Sheila.
We served at camp together for seventeen years. Mark masterfully created an environment of life, love, and joy that I have only rarely seen since. I remember walking Maddie to the restroom way after camp light’s out one night. We saw Mark with his hand on the wall of a cabin, head down, praying for the campers inside. He did this every night of every camp he ever led, and only a very few knew. His heart for middle and high schoolers and how well he loved them molded and shaped me more than the twenty years of Willow Creek Leadership Summits or John Maxwell conferences ever taught me.
We will miss him. His life and legacy will live on through us, our kids, and many generations of kids to come. I am so deeply and profoundly grateful for the lifetime of things he taught me over the twenty-two years we served at GCC together.
We will see you on the other side Mark. Rest in the arms of the Savior you love so deeply.