My father is the most courageous and loving man I have ever met. Everything I have today – my wife, my kids, my job, my songs – I have because he showed me how. How to love a woman, how to raise children that would love and respect you, how to work hard, how to sing. I am his special reflection. Every huge life mistake I’ve avoided, I avoided because he warned me. Every great success I’ve attained I’ve attained because he taught and counseled me. In all my travels around the world, I have never met another like him – seemingly filled with equal amounts of grace, humility, courage, and audacity. Even in his flaws, I found lessons – the way he apologized, often in tears (to me, my siblings AND our mother), the way he handled criticism, the way he took responsibility for his words and actions, the way he implored me to be better. He was the greatest voice of reason & truth in my life and came a close 2nd to my mother in words of encouragement, and next to introducing us to a grace-filled Savior – his greatest act was loving our mother. Their lives are now tattooed on my soul – a permanent influence in everything I do. Now, more than ever, I realize how rare that is.
I am so very proud to be the daughter of Mark & Kathy Darling. While they are two imperfect people, they have loved me, nurtured me, pointed me to Jesus and demonstrated a real, genuine faith in Christ that made me WANT to follow in their footsteps at a young age.
For 38 years I have watched these two people walk in deep faith, pour out their lives for the church, give generously, live authentic, real lives of two broken people who LOVE their Savior, love their children, love their grandchildren and love their church with every fiber of their being.
My marriage is thriving today in no small part to the example that my parents set for me in their love, commitment and selfless acts of service to one another. I often witnessed my parents making allowances for each other preferences, setting aside their own agenda, offering and receiving forgiveness for wrongs done, and all for the sake of keeping their marriage healthy and strong. They demonstrated a marriage built on God’s grace, forgiveness, and deep loyalty to each other. I am so privileged to have been able to be in their home for 20 years to be an eyewitness to their union.
Truly, I would not be the woman, wife or mother I am today without their love, guidance, and support.
My dad- the love that this man exudes and freely gives it’s remarkable. And let me explain…When I was going through my illness and experiencing some of the darkest days of my life, my dad would go above and beyond to make sure I was taken care of. He would run countless errands (even late at night) pray with me, sit with me and hold my hand, he would do whatever he could to help ease my sorrow and pain. He would get his guitar out and sing to me. He would go buy me my favorite treat, and rent my favorite movies and sit and watch them with me. Some days the physical pain I was experiencing was so intense that all I did was cry and my dad would just sit and hold my hand and weep with me, as we just tried to make it through the next hour. He spent hours and hours with me at the hospital with my mom and I. My dad willingly gave hours that added up to days, then months, then years of his life to spend taking care of me. Hundreds of doctors appointments across cities and states, waiting countless hours in waiting rooms, he never gave up. I have never met a more selfless servant than my Father and I simply don’t have words that can express the love, gratitude, and adoration that I have for him. All the while continuing to serve his church and not throwing in the towel when it would have been so easy to do so. I know you’ve been through a lot in your life, dad, but it’s hard to mistake who you are. You’ve shown me.
Not every father decides to be as loving and involved as you are… and have been. You’ve always been approachable, transparent, and an open book. I’m still being blessed by the decisions you’ve made in your upright and humble life. Let no one mistake it– you are a man of great integrity. In fact, more integrity than anyone I have ever known. I say that with no exaggeration. The way I observed you live your life, your daily pursuit to honor God, early in the morning, when you thought no one was looking… I saw it, heard it and it spoke volumes. Daily praying for others, asking God for wisdom in humility. The consistency has been astonishing and unwavering for all the years of my life. Thank you for this example and showing us just how much we need to be depending on God in our daily life…because that’s how we live– One day at a time. You’ve been faithful in the small things and it has amounted to big things
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” – Ephesians 5:25-33
One of the greatest things my Dad, Mark Darling, has ever given me—next to teaching me about Jesus and showing me what it means to love and live for him—is the daily example of what it means for a husband to love his wife. Every day of my almost twenty-nine years on this earth he has demonstrated what it means to lay down his life for my mom. He has taught me what it means for a husband to be faithful, loving, honest, kind, committed, gentle. To give every bit of life up for her.
