Mark’s Story: How I came to work with Passion Life

People often ask me about the story of how I came into serving in Passion Life. My wife, my family, and I were living in Asia as long-term church planting missionaries. One of the things that really stood out to us was the fact of an incredibly high infant mortality rate where we lived. It was comparable to many parts of Africa where infant mortality rates are at their highest throughout the world. We also realized that a lot of what was driving these high infant mortality rates were completely preventable situations.

For instance, there was a high level of pneumonia because these kids were often being born out in tents among the extremely harsh and cold grasslands. They did not have the medical care that they needed for pneumonia and other common colds, flus, etc. Another thing that was driving these high mortality rates was the diseases that were caused by traditions. One of the traditions that was common, where we lived, was when a baby is born, the neighbors and family members would come and spit in the face of the baby to ward off demons. These are just a few examples of these unnecessary and unclean traditions that were causing the health problems that led to a high infant mortality.

There was also a story that really moved our hearts. The story is this: we met a young man who was a shepherd or out in the plateaus. During the time that we were getting to know him and his family, he had a young woman that had come into his life who he was considering to marry. All of this took place over an eight to twelve month period. He met this young lady. He developed something similar to a courtship with her, and next thing you know, they are married. We knew that they had become pregnant within their first year of marriage, which is wonderful. They were celebrating. They were excited about it. As the time approached for this young lady to give birth, we, as a family, had to make an exit from the country in order to have our visas renewed. We were gone for about two weeks and we knew that she probably should have had the baby. Within several days of arriving back in the country, we made preparations to go out into that remote grasslands area to visit the family. We had gifts for the baby and all kinds of things in tow.

As we were on our way out there, we passed the grandmother. This was the mother of the young man. She was walking on the road. Her body language was saddened. So we stopped and asked her how she was doing. She deflected. We asked her how the baby was doing and had the baby been born. She just would not talk about it whatsoever.

In this particular culture, when someone passes away, you never mention their name again. You burn all the pictures that you have of them and you never mention their name again. That is one of the things that they do culturally to deal with the finality of death is cut the memory of that person out of their lives as best they can.

We could tell, by her body language, that something grave had happened with the baby, and assumed that the baby was not living. We put her in the car because we noticed she was not walking toward her house. She was walking toward town to visit her daughter-in-law at the hospital.

We drove her to the hospital to unfold the details of the story. We arrived to find that the young woman had given birth about four days prior to our coming back to the village. The baby girl was born healthy and happy. But there was some sort of fluid in the back of the throat and because that clinic did not have the simple little suction bulbs (which are very inexpensive) that suction mucus and fluid out of the back of the throat, the young girl had suffocated after she was born. Within a few minutes was pronounced dead. The young nomad girl gave birth by C-section and was informed, at the time, that her baby had passed away. She was also informed that while they had her open on the table that they had sterilized her because, at that point, the country where we were living had a one child policy.Because this woman had given birth to her full allotment of children that she was allowed to, they went ahead and sterilized her without asking or telling her that they were doing that so.

Of course, we grieved with this family who, not only had lost the one baby that they had been looking forward to welcoming into the world, but that they had lost all opportunity to have future children. It was one of the reasons we decided, my wife and I, to begin a nonprofit in that area called the Nomad Infant Rescue and Care (which we shortened to NIRC). We began to raise money for certain services for pregnant women which included perinatal, pre-birth, and post-birth services.

Part of what we did was raising money for clothing and blankets in order to provide protection for kids against the cold after they were born. We started mothering classes for young women to learn how to hygienically and culturally care for their babies in a way that would give them the best chance of survival. We had an ambulatory care portion of our foundation that would take women in high risk pregnancies or who had complications in labor to either the local clinic or, if needed, take them all the way down the mountain into the closest city so they could receive the best healthcare available. The hospital where we would take them had agreed to receive those women at a discounted rate because they were affiliated with our nonprofit program.

One of the other services that we offered was counseling for women who found themselves in difficult circumstances concerning pregnancy (what we would call a pregnancy related crisis). These women did not know if they could bring another baby into the world for one reason or another, so we would counsel them. We would talk with those women to see if we could help find a suitable solution for how we could remove whatever barriers they encountered. We wanted to help remove anything preventing them from feeling like they had what they needed to be able to give birth and raise that child.

Because we were doing this pro-life work, a local pastor, who was a friend of mine, said, “You really need to meet my friend, John Ensor. John is an American man who is traveling through that part of Asia, and he is teaching biblical pro-life ethics. You have really got to meet this guy. You guys would have a lot in common.” So we invited John to come over to our house for dinner and we got to know him.

At the time, we were finishing the church planting cycle where we were and moving on to another area. John asked me to come and sit on his organization’s board. I sat on the board at Passion Life for about two or two and a half years before John, I like to say, “fired” me because he was looking for an executive director to help him expand the work of Passion Life out into new countries. So he “fired” me from the board in order for me to be hired as the executive director. I officially came on staff in 2016. Since then we have gone from that one country to twenty-one countries today who boast more than 27 different languages. That is the story of how John Ensor and I met and how I was brought in.

Now we have hired more staff around the two of us and the Lord has been so gracious to continue to provide for all of our needs and open doors in places we never thought possible.
It is really exciting to see the work of Passion Life growing. It is because of donors, like you, that we have been able to answer the call of the Lord around the world. The Bible says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11, NIV). That is what Passion Life exists to do.

If this is something that you would like to be a part of, go onto the passion life.org website and sign up to make a monthly gift. Why do we say make a monthly gift instead of just following us or sign up for our newsletters? While these are fine things to do, and I encourage you to do so, I believe in the biblical principle that where you invest your treasure, there your heart will also be. Whether it is $5 or $500 a month, the Lord will use that gift to incline your heart toward pro-life ministry overseas in the places where abortion, infanticide, and gendercide are most concentrated and where you are most needed to help intervene. Join our team. We would love to have you come along and be a part of the amazing work God is doing around the world.