Great is Thy Faithfulness
Many of you know me, Mark Papierski, former College Church missionary. Something you may not know about me, however, is that I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior through the outreach and preaching ministries of College Church. It is a privilege to share my story of God’s grace and how his Word, his people and his faithfulness have transformed my life and the lives of my family over the past 38 years.
I grew up in a loving family on the south side of Chicago. We attended a Roman Catholic Church every Sunday but no one in our family had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My motivation for doing good things was to please my parents, my teachers and God. I was convinced that I was going to heaven based on my good works and had even contemplated becoming a priest. However, I abandoned my Catholic faith when I left for college and was heavily influenced by my secular humanist roommate during my freshman year at the University of Illinois.
Fast forward to the fall of 1982. I was 27 years old and was the general manager of the Red Lobster restaurant when it was still located near the Fox Valley Mall. I was also an alcoholic and smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. While successful by the world’s definition, my life was a mess.
I first started attending College Church and Wheaton College chapel services through the invitation of a Wheaton College coed. She introduced me to her entire floor, and I became the focus of much attention and prayer over the next several months. She also introduced me to three men, who in turn, introduced me to Jesus Christ–Pastor Kent Hughes, C.S. Lewis and her dad.
Pastor Hughes had just started preaching through the Book of Romans. I had never been exposed to expository preaching before and became a believer between chapters seven and eight!
C.S. Lewis and his book, Mere Christianity, forced me to examine the claims of Christ and answer the question, “Is Jesus Christ a liar, a lunatic or the lord of the universe?”
And finally, the college student’s dad asked me two questions that transformed my life:
- Have you come to the place in your spiritual life that you know for certain that if you died tonight, you would go to heaven?
- If you were to die tonight and stand before God, and He asked you, “Why should I let you into heaven,” what would you say?
So, confronted with the truth of the gospel through the witness of the Holy Spirit and these three men, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior on November 12, 1982.
My life verse became Ephesians 2:8-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
After being saved by “grace through faith–not as a result of works,” my motivation for doing the “good works that God had prepared for me beforehand” changed from expecting or earning a reward to gratitude for what Christ had already done for me on the cross.
My initial call to missions came through my desire to share my newfound faith with my parents. I enrolled in Evangelism Explosion under the mentorship of Pastor Larry Fullerton and had the privilege of leading both of my parents to Christ over the next several years. My dad accepted the Lord when he was 63 years old and read through the Living Bible three times before the Lord called him home. What’s so amazing about this is that Dad had a sixth-grade education, was legally blind in one eye, and to that point in his life, had never read a book through from cover to cover!
My life became a series of concentric circles patterned after Acts 1:8. I received power from the Holy Spirit to become his witness in my Jerusalem (my family), in all Judea (employee Bible studies at ServiceMaster) and Samaria (Billy Graham Counseling Center) and even to the remotest parts of the earth—Latin America, Haiti, Asia, Africa and Eurasia throughout our 27 years of ministry with Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB Global), Leadership Resources and Mission Eurasia (formerly Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries).
I could tell you many more stories of God’s grace, faithfulness and provision in our lives, but space limits me. But the encouragement here is that the Lord continues to be gracious and faithful.
I was reminded of that in a very personal, tangible way just recently. On the same day that I celebrated my 38th spiritual birthday, November 12, Marilyn and I welcomed Ethan James (our first grandchild) into our family. Ethan is a Hebrew name that means “firm, enduring, strong and long-lived.” James is derived from the Hebrew name Jacob, which means “supplanter,” or one who follows. I learned that Psalm 89 is “A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite,” or Ethan’s Song. The first line of the psalm reads “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.” Our prayer for our new grandson is that he too will be a firm, enduring, strong and long-lived follower of Jesus Christ and will experience the steadfast love of the Lord forever, while making known His faithfulness to all future generations!
May we all proclaim His faithfulness to future generations!
Mark served as a College Church missionary from 1990-2017. He loves spending time with family, working on scrap-wood projects in his workshop, reading and studying God’s Word.
Reflect on the questions above