We have recently experienced a change of season here in Northeast Ohio, moving from summer to fall. Before long the trees will all sport bright, autumnal-colored leaves, the air will turn brisk, and the daylight hours will be waning. Most of us enjoy living in an area where we experience four distinct seasons, but not everyone likes the same season.
Speaking of changes in season, if you weren’t at our 7th Annual Love Akron Network Servant Leadership Awards Breakfast, you might have missed an important announcement about a change in the season of Love Akron and the Ford family. I made the announcement that next year’s Breakfast, which is set for September 24, 2019, will be my last public event as the Executive Director of The Love Akron Network. This next year will be a season of transition both for me and for Love Akron. The following is the special announcement I shared at the Awards Breakfast.
“For the past year Janna and I have been on a journey that has led to a series of changes in our lives. One of those changes is that I will be transitioning out of my role as Executive Director of The Love Akron Network in September 2019 to a new place with new ministry opportunities. Next year’s Breakfast on September 24 will be my last big community event as Executive Director, and you won’t want to miss it. We will be celebrating our 25th Anniversary, introducing our new Executive Director, and will have an amazing Special Speaker, renowned author, Ken Blanchard, who wrote the book One Minute Manager.
King Solomon stated in Chapter 3 of the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. One of the activities Solomon mentioned was “a time to plant and a time to uproot.” Twenty-five years ago, next year, Pastor Knute Larson and Pastor Ron Fowler and I planted The Love Akron Network. Over the last 24 years, the seed we planted has grown into a burgeoning faith-based organization which continues to thrive and multiply.
Be assured although we planted The Love Akron Network, we are not uprooting its mission and commitment to the greater Akron community. However, the time has come for me to step aside and to provide the opportunity for a new generation of leaders to take us into the next decade. This decision was a very personal decision made by Janna and me, and while the Board of Directors did not enthusiastically accept my resignation, nevertheless they did graciously permit me to follow what I believe is God’s will for our life and for the advancement of The Network.
The purpose of my transition is to grant me the time to accept ministry opportunities that have come and will come my way. One of those opportunities is to join my son Greg, who is the Lead Pastor of a rapidly growing church called One Church Columbus, in Columbus, Ohio. I must admit the opportunity to hang out with his children and do the grandparent thing is a pull greater than Church work. And all of the grandparents said a loud AMEN!
Let me be clear. I am not disappearing off the scene. The next year, 2019, will be a year of transition, and I will very much be part of the process of transitioning to a new Executive Director. So we will continue to work together in the community, and we will continue to connect at community events. I have never been more excited about Love Akron’s future as I am today. There is a very robust and exciting vision in progress as we speak.
My departure from the leadership of Love Akron does not alter my love for this great city. Unlike Tony Bennett who left his heart in San Francisco, my heart will always be in Akron, Ohio, regardless of where I live. My request to my family after I have moved on to higher ground is they will have engraved on my tombstone, ‘Mark loved Jesus, and he loved Akron.'”
So, that was my big announcement, which was followed up later in the day by a wonderful Akron Beacon Journal article by Stephanie Warsmith. If you’d like to read the article, you can do so here.
Another change that Love Akron is experiencing this week is the departure of our Office Manager, Marissa Dove. Marissa and her husband Chris, along with their son, Gideon, are leaving in January to serve as missionaries to the Dominican Republic. Marissa has been an incredible gift to Love Akron and my leadership. As difficult as it is to let her go, she like me, must follow the call of God on her life. She will be missed, but our love and prayers go with her to the land of her calling. God has sent us a wonderful gift in the person of Michala Halterman. Michala is a “preacher’s kid” and is very qualified for this new chapter in our collective lives.
So, let me close with this truth. Life is a series of changes, both hellos and goodbyes. Thankfully there is One who never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Because we serve an unchanging God we are comforted by the truth that our lives are in His providential hands. I will shed many tears in the weeks ahead, but I will sleep well because I know who holds my future. AMEN!!