Even if that was the only thing I ever witnessed from my father, I would still owe him a lifelong debt. But that wasn’t the only thing he demonstrated—and continues to demonstrate. My father is a man who passionately, fervently seeks out God. I have watched over years, through trials and heartache—the likes of which have turned many other men away from the Lord—my father serve Jesus and the Church with everything that he has. He has never had a hobby. He has never taken vacation or time off from his work to “just relax”. Not because he doesn’t desire it, but because he desires to serve God more. My father is not in the habit of wasting even a single precious moment in this life that he could be used to further advance the Kingdom of God. He has relentlessly given his life to the pursuit of Christ, to spread the Gospel, assist others in growing in their walks with the Lord and to make disciples of all nations.
Since I was very young, one of my greatest prayers has been—after asking God to help make me be just a bit more like Jesus—that He would help to be even half the father, the husband, the man, that my Dad, Mark Darling, is.
I wouldn’t be the father, the husband or the man I am today without my father’s example.
Mark Darling has been a part of my life for 18 years. I am the benefactor of his biggest investment in life, his family. I have been married to his eldest daughter since 2002 and we are the parents to five kiddos. Mark and Kathy were instrumental in raising Celeste into the woman, wife, and mother that she is today. Celeste did not turn out to be the wonderous Godly woman by chance, but due to an all-out effort by Mark and Kathy. I am PROUD to call and have Mark Darling be my FATHER-IN-LAW, grandpa to my five children, and my pastor for 18 years. He is no ordinary man, but a man that desires to be used by the Lord in the lives around him. I have witnessed his impact on the lives around him hundreds of times. He is PRESENT in the lives of others.
My children look up to Grandpa Mark is an honorable and loving way. This is because he looks down at them as one of his truest treasures. It does not take much effort for grandpa to make a memory with the kids. Weekends he will often drive the 30 minutes to pick-up donuts and deliver them to the kids. If we are not awake yet, he will wait for them. Even if that means taking a nap in our hammock. As the kids enjoy the donuts, he just listens to the kid’s stories, and then he quickly silences them with his own stories. Thank you, Mark, for being a grandpa that my children embrace and desire to have as many moments with because beautiful memories are created.
Since the allegations came forth against Mark in January 2018, I have had the privilege to stand alongside him every step of the way. We have wept together and witnessed many things ripped from his life in a very unjust manner. In the rawest of moments, Mark would continue to reach out to the Lord for strength and guidance. From the beginning, he promised each of us kids that he would not become a bitter old man because of this ordeal. He has held up his end of the deal, now I hope I can as well. During this time, I have seen first hand why I am confident in the man that Mark Darling is and why I am proud to stand alongside him. I love you Mark and thank you for the opportunity to call you my pastor, friend, father-in-law, and grandpa to my children.
When I was 18 years old my life was forever changed and impacted by Jesus Christ! My life was in a very precarious state. My sister invited me to church and it was there I heard my father-in-law share the Gospel with great zeal. I’ll never forget him sharing about our new life in Christ, how our sins are forgotten and we become white as snow – that Christ was the final sacrifice. Mark became my biggest encourager in my new life as a Christian. He encouraged me in scripture and in truth. He introduced me to my now husband Jeromy. I had never in my entire life met a man like my husband Jeromy. I saw a beautiful relationship between the two of them that I had never witnessed before. I saw friendship, trust, honor, kindness, encouragement, joy, and respect.
Mark is still one of my greatest encouragers. He’s been a living example to me of Christlikeness. He has laid down his life for me and my husband time and time again. He has devoted his life to his family, his church, my family, my friends and pours his heart out in prayer to all of the above as if his life depended on it. His prayer life and his life of service to Christ have impacted my life more than anything. I am tremendously blessed by the way Mark and Kathy chose to raise their children based off of biblical truths. I am reaping the benefits of Mark and Kathy’s devotion to godly parenting, as I enjoy a rich and wonderful marriage to their son Jeromy. We are blessed to live close to Mark and Kathy and to witness our 3 boys share a precious relationship with their Grandma and Grandpa. God is always faithful!
