The River Cities community mourned this week the loss and celebrated the life of a very special man. Rev. Mark A. Wessling, 61, lost his battle with leukemia on Nov. 26.
Wessling had been the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church and School in Hialeah since 1992. Wessling, a Miami Springs resident since 1997, is survived by his wife Ruth, and their three adult sons, Paul, Aaron and Luke. Wessling leaves behind four siblings, Scott, Todd, Eve and Hope, as well as both his mother and father, Rev. Edward and Esther Wessling.
Wessling, better known as Pastor Mark, was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in April of 2010. After a long battle he went into remission in January of 2011. “The following years were difficult as he suffered from many side effects from the treatment,” said son Paul Wessling. “He never complained and always led people to believe that he felt great.”
On Oct 7, 2014, he was diagnosed with leukemia and began treatment, from which he didn’t recover. Wessling’s first and only grandson was born Oct. 2, 2014. The proud, first-time grandfather, was filled with joy as he held baby Caleb during his final days on earth.
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Wessling, born in Madison, Wisconsin, on Dec. 6, 1952, loved people. He never met a stranger he didn’t like. He was known to strike up conversations continually with people on elevators and in public places. His first two years of college were spent at University of California Santa Barbara before he transferred to Concordia Milwaukee, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He then attended Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis, where he received a Master’s in Divinity.
He met his wife, Ruth, on a summer vicarage in Miami in 1977. The two spent two years serving as missionaries in Guatemala and Honduras before returning to the States. He then served as missionary at large to the Hispanic community in the St. Louis area from 1981-1992, and that’s where he and Ruth had their three sons. The family moved to Miami in 1992 when Mark took a call to a bilingual congregation at Faith Lutheran Church and School in Hialeah. For the past 22 years, Mark has ministered to his congregation and the Miami community.
Mark Wessling’s deep love for the truths found within the holy bible inspired everything, including his thirst of knowledge of language. A man of many languages, he was well versed in Greek, Latin and Hebrew as well as being fluent in Spanish, and its many dialects. He hosted multiple Christian radio programs in St. Louis and Miami.
From his teenage years until his first bout with leukemia Wessling was an avid surfer. He handcrafted custom surfboards at his home in Miami Springs. He loved the ocean and was a talented athlete, playing tennis most frequently. He was musically inclined, playing both guitar and piano. Rage Against the Machine and The Doors were among his favorite bands.
“Pastor Mark Wessling was such a loving, compassionate, caring man of God,” said Elizabeth Kourtesis Fisher. “I was honored to know him and call him my pastor and friend, to have him preside over my wedding a year ago, and to have his spiritual influence on my family’s life. He was the kind of person that never forgot an important date or milestone in our lives. He would remember and call if there was a doctor’s appointment to find out the results, to celebrate a baptismal anniversary, or just to see how we were.
“He cared so much for others. His sincerity and deep down genuine goodness was a rarity. Even at the height of his illness when I visited him I would find he wandered into other patients’ rooms to share encouragement and the good news. He put others above himself. I am so thankful and blessed to have known him. He will be deeply missed by all the lives he touched.”
“Uncle Mark, Pastor Wessling, was a really special man,” his niece, Cari Martinez, said. “He was multi-talented and above all he really loved the Lord. He had an eternally optimistic disposition, which served him so well throughout his illness and through life’s trials. He was also known by those who loved him as someone who could write a limerick about just about anything. He had a great sense of humor! He will be sorely missed.”
“Pastor Mark Wessling was such an amazing man, who was so loving to the students at Faith Lutheran,” said Faith Lutheran alumna Andrea Lopez. “His passion for God was huge, and the sweet memories that I have of him, whether it is of him teaching a class about the Bible, doing a sermon for Wednesday morning chapel, or directing one of his plays, I will cherish every one of them. I’m so privileged to have known him.”
“The Lord sent a good shepherd to lead Faith Lutheran Church and School with love,” said Michelle Rivas. “Pastor Wessling was kind and loving; he took care of his flock regardless of age. He shared the gospel with wisdom, compassion and love. We will always remember him.”
Family, friends, and loved ones gathered to celebrate the faith-driven, surf-laden life and ministry of Rev. Mark Wessling last Tuesday, Dec. 2 at Faith Lutheran Church in Hialeah.