Mark Rodriguez: An Extraordinary, Ordinary Kid

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mark rodriguez journaling


What’s next, God? What do you have next for me in Your plan? If it’s to wait, I’ll be satisfied, but I long to move for You. I long to be a part of Your plan.

It didn’t take long for his parents to decide to turn Mark’s writings into a book. Leigh Ellen took a step back from her Virginia Beach counseling practice and typed his journal entries, compiled the text and submitted it to a publisher, who told her not to take anything out—to keep it all.

“Once we went through the journals it was clear to me that this work was meant to be shared, and there’s a reason that he journaled all this time,” Carlos says. “He had a very clear sense of who he was and what God was calling him to do.”

In many of Mark’s entries he deliberates on how he can better serve and glorify God, asking God to use his talents of photography and music in some way. In his earlier entries, he expresses deep motivation for becoming an author. “This is part of his life’s work,” Carlos says. “This was meant to be.”

mark rodriguez photography

“I think God was getting him ready and giving us a gift of seeing that,” Leigh Ellen says. Carlos agrees, adding, “I think he was being called to go be with God—just would have never thought that that would mean death.”

Even though Carlos and Leigh Ellen have turned a cruel situation into something beautiful, it doesn’t minimize the pain of losing their son. “It’s been extremely difficult and brutal,” Carlos expresses. “I’m a pastor. I’m a father and a human being. It’s been very hard. God has really had to be there for me.”

“It’s every day,” Leigh Ellen adds. “We miss him every day.”

Mark’s younger siblings—Will, 15; Daniel, 13; and Maria, 12, whom the Rodriguez family adopted in Nicaragua—didn’t know life without him. “He was here when they got here,” Leigh Ellen says. “He led them, he parented them—better than we did at times.”

will rodriguez daniel rodriguez

maria rodriguez will carlos and maria rodriguez

rodriguez family virginia beach

And his girlfriend, Carley, the one Mark consistently strives to be like throughout his writings—is now thriving as a college freshman, though her experience in losing Mark has been ‘beyond difficult.’ “Mark was hilarious; he was so sweet and thoughtful and caring,” she says. “I loved that we could always have deep conversations. His sensitivity and passion for the Lord were all stuff that drew me to him ... I looked up to him.”

mark rodriguez and carley

August 2009 (Mark, age 12, considers authoring a book about Corinth, his imaginary angel.)

If I can finish this book and get it edited and published, I’ll finally be an author. I want to use the gift of writing You gave me to its full extent, so please guide me in writing this book.

On May 30, 2015, the book, The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of Mark Rodriguez, was released.

“Mark’s death left a big hole in a lot of people’s lives, and we started seeing how the way he was writing was ministering to people and causing people—religious or not—to take a look at God and who he was and who he is,” Carlos says.

“I think what makes this book different and unique is that most people who are writing Christian books are writing with an audience in mind,” Leigh Ellen notes.

“This is really just a kid talking to his God, and then we get to eavesdrop on it. It’s very raw. It was meant for an audience, but it wasn’t written thinking that there would ever be one.”

Since May, the book has sold more than 2,000 copies. Leigh Ellen says she’s received many responses from readers, telling her they’ve come back to their faith after reading the book. “Almost every day we still get some kind of email or story where someone says, ‘Your kid has impacted our life.’”

“He never would have said out loud, ‘I’m gonna change the world,” Leigh Ellen expresses. “What you would have noticed on the outside would be a really funny, goofy, good guy ... This was Mark. An extraordinary, ordinary kid.”

mark rodriguez journal

Visit to purchase a copy of the book, The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of Mark Rodriguez, and to follow Mark’s blog that Leigh Ellen updates. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will benefit the International Justice Commission, an organization that serves victims of violence throughout the developing world. Mark became passionate about the organization’s mission to stop human trafficking during his visits to Nicaragua. 

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