I woke this morning to the awful news that Mark Stanton died last night after a long battle with motor neurone disease.
I was blessed to be in the same church as Mark back in Canterbury days and heard all about him before we even met. He was a semi-pro footballer and lightening quick, scoring two goals against Fulham one year in the FA Cup. He was a talented musician, playing his guitar in the church band and leading worship. He was great fun to be with as well, full of life and he did a lot of laughing.
Some of my best memories of him were playing cricket with him. I started a church team to get the guys together and somehow we got to have some amazing victories. There were a lot of jokes on the minibus as we traveled up and down after entering a national competition for churches and much astonishment when we won the first year we entered. It was in no small part down to Mark that we won that game, he scored a brilliant 70 odd not out in 40 odd balls in one of the best batting displays I ever saw to steal the game from under the noses of the opposition. We managed to win the trophy for the next three years after that as well and in our fifth year of entering, were runners up. Not bad for a team of occasional cricketers. I have especially fond memories of batting in one final with him with the opposition sensing victory, the pressure on and the verbals in full flow. We both relished it and I was disappointed to be out with about ten needed. I needn't have worried, he saw us home.
He loved games and anything sport related but he was also passionate about God. We had a few lunchtimes together where I'd drive over to where he worked and we'd grab lunch in a pub and pray together afterwards. He was serious about his commitment to Christ, would be the first to admit he made a few mistakes, but that honesty was part of what made him such a positive advert for his faith. Until recently he worked for Missions Aviation Fellowship and they were great employers to him; he only stopped work a month ago.
In Fiona, he married a diamond, a fellow musician, and Gooner (no-one's perfect), who shared his commitment and passion for God. My prayers are with Fiona, their two children, his folks and family, and all those who mourn this evening.
Mark is now with the Lord that he was committed to. Enjoying the party and renewed joy of swallowing a pint of blackcurrent and lemonade. It was a privilege to have known him. Thank you Mark.
I'm a middle aged man, a Baptist Minister, and more to the point an evangelical Christian. I have a great family, the best wife, an interest in music (mainly the sort of things that a middle aged man should like) and media in general. I like my sport and hardly ever play any. Will watch Test matches very happily and have a love of football, Exeter City are my club of choice.