My father, a man of conscience, climbing Kilimanjaro

My dad is a humble man, so he won’t tell you everything I am about to tell you. While he doesn’t mind sharing his stories, he doesn’t often talk about himself.

He grew up on a farm in Virginia. Quite uneventfully, as far as I can tell.

When he was in college he was drafted for the Vietnam war.  However, he followed a God of peace, and believed it was wrong to kill another human being. He refused to go to war.  He did not dodge the draft, he did not run away to Canada, he did not do some token National Guard duty. He declared himself a conscientious objector, and presented his position to the military draft board.

It is easy to forget that at the time this was a popular war, and that those who refused to enlist were treated as unpatriotic cowards. He lost many childhood friends.

He instead did 30 months of civilian service. (longer than military service.) He drove a truck, worked in agriculture and construction for non-profit organizations. (He also drove a Bultaco motorcycle and met my mom, but that is another story)

Throughout his life, he has worked quietly for peace. In Argentina, Colombia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia.

In Colombia he was part of a coalition that successfully organized for the right to conscientious objection.  For the first time in their history this right became recognized in the constitutional reform of 1991. This was no small feat for a country immersed in decades of civil war, were young men were often taken by force into military service, and only the sons of the rich were able to avoid the draft.

In Kenya, specifically in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi, also called “Little Mogadishu”, I remember accompanying him (and my mom, who is also part of this) to a peace ceremony between two warring Somali sub-clans.  They had been fighting over access to a water well (huge, when you live in the desert) and now they were coming together to make peace.

I didn’t understand anything because it was all in Somali, but it seemed very solemn and ended with lots of food and joking.  Obviously I believe a meal is the perfect way to celebrate peace, and had there been Facebook at the time, you would all have seen a picture of it.

At home he taught us to ask for forgiveness and to forgive. Though he was brought up in an environment where men are tough, authoritarian and never cry, he would ask his children for forgiveness when he was wrong.

He taught us that war was never just, never the only option and always devastating. He taught us to follow our conscience above all, and to do what is just, no matter how unpopular or risky.

Now he is 70 years old, and has decided to climb Africa’s tallest mountain to pray for peace. He has been training for weeks and hopes his steps will lead others to seek the path of non-violence.

Please join him by leaving a message on this blog and by supporting peace efforts around the world.

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14 thoughts on “My father, a man of conscience, climbing Kilimanjaro

  1. Bertha Beachy

    It is good to hear this part of your story. How long will you climb and stay on the mountain? Are you
    joining a larger group or only the family group. You are quite young at 70!! Sister Beachy is going
    on 82. Give my greetings to your good wife!
    Go carefully and may peace begin!!!!
    Bertha

    Reply
  2. Mark

    Bertha,
    It is good having someone of your maturity supporting us. We will count on your prayers.

    We will be 6 nights and 7 days on the mountain. We booked a climb with Ultimate Kilimanjaro in Chicago and our group will make up the majority of the party, but I think there are still 4 spaces available. If you know someone who wants to go and can be ready in 4 weeks, let me know.

    Reply
  3. Peter Sensenig

    Great to hear about this, Mark! We’re behind you all the way. I was reminded on Monday of Dr. King’s iconic mountaintop imagery – I have no doubt that you will be blessed with insights as you breathe the rarefied air.
    Blessings and peace!

    Reply
  4. Jack Hirschfeld

    I am always impressed by those who have held steadfast to peace action all their lives. In my own case, I had to travel a trajectory from peace activist teenager (WRL and FOR) through a long series of permutations that have brought me full circle. At age 78, I can understand the challenge you are facing, and I will join you in spirit in every step to the top. Let me know if you see a leopard.

    Reply
  5. Aude

    Mark, merci car par ton témoignage tu repousses les impossibles. Une semaine en Afrique pour toi, est-ce une semaine pour écrire votre témoignage pour vos tous petits pour Chantal ? challenge de couple ?? bisous

    Reply
  6. Diane Kerner

    Wow! I didn’t know about this. God bless you, Mark. We miss you and your family lots! We are praying for you in this incredible endeavor!

    Reply
  7. Maria Pena

    I admire your bravery and kindness. May God guide your every step, all the way to the hilltop and back.
    I will be rooting for you guys from here.
    Rebeca y familial: Merci pour votre message et votre travail pour la paix, et pour nous aider a croire que c´est encore possible la paix. :)

    Un abrazo de María Peña y familia.

    Reply
  8. Maryvonne Beavers

    Je suis si heureuse d’avoir de vos nouvelles et en admiration devant le courage et la détermination qu’il vous faut pour avancer ainsi la cause de la paix dans le monde. Cette aventure sera bien rude mais je suis confiante que beaucoup de prières vous soutiendrons et vous pouvez compter sur les miennes. Alors je vous souhaite une excellente ascension et je vous transmets ainsi qu’à toute la famille mes meilleures amitiés.

    Reply
  9. Bill Moreno

    I’ve known Rebecca for several years. I see so much of her through the story she shared about you. I send you best wishes for a strong body and mind, good weather, peaceful environment, powerful reflections, and the best of company on your journey to promote peace and nonviolence. Warmest wishes! I look forward to reading the story of your journey. Abrazo! Bill

    Reply
  10. Linda Ana Cabral

    This is an amazing venture and journey for a most needed cause for PEACE and JUSTICE! The title and story of Rebecca’s hearfelt write-up of you, her Dad is so grounded with honorable truths, joy, humbleness and courage, so like her too. I send my very enouraging wishes and hopes that your journey continues to be contagious in building conscienceness with an abundance of followers for the Cause and Endeavor of Life Long Peace! Respectfully y Gracias, Linda Ana

    Reply
  11. Magda Bullock

    Gracias Rebeca por compartir esta parte de la historya de tu papa; Estoy recordandolos en mis oraciones y oro que la sangre poderosa de Jesucristo este sobre todos ustedes! Marcos eres una inspiracion. Abrazos

    Reply

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