Hello, my name is Mark Prestriedge.
I have had the privilege of being a Chaplain with Providence for nearly 6 years. I serve two campuses: Village Woods in Crete and Park Place of St. John in Indiana.
I was raised in the Miami, Florida area. My parents were strong atheists, and therefore, so was I. Later as a science major, I began to question the scientific data I was being taught. Because of my education, I was also very familiar with how our planet and universe was organized and functioned. I also began to realize that as humans, while we share many things with the animal life around us, we are immensely distinct. All of this led me to question how all of this could have come together to work so incredibly well by the astronomical odds of the material evolution I had believed. Perhaps there was a god after all? If so, could you know him?
This took me on a three-year journey to study religions and visit churches and temples and listen to religious teachers, preachers, and scholars. I would go out in my backyard at night and shake my fist into the starry night and shout, “God, if you exist, I dare you to show yourself to me!” One night while watching a Billy Graham crusade alone, I had a miniature Paul-at-the-gates of Damascus experience. Suddenly, I knew God existed, that I was a sinner, and that Jesus died for me. I knew I needed to commit myself to Him as Lord and Savior. I got down on my knees, confessing my selfishness and unbelief, and committing myself to Christ. It was a supernatural and emotional experience, but when I stood up, I knew I was a different person, even though I did not understand what had happened at the time.
A Diligent Journey
This began a diligent journey with Christ, reading the Bible, praying, worshiping in a nearby Church, and beginning the spiritual habits. Later I got involved in a Bible Church in Miami that was dynamic. Here people took me in and began to disciple me. Within a couple years, I began to experience a strong inner call to go into full-time Christian service. But I wanted to be a professional athlete, so I ignored this “call.” However, after a Church mission trip to Canada where 13 young adults committed their lives to Christ through my sharing of the gospel, I yielded to God’s call. I attended a Christian college in Miami (where I met and married my wife) and then seminary in Chicago. After seminary, upon leaving Chicago to return to Miami, the Holy Spirit seemed to speak very clearly that I would return to the Chicago region to serve Him.
Two years and two adopted babies later, I was called to serve as Associate Pastor at Trinity Community Church in Deerfield Beach, Florida, a Reformed Church in America congregation. Our first duty was to take a van full of teens to Homewood Reformed Church. One of our youth outings was to Village Woods. Little did I know that four years later I would be called to pastor Crete Reformed Church in Chicago’s far south suburbs. A busload of Village Woods residents came to worship at Crete Church weekly, and when the Fairway townhomes were built, almost all the families joined our growing congregation. Village Woods thus became a second campus for our church, and during a 2.5-year period while we constructed a new and much larger church facility, our church actually moved into Village Woods completely.
After 25 years as Pastor of Crete Church, the Lord led me to become Minister of Pastoral Care at Living Springs Church (formerly Homewood Reformed). During this time, I was asked to become the Chaplain at Village Woods. It was a perfect fit in every way. Four years later when asked to become Chaplain at the newly built Park Place in Indiana, I knew the Lord was calling me into full-time Chaplaincy service.
No words are adequate to express the joy of serving the Lord and both residents and patients at both campuses. My long-term interaction with Providence by their leadership, as well as all the multitude of visits to their campuses as a pastor, only solidified my calling. I am overwhelmingly blessed by my leadership colleagues and all the residents of both campuses, and brag about them to my many fellow pastors and friends. Thirty-five years in this area has given me many connections with pastors, churches, and fellow believers.
My former experiences as an atheist and then as a Christ-follower give me lots of ways of connecting with residents and patients, and I go to serve each day with a sense of expectancy and honest joy.
Blessed and Grateful
I have lived in the same house in Crete, Illinois, for 35 years. Linda, my wonderful wife of 45 years, is also a nurse, and we have raised our 8-year-old grandson Zaiden. Raising a whirlwind boy at our age is a whole new world, and we call him our “joyful exhaustion.” Our daughter is disabled and lives in Homewood, but she gets to see and be with Zaiden often. Our son Brian and his wife Nicki live and work in downtown Chicago and we get together as often as possible.
We enjoy many activities and get together with long-term and short-term friends as often as possible for meals and games. My closest friend of 50 years is a Pastor in Joliet, so we see him and his family as much as we can. As a family, we look forward to continuing to serve and enjoy our Lord, family, friends, and those in need here at Village Woods and Park Place for the foreseeable future. I am a truly blessed and grateful man, and I owe it all to my Lord Jesus Christ and all the wonderful people around me each day!