I was born along my father’s trapline near Coral Rapids, Ontario, in February 1948.
From the beginning of my life, I had many close calls with death. I should be dead by now, but when God has His hand on you, you’re protected.
I am a residential school survivor. In residential school, everything was tough. You were on your own. There was no one to talk to about your problems and there were harsh punishments. No one sees you and you end up holding everything inside. Before, as a kid, I would talk to my mother or my grandparents. I remember sitting with people and being able to talk with them. After residential school, I couldn’t do that. That’s the impact of residential school—something comes up, and your mind shuts it down. Like turning off the tap to your own feelings, even when you’re alone. I had a lot of turmoil inside me.
My wife was the one to serve the Lord first, and I gave her a hard time about going to church.
Shortly after my wife got saved, the turmoil inside me began to bubble up. I started getting pain in my chest. I became very shifty; I couldn’t sit still. I would feel like my chest would split open, and I couldn’t breathe. Many times, I had to leave the house or stop driving a vehicle and go for a walk to settle down. I became very agitated. The noise of my children singing, watching TV or listening to music drove me crazy.
Two years went by like that. One day, I went to take a shower but every time I got close to the water I couldn’t breathe. I could feel my head pounding, my heart pounding. I couldn’t inhale. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I jumped out of the shower and told my wife I needed to go to the clinic.
At the clinic, a nurse rushed me in and hooked me up to a machine. I am a heavy equipment operator and a welder, and the machine they hooked me up to reminded me of the machines we use to test an engine. They checked my blood pressure, took my blood, gave me an EKG test, the whole thing. After assessing me they told me that I was in perfect health.
My wife suggested that we call Ernie Linklater, the pastor of the church in Moosonee at the time. I agreed, so Pastor Ernie and his wife Shirley came over. We prayed together and I accepted the Lord. The moment I did, it was like a complete calmness came over me. Later that day, my daughter started singing and it didn’t bother me. When I went to bed that night, I laid down and slept like a baby.
It was complete release, and I mean release. I was completely relaxed.
I got saved in 1990. After that, my close brushes with death stopped. Over the years, I have witnessed healings and many little miracles.
My wife died two years ago from cancer. Even now, I struggle to share my innermost feelings of grief. Even though my experiences at residential school still impact me, when I talk about my time there people will say, “But your voice is so calm.”
The Lord did so many things in my life that I didn’t realize until the day I got saved. When I look back, I see how He has brought me through. If it wasn’t for the Lord, I wouldn’t be here, I’ll tell you that much. When God calls you, there’s no way that you can say no.
Garfield Mark is a member of Crossroads Church in Timmins, Ontario.