Mark Rodriguez: An Extraordinary, Ordinary Kid
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... maybe You have something more in store for me. Dear God, if You do, show me. I want to tell the world about You. About how real You are. Show me how You want me to do that.
The next morning, as Carlos and Leigh Ellen struggled with the impossible task of telling Mark’s siblings he was dead, Leigh Ellen received a text from a friend, asking if she had read Mark’s blog about Heaven, the one he’d written just over a month ago.
It was that post that encouraged Carlos and Leigh Ellen to think back to all the times they’d seen Mark grab his journal, a cup of coffee and his Bible, and head for the treehouse in their backyard to pray and write. They collected his journals and blogs and sat on the floor as they began poring over each entry and marveling at the gift of learning more about their son and his relationship with God.
Mark’s entries, which began in 2009 when he was in sixth grade, were his personal, heartfelt letters to God, expressing his desire to love God—and to love others. Some of his writings took place during his mission trips in Nicaragua, and some were blog entries that he shared with friends. Most were written in the solitude of Mark’s room or in the quietness of nature, one of his favorite ways to connect with God. In his later teen years, when he began driving and became busier with his music and photography, rather than tapering off, the entries became more steadfast, increasing to twice a day some days and continuing up until the morning of his death.
“When do you ever get to see the inside of a person’s soul?” Carlos muses. “If [someone’s] writing in a journal they’re writing as if no one’s ever going to read it. It’s a beautiful, complete picture.”
Some of Mark’s personal thoughts came as no surprise to his parents. “Obviously our faith is important to us,” says Carlos, a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church PCA in Virginia Beach. “From the beginning we taught Mark about prayer and growing in faith. I knew he had a very deep faith in the Lord simply by how he worshiped and how he would talk about God. He had a depth of understanding about God that a 17-year-old doesn’t normally have.”
One entry in particular made Leigh Ellen’s heart stop, she recalls. On Jan. 26, 2011, Mark wrote about a nightmare he’d experienced:
Lived on a hill, by a lake
Ran along path by lake, chased by “father” with a gun.
Shot twice in the heart, once in back?
In house—”father” pulls out machine gun and pommels me
Fall to ground want to die but can’t, breathing constricted
He keeps shooting
Dying—a sudden pause, then lights go out like a power failure
“So many similarities to the way he died are foreshadowed here,” Leigh Ellen writes. “This is the only one of his nightmares he recorded.”
Aside from this disturbing dream, the thing that surprised Leigh Ellen the most was Mark’s dedication. “We all have spurts of, ‘I want to know God better,’ but his consistency over the years—that blew me away.”
The more they read, the more they became encouraged by Mark’s writings, so Leigh Ellen began sharing them on the blog that Mark had already created. She initially shared the posts for family members and Mark’s classmates. “But the more we read,” Leigh Ellen remembers, “We were like … ‘Wait a minute.’”