May 10 is my father’s birthday, but he is no longer with us on this earth. His story is the story of many devoted ministers throughout history. He worked with small churches with little notice but was loved by those he served. This is the story of most ministers and I honor them with this post as well as my father. Below is my brief account of his life which was read at his funeral in 1994.
Mark N. Hicks was born on May 10, 1921 in Haskell County, Texas near Rochester. He died on July 2, 1994 in Memphis, Tennessee.
He grew up on the plains of west Texas as the son of a farmer, and was raised in a family which exalted God. He was born, however, with some physical disabilities — a weak heart and a cleft pallet which caused a speech impediment.
After Pearl Harbor in 1941, Mark Hicks joined the Army, rose to the rank of Sergeant and served his country in Europe during World War II. For his service in the Battle of the Bulge where he stayed his post even though surrounded by enemy forces and for his service in maintaining radar operations during battle he received the Bronze Star. He was honorably discharged in 1945.
When he returned to west Texas he took up farming. However, he wanted to serve God as a minister but was deterred by his speech disability. Nevertheless, at the encouragement of a local minister and making use of the GI Bill, Mark Hicks entered Freed-Hardeman College in the fall of 1946 in order to become a gospel preacher. He lived the rest of his 48 years as one dedicated to the task of proclaiming and sharing the gospel of God’s grace.
His dedication impressed some generous people who funded a trip to St. Louis where he met with a Dentist who prepared an artificial plate for the roof of his mouth. This device enabled him to speak clearly though with some peculiar pronunciations and paved the way for his preaching career. He used this artificial plate until his death.
On August 6, 1947 Mark Hicks married an eighteen year old Sudan, Texas farm girl by the name of Edith Lois Fox. She had spent her first college year at Abilene, but having married Mark, she enrolled at Freed-Hardeman College. Mark graduated from Freed-Hardeman College in 1948 with an Associate of Arts degree in Bible. He completed his Bachelor’s degree at Eastern New Mexico University in 1950.
He began his full-time preaching career in 1950 at Tatum, New Mexico, but he had a heart for missions and yearned to go somewhere where he was more needed. In 1951, before he knew to call it an “Exodus,” Mark Hicks led an exodus of four families (including his own) to Colonial Heights, Virginia. At that time there were fewer than ten full-time ministers of the Churches of Christ in Virginia. At Colonial Heights, through various forms of tent-making, financial support from Idalou, Texas and the help of the other exodus families, he was able to plant and water a congregation in that city. He served that congregation on three different occasions for a total of thirteen years (1951-56, 1958-65, and 1969-71). The Colonial Heights Church of Christ became a leader of Virginia Churches throughout the late 1960s and 1970s in their bus ministry, “soul talks” and soul-winning workshops.
Mark and Lois Hicks, along with the other exodus families, sacrificed much, including proximity to extended family, to invest themselves in the work in Virginia. Mark dedicated himself to building up the church in that state. Of his more than 40 active years of full-time preaching, 38 were spent in Virginia in three different cites: in the piedmont region of Colonial Heights, in the mountains of Covington where he ministered to a small struggling church of about 50, and in the metropolitan area of Alexandria near Washington, D.C. where he ministered to a mid-size and racially-integrated congregation of about 200.
In 1971 he moved to Alexandria, Virginia to work with an established congregation where he stayed for twenty years. It was a congregation that grew racially diverse. At one time, the congregation had three ministers: one white, one black, and one Korean. Ministry was not withheld from any one, but extended to everyone no matter what their ethnic background or race. When he retired from full-time ministry, he served as an elder, and eventually, as a retiree, decided to work with a small struggling congregation of about 40 in Mount Vernon, Virginia.
Throughout his years of ministry, he participated in evangelistic efforts of various kinds. In the 1960s he assisted Ivan Stewart in his “Campaigns for Christ.” In the 1970s and 80s he conducted evangelistic meetings and preacher training sessions in India seven times where a Hicks Orphan’s Home now exists along with a Preacher Training School.
In February, 1994, after the retirement of Lois Hicks from teaching, Mark moved to Memphis, Tennessee. On July 2, he suffered heart failure and the angels carried him to the bosom of Abraham.
The life of Mark N. Hicks is a witness to the perseverance of faith and the determination to serve the Lord in ministry. He did not seek fame, nor fortune. He did not seek positions at large churches, nor promote himself in gospel meetings or in the production of articles or books. He was a minister of the gospel who served people through planting and watering a new congregation, through struggling with a small church in the mountains of Virginia, and through working through the problems of integration at an urban church in a metropolitan area. His goal was not self-promotion, but proclaiming the gospel of Christ. His interest was not placed in himself, but in others who needed the gospel of grace. His life, both in its determination to minister through overcoming obstacles and in its desire to share the gospel with others, is a witness of faith — a witness to his family, his friends, and his church. Most of all, it was a life lived to the glory of God rather than the glory of Mark N. Hicks.
Now we are separated from Dad, and this saddens us; but he died in faith, and having died in faith, he has now received the promise. His faith belongs to the ages now–his faith is now part of the witnesses that surround us. His life of faith is my faith–it molded me, it made who I am, and for that I am grateful. His witness will ever shine in my life; his ministry will be carried on through my ministry. His faith is carried on in the hearts of people he touched, and his faith still bears witness in the congregations which he served. His funeral was conducted by John Mark Hicks, Richard Corum and Dan Paden on July 6 at the Ross Road Church of Christ, Memphis, Tennessee.