VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Mark Rodriguez may have only been 17-years-old, but his faith, talent and positive outlook on life were well beyond his years.
“He had an unusual maturity to him. I think everybody would say that,” Mark’s father, Carlos Rodriguez, told WAVY.com
Mark lost his life Friday night at the hands of a gunman. And if there’s one thing Rodriguez wants you to know about his son, it’s that he was an ambassador for Christ.
“You know, Mark crossed the finish line picking up speed, in terms of his walk [with the Lord], or who he was as a man or a believer … Mark sprinted to the end,” Rodriguez said. “I hope I will be able to do that too. Mark’s example helps me.”
And what was so central to Mark’s life is what Rodriguez says keeps their family from letting his death test their faith.
“I think it’s because we know the Lord. We know the story of the Lord. We know what the Lord did and what the Lord is doing,” Rodriguez said. “One can say this is senseless, that it is a tragedy. There is nothing senseless about it. It hurts, but Mark loved Jesus.”
As the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, Rodriguez hears it all the time — how could a loving God allow something like this to happen?
Rodriguez answers, “He allowed this to happen to His own Son. So when we ask where is God? Where is this God? Does he understand or care? The answer is, of course! He loved the world so much that He gave His own Son, that whoever believes in Him. And His own Son died a horrible death.”
The family has a tree house in the backyard of their Virginia Beach home, the home Mark was driving back to following the Norfolk Christian graduation festivities the night he was killed. Mark’s father said his son would go to the tree house in quiet times to pray and contemplate all that is the world.
“So we built this tree house to kind of be a refuge to sort of come and be in nature. So, Mark would wake up every morning, he would take a shower, grab his coffee and he would sit here, he would have his coffee and have his bible, his way of connecting with God,” Rodriguez reflected.
During those times, Mark kept detailed and insightful journals of his faith, and he was a prolific writer. This passage he wrote in June 2013: “Lastly, I prayed for myself, for courage, for guidance, for wisdom … God has plans for me, crazy plans … God is not dead. Faith is not dead. I have a calling.”
Mark loved to worship and witness, and was not afraid of death. He recently wrote a blog about the immeasurable joy of reaching the gates of Heaven.
“I’ve been meditating on heaven a lot lately, and I must say, it wells my eyes with tears of joy every now and then. What a beautiful thought that one day, I will be completely in the presence of God,” Mark wrote on April 5.
Mark’s parents named him after Mark the Evangelist, who likely wrote the Gospel of Mark. History tells us Mark was probably written as a missionary book to people who knew next to nothing about the new Christian faith. Rodriguez says his remarkable son had a deep spiritual love for God and spent the last four years of his life teaching others about the Christianity.
During a recent trip to Nicaragua, Rodriguez said Mark saw the difference that the Gospel could make in the world.
“As he saw the lives of these people, he realized he could make a difference. God could use him to bring love and the Gospel to people. It shifted his perspective,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said he is in awe of his son, and that it’s always the beautiful things that are cut down.
“It was the beauty of his life that is really standing out against the pure senselessness and violence of his death,” Rodriguez said.
The celebration of life for Mark Rodriguez will be Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Tabernacle Church on Granby Street in Norfolk.
A fund has been established by Redeemer Presbyterian Church to benefit the Rodriguez family. If you would like to contribute, checks may be made payable to:
- Redeemer Presbyterian Church
- 913 First Colonial Road, Ste 102
- Virginia Beach, VA. 23454
- (Designate the memo line: MAR fund)
- Click here to donate online