A little over three months ago, I had the great blessing to take a short term mission trip to China, along with 10 other people from our church. We were guests of the Mark Tolson family. Mark had graduated from our youth group several years ago and along with his wife Natasha and three daughters, is a missionary in the city of Dalian. Before I share some of the experiences we had while there, I must say a few words about Mark. Mark has tremendous Christian parents, Allen & Brenda, who also went on this trip. They have brought him up well. Mark is the middle son of three boys. Mark is bookended by older brother Matt, a Navy veteran (who once got our youth group a private tour of the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor, where he was stationed) and younger brother Chris (who along with his wife Samantha, serve The Lord in our youth group). Mark surrendered his life for missions, graduated from Our Generation Training Center near Atlanta, Georgia, and set off half way around the world. Which is really as far as you can go, since anything beyond half way is actually closer, since technically you would be heading back to where you started. Anyhow, Mark was the kind of young man who you believed would either be a great missionary or perhaps need a great missionary. He was always strong willed yet soft hearted, daring yet disciplined, mischievous yet … well mischievous is accurate. When one of our teens lost all the money he had saved for a mission trip to Mexico, Mark, along with Bobby Mann (who is serving tremendously as the Youth Pastor at Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church in Gray, Tennessee) were the first two teens waiting outside my office door, ready to donate their money so this young man could go. Mark is also the kid who around age 15, drove the church van across the frozen camp at our Winter Retreat at PVR because “he was cold and didn’t want to walk”. I made him walk around a small tree 100 times while saying “I will not drive the church van”. He did it 100 times in the snow with a great big smile on his face and I secretly admired his style that day. He is also the young man, who prior to leaving for China looked across the table at Applebees and responded to my question of “are you afraid to go to communist China, with “Bro. Doug, I’m afraid not to go to China”. It was not said with puffed up pride or foolish arrogance but rather with a sincerely yielded heart to The Lord and His will for his life. I openly admired his style that day. My next few blogs will be about funny and spiritual events that changed me while in China. Blessings that The Lord used to help make me and ten others into Christians with improved eyes and enlarged hearts. But none of that happens if a mischievous kid from a good Christian family doesn’t bow his knee and heart unto God and give his life for our Savior.


  1. Krista Young says


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