His big smile is the first thing you notice. “I think about the fact that we don’t know what people are going through. So, I try to smile and be upbeat and happy,” said Mark Bender, mission specialist in the territorial corps and community mission department (CACM).

Mark is also the corps sergeant major (CSM) at the Elgin, Ill., Corps, and assistant divisional sergeant major for the North & Central Illinois Division, representing it on the Territorial Soldiers’ Forum.

A lifelong Salvationist, Mark is proud that soldiers’ concerns and ideas are being brought to the attention of territorial leaders. “We can help this Army together, regardless of uniform trim color,” he said.

Mark and his three older sisters grew up living in the Wisconsin/Upper Michigan, Midland and Northern divisions, moving about with their corps officer parents, Majors Jacob and Camie Bender.

“As children, we were exposed to a variety of places and people,” Mark recalled. “We understood the importance of getting to know a new culture and being welcoming of people.”

In 1994, Mark was commissioned as an officer and appointed as assistant corps officer of the Moline, Heritage Temple, Ill., Corps. He and his wife were then sent to be corps officers in Farmington Hills, Mich., where their son, Andrew, was born. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last. Mark left officership, moved to the Chicago area and became a soldier at the Elgin Corps.

He says he remained troubled by the divorce for quite some time. “I felt like a failure. It took awhile to work through that,” he said. “Now, when I meet people going through a divorce, I can understand and can help minister to them.”

That loss helped Mark realize his own plans for his life were secondary to God’s will. “God said to me, ‘I have called you. It may not be the way you think, but I have called you to be a representative of me in the world.’” Mark explained. “I try to remind myself that God has a plan for me, like in Jeremiah 29:11. Even though my own plan might not match with His plan, His plan is better.”

Today at the Elgin Corps, Mark teaches a Sunday school class for teens and adults; he is part of the praise band and teaches percussion. As CSM, he helps plan and lead worship services and assists with projects throughout the year. He is also a member of the advisory board.

In his work, Mark helps produce the Advent and Lenten worship series and teaches workshops on evangelism and corps ministries.

“Mark is an integral part of the CACM ministry team as his role influences and resources so many aspects of corps life and ministry,” said Captain Kristina Sjögren, CACM secretary. “His passion to grow God’s Kingdom by communicating the love of Christ and holy living through resourcing the field has been recognized across the territory for 25 years, and we are blessed to have him on our team.”

Mark’s ministry extends not only throughout the territory but beyond as he has led Global Mission Teams to Germany, the Caribbean and Kenya—a favorite location.

“Many of the people I worked with in Kenya had so little, but they were just completely joyful,” Mark recalled.

When he’s not working or volunteering, Mark enjoys traveling and has been to 17 countries so far. However, these days find him often traveling to Texas as a proud grandfather to visit 7-month-old Jake. Smiling, Mark concluded, “It’s the best job in the world.”

Click here to learn more about the Territorial Soldiers’ Forum or find your representative.





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