Mark, where are you calling from?
I am in Wichita Kansas. We have a day off today.
You’re in the middle of a 3,500-mile bike ride, from California to New Hampshire to benefit widows and orphans. I applaud that Mark — way to go.
Well, thanks. I was adopted, and so this is near and dear to my heart. It’s fun to raise money and give these kids opportunities I had. It means a lot to me.
Tell us about the James Fund…
The James Fund is a foundation setup by Family Christian Stores. They knew I was adopted and were looking for a spokesperson. This is what really sold me: they sent my wife and me on a mission trip to Mexico and showed us around these great orphanages — all these great, sweet kids. We walked into one orphanage and the kids ran up to the guy who was showing us around; you’d think the guy was Michael Jordan. They were all over him, so excited to see him. I asked, how do you know all these kids? He said, I grew up here in this orphanage; these people are like family to me.
He said the reason the James Fund is important is because when you get to be twelve or thirteen in an orphanage, the usual route is you need to leave because you’re not a child anymore. And you need to live in the streets and sell drugs or get into prostitution to even survive. The James Fund came down and built a home right near the orphanage and a missionary family from the United States moved in and they asked if I wanted to participate in the program. The program was as long as I got good grades and stayed out of trouble, they would pay for my high school and college, which was unheard of in the orphanage. So he took them up on it. Today he said, I have a Masters degree, and I speak six different languages.
Right then this little girl jumped into his arms and she said to him, some day I want to be just like you. And he said, no, as long as I’m here, I’ll make sure you go a lot further than I did. I loved that they were part of the solution. It’s as if the James Fund is set up to cure the poverty problem, cure the homeless problem, one child at a time. One person from one generation is reaching down to another generation and pulling them out of poverty. I said this is something I can raise money for and get excited about.
Mark, I was catching up with your project at markacrossamerica.org and it’s amazing the wealth of information, almost up-to-the-minute. The blog, Google Mapping, video… And of course people can support you and make donations through the site. You’ve raised over $75,000 so far. Are you on target?
We didn’t have a target. I can’t think of anyone who has done a concert tour and rode their bike instead of taking the bus. We just knew that all of the front-end expenses were taken care of by the sponsors, so every bit of money we made from ticket sales, merchandise sales, online support — 100% of that would go to orphans.
The exciting thing is we’ve made $75,000 after four shows, and nine shows left. Man would it be great to hit the $250,000 mark!
I’ll bet it takes a supportive wife to pull something like this off…
Yea, you know what’s great, we’re in the busy season of our lives, and we’ve been married for a year-and-a-half now. She’s a doctor in residency and she told me, hey, I have three years left in residency so you just go off, do whatever, and come back and see me in three years [laughs]. She is a wonderful woman of God and a great supporter. I think that is what’s so inspiring. She’s said I don’t want you ever to feel your best days are behind you. I want you to feel like the next great thing God has for you is ahead of you, not behind you. We try to be each other’s Number One fans.
You couldn’t ask for more encouragement than that.
You’re absolutely right.
This must be an exceptionally, physically demanding project. I can’t imagine. What are you doing, eighty miles a day?
Well, we started out averaging eighty miles a day. As I rode through the mountains of New Mexico I was riding with a guy, an Iron Man. He said, you realize as soon as we come down from the mountain, you’ll have more energy and endurance because you’re training up here with less air. I had no idea what he was talking about. But the first day after I dropped out of the mountains, I did 110, followed by 170, followed by 130.
We’re ahead by three cities, that’s why I have a rest day today. In one day, I went the distance of three extra rides.
So, the harder you work, the more rest days you get…
Yea, so now that I know that, I may keep going faster [laughs].
Let’s switch gears. Mark, many of your songs pull at the heart. Where did that come from?
That’s a good question. I have no idea. But I do know I love listening to songs that move me. I love songs that when someone hears it, it makes a moment and they remember the song. And not just remember the song, but maybe it creates some movement in them … Like maybe a husband hears a song on the way home from work and when he gets home he tells his wife he loves her, and he holds her a little longer. Or maybe a parent will pray with their kids tonight, or inspire them to live a little more fully for God. I tend to love those songs more than the ones that are just fun to sing in the car, you know?
My wife wanted me to tell you how much she loves Walking Her Home, which is on your fifth alum, Broken and Beautiful, the first several times she heard it, she was sobbing! It’s such a great story…
I think what makes the song so stirring is it’s about real people, they’re not just made-up thoughts for a song. You know, Henry and Liz were my neighbors when I first moved to Nashville; the song is about them.
Growing up, Liz was best friends with Mini Pearl from Hee-Haw; and they acted a lot alike. They had me over for dinner the first night I moved in and for six months, every night she’d have me over for dinner. She would totally take care of me.
They told me about their first date where Henry came to take her to the movies and her dad said, this is my only daughter, make sure you walk her to the movies and walk her home and promise me you’ll never leave her side. I went to visit them a couple years ago and they were in a nursing home, living in separate rooms. I played them the song — half the song, I didn’t have it all written yet, I didn’t know how it was going to end. As I was saying goodbye, I looked back and Henry was walking Liz back to her room arm-in-arm, you know about a quarter-mile-an-hour. I almost had tears coming out of my eyes. I thought, sixty years after promising her father he’d walk her home, he’s still doing it. I knew he just wouldn’t walk with her in this life, but he would walk with her until she’s back in the arms of God.
They were a real basis of inspiration for that song and a great way for me to model how I want my relationship with my wife to be.
Copyright © 2007 Growthtrac.