Mark and Chris Byers and their two sons, Mark Jr. and Zach, were living in Wyoming, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids. Mark had hit the lowest point of his life after a series of misfortunes. First he lost $30,000 worth of uninsured tools from a break-in to his shop. Now he had lost his newest job after a confrontation with his boss — and had no unemployment insurance.
His wife, Chris, had not attended church for a very long time, but now she felt the Holy Spirit urging her to come back to the Lord. Her mother had raised her in a Pentecostal church, so she started driving some distance to attend again, and since he had also been raised in a Pentecostal church, Mark decided to go along. Soon the church members, seeing potential in Mark, urged him to begin a correspondence course preparing him for the ministry. He began reading books written by the founder of his church, who members believed was a prophetess. He also used the Bible he had acquired years before from a former vacuum cleaner salesman turned literature evangelist, who had “traded” $1,600 worth of Christian books and cassettes for a brand new vacuum cleaner — even-up trade! Previously, Mark had also been given a copy of The Great Controversy by Ellen White, which he read in three hours — over 700 pages! Through the influence of the Holy Spirit, the study guides in the back of his Bible, and from these books, Mark thought, “When I do become a Christian, I am going to keep the Sabbath!”
But now he was out of work, and his cable had been turned off due to nonpayment. After digging up the old “rabbit ears” antenna so they could watch a little TV, he found 3ABN on channel 48. Fascinated, he began watching “24/7,” driving his wife crazy. She would wake up at night and he’d be crying. This happened for three days! “The Lord was emptying him out,” she says, “and he would beg me to sit down and watch with him.” But she resisted, and Mark was troubled.
Chris had faith in her mother and grandmother, and had accepted what she had been taught. Now she knew she would face adversity if she accepted what Mark was learning, and adversity in her own home if she didn’t! Mark’s questions about doctrine were difficult to answer from the Word of God, and soon she was questioning why she believed as she did. “If I were to believe what my husband now believed, I would have had to change everything!” she says. She believed her church’s teaching about communicating with the dead, and about an eternal soul. But why was the Sabbath such a big deal? She could see no need for it, but the ‘What if this is right?’ question troubled her.
“It was the hardest battle I ever faced,” Chris states. “I would listen to Mark, then ask my pastor, becoming even more confused with his attempts to answer my questions.” She also questioned her mother, who replied, “You are not at the level that the Reverend is. Just put it on the shelf.” But, as Chris puts it, “the shelf was full!”
Feeling torn, Chris decided she would not attend church anywhere — she would just serve God from home — “But I knew I couldn’t,” she adds. Anguished, Mark was literally following her around the house with the Bible, crying and saying, “Please read this!” And desperate for relief, Chris secretly put a “fleece” before the Lord, like Gideon’s story in the Bible. “Lord, if You want me to keep the Sabbath, and if it’s so important, You have to let me know — and not through Mark!” she demanded. “If this is the way You want me to go, then I want to meet a Seventh-day Adventist today!”
It was a Friday, and she asked Mark if there was a Seventh-day Adventist church nearby. He drove her to the Wyoming church and knocked on the door. No one was there, but just as they were about to leave, a lady drove up. Chris urged Mark to go and talk to “that lady,” and when he did, they found out she was the pastor’s wife!
She invited them to church, but the next morning found Mark with a fever of 105°F! He had never felt so ill in his life, and couldn’t make it to church, although he did manage to get up and drive Chris to work.
Meanwhile, Chris had written down the phone number for the church from their sign, and later she called the pastor — unbeknown to Mark. She wanted to see what kind of people these Seventh-day Adventists really were. While they were talking, she agreed to Bible studies and set up an appointment for the following week.
Several days later, Chris was in her room praying, when she felt strongly that the upcoming Bible study had been a mistake. She recognized the “feeling” — it started in the pit of her stomach and rose up through her body, taking control and causing her to speak in tongues. But this time, instead of feeling joy, she was angry. Then she came out of her room and ordered Mark to get rid of all the books and tapes he’d been studying. He refused to do so, but told her to cancel the Bible study if she wished.
But something made her keep that appointment. She thought, “I’ll just study and test the waters,” and as she began studying the Bible, she received answers to questions that had plagued her for so long. To each question, the pastor would gently say, “The Bible says….” Finally, someone was giving her answers!
Chris started watching 3ABN. “God began to show me how He is concerned about every aspect of my life. Even health and diet issues — everything seemed to fit together.” She began to understand the Bible truths about the Sabbath and the state of the dead, which were in direct opposition to the “spiritualism under the guise of holiness” she had learned.
Mark was also experiencing victories in his life — deliverance from his drinking and his 24 year habit of smoking two-and-a-half packs of cigarettes a day. In April 2001, his wife and two sons joined him in baptism and a new life in Christ began! Then, almost predictably, they could not get the 3ABN station anymore — it was simply gone!
On a personal note, as I researched this story, I interviewed Mark extensively. But when I spoke to Chris, I expressed how Satan had been trying to prevent their story from being told through difficulties in scheduling interviews, dropped phone calls, and other problems. I was so blessed when this sweet lady asked if she could pray with me about it. And of course, the story began to take shape!
This is only a small part of their story, but as I look over what I’ve written, I can’t help but realize that Mark and Chris have been raised from the lowest point in their lives to walk in high heavenly places. It reminds me of Psalm 18:32–33 (KJV): “It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.”