For Mark Brazle, a passion for missions found its root as he grew up in Montana, Oklahoma and Saskatchewan, one of six children born to church planter/evangelist, Clinton & Faye Brazle, reading Scripture through the lens of real live missionary stories at the dinner table. Having spend 40 years in ministry in Canada, Belgium, and Ohio, Mark and his wife Jill now serve caring for missionaries around the world by informing churches on how to best care for those in the field. With 5 children and 12 grandchildren, encouraging dads to be dads that looks more like our Father every day is very important to Mark.
If it had only happened once, it might not have been that memorable. But I remember my Dad doing it several times. Repeated powerful word pictures usually stick!
Going to camp in the summer time was one of the best things that could happen to four brothers! Can you imagine the trouble we could get into?! With Mom focused on cooking for over a hundred people and Dad concerned with keeping the wheels of progress turning, who would notice if we wandered off to play down by Mill Creek or up the switchbacks on the logging road behind the camp. Did I mention we were about 40 miles north of the North entrance to Yellowstone Park set up at an elevation of 6k feet between mountains and surrounded by creeks on 3 sides at Yellowstone Bible Camp on the campus of the Bow & Arrow Ranch. As an Opa (What the grandchildren call me.) now I wonder, “What were they thinking?” But that was the place we learned to fly fish for rainbow and brown trout. There we learned the joy of singing with the crew while helping wash dishes. (Yes, there was motivation, because the best crew got to be inducted into “Eta Beta Pi” – and we did too! Mom made the pie. That was her idea.) That was also the place where the first living stones of faith were laid in our hearts.
Dad would be there to close out our day by the campfire, more songs, pointing out how we had seen God all around us that day. He would take a long stick and pull a glowing hot coal off by itself out of the rest of the fire as he talked about the joy, excitement of being at camp and the importance of seeking fellowship, companionship, friendship with those who would encourage us away from the warmth of the fire at Bible camp. As he talked about how God had worked in his life and the way he had found rekindling away from these circles we looked back at that hot coal that by now had now grown cold and lifeless, away from the fellowship of the fire. God was at work for the good in those moments setting the stage for life lessons later.
The summer before I turned 12, we would move as a family to Saskatchewan, away from our beloved Montana mountains. It was a tough move that would bring tears, no, sobs from my older sisters and bewilderment to the boys. We had spent a year in Tulsa, OK. As we drove north through Kansas, watching the sway of the cotton trailer behind us, sitting in the rear-facing back seat of the white, 9-passenger ’61 Dodge. As I remember it, we didn’t even make it to Wellington, where Grandma and Grandpa Guinn lived before we had the first flat. It turns out that cotton trailers were made for hauling cotton!? Who knew? And the tires that would have served well to get that cotton from the field to the gin on those lazy dirt roads would not get all of our families heavy belongings going faster that 45mph up US-81. If I remember right there were 8 flats on that trip. No, we didn’t have that many spares. It was a lesson in asking for help, waiting on God, and a welder welding the hitch and the tire repairman. Finally, some great friends in Pierre, SD suggested we load everything into a 3ton grain truck to get is the rest of the way north. That was also the summer of Dad’s sermon on “Prayer and Providence” that we heard at several churches along the road north. God working “in all things for the good of those who love Him” was pointed out along the way: safety on the road to Saskatchewan, a welder for the tongue of the trailer, tire repair and/or replacement, fuel, food and housing and health for 8 travelers. Because every obstacle was faced with faith and fellowship, lessons learned at those campfires were underscored.
The next summer at the close of that first week at Clearview Christian Camp on Kenosee Lake in south eastern Saskatchewan, when Dad took a long stick and fished a red hot coal off by itself from the closing campfire, we already had a pretty good idea what he was going to talk about.