That’s the word someone might describe you with. Despite what you may think, I don’t think anyone would think of your voice as the loudest part about you. It’s your life, Mark. I tried to bring myself back to when I didn’t know you as my father-in-law, but simply the pastor of my church. Even then, if I had heard the accusations that are being thrown at you, I truly do not think I would believe them.
This is another word someone might describe you with. I’m not talking about knowledge or intelligence in this context, but rather how God shines in you with such a tangible authenticity that anyone with a speck of a God-given conscience can recognize that what you say, and what they see are true and honest.
The interesting thing about true passion is that it exudes the aforementioned “Bright”. It is this quality in passion that indicates it’s genuineness. Liars aren’t passionate, since lying can’t produce the real article. If a liar tries to fake it, it’s hollow and unsustainable and people smell it a mile away. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and I say, where there is passion there is substance. If that substance is good (or of God), it will be a sustainable passion, but furthermore, if it is directly from God, it can’t be moved. Mark, people see an unmovable passion from you. It is unmistakeable. Anyone with the Holy Spirit can’t miss it.
When folks have described your speaking as “in-our-face” or “blunt”, this strangely has a lot to do with your reverence. The way I see it, only a loving person would go to great lengths not to mince words when dealing with incredibly important truths that desperately need to be shared as simply and as plainly as possible. A person who understands the profundity of God’s precepts would ensure they are communicated as clearly as possible. Someone who fears God has to speak the hard truths. This stems from God-fearing reverence– one who has to speak the words that God puts on his heart. YOU care more about what God thinks of you than what people do. Yes, over several decades, you’ve endured the vitriol of sinful people and hardships and the scars show, but you did not stop. satan has always hated what you do. Your ministry has been a beacon of light in a world of “ministries” made of straw and glass– where a strong wind or a rock brings it all down, exposing it for what it really is, often times showing the money-loving nature of it’s existence, but remember, the substance of God is immovable. satan can’t simply throw a rock at a something God made and expect it to act the same way as it did with the structures made of glass or straw. The substance of God is unmistakeable and His followers know it.
God was not afraid when you endured injustice. He held it in his hands while holding back His anger, as he allowed the things that were to be used for your good. This life is a long hotel stay, but Eternity is where you need to fix your mind, more than you ever have before. God bless you for having the courage that very few decide to have. You acknowledged Christ’s warning that trials and difficulties would come as a result of serving Him faithfully and you did not stop. Even now, as you deal with injustice in your own life, you have remained honorable in a way that is so inspiring and significant. Don’t ever lose this. It shows you fear God and not man, and that God’s opinion is the opinion that matters most to you. I am so very proud of you for this.
Thank you for all of the years of support when I was dealing with severe health problems. Thank you for your generosity during that time. Thank you for being the first person to encourage me to pursue a challenging, but fruitful career when I had no confidence. In hindsight, all I needed was for someone to believe in me and you were the first to do so. You’ll probably never fully understand what that did for my life. There’s much more I could say, but for now, don’t stop serving Him. I know God has put an abundance of words on your heart that He intends for you to speak and I sense your ministry work is not done. I am so looking forward to watching your next chapter unfold.
“I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you…” -2 Corinthians 12:15
I have always admired how Mark Darling lives out this verse. As his daughter-in-law, I have seen this first hand in my own life but I also see how he spends himself for his church. He cares so deeply for others and he is always there to encourage others, pray without ceasing, and offer support to anyone in need. He lives a selfless life, always desiring to help those he loves before himself. I have never seen another person live such a sacrificial life. Mark lives for the Kingdom of God and this is his life’s mission.
Mark loves his wife with all he has. They have a beautiful marriage that displays the Gospel. They showed their children what a selfless, God-honoring marriage looks like. I have seen myself the way Mark protects, loves, cherishes, and honors his precious wife, Kathy. He would do anything for her and he does it because he absolutely adores her. Micah got to witness this love his entire childhood. A dad who willingly lays down his life for his wife day after day. And a mom who is a loving, gentle, kind, and beautiful woman that I admire with my whole heart.
I am overwhelmed by how indebted I am to my sweet in-laws. Their commitment to Jesus, their marriage, and their children have blessed my life more than I will ever be able to express. I am proud to be Mark’s daughter-in-law. I’m blessed that my children get to call him “grandpa”. And I’m honored that he will forever be my pastor.