I first met Mark Eckel as he was finishing his weekly Warp and Woof radio show. He introduced me to his twin brother and radio show producer who is a black man. Mark is a white man. This had my attention. They feature Christians ?doing good? in the community with a focus on black/white relations.
Stories and Connections
My second encounter was when he hired me to write a story about Comenius Institute.We were both part of a not-for-profit collaborative. I learned too late after accepting the assignment Dr. Eckel holds a masters degree in Old Testament Theology and a PhD in social science research. He is faculty at IUPUI, Indiana Wesleyan, Capital Seminary & Graduate School. He has given hundreds of seminars and scores of keynote speeches on education, culture, faith integration, communication and movies. He has contributed to or has written eight books and published curricula used worldwide. He has authored over 1000 essays, podcasts and video teachings which appear on his website. Why would he want a little ole storyteller to write about his non-profit?
The Back Story
God orchestrates connections and friendships in the most unusual ways. More often than not, folks look me in the eye after we have been talking for a while and they say I have never shared this with anyone before.? Such was the case when I learned the back story as to why The Comenius Institute was founded. In 2005 Mark and his wife Robin were enticed to move from Chicago to Indianapolis for an opportunity to bring their teaching expertise to life in a practical way. Mark was a professor at Moody Bible Institute and he spent six years traveling around the world teaching.Robin teaches 2nd graders. Mark is still raw with emotion when he says, ?two months after we moved, the man who hired me was fired by the board. The next man who came in got rid of me because I was not his. It is bad news when your job is taken from you ? no fault of your own – two weeks before the start of the school year. I understand the long term effects of unemployment on health and mental outlook. I know what it is like to be passed over because you are jobless. To this day I bear the reverberations of that sound and song in my life. I have been affected financially in every way.
Vocational scars have helped Dr. Eckel as storyteller. He recites the lessons learned by Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the death camps in Auschwitz.Frankl writes in his book Man's Search for Meaning ?everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one?s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one?s own way.? ?Another favorite author of Dr. Eckel is Walker Percy who says, ?a person can know the meaning of life but he still has to find a way to get through Wednesday afternoon.? These truths are what encouraged Mark Eckel to get out of the pit and serve the community. Based on the attributes in 1 Corinthians 15:58, Mark states, ?my responsibility is to others outside myself.
Impacting the Next Generation
Mark founded The Comenius Institute, a 501c3 Christian Study Center on the campus of IUPUI, serving students and professors, local churches, business people, community leaders and entrepreneurs. Comenius students find encouragement from Dr. Eckel as they view their studies from a decidedly Christian perspective. Mark states, ?in the world of non-profits, we are in the business of ideas. You cannot touch what I can give you. You cannot see what I can give you. Ideas are difficult to sell. However, ideas change people and people change culture.
Three short video links explain:
The bridge to Christian college students?with university life at IUPUI
The bridge to Indianapolis communities?through our radio show with intentional connections between black and white leaders
The bridge to Christian understanding of the culture,?interpreting God’s world through God’s Word
Polly Riddell writing under the pen name G. Polly Jordan loves to learn the story. She is a freelance journalist connecting people through the stories they share.