Nostalagia: Remembering Mark Rathnayake
I met Mark fourteen years ago while serving at a church in Colombo. I was an Assistant Pastor with the Assemblies of God of Ceylon, and he was a Lieutenant Commander in the Sri Lanka Navy. What has a preacher got in common with a soldier? Nothing maybe but he considered me his friend, mentor, and confidante until he was called home to be with the Lord after an automobile accident on October 22nd, 2021. This post about Mark is an effort to keep his memory alive in the years to come. [In Pic: Mark and me at church in the year 2021]
He helped me recover my Calling
When my marriage ended four years ago it struck a huge blow to my calling as a Pastor. In a nutshell, I stopped ministering because I strongly felt disqualified to minister to others. In the meantime, Mark was also experiencing his more than fair share of problems. Although he was aware of my failed marriage, Mark kept on coming to me for advice and direction. He never judged me or criticized me. I did not have answers to all the problems Mark went through but he has told me he was blessed each time we talked.
I found courage in Mark’s attitude, and it helped me recover my calling. I learned three lessons about my calling because of him. The number one lesson was that my calling for Christian service is determined by the grace of God, not by my standing in society. The second lesson was God can use me for his glory and the well-being of others regardless of my brokenness. The third lesson was we must always be ready to minister to the brokenhearted regardless of our brokenness.
He wasn’t ashamed to seek Help
Mark was a bright student, an alumnus of a reputed school in Colombo, and a graduate of the prestigious General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University. One of the most intelligent men I have ever met. He was the husband of a beautiful woman. He had almost everything he needed. If he lacked anything that was pride. He did not possess the prideful attitude commonly found among most men like him. It is also obvious from the comments left by his superiors, colleagues, and subordinates on his Facebook timeline followed by his death.
Above all, he chose to seek counsel for his problems instead of maintaining a false façade of a perfect lifestyle. He was such a humble person that he trusted the counsel of a young Pastor like me when he had the freedom to choose a much senior person. I must confess Mark’s behaviour challenged me because I am not as humble as him. I often find myself concealing my problems because I am too proud to even admit that I have a problem. Mark showed me it’s not embarrassing to seek help. It is what smart people do.
Mark was the epitome of Simplicity
The dictionary defines simplicity as “the state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded.” A definition that fitted Mark perfectly in many ways. He used to enjoy a simple snack with me every Sunday he came to church. He loved the Lime juice they served at the church cafeteria. It was Lime juice diluted in water and sweetened with sugar. Nothing more but he enjoyed every sip of it. Mark had the means to afford the best of everything, but he was satisfied with the simple pleasures of life.
He was a man of authority, yet never felt the urge to make his presence felt. His identity was not rooted in his position or possessions. He was polite and always wore a smile. He had many other characteristics that made people feel at ease. In a nutshell, He was loved by almost everyone for being a man with simple interests. I know for a fact that he will be missed by his family, the church, and the Sri Lanka Navy. Mark showed me that little can be more if I am authentic.
Like Mark Knopfler sang, “Let me bid you farewell [because] every man has to die” sooner or later. We will remember the man you were for the rest of our lives on this earth. Although you are gone you will continue to be alive in our hearts. Someone said, “The only time goodbye is painful is when you know you’ll never say hello again” It’s painful that you had to say goodbye so soon in life, but I know one day we shall say hello again. Until then, rest in peace my dear brother from another mother.
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