My name is Mark Lawrenson and I’m from a small rural town in Eastern Ontario, Canada. I am a current student at CLI taking free theology classes and this is my story.
Background and Childhood
I was born into a wonderful Christian family. I the eldest of three, along with my siblings were raised up in the ways of God. Both my father and grandfather had full-time careers as ordained ministers, working as Pastor’s of churches they had planted. My father felt a calling to the mission field and with the help of his biggest supporter (my mom) packed up our family and moved to Jamaica. This was in 1965.
At the time, as a young child, I had no idea how this move to a foreign country (which at times seemed hostile towards us) would have such a profound affect on my life as a whole. I accepted the reasons my parents gave me for the move, and although I never told them, I did have a bit of resentment for awhile in having to leave our home, friends, cousins and other family behind. I, however, quickly adapted and became a part of what they were trying to do in furthering the gospel to this nation.
My parents had enrolled me at a young age (prior to going to Jamaica) into music lessons, first piano and then I moved into guitar. I practiced diligently and a year or two after we arrived in Jamaica my dad felt I was proficient enough and asked me to start participating in the church services with my musical talents. I enjoyed this so much that the sting of resentment quickly faded. I gained new friends, became an integral part of my father’s ministry which in turn gave me the realization of God’s grace and the gift of his salvation through His son Jesus Christ. I was 13 years old at the time, and was baptized in the river that ran beside the church along with some other converts in early 1967.
I stayed in Jamaica with my parents until 1969 at which time they felt it necessary to send me back to Canada for schooling. I would live with an Aunt and Uncle in Montreal and attend school along with their 6 children. It was another dramatic change in my life, and while at the time I found it exciting, there were a lot more distractions and I started to experience “spiritual warfare” in my life.
Also, being a teenager, such an impressionable time in one’s life, I was introduced to a whole host of “other” things that I had been shielded from at home with my parents in Jamaica. I never really got into any trouble, although I did run away once, trying to get to my grandparent’s place in Toronto. When I finished the school year everybody thought it best if I return to my parents in Jamaica. I was 16 years of age at this time.
Returning to Jamaica was like going back home…but it was short lived, the following year my parents felt a calling to minister in Mexico. We would move to McAllen, Texas where we would live as a family, go to school and church, allowing for my parents to cross the border into Mexico to minister frequently. I graduated from high school there in 1972, and that summer we returned to Canada to visit family who we hadn’t seen for some time. While there, I had an uncle who had a construction company who I started working for. This was my introduction to what my career would eventually become, and at the same time I met a girl at the local church I was attending, who I would marry 2 years later.
My immediate family, parents and siblings, all assumed that like my father and grandfather, I would continue their work in the ministry. I had always felt that way too, but it was not to be. I did return to Texas for a year, where once again I got a job in construction. I returned to Canada in late 1973 and started my apprenticeship for carpentry. I got married in 1974 and had my 1st daughter in 1976. It was around this time that my “walk with God” started a slow downhill decline.
My wife, who also came from a good Christian family and was grounded in God’s word, felt that “we as a couple” would be called into the ministry also. She had attended Bible College in Saskatchewan for a year prior to us getting married, and agreed to go on a mission trip with me (which was also going to be our honeymoon) delivering Bible’s to Cuba. I look back on this experience now and “WOW”, probably not the wisest thing to do on your honeymoon. But we accomplished what we set out to do, with the Lord’s help, and had some very “hair raising stories” to talk about when we returned to Canada.
Over a period of time, after the return from Cuba, our lives began to go through a tumultuous time. We got caught up in life, working, starting and raising a family, so busy all the time. We started skipping church attendance. The walk and relationship we had with God, and each other started to fail…and the spiritual dream we had always thought would be a part of our future went by the wayside too. Our marriage failed ultimately and we divorced in 1981, after 7 years of marriage.
Calling to Ministry
The next 37 years of my life are a bit of a blur. Another failed relationship after 20 years of marriage with 2 more children. In 2008, I married for the 3rd time…to a wonderful Christian lady named Mary, who I lost to metastasized breast cancer in September of 2018. In my grief I determined to raise money for cancer, started a website (www.remembermary.com) and rode my bicycle around all the Great Lakes in Ontario and then to Florida. A total of 5,800 kms (3,600 miles).
While on my cycling journey I had a lot of time to think about my life. I came to the realization that life is about choices. If we truly seek God and establish a walk with him he will give us guidance and he will show us the choice we must make. If we choose not to walk with God (as I did), I consider that a poor choice. I never stopped believing what I was taught from a young age, and I am eternally grateful to God for giving me the parents I have, who instilled in me the basic values which I was able to pass on to my children.
I have been very blessed in life even with all the hardships I had to endure because of my poor choices. I am even more grateful to God for sending his only son, Jesus Christ into this world, to live as a man and to die on a cross to save us from our sins. I am so grateful for the grace he has bestowed on mankind, that even though we may turn away from him, he will always take us back.
While on that cycling journey, I re-established that walk and relationship with God. My spiritual dream is to continue this walk him and seek his guidance for my ministry. He is developing a plan, which at sometime in the future I will share, and I hope will take fruition in a few years.
In the meantime, I want to thank Christian Leaders Institute for what they are doing. I am learning so much and I plan on getting my degree in Theology. Because they are offering these free theology classes to me, I will endeavor to support them as a Vision Partner so that they can continue to provide this for those who can’t afford it. I believe God’s Word should be available to everyone at no cost.
Interested in a low-cost degree? Check out the Christian Leaders Institute.