Mark Darling – Story 66
My name is Ida-Lea Richardson, I met Mark Darling about a year after I started attending Evergreen Community Church in late 1998 early 1999. At the time I was a single mom struggling to raise three young children. I had just come out of a dysfunctional marriage that left me emotionally broken. I was struggling in so many areas in my life. Shortly after attending Evergreen I joined a single mom’s group. The love and support I received were overwhelming. I came to know the Lord through my small group leaders. This newborn relationship with Jesus Christ opened my eyes to all the mistakes and bad choices I had made in the past, in my marriage, I saw the harm I had caused and was causing my children. It was bittersweet. It was during a series on parenting that Mark Darling was giving that I realized I needed to make some changes in my parenting and in the relationship, I had with my ex-husband. I remember waiting to speak to Mark after the service. He was so kind he listened to me as I shared my struggles with raising my boys and my little girl. He encouraged me with scripture verses and prayed for me and my children. I remember walking away feeling like I had a chance to make my life better for myself and my children. From that day on any time I would see Mark, he always greeted me with a warm smile and asked how I was doing. He would hug my kids and ask how they were doing. He always encouraged all of us to read Proverbs. He would tell my boys just read one a day, there are 31 Proverbs just like 30 days in a month. Read one a day, it will bless you and give you wisdom on how to live a Godly life. He encouraged my boys to journal to get their feelings out. Mark became a Spiritual Father to us.
As I was working on my depression and anxiety Mark encouraged me to build new relationships with other Godly women. He introduced me to Bonnie, at the time she was leading a women’s group for women dealing with addictions. I was so lost in my depression I didn’t realize my drinking had gotten out of control. He encouraged me to join this small group. He saw I needed help and knew this group of women would be able to help me. I was very resistant. Like a father, Mark wouldn’t let up. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. It was not easy to admit I had a drinking problem and it wasn’t easy to see that I had people in my life that were damaging. Mark supported me and loved me through the darkness. He connected me with Godly women that helped me turn my life around. During this time, I met his wife Kathy, she is by far the most loving, tender, kind-hearted individual I have ever met. She would pray with me on the phone, give my books to encourage me, she made me chicken noodle soup when I sick. She loved me when I wasn’t lovable. She inspired me to be a better person and better mother. I got through the darkness of depression and cleaned up my life. I owe so much of my sobriety to the Darlings.
Shortly after, I discovered my ex-husband was also working on becoming a better person for himself and our children. It was during an argument that he shared he too had joined a church and was involved in a small group. I asked what church, he said the Rock. Like a light switch the tone of our conversation changed. I suddenly felt peace. The Rock, where Mark was pastor was the church my ex-husband attended. I could not believe it. I remember hanging up the phone and telling my kids, my son Josh said we should get him a bible. So, we did. A week later I saw Mark and shared the story. He got so excited, he literally jumped up and down. He had tears in his eyes and kept saying, “this is God, this is God. Ida this is God!” I was overwhelmed by his excitement, I felt fear because I knew where he was going with this. He asked me to describe my ex-husband. He told me he was going to hunt him down because this is God and we need to put this marriage back together. My response, “You are crazy! No way am I doing that again.” Well, just like with my drinking, Mark was persistent. He didn’t let up. He saw the miracle that only God could create. He believed that two very broken individuals could come together. He believed God had his hand in healing our marriage. Mark found my ex-husband and began meeting with him. He connected him with other men that would build into him and help him be the man, husband, father he knew he could be. Two years later, Mark remarried us. It was the most beautiful ceremony. Mark Darling, through the grace of God, brought our family back together.
I wanted to share my story because it would not have happened if it was not for Mark Darling. Through the years, he has inspired me to be a better person. He’s encouraged my children to follow the Lord. He has supported me through some the hardest, darkest times of my life. I know I can always count on Mark to be there for me and my family. He genuinely cares about people. It breaks my heart to see how broken and destroyed he is. Mark is the strongest, tender-hearted man I have ever met. His love for the Lord and his family inspires so many people. I am blessed and honored to have him in my life.
Shared by Ida-Lea