By DANNY MINTON
Around 1 p.m. Saturday, March 13, a friend and co-worker, Mark Rogers, was tragically killed in an automobile accident. The wreck left his wife and children in the hospital, recovering from injuries both physically and emotionally. This past week in Abilene, the news and social media have been filled with stories, pictures, and tributes to a fine young man, community leader, Christian leader, and wonderful father and son. Mark was only 39 years old.
Mark and I held a unique tie. We both graduated from the same high school. I graduated from Plano High School in 1966 and Mark in 1999. The thing about Plano High School, especially those of us pre-2000, is that there is an unseen bond. I’ll sum it up in a statement one of my fellow teammates often makes, “Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.”
At 11:13 on March 6, I received a phone call from an excited Mark. Of course, Mark always had that air of excitement around him, but this call started with the statement, “You broke your neck!” He had found a book from Bart Benne entitled “The Best High School Football in the Country.” It’s a history of Plano football from 1900 to the late 1980s. He found the book in a box and said, “I wanted to see if Danny Minton is in it, and there you were. Is that picture when you broke your neck?” He had found a couple of pictures of when it happened in 1965 and told me, “Next time I introduce you in church, I’m going to tell everyone, ‘Did you know he broke his neck!”
That was Mark, excited about any and everything. Our call lasted about five minutes. He wanted to know if I had a copy, offering to give me his. I assured him I did. The following day both Mark and I were to be part of the worship service. Mark was still talking about the book when another minister came up, and Mark’s first words were, “Did you know he broke his neck!?” That was the last time I spoke to Mark. He led singing that morning. After he led the final song and I arose to speak at the end, he looked at me with a bit of a smile, like he wanted to say something but held back. I would never see Mark again, but I’ll never forget those last moments.
Stephen Corbett, one of the Southern Hills ministers, said of Mark, “I’ve never known anyone like Mark. He was a gifted, charismatic leader who could entertainingly compel a room full of people but was also a great listener who excelled in one-on-one situations. He might be the most talented person I’ve ever known–a remarkable singer, actor, comedian, athlete, motivational speaker, teacher…and yet he remained humble and even self-deprecating. He was a tremendous leader of people, which is evident when you look at the way he positively impacted the Southern Hills’ campus ministry and the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization – as well as other groups and organizations he touched. He was a man of faith, who loved God and the people who were blessed to be his neighbors.”
Those words encapsulate who Mark was in the world that he way too early left behind. He and his wife, Jenn, made a great team with our University group, touching many lives. Children of all ages loved him, from 1 to 99.
Some people in this world carry with them that charismatic aura. They always seem to be the ones to whom people are drawn in all situations. They are few and far between. Over the years, thinking of all the thousands of people I have known and worked with, there is only a handful that I have known who automatically draw people to them. I don’t believe it’s something you teach yourself. It’s a gift, a talent, that God bestows upon a few. Some come across that way outwardly, but it’s more of a facade. But with people like Mark, it’s a true gift, one both in their outward persona as well as genuinely abiding deep in their hearts.
Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” It saddens me to think of Jenn, Haelyn, Hope, and Hunter now having to move on without the strengthening arm they have had to hold and lean-on. It should have never been this way. However, I know that Mark has left an inheritance to his family, not money, but a life of joy and love.
So what now? To those of us that have faith and hope, we know where Mark is at this time. But what about his family? Bobby Lawson, one of our members and an emergency room doctor, shared with me this past Sunday a thought from 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Love, that’s what the family needs right now. Our faith and hope give us comfort, but it’s the love of one another for all those left behind that needs to be shared and felt.
Mark Rogers will be missed by so many in his church and across the city of Abilene. He was a leader, loved by the community that he loved so well. He worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters, but those who knew Mark can say, without hesitation, that he was a Big Brother to everyone he met. Goodbye, Mark, we’ll miss you for now but see you later.
“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (NIV2011)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