The Holy Spirit through the Word changed a man’s life and his eternal future.
Julie K. Wietzke
“I love talking about my faith.”
Mark Stair, a delegate representing St. John, Oak Creek, Wis., at the 2015 synod convention, has come a long way from the boy who skipped catechism class so many times he never was confirmed. “[My Sunday school teachers] didn’t get through to me,” he says. “It just didn’t interest me.”
Fifty years later, he jumped at the chance to learn more about his synod and help shape its direction. “My pastor said the opening service is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and he wasn’t kidding,” says Stair. “It’s humbling and hard to believe that I’m sitting among so many pastors and missionaries.”
The Holy Spirit through the Word, he says, changed the way he thought about everything—and changed how he lives his life.
Stair was baptized and grew up as a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. His parents sent him to Sunday school and his mom attended church, but his dad “was kind of a wedding and funeral guy,” he says.
As Stair grew older, he stopped going to church. “I didn’t know anything about Jesus. I remember the Sunday school stories about Palm Sunday but I didn’t know why he was here,” Stair says. “I never put it together—that he was here to pay for our sins.”
Fast forward 35 years. Stair’s second wife, Jackie, who also had fallen away from the Lutheran church, was interested in going back to church. Stair had no problem with that, but he wasn’t planning on going with her—until he ended up in the hospital with pancreatitis.
“They didn’t know what caused it, so I was going through all these tests,” he says. “Right away you think it’s cancer or a tumor or something like that.”
So Stair prayed. “But I didn’t know what I was doing,” he says, “so I tried to make a deal. I prayed, If they don’t find anything and I come out of this okay, I’m going to start going to church.”
Looking back, Stair says he knows now that you don’t make deals with God, “but I know a lot more now than I did then,” he says, chuckling.
Stair did get better and told his wife he wanted to look for a church because he felt he owed that to God. “It just about floored her,” he says.
Though the plan was to visit many churches to determine which one they liked best, Stair and his wife only visited one—St. John, Oak Creek. A woman with whom his wife worked was a member there and invited them to worship. “We went to church there three or four times and the next thing I know, Pastor was in our living room and we started going to Bible information class,” he says.
As a truck driver, Stair says he had a lot of time to think about what he was learning. “I had a lot of complicated questions, and Pastor always had some pretty simple answers,” he says. After about ten weeks, Stair says everything just came together for him. In 1997, he and his wife were confirmed and joined the church.
After retiring early due to medical issues, Stair says he became even more active in church, including going to Bible classes, ushering, and serving on the church council. “I’m getting closer and closer to my Savior—just by hearing the Word,” he says.
That’s a big change from his earlier life. His first marriage ended in divorce, and his children weren’t raised in the church. Stair says sometimes he reflects on how his life would have been different if he had been a believer. “There are a lot of things I’ve done that I’m not proud of and I can’t go back and change them,” he says. “But it’s such a great feeling to know that you’re forgiven. It’s amazing!”
He continues, “Before I came to faith, I thought that I had a great life. Now I look back on it and it wasn’t that great. I wanted to have a purpose and something to put my trust in.”
Having a Savior in whom he can put his trust has helped him and his wife live their lives for the Lord—even through hardships. “It changes everything, even the way you think,” he says. He shared how in 2009, he was dealing with heart problems, and his wife was going through chemotherapy to combat breast cancer. “She never even cried a tear,” he says. “We just had faith.”
The Lord took care of Stair and his wife. “It’s one of those stories that changes someone,” says Stair. “But I feel like we were already changed before it happened.
“I feel sorry for people who don’t have faith that have to go through this; they’re basically alone. But when you have your God to lean on and your Christian friends and church members, it’s amazing.”
Now instead of dwelling on the past, Stair looks to the future and how he can share his faith with others.
At church, he is the chairman of the Board for Spiritual Life. He leads services at a local nursing home, something he never expected he would do. “Now it’s one of my favorite things,” he says. “They need to hear the Word too.”
Stair also is reaching out in his personal life. “I worked with truck drivers. At first I didn’t tell them [when I started going to church] because I didn’t want to be made fun of,” he says. “Eventually that changed. I know what the truth is, and maybe I can help some of those guys.” Stair is trying to get in touch with one of his past truck driver friends who is sick to share the hope of salvation.
He is most concerned, however, about his adult children. “One of the things that I pray about the most is that they all come to faith,” he says. Stair shares his faith with his children in both his words and his actions. He also is writing a book that relates how he came to faith and looks at his past experiences through his new spiritual sight. “If one of my kids reads what I have written, it might make a difference,” he says. “I know it’s up to God and his grace, but I feel like I would really have done something if it affects just one person—especially one of my own kids.”
He continues, “God uses people where he can use them. Maybe all my life experiences before will come in handy as I try to spread the Word.”
Because Stair knows, the Word works and does make a difference.
Julie Wietzke is managing editor of Forward in Christ.
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Author: Julie K. Wietzke
Volume 102, Number 10
Issue: October 2015
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