“You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good
to accomplish what is now being done,
the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:20 (NIV)
Sometimes you hear a story that makes such an impact it’s hard to get it out of your mind. Yesterday in church, one of our pastors asked for prayers for the families of a tragedy that took place last Friday in Norfolk. We did not know the details at the time.
Since then we’ve learned that a young man, 17-year-old Mark Rodriguez was inside his car on his way home from Norfolk Christian Schools graduation activities when he was killed by a suspect on an apparent random shooting spree. According to a newspaper article, the teen was a rising senior and was on his way home to Virginia Beach, after dropping off a friend off in Norfolk when he was murdered.
Police say the trigger-man was 29-year-old James Brown. A police officer and the gunman were also killed later in the evening.
A former teacher said Rodriguez was “wise beyond his years, a leader in the classroom and in church”.
“All of us who interacted with him just saw a very special young man with great talents and great gifts that we believe God used in a powerful way, even if he was only allowed to be here for 17 years,” noted Pat McCarty, Head of Norfolk Christian Schools.
Mark was a photographer who posted beautiful pictures to his blog, and
sometimes he also posted his thoughts. He wrote about his passion for photography, people, and God.
“By opening my eyes to the world around me, I began to realize how blessed I am and how much I take for granted. Within a couple of years, I developed a love for people and decided I wanted to show these people how awesome they are, and challenged myself to capture their personalities and passions in photography.”
Mark wasn’t afraid to show his faith. He was involved with music ministry at Norfolk Christian Schools and served as a member of the praise and worship team.
Mark is survived by his parents and three younger siblings. Mark’s father, Carlos, serves as a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, where Mark also played bass guitar for worship services.
A Memorial Celebration service for Mark has been planned for Wednesday, June 4 at 1 p.m. at Tabernacle Church in Norfolk.
People will ask why such a senseless crime, why did we lose such a fine young man? We live in a fallen world where evil often seems to prevail. But God is greater and He can use evil deeds and tragedies such as this as an opportunity to reach the lost.
This tragedy has touched many lives, but there is something remarkable about God’s presence and provision in the midst of the chaos. On April 5th, 2014, Mark wrote a post about heaven on his website, never knowing he would see heaven so soon.
God knew in April the events that would transpire last Friday. And I believe the Lord inspired Mark to post his thoughts on Heaven when he did. What a gift for Mark’s family, friends, and strangers who will read it and see the certainty of heaven that Mark had; a hope that only people who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior can have. It won’t minimize the loss of this remarkable young man, but perhaps God will use it to draw others to Himself and grow His Kingdom. That’s my prayer.
Mark’s blogpost on HEAVEN is below or go to his website:
“I’ve been meditating on heaven a lot lately, and I must say, it wells my eyes with tears of joy every now and then. What a beautiful thought that one day, I will be completely in the presence of God and will actually be able to feel the magnitude of all his love and peace with no earthly fears or worries to distract me. The joy that I feel now, the serenity I feel now, will finally be made perfect.
The presence of God here on earth is enough to make me shudder in wonder. I’ve had some incredible moments in life that can only be explained as miracles where I see my Abba, my Father move in love for me so powerfully; it brings me to my knees in amazement. To think that one day I will be perfectly and totally in his presence….I’m definitely going to need a heavenly body because the joy he fills me with now sometimes makes me feel like I’m about to explode!
I love the image of Heaven because it is perfect, perfect peace. Every quarrel, every hurt, it’s all gonna be resolved. All of God’s children will be together and we won’t hurt each other anymore; we’ll finally understand how to love perfectly. And the fact that we’ll all be worshiping the Lord together in one place, forever….that amazes me.
It makes me so excited to think of the wedding feast awaiting us when we go to be with the Lord. I imagine streets filled with rejoicing, loud trumpets, wedding bells….I’m sure it’ll be far more incredible than I can comprehend now, and I love that.
God is super good. I can’t wait to be with him forever
When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing